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Virginia Tech's season opener is less than a month away, but the Hokies' coaches don't want their players getting so swept up in playing the No. 1 team in the country that they forget what's important.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wants his team to focus on itself first, before it starts worrying about playing Alabama. ACC Coaches Interviews 2012 ACC Football Kickoff at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C., July 22, 2012. (photo by Sara D. Davis, theACC.com)
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has lofty goals for 2013, namely: throwing five interceptions or fewer and completing 62 percent of his passes.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
BLACKSBURG - Forget about Alabama.
OK, not like that. Virginia Tech's season opener is less than a month away, but the Hokies' coaches don't want their players getting so swept up in playing the No. 1 team in the country that they forget what's important.
"We're going to focus on the everydays. Not Alabama," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "Every day we've got to find a way to be a little bit better, and Alabama will be here before we know it. We've got to take care of the day first, not get 30 days advanced."
It's with that mindset that the Hokies will open practice Monday, the first of a month's worth of workouts before their Aug. 31 matchup with the Crimson Tide in the Georgia Dome.
Here are five questions Virginia Tech will need to answer over the next month:
1. Who will be the primary ballcarrier?
The Hokies need to narrow the field this year, something that happened automatically - although unintentionally - when Michael Holmes was dismissed from school last month.
Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman figure to have the best chance. They got the majority of reps in the spring while senior Tony Gregory was out with injured ribs.
Loeffler described Edmunds, a redshirt freshman whom fans are eager to see, as the "thumper" of the group, adding that Coleman and redshirt freshman Chris Mangus are more "scat backs." That's probably enough insight as to how the Hokies plan to use their backs this fall.
2. What will the starting offensive line look like?
New line coach Jeff Grimes mixed and matched in the spring, trying to find the right five. In the spring game, that group was (from left to right): Jonathan McLaughlin, Mark Shuman, Caleb Farris, Andrew Miller and Laurence Gibson.
That could change. David Wang, who returns from seemingly never-ending leg and ankle injuries, is a veteran who could be a guard or center. Brent Benedict is another guard who has started before, giving Grimes some options if the spring lineup doesn't work out.
3. Will Logan Thomas look better?
Early indications from the spring are that he got a good start at fixing the mechanical issues that led him to throw 16 interceptions and complete only 51.3 percent of his passes last year. But his three-interception spring game performance didn't ease any Hokies fans' fears.
Nevertheless, he has lofty goals for 2013, namely: throwing five interceptions or fewer and completing 62 percent of his passes. Those might seem out of reach, but Loeffler sounds encouraged.
"He's improved immensely," Loeffler said. "He's tough. I wish to goodness I had him for four years, because he reminds me of guys I've coached that are making a lot, a lot of money.
"He's becoming one of those CEOs, and by that I mean he's driving the ship. And when you've got a quarterback who is driving the ship, ask Bill Belichick, you've got a chance to win a lot of games."
4. Will Antone Exum be ready for the opener?
That's the million-dollar question. And nobody knows for sure. He proclaimed himself "65 percent" back from ACL surgery in the middle of July but has continued to progress since then. On Wednesday, he tweeted that he passed his conditioning test by running 16 100-yard sprints.
Still, there's a difference between running sprints and playing football, and Exum will need to have the doctor's clearance before he can expand his rehab regimen.
He has an examination on his surgically repaired knee with Dr. James Andrews on Monday that should give a clearer picture of when he'll be back on the field.
5. Can the defense get back to the level Bud Foster is accustomed to?
Virginia Tech's defense looked like a different unit in the second half of last season, more like the aggressive, ball-hawking group that Foster has been known for.
With nine starters back, the Hokies hope to continue that this year. It helps that the secondary won't be shuffled like at the start of last year. And even if Exum can't get back for the opener, Tech is more suited to replace him this season with young players like five-star signee Kendall Fuller and early enrollee Brandon Facyson.
The question is whether the defensive front can be as disruptive. If the Hokies can find some defensive tackle depth and develop their linebackers, things are looking up for Foster's crew.
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