Virginia Tech Hokies Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    The Virginia Tech Hokies spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to follow leading up to the team's spring game on April 22.

    March 19, 2017

    The Virginia Tech Hokies spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to follow leading up to the team’s spring game on April 22.

    Virginia Tech enjoyed quite a standout 2016 college football season under first-year head coach Justin Fuente, who arrived from Memphis and brought a prolific offense to Blacksburg following the long tenure of Frank Beamer.

    The Hokies finished up a 10-4 campaign with a Belk Bowl win over Arkansas, pulling off the largest comeback in the school’s 124-year history to put a bow on a fine season. The Hokies erased a 24-point halftime deficit to beat the Razorbacks, and it came after VT gave Clemson a tough battle in the ACC title game.

    With spring football just around the corner, let’s take a look at the biggest questions facing the Hokies as they get set to prepare for their spring game on April 22 at Lane Stadium as well as the 2017 campaign.

    Virginia Tech Hokies Spring Practice Storylines

    1. Introducing a new field general

    Losing Jerod Evans early to the NFL Draft was a tough blow for the Hokies, as Fuente likely thought he had his dual-threat signal-caller for two years after his stint in junior college. But after completing 64 percent of his passes for over 3,500 yards with 29 touchdowns and just eight interceptions as well as leading the Hokies in rushing with 846 yards and 12 scores, Evan is pursuing a career on Sundays.

    So over these 15 spring practices, Fuente will be evaluating possible replacement options for Evans, who is even more difficult to replace because he was often the team’s default RB in 2016. Joshua Jackson, Herndon Hooker, Ryan Willis and A.J. Bush will be vying for the starting role, with redshirt freshman Jackson being the man to beat after almost winning the job last summer. He knows the offense, has very good athleticism and has nice touch on his throws. He is the odds-on favorite to start against West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, in the 2017 season opener.

    Meanwhile, Hooker is an early enrollee true freshman who may be the future at the position, but it’s difficult to see him being a legitimate option to start despite Jackson performing well in the spring game when he was a true freshman. Willis is a transfer from Kansas who has the experience and a nice build, but he has 12 touchdowns against 17 interceptions for his career. He’s more of an emergency guy. As is Bush, who started his career at Nebraska before playing one year at a community college. Bush has a big arm but is raw.

    Expect Jackson, who is coming off of a big spring in 2016, to get most of the reps this time around. He needs to start getting comfortable with the team’s new receivers, as two of its top three from last season have departed, so his reps need to be maximized because he is the top option for the Hokies.

    2. Remain healthy across the D-Line

    Bud Foster’s defense complemented Fuente’s offense very well last season, but the longtime DC has to replace three starters along the defensive line. Thus, VT has very little depth up front. Vinny Mihota and Trevon Hill are gone, so that leaves Tim Settle and Ricky Walker as the likely starters in front of Darius Fullwood and Jarrod Hewitt. Outside of redshirt freshman Jimmie Taylor, there are not many other bodies besides the true freshmen that are scheduled to arrive in the summer. Coming out of spring drills with no injuries to this unit is integral.

    3. The need for new playmakers to emerge

    The most experienced running back returning is Travon McMillian, who had an inconsistent 2016. Sam Rogers, Shai McKinzie and Marshawn Williams are all gone. The Hokies need Deshawn McClease to bounce back from a shoulder injury or someone like Coleman Fox or Terius Wheatley to step up. The ground game needs to be better than it was last fall.

    Meanwhile, at wide receiver, Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges are off to the NFL. Cam Phillips and CJ Carroll remain, but both are more in the mold of slot receivers. Eric Kumah, Phil Patterson, Caleb Farley and Jaylen Bradshaw will fight for playing time. Nothing will be set in stone here until the fall, but there is real opportunity for playing time, especially because Fuente likes to utilize a lot of wide receivers.

    MORE: Tennessee Volunteers Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch


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