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BLACKSBURG – Joel Caleb scored on a 27-yard run on the first possession of the game, providing the only touchdown in the annual Maroon-White affair held at Lane Stadium on Saturday to conclude Virginia Tech’s 2014 spring practice.
Caleb’s run capped a five-play, 87-yard drive and enabled the White team to knock off the Maroon team by a score of 7-3. The staff split the roster into two teams, did not allow any trick plays by the offense or stunting by the defense, and did not allow the quarterbacks to be hit.
The White team got on the board thanks largely to a 52-yard gain by Demitri Knowles on an end-around that got the White squad to the Maroon 25. Two plays later, Caleb burst up the middle on a zone play and took it 27 yards to the end zone. Remington Hinshaw’s extra point gave the White squad a 7-0 lead with 7:05 left in the first quarter.
Caleb, a rising redshirt sophomore from Midlothian, Va., finished with 43 yards on six carries. He is one of seven tailbacks on the depth chart vying for playing time next fall, a group that includes injured players Trey Edmunds (broken leg) and freshman Shai McKenzie (ACL).
“I feel it was a great spring for the running backs,” Caleb said. “We took a lot of big steps. I feel like I’ve got a lot of things I can do and a lot of things I need to improve on. We’ve got a lot of talented guys, and all we can do is put in the work that the coach asks us to put in, and then let the coach come out with the end result.”
The only other score in the game came toward the end of the first quarter. Taking advantage of good field position following a short punt by A.J. Hughes, the Maroon team moved from the White 37 to the White 11, but on third-and-8, quarterback Mark Leal completed a 3-yard pass to Carlis Parker. The Maroon squad settled for a 28-yard field goal by Eric Kristensen to cut the lead to 7-3 on the final play of the first quarter.
That ended the scoring as the Tech staff kept game plans basic on both sides of the ball, though there were some opportunities. Brenden Motley scored on a 19-yard run that ended up being called back because of a holding penalty. Also, Motley overthrew tight end Bucky Hodges for what might have been a touchdown, and Leal’s Maroon squad couldn’t punch it in after having first-and-goal at the White 2 late in the first half. The White went for it on fourth down, but Leal couldn’t connect with Parker in the end zone.
Leal and Motley put up similar numbers. Leal completed 10 of 18 for 90 yards, with an interception, while Motley completed 6 of 11 for 72 yards, with an interception.
Neither came out of spring practice as the starter at quarterback, as Tech’s staff plans on evaluating Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and incoming freshman Chris Durkin before making a call. Both of those guys arrive at Tech in late May.
“We’ll talk [as a staff],” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “Both of our new quarterbacks will be here the first session of summer school, and they’ll have a chance to throw to our receivers quite a bit.
“I think we’ve got to take a direction pretty quickly in the fall. Whoever it is going to be needs to get a lot of reps in preseason practice and whoever is second needs to get a lot of reps. So we’ll decide on those two, and those are the guys who will get the reps.”
The Hokies appear to be more settled on defense, as that unit got much better as the spring progressed. In the spring game, the defense recorded five sacks and 15 tackles for a loss to go along with interceptions by Kendall Fuller and Donovan Riley. Chuck Clark and Detrick Bonner led the White team with six tackles each, while walk-on Sean Huelskamp led the Maroon squad with nine tackles.
“I think we answered questions about the front seven,” defensive tackle Luther Maddy said. “The two linebackers, Chase [Williams] and Deon [Clarke], definitely stepped up. Corey Marshall is probably an All-ACC player, Dadi [Nicolas] improved … We all just got better. We were all trying to get to the quarterback and make plays. The competition is there. I think we’ll be one of the top defenses again next fall.”
Tech’s fortunes next fall probably hinge on how much the offense improves, and in particular, young players like Hodges, Parker, Marshawn Williams and Deon Newsome. Hodges led all receivers with three receptions in the spring game, while Parker caught two and ran for 26 yards on an end-around play. Williams rushed for 11 yards on six carries, while Newsome caught a pass for 37 yards and ran once for 18 yards.
Given their improvement, Beamer remains optimistic about his team heading forward.
“I like the way we practiced this spring,” he said. “I thought the effort was good today. When you divide the team up, you don’t get the execution that you want a lot of times. But I think we’re up and coming football team.
“We’re going to go through some growing pains probably next year, but we’re going to go through them full speed. Those are the kind of kids we’ve got, and I like that. We’ve got some questions, and certain parts of our football team need to get better, but we’re going in the right direction.”
2014 SPRING AWARD WINNERS
Paul Torgersen Award (the top up and comer during spring practice)
Offense: Marshawn Williams
Defense: Deon Clarke
President’s Award (players who demonstrate the most outstanding leadership during the offseason program and spring workouts)
Offense: Sam Rogers
Defense: Luther Maddy
Dr. Richard Bullock Award (players who show the most improvement during spring workouts)
Offense: Augie Conte
Defense: Desmond Frye
Frank O. Moseley Award (players who exhibit the most hustle during offseason and spring workouts)
Offense: J.C. Coleman
Defense: Derek Di Nardo
Coaches Award (players who had an exceptional spring)
Offense: Bucky Hodges
Defense: Dadi Nicolas
Don Williams TEAM UNITED Award (players who put the team first during spring workouts)
Offense: Caleb Farris
Defense: Kendall Fuller
George Preas Award (most valuable performers of spring practice)
Offense: Joshua Stanford
Defense: Corey Marshall
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