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August 17, 2010

A position-by-postion look at the 2010 Football squad

By: Jimmy Robertson


Tyrod Taylor

Tech’s QB situation in good hands with Taylor

Tech head coach Frank Beamer referred to him as his security blanket. Quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain called him “low maintenance.”

That should give Tech fans an indication of the coaching staff’s opinion of starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

The senior from Hampton, Virginia, has been playing since early through his freshman season and continues to progress as a signal caller. A year ago, he completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,311 yards, with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. His yardage and touchdowns marked career highs, and he also led the ACC in passing efficiency.

Perhaps more impressively, he is 23-5 as a starting quarterback, with an opportunity to surpass Bryan Randall as the all-time leader in victories by a starting quarterback (26).

“I think last year was a breakout year, but I think last year is going to carry over to this year and that we’re going to play at a high level from day one,” Taylor said. “We have a very talented team.

“We’ve got an explosive unit on offense and a fast and physical defense. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have a lot of potential, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to reach that potential and reach the ultimate goal, which is the national championship.”

Tech’s back-up situation behind Taylor is in better shape than last year. Ju-Ju Clayton played in five games a year ago, while Logan Thomas redshirted. Thomas possesses the most potential, but Clayton possesses a knack for making plays. A decision on the No. 2 quarterback will be made a couple of weeks before the season opener.


Returning starter: Tyrod Taylor (28 career starts)
Starters lost: none
Projected new starters: none
Top reserves: Ju-Ju Clayton, Logan Thomas
Newcomers: Mark Leal, Ricardo Young
Breakout candidate: Taylor
Notes: Taylor completed 22 passes of 30 or more yards in 2009 after hitting just three in 2008. Taylor stands fourth at Tech in total offense (5,811) and eighth in passing (4,274). He is second all time among Tech quarterbacks in career rushing yards (1,537).


5 Tyrod Taylor (6-1, 210, Sr.)�
3 Logan Thomas (6-6, 242, r-Fr.)�
12 Ju-Ju Clayton (6-1, 220, r-Soph.)

Running Backs

Darren Evans

Evans ready to get under the lights

The card is taped on the side of Darren Evans’ locker.

It possesses a University of Texas logo on it, and inside features the scribble of Mack Brown, the Longhorns’ football coach.

In a touch of class, Brown last year took the time to express his sympathy to Evans, who blew out his knee in a practice last August, and to wish Evans the best. The note reminds Evans of what he once was, a powerful running back with a bright future, and where he wants to get back to and beyond as he returns to the field for the 2010 season.

Evans spent a torturous fall watching his teammates win 10 games and destroy Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after blowing out that knee. Then he spent the winter and spring attempting to show everyone that the wheels he used to rush for 1,265 yards as a freshman had plenty of tread left.

He plans on hitting the highway running on Labor Day night against Boise State.

“I can’t tell you how I feel,” he said. “Nothing can compare. I’ve never been this anxious. I think about it all the time.”

Evans certainly looks ready to go. He now packs 220 pounds and runs as well as he did before the injury. He made all his times during summer workouts.

But the dynamic has changed. Tech’s backfield also features Ryan Williams, who replaced Evans last season and went on to set a school record by rushing for 1,655 yards on his way to earning All-ACC and All-America honors. He broke ACC records for total touchdowns (22) and rushing touchdowns (21).

Williams stood as one of the best running backs in the college ranks a year ago. He figures to get better, too, with another year in Tech’s acclaimed strength and conditioning program.

Williams and Evans figure to work in tandem this year, which may make Williams even better. The carries, though, haven’t been predetermined. That depends on how the game progresses.

“It’ll all work out,” Evans said. “We’ll look out for each other and push each other.

“I’m not one to think ‘Well, if Ryan does this, then I’ve got to do this.’ I have a different mindset. We’re different, and if I worry about him and what he’s doing, then that will affect the way I do things.”

Evans and Williams are just two members of arguably the best backfield in Tech history. Speedsters David Wilson and Tony Gregory are behind them.

Wilson could be electric. He and cornerback Rashad Carmichael are the fastest guys on the team, having run a 4.29 in the 40 in testing back in the winter. But Wilson may redshirt because of the glut of talent at the position.

At fullback, Josh Oglesby will assume more of an H-back role this season, as Tech’s staff wants to take advantage of both his running and receiving skills. Kenny Younger, one of the stronger players on the team, figures to help with the blocking and also catching passes out of the backfield.

But the eyes will be on the humble Evans, who spent a portion of his summer working as a dishwasher as a local restaurant. He earned some extra money for his wife, Taneesha and son, James, to go to Disney World with Taneesha’s family. But he stayed behind to work out and go to class.

“It [working as a dishwasher] was humbling, but I can’t go to my parents all the time and ask for money,” he said. “I have responsibilities and I embrace those.

“They [Taneesha and James] sent me back pictures [on his cell phone], and I’m glad they had a good time. I wish I was there. But I’ll get my chance to take him.”

