Virginia Tech Football: 3 Players Who Need to Turn It Around in Spring Practice

Alex Koma@AlexKomaVTContributor IIIApril 7, 2014

Virginia Tech Football: 3 Players Who Need to Turn It Around in Spring Practice

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    The Virginia Tech football team’s spring drills are only two weeks old, but already there are some players that are worrying the coaching staff with some slow starts.

    Tech’s spring game isn’t for another three weeks, so there is some time for them to turn things around, but the way they’ve started is still a little troubling.

    There are plenty of open spots on the depth chart, and many of the team’s most important position battles will be resolved by this spring practice session, so these next few days are of paramount importance to these veterans.

    If these three players don’t step up in a hurry, they’ll quickly find themselves sliding down the bench as more players arrive for fall camp.

Nigel Williams

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    Nigel Williams is currently battling with redshirt junior Corey Marshall for the top spot at defensive tackle, so he was likely counting on having a big spring. 

    However, while both tackles will likely rotate in and out of the lineup to keep things fresh during the year, Frank Beamer and defensive line coach Charley Wiles were certainly hoping that one or the other stepped up in the spring.

    Yet Williams hasn’t been particularly effective on the field. As a redshirt sophomore, he’s had time in the system, but he hasn’t really shown it on the field.

    He couldn’t crack the tackle leaderboard in the team’s first spring scrimmage, and at 290 pounds, coaches are a little concerned about his weight.

    The Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter said Wiles thinks that Williams “might be a bit too heavy, wanting him to still be able to run well.”

    But Williams doesn’t seem to agree.

    "(I) gained more stability in the middle, so I feel like that helps a lot," Williams told Bitter about his weight, and it’s not necessarily great to see a player publicly disagree with his coach on something like this.

    By contrast, the team likes Marshall’s physique and is happy with his progress this spring, Bitter wrote in the same article. 

    At the tackle spot next to [Luther] Maddy, Marshall, who returned from a redshirt year after a brief leave from the team, has the upper hand. Coaches have liked the way he's handled himself since returning from what was a disciplinary measure last year. (Marshall declined an interview request Thursday.)

    He might be lighter than the typical tackle -- he weighs in at 257 pounds -- but he gives the Hokies what defensive coordinator Bud Foster calls "twitch" inside, along with Maddy.

    It doesn’t seem like Williams is completely out of the running, but if he wants to grab a larger share of the snaps at DT, he’ll have to improve a bit.

Andrew Ford

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    As a true freshman, there was little doubt that Andrew Ford was going to have some growing pains.

    Apparently, the team’s first open scrimmage gave him a taste of college football, and it was an eye-opening experience.

    Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler noticed that the early enrollee still has a lot to learn, according to Bitter.

    Charley Meyer was open on a curl if Andrew Ford had anticipated a little bit quicker.

    Instead, the Virginia Tech freshman quarterback didn’t pull the trigger, tucking it down, rolling to his left away from the play and throwing it away on the run as a mass of defenders closed in.

    “His eyes were about as big as they can get. He should have ripped the curl,” Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said afterward, a point he emphatically made to Ford on the field as well. “He got to find out how fast college football was.”

    With two more scrimmages before the spring game, Ford will have lots of other chances to get used to game scenarios, but it’s not a strong sign for the freshman.

    Ford enrolled early solely to get a better grasp of the offense, yet it doesn’t seem to be paying off quite yet.

    Since fellow freshman Chris Durkin and transfer QB Michael Brewer are arriving in the fall, the staff is trying to slim down the number of players competing for the starting job.

    If Ford can’t step things up soon, the staff could easily thin the ranks by redshirting him, and he’d be out of the mix until 2015.

Mark Leal

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    The Hokies’ presumptive starter at quarterback has yet to impress this spring.

    Mark Leal may be a redshirt senior, but he’s continued to look uncomfortable under center.

    In the team’s first scrimmage, he went 3-of-9 for 34 yards and an interception, in addition to getting sacked once. 

    He missed on several long passes, which are supposed to be his specialty, and his lone pick was mainly the result of a badly overthrown pass. 

    “At first, I think I started off OK. I made some good throws,” Leal told the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mike Barber. “But toward the middle of the scrimmage, my reads were right, everything was right. I just let some throws get away from me.”

    While the results were hardly disastrous, and Leal displayed some quick thinking by pitching the ball to Jerome Wright to avoid a sack that turned into a long touchdown, it’s not what Leal needed to show.

    The freshmen might not be a huge threat to Leal’s hold on the top job, but Brewer and redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley certainly could be.

    Leal needs to show this spring that he deserves to be at the top of the depth chart and that he’s more comfortable in the offense than his competitors while the playing field is still small.

    However, Motley impressed the staff by going 5-of-7 for 36 yards. He didn’t light the world on fire, but his performance was much more in line with what the coaches were expecting from Leal.

    This spring is absolutely huge for the fifth-year quarterback, and if he doesn’t step up soon, he might lose his grip on the top spot heading into fall camp.