You can practically hear the angels singing.
Why? Tech football, or at least some semblance of it, starts up again next Tuesday when the Hokies open their summer practice.
Watching Logan Thomas and company don pads once more will certainly make the wait for Labor Day seem considerably more bearable, but that’s not to say that summer practice will be all fun and games.
Instead, there are a handful of burning questions that need to be resolved after the team last stepped on the field for spring practice, and every Hokie fan should be watching closely to see how they’re addressed.
It might not seem exciting, but one of the more important question marks is the offensive line. When the team broke practice this spring, there seemed to be a basic consensus involving who would start where, but the unit still didn’t see a lot of time together.
Andrew Miller will surely anchor the unit at center as the group’s lone returning starter, but the game experience of Nick Becton, David Wang, and Vinston Painter will also surely help things run more smoothly. The trio is slated to start at left tackle, left guard, and right tackle respectively.
The one true newcomer, transfer Brent Benedict, earned a lot of hype in the spring for being a former SEC prospect and is slated to start at right guard, but saw limited time on the field. This summer, Benedict and the rest of the group are likely to get a lot more time together, and they’ll finally be facing up against a defense that is starting to get healthy for the first time in months.
The health of the defense is another interesting facet that should be on display next week.
Bruce Taylor and Tariq Edwards form the heart of the team’s linebacking corps, yet they’re also both coming back from major foot injuries and figure to return to action this summer.
Edwards may be on the shelf until mid-August, according to head trainer Mike Goforth, so we might not get to see much of him until later, but Taylor is slated to start camp immediately.
The redshirt senior was named to the Nagurski Award watch list, meaning the media considers him a contender to be the best defensive player in college football, which certainly makes the stakes pretty high. He was off to a great start last season before his injury, leading the team in tackles before he went down, so his effectiveness this year should be a major factor in the quality of the defense.
While all these concerns may be a little technical, it’s safe to say that all eyes will be on the performance of the offense, specifically Thomas.
He’s gotten a lot of press in the offseason, and coaches are prepared to put more of a load on his shoulders offensively. This includes the further development of an up tempo style to throw defenses off track, and seeing how Thomas and the rest of the unit handles it should prove to be captivating.
Early reports indicate that the team will only look to use the hurried style roughly 10 percent of the time, but that would still be often enough to force Thomas to make a lot of adjustments on the fly, something he hasn’t necessarily had experience doing much of yet. It’s unclear how much of it the team might show during summer practice, but it will be very informative to see what they can do with it.
But perhaps the most important thing fans can hope to glean from practice is how Thomas looks with a year of development under his belt. The difference in his demeanor at spring practice was striking, as most could agree that he exhibited the cool composure that the best quarterbacks have, despite being so young.
The true sign of his maturity, however, will be how he approaches reading a defense. The hurry up offense will be a major test for him, and it will be part of the larger concern of evaluating the way he sees the field.
It’s undeniable that he could make plays last year; whether he was bowling over defenders on a scramble or hitting receivers in stride downfield, he was certainly explosive at times. But the main reason the offense fell apart in the final two games of the year was that he wasn’t quite able to stick in the pocket, go through his progressions, and deliver the ball, without feeling the need to take off running.
If he starts to show that kind of poise on August 7, then, more than any of the other improvements listed here, the rest of the ACC needs to watch out.