At the moment, he’s on a different rollercoaster – and he plans on the ride ending a little differently than last year.


Returning starters: Ryan Williams (13 career starts), Darren Evans (9)
Starters lost: Kenny Jefferson (2) – Note: Tech often started either two tight ends or three receivers.
Projected new starter: Josh Oglesby
Top reserves: David Wilson, Tony Gregory, Kenny Younger
Newcomers: None
Breakout candidate: Evans
Notes: Evans was the first Tech freshman ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and the first Tech player to score a touchdown in each of his first six games back in 2008. Williams fumbled just once in 293 carries last season. Williams ranked fifth in the nation in rushing (127.3 ypg) and fourth in scoring (10.2 ppg).


34 Ryan Williams (5-11, 202, r-Soph.)
32 Darren Evans (6-0, 220, r-Jr.)
4 David Wilson (5-11, 200, Soph.)
22 Tony Gregory (6-0, 182, r-Fr.)

25 Josh Oglesby (5-11, 211, r-Jr.)
31 Kenny Younger (5-11, 228, r-Sr.)
Joey Phillips (5-11, 216, r-Soph.)
Josh Call (5-9, 254, r-Soph.)

Tight Ends

Andre Smith

Smith moves into starting role for his senior season

Andre Smith spent a portion of his summer working as an intern with the Virginia Tech Police Department in preparation for a future career in law enforcement.

He applied some of those skills to the football field over the course of spring and early August practices, and because of his hard work, experience and preparation, he’s certainly put the handcuffs on the starting position at tight end.

Smith, a redshirt senior, spent the past three seasons in a support role of starter Greg Boone. But it’s not like Smith hasn’t seen the field in that time – he’s played in 40 games over the past three years, including 13 starts when Tech opened games with two tight ends.

Now, with Boone’s departure, he becomes “The Man” at a position that seriously lacks experience.

“Finally,” he said, with a laugh. “To be honest, I felt truly blessed to play, period. But I’m anticipating a great year. I’ve played behind Greg for so long, and now I’m looking forward to stepping into that leadership role and helping some of these young guys step into that support role.”

Smith enjoyed an exceptional spring and figures to be another weapon in Tech’s offense. Blessed with size at 6-foot-5 and around 270 pounds, he provides Tyrod Taylor with a big target who possesses a pretty good set of hands. Smith made several nice catches in spring practice, and Tech’s offensive staff wants to get him more involved in the offense.

“I’d like to make some bigger plays and catch a few more passes, but I don’t care about the fame or the limelight,” he said. “I know Tyrod [Taylor] has a lot going on back there. The quarterback position is stressful enough. You’re making so many reads and you’ve got 290-pound defensive ends coming down on you. He has it hard enough as it is, so I’m not worried about it [catching more passes]. I’m sure he’ll find me when he can.”

Smith also blocks pretty well – he led Tech’s tight ends with 21 knockdowns a year ago. But more importantly, he provides experience at a position where Tech possesses very little of it.

Arguably, the biggest question on offense coming out of spring practice centered on the back-ups at tight end. Coming out of spring practice, Eric Martin held a slim edge at the No. 2 spot, with George George, Randall Dunn and Prince Parker all working for playing time. Martin is a strong, physical player who excels more as a blocker right now. George also is a physical player. Dunn, who came to Tech as a receiver, can run and stretch the field, but needs to be more physical at the point of attack.

Neither Martin, George or Dunn has played in a college game.

“I think any of those guys has the ability to do it,” Smith said. “Right now, Eric probably has a slight lead, but I think everyone has a fair shot.”


Returning starter: Andre Smith (13 career starts)
Starters lost: Greg Boone (41). (Editor’s note: Tech occasionally opened games with two tight ends.)
Projected new starter: Eric Martin, if the Hokies open with two tight ends
Top reserves: Eric Martin, Randall Dunn, Prince Parker, Rob Stanton
Newcomer: Jerome Lewis
Breakout candidate: Smith
Notes: Smith caught three passes last season and has 19 catches for his career … Smith and the rest of the tight ends figure to see a lot of time on special teams. Smith ranked second on the team in special teams plays a year ago with 198, just behind Matt Reidy’s 201 … Prince Parker and Rob Stanton combined to play just 46 plays a season ago. No other tight end saw action (Martin redshirted).


Tight Ends
88 Andre Smith (6-5, 272, r-Sr.)
86 Eric Martin (6-2, 268, r-Fr.)
George George (6-4, 266, r-Soph.)
13 Randall Dunn (6-2, 248, r-Soph.)
87 Prince Parker (6-5, 262, r-Sr.)

Wide Receivers

Marcus Davis

Davis hopes to put everything together this season

As the Hokies head into the 2010 season, they do so with arguably the school’s most talented group of receivers ever. In fact, practically the entire corps returns, providing quarterback Tyrod Taylor with an arsenal at his disposal.

