The 2007 Season Outlook
The first in an eight-part series previewing Tech's 2007 season
July 17, 2007

Outlook Schedule on hokiesports.comGeneral Outlook: Tuesday, July 17
Offensive Line: Thursday, July 19
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Monday, July 23
Wednesday, July 25
Defensive Line: Friday, July 27
Linebackers: Monday, July 30
Secondary: Wednesday, August 1
Specialists: Friday, August 3

BLACKSBURG - The following is the first in an eight-part series previewing the 2007 Virginia Tech football team. The Hokies open fall practice on Thursday, Aug. 2 in preparation for their season opener at home against East Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 1.

Today's portion of the outlook for 2007 takes a quick look at the team overall before focusing on the offense in general and the quarterback position specifically.

Check back every other day for a breakdown on each component of this year's team. A complete list of the breakdown and release dates is to the right.

Shortened Spring
Frank Beamer and the Tech coaching staff, in conjunction with Director of Athletics Jim Weaver, made the decision to cancel the final week of spring practice following the on-campus events of April 16, thus shortening the off-season schedule by four practices. Although it could have been beneficial from a football standpoint to see how some of the inexperienced players responded to a full crowd at the spring game, all parties involved felt it was the right decision to make.

"I am pleased with the progress of the team as a whole," head coach Frank Beamer said. "We could've used those last four practices, but I think we got better, and the practices we did have were very good. I hope the guys work a little bit harder in the summer, because we need to be in great shape come August so we can get right back to work and make up for the time we lost during the spring."

Beamer said the group most affected by the absence of the spring game was probably the special teams unit, as that is what he typically uses as the final test for his kickers and punters.

"The only thing we lack is the experience of getting it done in front of people when it counts," he said. "However, I'm very confident that we'll be OK because our guys have kicked an awful lot in practice."

A Revamped Offensive Line
Another group that would have benefited from the spring game was the offensive line, which has undergone an almost complete makeover since the bowl game. However, unlike last season when the Hokies had to replace three full-time starters up front, the 2007 bunch features three returning starters - albeit with two in new positions - and two others who saw plenty of game action.

"We're better up front, but the question is how much better," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. "I think some of the moves we made will benefit us, and a lot of guys had good springs, but we need them to continue that in the fall so we can ease some of our depth concerns."

The lone returnee at his position will be freshman All-America selection Sergio Render, who improved constantly in his role as the right guard. Duane Brown will move from right tackle to left tackle to protect Sean Glennon's blind side, and Ryan Shuman will assume the center duties after serving at left guard a year ago. The coaches are confident with all three of those players, but the questions arise with the two spots left vacant by the moves of Brown and Shuman.

The ideal candidate at left guard is Nick Marshman, who essentially backed up the entire line last season and got off to a good start in the spring. Arguably the most publicized move of the off-season, though, was former tight end and newly bulked-up Ed Wang's emergence as the right tackle. He had begun working there toward the tail end of 2006, but impressed many with his off-season progression.

Position Changes
In addition to the moves along the offensive line, a pair of defensive players were shuffled around who could easily get regular playing time at their new spots.

Sophomore Kam Chancellor was moved from cornerback to rover prior to spring practice, and the coaches are excited about his potential not only to contribute, but to start.

"It was a great move for Virginia Tech, and for him," strong safeties and outside linebackers coach Jim Cavanaugh said. "He has the makings of becoming a phenomenal football player."

Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Cam Martin makes the switch from free safety to whip linebacker, where his pass coverage ability combines with his intelligence to give him a great shot at making an impact this season.

"Cam may be one of the smartest football players that I've ever coached," Cavanaugh said.

Fifth-year senior Corey Gordon currently owns the No. 1 spot vacated by Brenden Hill, but Martin should see action early in the season.

Other changes include Demetrius Taylor's transition from linebacker to defensive end, and Beau Warren switching from tight end to center.

Dominating Defense
The Hokies led the nation in total defense for the second consecutive year in 2006, and also ranked first in both pass defense and scoring defense. Unlike last season when they had to replace six starters, defensive coordinator Bud Foster's crew only loses three this time around and had the chance to create some depth in the off-season, which left him with just one concern - getting complacent.

"After leading the nation in defense for two straight years, I thought the guys might start to feel good about themselves - and they should - but we've got a lot left to accomplish," Foster said. "I feel good about their attitude, though, and I'm glad to say they were able to stay hungry."

Leading the pack will be Tech's top two tacklers from a year ago, All-ACC linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Foster thinks they might be the best tandem Tech has ever seen, but he expects even more out of them this season.

"Vince and Xavier have both worked really hard to become complete linebackers, but I've challenged both of them not only to become leaders of the defense, but leaders of the football team."

Although eight returning starters on each side of the ball means that Virginia Tech will be in good hands this season, it also means that there will be some talent to replace when 21 seniors depart at year's end. That is why the Tech coaching staff worked hard to compile one of its finest recruiting classes in recent memory.

"Not only do I think that this is a very talented incoming class, I think it's potentially one of the best classes we've ever signed," Beamer said.

None of the incoming freshmen will be rushed along, however, a sentiment expressed by many of the assistant coaches.

"I'm excited about the class we've put together," Foster said. "I think we've got some good football players coming in, and we need to have them grow and develop because we're going to lose some great seniors after this year. Some of them might take a year or two to develop from a physical standpoint, but I like the qualities, characteristics and abilities that they have."