The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 2: Vinston Painter, senior right tackle
There’s no doubt heading into the season that the offensive line will be the Hokies’ biggest concern. In that group you have a sure thing (center Andrew Miller), a new starter who has nevertheless been on the field quite a bit (left tackle Nick Becton) and two promising but inexperienced players inside (guards David Wang and Brent Benedict).
That leaves the biggest question mark on the outside at right tackle. Can Vinston Painter, a once highly-touted recruit with all the physical gifts in the world, be the player Hokies coaches think he can be?
First things first: Painter looks the part. Like Marcus Davis at receiver, he’s how you would build a tackle. The Norfolk product is 6-foot-6, 304 pounds, big but lean, tall and rangy with long arms. His workout numbers — 30-inch vertical, 4.72 time in the 40, 430 bench, 336 power clean, 500 front squat — are equally impressive. You couldn’t ask for much more out of a lineman.
But for whatever reason, things haven’t clicked at Virginia Tech for a player once ranked as the No. 5 recruit in the state back in 2008.
He worked at defensive tackle when he got to Tech, before moving to offensive guard and later tackle. He also battled injuries earlier in his career that kept him off the practice field, stunting some development.
But this is Year 2 at right tackle. Painter spent all of last season serving as Blake DeChristopher‘s understudy (honestly, you couldn’t learn from a much better player). Although he didn’t get much time on the field, coaches are hoping his ascension to the top of the depth chart in the spring helps him shake that backup mentality and gives him the boost he needs to realize his vast potential.
Early returns were positive. With a new outlook, Painter held his own at right tackle during spring drills, often matching up against second-team All-ACC pick James Gayle. When the season comes around, he won’t face many better than that. Offensive line coach Curt Newsome called Painter “a pleasant surprise” this spring, adding that the fifth-year player was as confident as he’s been since coming to Blacksburg.
Painter is the linchpin to the line. If he can lock down that right tackle spot, it frees the coaches up to use utility linemen and fifth-year senior Michael Via, who is capable of playing every spot up front, somewhere else. If he can’t, it means quarterback Logan Thomas will have to worry about pass rushers in his line of vision, something he didn’t have to do last season with DeChristopher protecting that side.
And when it gets down to it, there’s nothing of higher importance in football than protecting your star quarterback.
Coming Saturday: Honestly, who else could it be?
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
- No. 16: Cody Journell, junior kicker
- No. 15: Brent Benedict and David Wang, offensive guards
- No. 14: Dyrell Roberts, senior wide receiver
- No. 13: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 12: Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach
- No. 11: Key reserves
- No. 10: Frank Beamer, head coach
- No. 9: Bruce Taylor and Tariq Edwards, inside linebackers
- No. 8: Marcus Davis, wide receiver
- No. 7: Beamerball
- No. 6: Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, junior cornerbacks
- No. 5: Michael Holmes, redshirt freshman running back
- No. 4: Bryan Stinespring and Mike O’Cain, offensive coordinator/play-caller
- No. 3: James Gayle, junior defensive end