Jarrett Boykin provides consistency and production, Danny Coale brings the dependability, and Dyrell Roberts delivers big-play potential. The three of them ranked as the Hokies’ top receivers a year ago.

But the one receiver drawing a lot of eyes toward his way is the one with arguably the most “up-side” of any player on Tech’s offense – Marcus Davis.

Now, the question is will he be the one everyone is talking about by the end of this season?

“I don’t pay a lot of attention to things like that,” Davis said. “I don’t listen to the hype. If you do, then you’ll expect things to go your way, and when they don’t, it just messes with your head.

“I’m just focusing on continuing to improve. You can never stop bettering yourself.”

Even though he caught just five passes a year ago, the expectations are high for Davis because of his athletic ability. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 225 pounds and yet he runs pretty well. He possesses the body of a tight end and the speed, hands and jumping ability of a receiver.

People expected a lot out of him last season as a redshirt freshman. But he caught just five passes and struggled learning the nuances of an unfamiliar position. He played mostly quarterback during his high school career and most of his redshirt year, including a big chunk of 2009 spring practice before the coaching staff moved him to receiver permanently.

“Going from my freshman year to my sophomore year [redshirt freshman year] was a big adjustment,” Davis said. “I was a quarterback in high school, so I was used to having the ball in my hand. At receiver, you have to make so many reads. You have to read on the go, and do what Coach [Kevin] Sherman calls ‘Play with your eyes.’ If you run the wrong play then it messes everyone else up.”

This summer has been spent running routes, focusing on catching and conditioning. He dropped 10 pounds to get to 230, a weight in which he feels more comfortable.

“I’ve always been a big guy,” he said. “But I came in at 235 – and that was not pretty.”

Davis should feel no pressure to perform given the depth at the receiver position. He’s got plenty of good ones surrounding him.

Boykin is a star in the making, having led Tech with 40 catches for 835 yards and five touchdowns a year ago. Coale caught 30 balls for 614 yards and Roberts finished with 22 catches and 390 yards. Those three form the core of the group.

Davis, Xavier Boyce, D.J. Coles and Ben Barber are all battling for playing time. All bring height, size and speed. Boyce impressed this spring, and Coles, who played mostly on special teams as a true freshman, could be redshirted depending on what happens in early August practices. Barber played particularly well in the spring game, and he, too, could get in the mix.

But these four know that athleticism isn’t enough to get on the field. It gets back to producing in practice, and then, in games.

“I always have high expectations,” Davis said. “But I know I have a lot more improving to do. Until then, everything else is just words. You can’t feed into it. It’s all about how you perform on the field.”


Returning starters: Danny Coale (26 career starts), Jarrett Boykin (18), Dyrell Roberts (10)Starters lost: none
Projected new starters: none
Top reserves: Marcus Davis, Xavier Boyce, D.J. Coles, Austin Fuller
Newcomer: E.L. Smiling
Breakout candidate: Davis
Notes: This might be the most athletic group of receivers ever to play at Tech. Expect Roberts to retain his kickoff return duties – he averaged 32 yards per return to rank fourth nationally. He ranks third in career kickoff return yards at Tech and should easily break the career mark. Coale and Boykin each averaged over 20 yards per catch last season, with Roberts averaging nearly 18 yards per catch. Boykin’s 20.9 yards per catch ranked fourth nationally. Coale ranks as probably the best blocker of the bunch.


Split Ends
81 Jarrett Boykin (6-2, 215, Jr.)
29 Xavier Boyce (6-4, 220, r-Soph.)
18 D.J. Coles (6-3, 225, Soph.)

19 Danny Coale (6-0, 198, r-Jr.)
11 Dyrell Roberts (6-2, 189, Jr.)
7 Marcus Davis (6-4, 229, r-Soph.)
35 Austin Fuller (6-2, 221, r-Soph.)

Offensive Line

Jaymes Brooks

Three returning starters and some experienced back-ups have Tech’s offensive line in solid shape

Tech offensive line coach Curt Newsome put Jaymes Brooks on the spot more than a year ago when he chose Brooks to start in the Orange Bowl against Cincinnati on the first day of 2009.

Brooks hasn’t been out of the starting lineup since that game.

The burly redshirt junior enters his second season as the starter at right guard and will be one of the cogs along an offensive line that figures to be very good. The Hokies return three starters and a couple of reserves who played extensively a year ago.

But Brooks may have the brightest future of the group. He plays with power at a position that demands it, and his strength numbers are among the tops of all his teammates. He worked this spring on his footwork to be a better pass protector, and that, in turn, should make him a tremendous all-around player.

His development from a starter as a redshirt freshman in the Orange Bowl – taking over the spot vacated by Nick Marshman, who failed to fulfill some academic responsibilities and was suspended by the NCAA – to now has been pleasing to watch.

“When I found out about Nick, I had to go out there and prove myself,” Brooks said. “Coach Newsome thought I was ready. He had confidence in me.

