The school’s all-time kick return leader is not listed in the top four at kick return on the most recent release of the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles and true freshman J.C. Coleman are the No. 1 group, with junior Tony Gregory and redshirt freshman Kevin Asante behind them.
Roberts is instead listed as the top punt returner, something he hasn’t done until this offseason.
“Coach hasn’t told me whether or not I will or will not [return kicks], but at the same time, he has told me that in certain situations, I may be doing it and I may not,” he said.
“I’m doing punt returns, I’m trying to increase my role on offense and things like that, so maybe getting a bit of a breather is why I’m not going to be doing it all the time. But we’ll see.”
Past injuries might have factored into the coaches’ decision too. Roberts has gone out with season-ending injuries on kickoffs each of the last two years.
In 2010, he suffered a deep thigh bruise against Georgia Tech in early November, eventually needing surgery for compartment syndrome, a condition created when pressure builds up within muscles and results in decreased blood flow.
Last year, he missed 11 games after breaking his arm on a kick return against Arkansas State in Week 3.
“I’ve done hundreds of kickoffs,” he said. “It just happened to happen on two select plays. You can’t just shy away from it because of that.”
It happened not long after he passed Jon Jeffries (1987-91) for the No. 1 spot on the school’s kick return yardage list. Roberts has 1,577 return yards and a 25.9-yard average, both tops in Hokies history. He had a 98-yard return for a touchdown in the 2009 opener against Alabama.
It’s easy to see why coaches had a discussion with Roberts in the spring about if he wanted to return kicks again. He said yes, even if the Hokies have apparently shied away from it.
“It’s up to the coaches, really,” Roberts said. “It’s not up to me. I’d have no problem doing it.”
- Offensive line coach Curt Newsome said there will be a rotation at right guard between fifth-year senior Michael Via and sophomore transfer Brent Benedict against Georgia Tech, although he hasn’t sorted out the number of snaps each will get. Spoke with both players today. They sound all right with it. (I’ll have more on this in a newspaper story in Friday’s paper.)
- “One brings something to the table that the other doesn’t,” Newsome said. The veteran Via has played every spot on the line, so he has experience. Benedict, who sat out last year after transferring from Georgia, is a powerful blocker but lacks the reps, having only moved from tackle to guard in the offseason. Benedict has held the No. 1 guard spot since spring, when Via sat out following knee surgery. After Via returned this August, he initially worked as a backup right tackle.
- At defensive end, James Gayle was out of the blue jersey he’s been wearing the last few weeks because of ankle injury. Coaches expect him to be fine come Monday.
- Quarterback Logan Thomas’ arm is feeling better after a few days or rest. The junior sat out the second half of Saturday’s scrimmage with what coaches described as soreness in his elbow. The team had Sunday to rest, followed by two fairly light practices Monday and Tuesday. “He was fine today,” quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said. “It was really nothing serious.”
- O’Cain said Thomas is much-improved this year: “He’s got to play in a game, but he’s smarter, he’s more in charge, more confident. So those areas are there. Now, he’s got to go out with an inexperienced bunch and lead and take control and rally us all together, which last year he really didn’t have to do that too much. … He is if not the leader, one of the top leaders on offense. He’s got to take charge and when things aren’t going to good, make sure we hang in there.”
- Count Roberts as a player who enjoys a primetime opener against a tough opponent. “I wish we had every game like this,” he said. “The preparation is fun. Everybody here at practice, flying around, the coaches on the edge. I like that. It makes me go out and not take a play off. … It makes all of us go out there and practice harder.”