Hokies back to work as spring ball dawns

Virginia Tech is the final ACC team to open spring practice, and you could say the best comes last.

Just don't tell that to Hokies head coach Frank Beamer.

Virginia Tech likely will be a preseason top-10 team and a popular choice to win the league for the third time in the past four years. Beamer's bunch is absolutely loaded at running back with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. The Hokies also bring back ACC pass efficiency leader Tyrod Taylor and several solid defenders.

It's a strong group, but Beamer has no plans to sit back and relax this spring.

"Any time you're talking about top 10, and you're talking about replacing both kickers, that's a concern ...," Beamer told reporters Monday. "I think the talent level is good. It's just you've got some young guys there."

What are some key areas to watch as Virginia Tech opens spring drills? Here's a quick look:

  • Position changes: Virginia Tech has several of them, most notably Josh Oglesby moving from running back to fullback and Jake Johnson moving from linebacker to defensive end. The Hokies don't normally feature their fullbacks but could look to do more with Oglesby, a highly touted prospect buried on the depth chart.

  • Running back: The Hokies know they have a great option in Williams, but they'll be closely watching how Evans responds this spring after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Beamer expects Evans to push Williams for the starting job, but you never know how players respond to major knee injuries.

  • Specialists: As Beamer mentioned, both the starting kicker and punter jobs are open after the departures of Matt Waldron and Brent Bowden. Several players are in the mix at kicker, including Chris Hazley and Justin Myer, while Brian Saunders is expected to step in at punter. Special teams are a huge deal at Virginia Tech, so plenty of eyes will be on these two competitions.

  • Defense: Virginia Tech loses seven starters, including three along the defensive line and All-ACC linebacker Cody Grimm. In addition, linebacker Barquell Rivers is out for the spring following quadriceps surgery. Alonzo Tweedy, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Lorenzo Williams are in the mix to fill Grimm's spot at outside linebacker. The Hokies need to build depth along the line and especially at the end spots, where Chris Drager and Steven Friday try to nail down starting spots.