“That game [the Orange Bowl] really let me assess where I was as a player, and it [playing] was easier than I thought. I graded out better than I thought I would. That gave me a lot of confidence.”

Brooks and Blake DeChristopher, another redshirt junior, solidify the right side of the line for Tech. DeChristopher enjoyed his best spring practice since coming to Tech and provides plenty of experience – he’s started 24 games in his career.

At center, Beau Warren returns for his second season as the starter. Warren started 10 games a year ago, missing three games with a knee injury. Smart and steady, he’s the perfect person to call the signals on the offensive line.

The left side of the line will feature two new starters, as both Sergio Render and Ed Wang departed to the NFL following solid careers at Tech. Render started for four years and Wang started all 27 games the past two seasons, so the Hokies lose a lot of experience with their departures.

Fortunately, Greg Nosal played in every game last season (he actually started in the Georgia Tech game) and will be the left guard for this season’s opener. He surprised with his consistent play last season, and coaches expect more of the same this season. The only concern about Nosal is his weight – he has struggled to keep his weight in the 290-pound range over the course of a season. But he is strong and possesses nice athleticism for a big guy.

The final component in the starting lineup figures to be left tackle Nick Becton, a redshirt sophomore who played sparingly a year ago (just five games). The coaches love Becton’s potential, with his long arms, great feet and 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame. He played well this spring, but the issue, of course, is inexperience.

“Nick will be fine,” Brooks said. “Coach wouldn’t put him out there if he didn’t think he could do the job.”

The back-ups at these spots feature a lot of question marks. At first glance, the group of back-ups includes a couple of guys with playing experience in Michael Via and Andrew Lanier.

But Via, a redshirt sophomore who started three games at center as a redshirt freshman during Warren’s absence, injured a knee in spring drills and underwent surgery. The coaches expect him to make it back at full strength. They wanted to work him at left tackle this spring as an insurance option behind Becton, and if he returns to full strength, he may still do that.

Lanier served as the back-up behind DeChristopher at right tackle last season. He started the Duke game because of an injury to DeChristopher and played pretty well. He could be one who plays at both tackle spots.

The rest of the back-ups include guards Vinston Painter and David Wang, center Andrew Miller and tackle Laurence Gibson. Painter, a redshirt sophomore, played in three games a year ago and appeared headed in the right direction this spring until he suffered a knee injury during the first spring scrimmage. He worked hard and got healthy over the summer, but he needs to make up for the reps he missed. Miller injured his shoulder in December and missed all the contact work this spring, so he, too, needs to make up for the reps he missed.

Wang, the brother of Ed Wang, redshirted at guard last season, and Gibson enrolled this past January. Neither has played in a college game.

Tech’s offensive line led a rushing attack that averaged more than 200 yards per game – 14th nationally – and helped Ryan Williams set a single-season rushing record. With Williams and a healthy Darren Evans returning, this unit expects to do even better in 2010.

“There’s a lot of motivation, especially with Darren coming back,” Brooks said. “We need to let them do what they do. They don’t need much room.”


Returning starters: Blake DeChristopher (24), Jaymes Brooks (14), Beau Warren (10)
Starters lost: Sergio Render (52), Ed Wang (37 – includes two at tight end as a redshirt freshman)
Projected new starters: Greg Nosal, Nick Becton
Top reserves: Andrew Lanier, Michael Via (3), Vinston Painter, Andrew Miller, Laurence Gibson, David Wang
Newcomers: Matt Arkema, Mark Shuman
Breakout candidate: Becton
Notes: Looking at the numbers, Tech returns 51 career starts on the offensive line, which surprisingly ranks in the bottom half of the ACC. Florida State returns the most (148), followed by BC (108), Clemson (88), Duke (74), North Carolina (57) and Virginia (56) until one comes to the Hokies.


Left tackles
54 Nick Becton (6-6, 311, r-Soph.)
72 Andrew Lanier (6-5, 275, r-Jr.)

Left guards
75 Greg Nosal (6-6, 293, r-Jr.)
76 David Wang (6-1, 300, r-Fr.)
77 Dale Davis (6-2, 293, Fr.)

60 Beau Warren (6-3, 286, r-Sr.)
67 Michael Via (6-7, 300, r-Soph.)
74 Andrew Miller (6-4, 283, r-Fr.)
Bo Gentry (5-8, 237, r-Soph.)

Right guards
68 Jaymes Brooks (6-2, 296, r-Jr.)
71 Vinston Painter (6-5, 298, r-Soph.)
59 Courtney Prince (6-3, 268, r-Soph.)

Right tackles
62 Blake DeChristopher (6-5, 320, r-Jr.)
63 Laurence Gibson (6-5, 293, Fr.)

Defensive Line

John Graves

Graves to anchor an inexperienced defensive line

John Graves, a humble and quiet giant of a man, certainly saved his best for last.

