User ID: Password:

May 6, 2011

Tech with a lot of pleasant surprises this spring

By: Jimmy Robertson

The annual Maroon-White football game wrapped up spring practice, and following this year’s game, a friend surmised that, “the Logan Thomas kid is better than I thought.”

Of course, the reference is to Tech’s starting quarterback, who takes over for Tyrod Taylor. Thomas threw two touchdown passes in the spring game, and he threw six this spring in scrimmages compared to just three interceptions. At halftime of the game, he took home the George Preas Award for the offense’s most valuable player of the spring.

Not sure that Thomas’ performance came as a surprise to many, but my friend’s deduction illustrates some of the essence of spring football – surprises spring forth out of Tech’s roster.

In keeping with that theme, your editor reserves this space each May for the surprises of the spring. Here is this person’s take from the completed 2011 spring ball:

Tariq Edwards – In pads, this guy looks like Xavier Adibi. He’s 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, and he runs well. He made plays last fall when he got into games, but he never fully won over defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Bud Foster’s trust because of some inconsistent practice habits.

This spring, he was all over the field. The redshirt sophomore played like he really understood his role in Tech’s defense, and his emergence enables Foster to keep All-ACC linebacker Bruce Taylor at the mike linebacker spot.

“Tariq has all kinds of ability,” Foster said. “He’s long, and he’s got quickness. We haven’t had a guy with his type of speed at the backer spot since Xavier, or maybe Purnell [Sturdivant].”

David Wang – Wang got all the reps with the first-team offense this spring after Greg Nosal missed spring practice while recovering from a shoulder injury. Nosal should be back by the time practice starts in August and figures to slide right back into his starting role at left guard.

But Wang’s smarts and his footwork drew raves, and he played well enough this spring to deserve a starting job. He goes into the fall as the top backup at both guard spots. Offensive line coach Curt Newsome told him to learn both spots to provide him some flexibility.

“He needs to be on the field,” Newsome said.

Thanks to the development of Wang and a few others, Tech is finally getting some depth on the offensive line.

Derrick Hopkins – This guy isn’t your prototypical defensive tackle at 6-foot and 298 pounds, but he plays with a ton of effort, and most of Tech’s interior offensive linemen struggled to block him this spring.

“I don’t want to get out of whack, but I know this: The kid doesn’t stay blocked,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said.

It’s also worth noting that Derrick made two positions better this spring – his brother, Antoine, appeared motivated by all the attention Derrick got and picked his game up significantly at the other tackle spot. With James Gayle and J.R. Collins, Tech’s first-team defensive line appears to be talented.

Jeron Gouveia-Winslow – It was so refreshing to see this young man enjoy some success after struggling at times last fall. G-W looked like a different player this spring. He looked like he knew what he was doing out there, and every movement came naturally.

“Everything’s a lot slower, not too sporadic, where you’re out there and your head’s all over the place like, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’” Gouveia-Winslow said. “I get out there and make my reads, feel confident in my calls and go from there.”

Foster wants more plays made out of that spot, and in the spring game, G-W had a sack and two hurries. He and Alonzo Tweedy figure to split time at the spot, but G-W came out of spring No. 1.

Telvion Clark – Clark was maybe the biggest surprise of the spring. He made nine tackles in the spring game and that served as a microcosm of his spring. He spent quite a bit of time around the football. He recorded five and eight tackles, respectively, in the two scrimmages leading up to the spring game.

“He’s maturing,” Foster said. “He’s got a lot of potential and tools.”

How big of a surprise was Clark’s spring? Well, consider this – he played five snaps last fall. That’s it.

Between Clark and Edwards, backer went from a point of weakness a year ago to one of potential strength.

There were other surprises this spring. Honorable mention honors go to James Gayle and Mark Leal.

Will there be more in the fall? Let’s hope so.