March 28, 2012
Tech opens 2012 spring football practice
Position changes and young players the story of the spring

BLACKSBURG — The Virginia Tech football team opened the 2012 spring practice Wednesday evening at the practice fields behind the Jamerson Athletics Center in preparation for the 2012 season this fall.

Players participated in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The practice was cut short after eight periods because of lightning. Twelve periods had been planned

The Hokies opened with 103 players on the roster, as they began the process of putting the Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan behind them.

“It’s [the loss] one of those things you learn from,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “And the next time, don’t let it get in the officials’ hands [a reference to a Danny Coale touchdown catch in overtime that was overturned by the officials]. We had a chance on third-and-1 and jumped offsides. If we execute and get things done, we don’t put it in the officials’ hands. That’s the biggest thing I’m going to take from this. Let’s take care of this ourselves and don’t put it in the officials’ hands to determine the outcome.”

Tech begins this spring practice with numerous new faces on the offensive line and at tailback. Beamer and his staff have to replace four starters on the offensive line, and standout tailback David Wilson decided to forgo his final two seasons and declare for the NFL Draft.

The top candidates to replace Wilson, the ACC’s player of the year and an Associated Press All-American include redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and freshman J.C. Coleman, who graduated from high school early and enrolled in January. Also, Martin Scales has been moved from fullback to tailback for spring practice.

“The good thing is that these guys have had success in the past,” Beamer said. “Their history is they’ve been very successful running the football, so they don’t just forget that overnight. So I think that’s the good part of it.”

Defensively, the Hokies return nine starters, but will be looking to shore up the back end of the secondary. Sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett will be attempting to replace Eddie Whitley, while redshirt sophomore Detrick Bonner, who started four games a year ago, was moved from cornerback to rover to replace Antone Exum, who was moved to boundary cornerback to replace Jayron Hosley.

Other position moves included the following:

  • Duan Perez-Means from defensive end to tight end
  • Brent Benedict from tackle to guard
  • Caleb Farris is the backup center but will also work at guard
  • Ronny Vandyke from rover to the whip linebacker
  • Corey Marshall, Zack McCray and Matt Roth will be playing both defensive end and tackle.

On special teams, Beamer plans on placing emphasis on finding a kicker and a punter. Conor Goulding, Michael Branthover and David Hutcheson are vying for the kicking job, with Scott Demler, Branthover and Ethan Keyserling vying for the punting job. Beamer is also looking for both a kick and a punt returner.

“That’s going to be a priority here this spring is to work on that and get back to being successful in that area,” Beamer said. “It’s the quickest way to win a football game, but the other side of it, if you’re not successful, it gets to going the other way too.”

Several players were dressed in green jerseys, signifying no contact during practice. That group included Michael Via, D.J. Coles, Tony Gregory, Tariq Edwards and Brandon Spitzer, a walk-on linebacker form Charlottesville, Va. Several others were in blue jerseys, signifying limited contact, and that group included Antoine Hopkins, Bruce Taylor, Joe St. Germain, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Scott Rolin, a walk-on free safety from Ashburn, Va., and Fuller Hoepner, a walk-on tight end from Chesterfield, Va.

The Hokies will hold practices on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then scrimmage on Saturdays (though not this Saturday). The two scrimmages are open to the public.

The annual Maroon-White game will be played April 21 at 4 p.m. in Lane Stadium.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).

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