Fighting through what turned out to be somewhat of a lost year because of a lingering ankle injury, Graves used the few weeks before the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Tennessee to rest, and more importantly, to heal, and the end result turned out to be total domination. Practically unstoppable, he finished with three tackles, including two for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the Hokies’ easy win over the Volunteers.

“Well, when you look at the tape and go in-depth, I’ve got a lot more to learn,” he said, modestly. “It was a solid game, but I’ve got a lot more room for improvement.

“But I did feel the best in that game that I had felt all season. Mike [Goforth] and the trainers did a great job of getting that ankle ready to go.”

Now healthy and freakishly strong and fast at 280 pounds, Graves will need to provide more in 2010 of what everyone saw against Tennessee. That’s because he anchors a defensive line ravaged at season’s end by both graduation (Nekos Brown, Cordarrow Thompson and Demetrius Taylor) and the NFL (Jason Worilds).

Worilds’ decision, in particular, stings because he decided to leave school a year early and take his playmaking skills with him. A second-team All-ACC selection, Worilds departed after a season in which he led the Hokies in hurries (32) and finished second in sacks (4.5) and tackles for a loss (11).

All the departures place Graves in the spotlight. A redshirt senior – he’s already graduated from Tech – he needs to be a leader not just among the defensive linemen, but also among a defense as a whole that loses six starters.

It’ll be an interesting role for a young man not used to being vocal.

“There are times when I’ll need to be vocal and I’m willing to do that,” Graves said. “If that’s what it takes, I’m willing to do that. I’m willing to go the extra mile.”

Joining Graves along the defensive line will be three new, but talented, starters in ends Steven Friday and Chris Drager and tackle Kwamaine Battle. Friday enjoyed an excellent spring, while Drager showed flashes of being a major contributor in limited action last season. Battle came out of spring atop the depth chart at tackle beside Graves, who tabbed Battle as a potential breakout candidate this fall.

“He’s under the radar,” Graves said. “He’s put in his time. He recently broke the front squat record (475 pounds). He’s working hard and he’s hungry. That’s a good combination.”

Tech’s success, though, may hinge more on the back-ups, who will be needed to spell the starters. Two redshirt freshmen, James Gayle and J.R. Collins, and true freshman Duan Perez-Means came out of spring as the top back-ups at the end spots. Gayle, in particular, enjoyed an outstanding spring. Perez-Means, who enrolled in January, could redshirt this season.

At the tackle spots, Antoine Hopkins ranks only slightly behind Battle on the depth chart. Tech’s coaches rave about his potential, but want to see more consistency and he played more consistently in spring practice.

Joe Jones, a redshirt sophomore, stands as the fourth tackle, with Isaiah Hamlette and Dwight Tucker rounding out that group.

But to say the defensive line is young would be an understatement. Gayle, Collins, Perez-Means and Jones have not played in a college game yet. Hamlette and Tucker played in just two games apiece a year ago.

Still, the Hokies haven’t lowered their expectations.

“We expect everyone to play at a high level,” Graves said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what class, and it’s not about the guys we’ve lost. It’s about who is here now. We’ve all got to play at a high level, myself included. That’s what Coach [Bud] Foster demands of us.”


Returning starter: John Graves (22 career starts)
Starters lost: Jason Worilds (25), Cordarrow Thompson (27), Nekos Brown (15)
Projected new starters: Steven Friday, Chris Drager, Kwamaine Battle
Top reserves: Antoine Hopkins, James Gayle, J.R. Collins, Duan Perez-Means, Joe Jones, Isaiah Hamlette, Dwight Tucker
Newcomers: Nick Acree, Derrick Hopkins, Zack McCray
Breakout candidate: Battle
Notes: How much did the Hokies lose on the defensive front? Well, the trio of Worilds, Thompson and Brown combined for 67 career starts, and a year ago, combined for 130 tackles, including 19.5 for a loss, and 11.5 sacks … The trio of Friday, Drager and Battle has made one career start – Drager started a game at tight end in 2008 … The trio did combine for 6.5 sacks a year ago.


Stud ends
82 Steven Friday (6-4, 250, r-Sr.)
42 J.R. Collins (6-3, 254, r-Fr.)
66 Tyrel Wilson (6-2, 220, r-Fr.)
96 Josh Eadie (6-4, 231, r-Sr.)

33 Chris Drager (6-4, 255, r-Jr.)
99 James Gayle (6-4, 248, r-Fr.)
90 Duan Perez-Means (6-4, 249, Fr.)

Nose tackles
91 John Graves (6-4, 278, r-Sr.)
45 Joe Jones (6-3, 277, r-Soph.)
53 Dwight Tucker (6-2, 277, r-Soph.)

93 Kwamaine Battle (6-1, 294, r-Jr.)
56 Antoine Hopkins (6-1, 302, r-Soph.)
55 Isaiah Hamlette (6-5, 270, r-Soph.)


Barquell Rivers

Rivers’ injury provides Taylor with an opportunity

A year ago, Tech mike linebacker Barquell Rivers finished second on the team in tackles in his first season as a starter, and he started all 13 games.

