Wiles said Thursday night that his starting lineup for Monday’s season opener will probably be Corey Marshall and Tyrel Wilson at end, with Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy at tackle.
That would leave three starters from last year — James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Antoine Hopkins – coming off the bench. Gayle is a first-team preseason All-ACC pick this year. He was a second-team selection at the end of last year, while Collins earned an honorable mention.
“That’s kind of how I like the room to be,” Wiles said. “I don’t want anybody to be comfortable with their playing time. I want them to compete on a day-to-day basis for everything.”
Although the starting lineup might be shaken up, Wiles will still control the number of snaps that each player will get, which will put playing time more in line with conventional thinking.
“That part won’t be any different as long as everybody is healthy,” he said.
Wiles called the starting nods a “reward” for those players. He thought Marshall had a great camp and that Maddy out-played Antoine Hopkins.
“Hop, he didn’t necessarily like that,” Wiles said. “But I said, ‘Well, here’s an opportunity this week to start against Austin Peay. And you go play better and you’ll start the next week.’”
Wilson, meanwhile, might get the starting spot at end because Gayle has missed so much time with an ankle injury.
“He did all the work,” Wiles said of Wilson.
Gayle, meanwhile, has been in and out of a blue, limited-contact jersey for more than two weeks because of an ankle injury. He missed all of the team’s live scrimmages and, despite shedding the blue jersey this week and looking better, still has a tender ankle.
“This ain’t going to be one of those games, man, that you can be tender,” Wiles said.
Gayle thinks he’s ready for the game. He’s spent the last few days knocking off the rust and getting his timing and cardio level back. He didn’t necessarily like Wiles’ decision but accepted it.
“We already had that conversation,” he said. “Of course I don’t like it, because I’d like to start, but I respect his decision. I haven’t played the whole camp.”
- If you missed the news earlier, defensive end Dadi Nicolas was reinstated to the team after resolving his legal issues. He apologized to his teammates before going out to practice. “I think, No. 1, Dadi is a good kid who made a bad decision,” Wiles said. “And I’m glad for him. He is such a hungry kid. Just the fact that he doesn’t take things for granted, he made a mistake, I’m just very happy for him as a person that he’s not blown this opportunity.”
- Nicolas was in shorts and no pads Thursday, in accordance with NCAA rules. From the sounds of it, he’s got a long road back. He only played on year of high school football, so the game is still relatively new to him. “He is a learn-with-reps guy,” Wiles said. “So there’s going to be a lot of punishment in this, just the fact that I don’t know if he’ll help us this year or not. Whose reps are you going to steal to get him ready? He missed all of camp, everything that we’ve done. All the meeting and the grinding and the film. And he needs it really bad on a day-to-day basis. Football is a little abstract to him. He hasn’t gotten a lot of experience. He’s got a lot of ability. I thought coming out of the spring that he and Tyrel would really be battling for playing time. So it’s a shame from that standpoint.”
- Wiles thinks Nicolas could help in a special teams capacity, either on the punt block team or returns. As for the regular defense, it doesn’t sound like it’s a viable option. “Unless we just got grenaded with injuries, I don’t see him fitting in this year at defensive end,” Wiles said. ”Because it’s going to take him a long time to get ready to play. I bet he thought we were speaking Chinese in there today when he came into the meeting. Just the verbiage and stuff. He’s not even close.”
- The debate earlier was if Georgia Tech is truly a rival game for Virginia Tech. Linebacker Bruce Taylor thinks it is. For starters, he mentioned the fact that the winner has always represented the Coastal Division in the ACC title game. “And we always have tight games,” he said.
- The biggest challenge about facing Georgia Tech’s option offense? “They do a good job of getting teams to get out of character and forget the things that they learned all week,” Taylor said. “They’re so good at taking advantage of that.”
- Lots of talk about cut blocking and chop blocking this week, since it’s Georgia Tech. The Hokies use the two phrases interchangeably, even though the first is a legal block and the second is not. Probably gives you a good idea of what they think of the practice. I’ll have more on cut blocking and how the Hokies react to it tomorrow.
- Georgia Tech’s offensive style of repetition and variance off a similar play takes some players back to their younger years. “It kind of brings you back to those old high school games where you know what the team is going to do,” Taylor said. “It’s just a matter of stopping it. So that part of it will be fun.”
- Cornerback Antone Exum said he almost feels like a safety again in this game, given all the run support he’ll be asked to do. “This is probably as physical as it will get for me all year,” he said. “I’m definitely excited to be down there and involved in all the action.”
- Lastly, it appears former Hokies wide receiver Danny Coale will be among the final cuts for the Dallas Cowboys on Friday, when NFL rosters have to be trimmed to 53. That’s somewhat surprising, since he was a fifth-round pick. At the same time, a broken foot at mini-camp last spring put him so far behind the other receivers that he had too much ground to make up in the last month.