Last year the Hokies began their spring with more questions than Trivial Pursuit. How did they respond?
Simply took a team decimated by NFL departures, graduation, injuries, and a couple suspensions and reloaded en route to a fifth straight 10 win season, second straight ACC Championship and an Orange Bowl win to boot. Not bad.
This year's crew starts spring practices with fewer questions and consequently some substantial hype. With almost everyone in the college football world pegging Virginia Tech as a preseason top 10 team, Hokie Nation has good reason to feel excited.
Although the bulk of last year's starting squad returns, some key players including defensive leader "Macho" Harris, linebackers Brett Warren and Purnell Sturdivant, defensive end Orion Martin, quarterback Sean Glennon, and kicker Dustin Keys will be missed.
However, Frank Beamer and Bud Foster aren't complaining and will continue to plug in players that they feel will perform.
Here's an outlook of what Hokie fans should see on offense and defense this year:
The Hokies should be very familiar on offense this season as only two starters, left guard Nick Marshman and center Ryan Shuman, will need to be replaced.
James Brooks will take over at right guard, while Sergio Render shifts over to replace Marshman at left guard as they did in the Orange Bowl. Beau Warren should take over at center.
However, the biggest area of concern on offense for Beamer, is finding a viable full-time backup at quarterback for Tyrod Taylor who has missed at least one game in each his first two seasons.
Tight end Greg Boone played quarterback in high school and will likely take some snaps under center, in at least the Hokies' "Wild Turkey" formation.
But the real battle Beamer wants to see for backup quarterback is between the two freshmen Ju-Ju Clayton and Marcus Davis. For now, it appears Clayton has the edge, but Beamer hasn't made any promises.
The young receiving core of Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, and Dyrell Roberts should only improve with a year of experience under their belts, and will certainly get a boost with the return of speedster Brandon Dillard.
The Hokies' biggest strength should be a lethal backfield which could end up being one of the best in the nation this season if sophomore Darren Evans picks up where he left off and highly touted freshman Ryan Williams lives up to the hype.
Josh Oglesby will also get touches, as should Kenny Lewis, Jr. when he gets healthy. Highly touted David Wilson could make an immediate impact as a true freshman if Beamer so chooses.
The Hokies will again have to find another kicker, this time to replace the reliable Dustin Keys. At this point it's a three horse race between Matt Waldron, Justin Myer, and incoming freshman Cody Journell.
If there is one thing you can count on in Blacksburg, it's Bud Foster's defense. The Hokies have consistently finished in the top 10 in total defense and with seven starters returning don't expect that to change.
Although Harris, Martin, Warren, and Sturdivant will be missed, you can bet on Foster finding suitable replacements and the defense to keep on clicking.
Stephan Virgil looked very impressive last year at field corner with six interceptions and will now slide over to replace Macho at boundary corner. Rashad Carmichael seems to have the inside track at taking over field corner.
Sophomore Barquell Rivers impressed all in his replacement of the injured Brett Warren in the Orange Bowl, which included a phenomenal goal line tackle.
He should take over one of the linebacker spots. Jake Johnson and Quillie Odom will battle for the other spot which Beamer called, "wide-open."
With the departure of star defensive end Orion Martin, the defensive front will undergo a little shuffling. John Graves will move from defensive tackle to defensive end and Demetrius Taylor will take Graves' tackle spot. Jason Worilds is out this spring with shoulder surgery, but will likely be ready for the opener.
Virginia Tech has its first scrimmage this Friday and will hopefully learn a little more about where they're at as a team. In any case, Hokie fans have plenty of reasons to be excited.
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