Unfortunately, he probably won’t be starting every game this upcoming season.

Rivers, a redshirt junior, ruptured his quadriceps tendon right above the knee while lifting over the winter and underwent surgery. He missed all of spring practice and a majority of the summer workouts. His clearance date is Sept. 4 – two days before the Boise State game – but Tech assistant AD for athletic training Mike Goforth all but ruled Rivers out for that game and his status for the JMU game remains tenuous.

“It’s getting better every day,” Rivers said. “I’m still working to build up my quad muscle. I don’t have any pain, but my leg does get a little tired. I hope to be able to do everything by mid-August and I hope to be ready for that first game. If not, then I should be ready shortly after that.”

Rivers finished second on the team in tackles with 96 last season, performing consistently throughout the season. Even if he misses the first game or two, defensive coordinator Bud Foster isn’t overly worried. A young player took advantage of an opportunity to alleviate some of Foster’s concerns at that mike linebacker spot.

Bruce Taylor, a redshirt sophomore, turned in arguably the best overall performance among defensive players this past spring. A big kid at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Taylor still ran well enough to make plays all over the field, and perhaps even more importantly to Foster, he played well in pass coverage and showed a better overall knowledge of Tech’s defensive scheme.

“Bruce played really well,” Rivers said. “When he first got here, he started out at defensive end and then they moved him to mike linebacker. I think that threw his mind off a little bit. But he showed what he could do this spring.”

Quillie Odom, Jack Tyler and Telvion Clark round out the depth chart at mike linebacker. Each showed flashes of good play this spring, but Odom started to live up to the potential he displayed in high school. His development will be something to watch as the season unfolds.

At the play-making backer spot, Lyndell Gibson returns after starting the final five games of last season. Gibson, a redshirt sophomore, managed to finish seventh on the team in tackles with 53 despite the limited action. He played great in the bowl game against Tennessee and that carried over this spring. He goes into this season with a firm hold on the starting job at backer.

Chase Williams and Tariq Edwards round out the depth chart here. Williams, who enrolled last January, came out of spring only slightly ahead because of his consistency. Edwards has tools in terms of size and speed, and together, the two of them provide solid depth.

Without Rivers, these two spots return just one guy who has started a game (Gibson). They may need some seasoning, but could be a rather strong bunch by year’s end.

“Last year, we started out slow,” Rivers said of Tech’s defense. “But each week, we got better and better. Things became second nature to us. There’s always a learning curve when you have a lot of new people.”


Returning starters: Barquell Rivers (14 career starts), Lyndell Gibson (5)
Starters lost: Jake Johnson (started eight games; transferred to South Alabama)
Projected new starters: none
Top reserves: Bruce Taylor, Quillie Odom, Chase Williams, Tariq Edwards
Newcomer: Brian Laiti
Breakout candidate: Taylor
Notes: Rivers has started 14 straight games dating back to the 2009 Orange Bowl against Cincinnati … He ranked seventh in the ACC a year ago with 7.4 tackles per game and stands as Tech’s top returning tackler … He had a career-high 16 tackles against Georgia Tech … Gibson posted a game-high eight tackles in the Chick-fil-A Bowl … Chase Williams is the son of current New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Tariq Edwards is the son of former Tech player Bo Campbell.


Mike linebackers
52 Barquell Rivers (5-11, 236, r-Jr.)
51 Bruce Taylor (6-2, 246, r-Soph.)
38 Quillie Odom (6-1, 239, Jr.)
58 Jack Tyler (5-11, 223, r-Fr.)
57 Telvion Clark (6-0, 217, r-Fr.)

39 Lyndell Gibson (5-11, 232, r-Soph.)
36 Chase Williams (6-1, 231, Fr.)
24 Tariq Edwards (6-3, 228, r-Fr.)

Whips & Rovers

Jeron Gouveia-Winslow

All eyes on the whip spot as Grimm’s departure leaves a large void

Cody Grimm only stood an inch over six feet and weighed roughly 200 pounds. But his departure leaves a void much larger than that.

Grimm, Tech’s starting whip linebacker a season ago, earned All-America honors during his final campaign after leading the Hokies with 106 tackles and seven forced fumbles. Perhaps even more than his playmaking skills, his toughness and competitive spirit rubbed off on his teammates and made them better.

Grimm hopes to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, leaving his position in the hands of two talented, but inexperienced, players.

Jeron Gouveia-Winslow came out of spring practice as the leading candidate to replace Grimm, slightly ahead of special teams ace Alonzo Tweedy, as they both attempt to fill the void left by Tech’s defensive leader.

“It’s a great challenge,” Gouveia-Winslow said. “But I look forward to it. I’d like to think that I’m like most players and thrive off challenges and expectations.”

