For the first time since January, the Virginia Tech football team put on the pads and was available to the public, as they held their first open scrimmage of the 2012 season this past weekend.
As far as scrimmages go, it was a fairly revealing one. Rather than displaying the same old offense that Bryan Stinespring has created over the past half decade or so, the team put on a shocking show offensively.
It’s not as if the offense suddenly put up 70 points, but the pace at which Logan Thomas and company worked was something that has never really been seen from the Hokies before. Not only did things seem faster and crisper, the coaches seemed to put their money where their mouths were in terms of utilizing new formations like the spread and the pistol.
Thomas was practically built for the pistol, and even though they didn’t showcase it much on Saturday, they seemed to run it pretty smoothly. The fact that the offensive line seemed comfortable with it was particularly encouraging, and it seemed like the line’s increased athleticism is allowing playcaller Mike O’Cain and Stinespring to get more creative offensively.
The spread is another story entirely. It didn’t necessarily run as smoothly as the pistol did, but the team wanted to show it off more, and seemed really committed to it. It seems as if Frank Beamer finally saw the writing on the wall about the new offensive trend in college football, and now that he as a quarterback to pull it off (as well as not having an established running back) he’s ready to jump in.
The main concern about running the spread is receiver depth, but the scrimmage addressed some of those concerns. Without D.J. Coles, the starting receivers for the scrimmage were Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts, but the pair didn’t see much action. Instead, Kevin Asante and Corey Fuller were Thomas’ big targets on the day, and looked impressive, with Fuller even catching a touchdown pass right in front of me.
It would seem logical that those two would be the next two names on the depth chart, given their experience, but freshman Josh Stanford got in the mix a fair amount as well. Touted freshman Joel Caleb didn’t do a whole lot on the day, lending credence to the theory that he’s headed for a redshirt year, while speedster Demetri Knowles wasn’t very involved either.
However, with Coles, Davis, Roberts, Asante, and Fuller as the top five targets, running the spread seems pretty doable. Not to mention contributions from the tight ends, a position that saw a fair bit of a change as well. Ryan Malleck was officially bumped up to the first slot on the depth chart, as the team seems very excited with his development, particularly in receiving skills. If he can contribute to the passing attack, in addition to WR/TE hybrid Randall Dunn, then the team seems to have both depth and weapons to make things plausible. efficient with the ones he had. J.C. Coleman was the star on the day, as he broke off a 52-yard run in which he stiff armed Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum to break free. Even Tony Gregory got in on the action, scoring a touchdown, but Martin Scales was strangely absent, despite a 10-yard gain early.
Scales’ absence was the one thing that concerned me about the scrimmage. The more that coaches and fans have hyped the guy as a bruising goal line and third down back, the more I try to puzzle out what his real role could be the offense. It’s clear Holmes and Coleman will be the workhorse backs, and J.C. will undoubtedly be valued for his receiving skills on passing third downs. But on running third downs and goal line situations, will O’Cain really be confident enough in Scales to take the ball away from Thomas, after he showed how effective he can be in those situations last season? I would be shocked if he was, and I can’t blame him. Thomas came up big in several big moments last year, while Scales as barely seen the field. As much as I’d love to be excited about Scales’ size and ability, his lack of participation in the scrimmage only deepened my doubts about his role.
Despite that one negative, the scrimmage was overwhelmingly positive. The Hokies will get back on the field for another scrimmage Wednesday, so here’s hoping that Thomas continues to look commanding and Scales can actually grab some carries.