The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching, something we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. That’s not until July 21, however. In the meantime, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a closer look at Virginia Tech.
This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on the Hokies’ roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people/ideas that will determine whether Virginia Tech’s 2013 season is a success or not. First up is …
No. 25: Ryan Malleck, tight end
The 2012 season wasn’t the breakout year many had hoped for Malleck, who caught 17 passes for 174 yards and no touchdowns. But coaches were quick to point out the tight end was only in his second year, having played sparingly as a true freshman in 2011.
Now a junior, there remain decent expectations for Malleck, who could have his long-anticipated breakout in 2013.
The 6-foot-4, 248-pounder is the most balanced of Tech’s tight ends, a blocker/receiver with good size and hands, somebody the defense can’t discount in either part of the game.
With Randall Dunn and Eric Martin gone, Malleck is by far the most experienced player at the position, with converted defensive linemen Duan Perez-Means and Zack McCray and rising redshirt sophomore Darius Redman behind him.
Virginia Tech’s offense hasn’t featured the tight end in recent years — since Jeff King graduated, the highest single-season yardage total for a Hokies tight end was Greg Boone at 278 in 2008 — but new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said he likes using them in his scheme.
“Love the tight ends,” he said after being introduced by Tech in January. “The tight ends are the perfect role, playing with tight ends on the field, causes as many major problems with defensive alignment. If you saw how New England played with the two tight ends they had, the defense was never right. They couldn’t get nickel people on the field. You never knew if they were in run sets, pass sets, what have you, because of the diversity of the tight ends.
“We’ll play with what we have. If we have great tight ends, we’ll play with them. If not, we won’t. But in a perfect world, yeah, I like tight ends a lot.”
The spring game offered an encouraging glimpse. Malleck caught three passes for 45 yards, including a 30-yarder for a touchdown from Mark Leal after he slipped behind the secondary.
With Tech’s receiving corps inexperienced, it’d be nice for Logan Thomas to have a security blanket at tight end. Malleck would be a logical choice.
Coming Thursday: They’re not starters.