Gouveia-Winslow, a redshirt sophomore, enjoyed a solid spring and put himself in this position because of his consistency. He knows the position well and puts himself in the right spots to make the plays he’s supposed to make.

Now, can he do like Grimm and make the plays no one expects him to make?

“I picked up a lot of things from Cody and Kam [Chancellor],” Gouveia-Winslow said. “They taught me a lot and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing out there. I feel confident I can execute and get things done.

“The thing I learned by watching Cody is just his passion for the game. He’s someone you can trust. He’s going to go out all for you and that makes you want to go all out for him.”

Tweedy hopes to secure reps at whip linebacker while also remaining as Tech’s special teams star. He led the team in special teams tackles with 24 last season and he possesses outstanding speed and athleticism, and he can make plays in space. He only needs to learn the whip spot a little better and play more consistently to become a contributor.

Those two should be aided by Davon Morgan, the Hokies’ starting rover – a position that works closely with the whip spot. Morgan snatched the starting job with four games remaining last season and played very well. He finished this season with 47 tackles, and the senior easily secured the starting nod with his steady play this spring.

The Hokies, though, lack depth behind Morgan. Whip linebackers and rovers coach Jim Cavanaugh likes James Hopper, who showed a lot of toughness this spring and likes to hit. But the redshirt freshman hasn’t played in a game and still needs to learn Tech’s schemes a little better.

These two positions are ones to watch in the fall. Much is demanded and expected, and in the case of whip linebacker, Grimm set a mighty lofty standard.


Returning starter: Davon Morgan (9 career starts)
Starter lost: Cody Grimm (15)
Projected new starter: Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (no career starts)
Top reserves: Alonzo Tweedy, Lorenzo Williams, James Hopper, Wiley Brown
Newcomers: Nick Dew
Breakout candidate: Gouveia-Winslow
Notes: Gouveia-Winslow is the son of former Washington Redskins player Kurt Gouveia and could be making his first start in the town where his dad played for seven seasons … Tweedy played in all 13 games a year ago, while Gouveia-Winslow played in eight … Behind Tweedy, the Hokies’ kick coverage teams were the best in the ACC last season. Tech’s kickoff team led the league in net average (45.0).


Whip linebackers
43 Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (6-2, 207, r-Soph.)
28 Alonzo Tweedy (6-2, 188, r-Soph.)
23 Lorenzo Williams (6-2, 217, r-Soph.)

2 Davon Morgan (6-1, 196, Sr.)
26 James Hopper (5-9, 180, r-Fr.)
Nick Dew (6-1, 191, Fr.)

Defensive Backs

Eddie Whitley

Whitley ready to replace a three-year starter in Chancellor

This past spring, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and the rest of his staff spent much of their time examining the Hokies’ last line of defense.

Eddie Whitley knew it, too.

Whitley moved into the role as the last man standing between an opponent and the end zone when he slid into the starting spot at free safety this spring. The junior from Matthews, North Carolina, heads into the 2010 season ready to replace Kam Chancellor, a three-year starter on Tech’s defense (one at rover, two at free safety) and an All-ACC player who finished third on the team in tackles a year ago.

Whereas Chancellor departed with 41 career starts, Whitley only has one on his resume, starting at field corner in the Nebraska game last season. But it’s not like he hasn’t played, having seen action in 27 games in his first two seasons, and his consistent play this spring – actually, great at times – alleviated a lot of concerns.

“I think I improved a lot,” Whitley said. “Things became second nature to me. I’m going into my third year now and I’ve played both corner and safety, so I know both positions. I know what I’m doing out there.”

His emphasis over the summer centered on continuing his progression. For starters, he got bigger, putting on 10-15 pounds. Whitley will not be as physical of a presence as the 225-pound Chancellor, but he will not be a pushover either. He also ran extra to condition himself to carry his added weight.

Off the field, he spent much of his evening hugging his laptop computer. He borrowed DVD’s from the video office, including those of himself and those of Tech’s opponents to get himself mentally prepared.

“I even went back and got some DVD’s of the 1995 defense and the 2000 defense,” he said. “I wanted to see their intensity and see how they got it done.

“I’ve spent a lot of time learning. Even last year, Kam and I would talk. When I was at corner, [Stephan] Virgil and Macho [Harris] would talk. That all helped me to learn. I don’t want to slow this train down at all.”

The rest of Tech’s defensive backfield features arguably two of the best cornerbacks in the country in Rashad Carmichael and Jayron Hosley. Carmichael, the fastest guy on the team, moved to boundary corner early last season after StephanVirgil got hurt and never gave it up. He led Tech with six interceptions and earned a spot on the All-ACC team.

Hosley, the Hokies’ punt returner, saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman and displayed big-play potential. His sack and three tackles – and near interception – against Tennessee in the bowl game provided a glimpse of his future.

Steady Cris Hill will challenge at both corner spots, and Antone Exum is a rising star, too, behind Whitley at free safety. He was all over the field in the spring game.

So a group that caused some concerns heading into spring practice may end up being a strength this fall.


Returning starter: Rashad Carmichael (14 career starts)
Starters lost: Kam Chancellor (41), Stephan Virgil (24)
Projected new starters: Eddie Whitley, Jayron Hosley
Top reserves: Cris Hill, Jacob Sykes, Antone Exum, Jerrodd Williams
Newcomers: Theron Norman, Detrick Bonner, Kyle Fuller, Dominique Patterson
Breakout candidate: Hosley
Notes: Carmichael finished tied for 11th nationally last season with six interceptions … As a team, the Hokies ranked 11th nationally in pass defense, allowing just 167.1 yards per game … Tech intercepted 11 passes last season, but the Hokies intercepted 20 in 2008 – a number they want to get to again.


Field cornerbacks
20 Jayron Hosley (5-11, 170, Soph.)
9 Cris Hill (5-11, 180, r-Jr.)
27 Jerrodd Williams (6-0, 203, r-Fr.)

Boundary cornerbacks
21 Rashad Carmichael (5-10, 186, r-Sr.)
37 Jacob Sykes (6-1, 190, r-Jr.)

Free safeties
15 Eddie Whitley (6-0, 195, Jr.)
1 Antone Exum (6-0, 219, r-Fr.)
40 Theron Norman (6-3 194, Fr.)

Special Teams

Chris Hazley

Another walk-on hopes to continue the tradition at kicker

It took Chris Hazley a few seconds to recall the last time he kicked in a football game that meant something.

“It was the fall of 2005,” he said.

That’s five years since Hazley last booted a ball between the uprights. But the redshirt senior, who only played one year at Henderson High School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, goes into the 2010 season as the prohibitive favorite to claim the starting kicking job for one of the best teams in the country.

Hazley, who hasn’t even dressed out for a game in his career, hopes to continue the tradition of successful walk-on kickers at Tech. That list includes Brandon Pace, Judson Dunlevy, Dustin Keys and Matt Waldron, who earned first-team All-ACC honors a year ago.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m ready to embrace the opportunity. There’s pressure, but pressure goes with any position. The first game of the season, there will be pressure. People expect you to go out and perform, so I’m going to go out there and uphold the tradition.”

It is a stunning rise for a young man who was a soccer standout in high school and who came to Tech more because of academics. He went out for the football team mostly on a whim, and head coach Frank Beamer liked what he saw. Hazley remained patient, as kickers like Dunlevy, Keys and Waldron proved themselves, and now he finds himself with the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I was surprised Coach Beamer kept me around,” Hazley said. “But I’m glad because I’ve enjoyed being a part of the team. Everyone is like family here and that’s what kept me coming back.

“I knew I could kick, but I wasn’t sure if I could make the team at first. Really, it was more like a pipe dream. But watching those guys ahead of me [Dunlevy, Keys and Waldron], I knew I could be where those guys are.”

Another player in a similar position to Hazley is Brian Saunders, Tech’s starting punter who backed up All-ACC punter Brent Bowden the past three seasons. Though he dressed out for every game the past three seasons, he has yet to play in a college game. He punted well in the spring, getting the ball off quickly and getting height and depth with his punts.

Justin Myer, a junior, returns to handle the kickoff duties for the third straight year. He played a key role in helping the Hokies lead the ACC in kickoff coverage last season. He’ll probably be the back-up behind Hazley as well.

Cody Journell, Tyler Weiss and Zack Pickard, along with a couple of incoming walk-ons, will work at kicker this fall. At punter, Scott Demler and Grant Bowden will battle for the back-up job.

Collin Carroll returns to handle the snapping. Carroll will probably handle snapping on field goals and extra points, along with punts.


Returning starters: Justin Myer (played in 26 games the past two seasons), Collin Carroll (snapped in every game the past two seasons)
Starters lost: Matt Waldron, Brent Bowden
Projected new starters: Chris Hazley, Brian Saunders
Top reserves: Cody Journell, Tyler Weiss, Scott Demler, Grant Bowden
Newcomers: To be determined
Breakout candidate: Hazley
Notes: Cody Journell came to Tech as a highly rated kicking prospect, but has been plagued with nagging injuries and inconsistency … Tyler Weiss kicked his freshman season at Murray State and joins Myer as the only kicker with game experience. He made 7 of 10 field-goal attempts and all 32 extra-point attempts … Saunders averaged 42.5 yards per punt in the spring game.


97 Chris Hazley (6-1, 192, r-Sr.)
48 Justin Myer (6-1, 214, Jr.)
89 Cody Journell (5-11, 180, r-Fr.)
Tyler Weiss (5-10, 156, r-Jr.)

30 Brian Saunders (6-0, 184, r-Sr.)
Scott Demler (5-11, 192, r-Soph.)
Grant Bowden (6-4, 182, r-Fr.)

50 Collin Carroll (6-3, 248, r-Jr.)