2017 Virginia Tech Open Spring Practice Offense Notes

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Mar 25, 2017
[caption id="attachment_6022" align="aligncenter" width="840"] Josh Jackson is in great shape to win the starting QB job. [Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics][/caption]Thursday, the Virginia Tech Hokies opened up some of their second practice of the spring to the media for a little under an hour allowing media to view all drills going on during that time period on a weekend in which all of practice was open to recruits and coaches visiting for a coaching clinic. While there was no direct work with the offense and defense going against each other, there was enough information to see some things beginning to stand out on the depth chart and we start by taking a look at our offensive notes.

Quarterback

There wasn't a lot to see of the quarterbacks' work but what we did see seemed to show that Josh Jackson is the definitive leader to be the starting quarterback next fall with AJ Bush currently being the biggest challenger. Hendon Hooker definitely has a lot of potential, but a redshirt seems likely for Hooker though Hooker has also participated in only two practices at the Division I level compared to Jackson having a full year and Bush spending a couple years at Nebraska. Jackson consistently was getting reps with Cam Phillips and the other guys at the top of the wide receiver depth chart while AJ Bush may have gotten a couple reps and Hendon Hooker didn't see any reps with first team receivers from what I recall. Earlier this week, we said how Jackson was the heavy favorite to win the starting quarterback job and while it is quite early in the spring practice, the fact that Jackson is receiving such a heavy share of the first team reps is a great sign for his prospects of being the Hokies' starting QB next fall. Bush is currently the top competition while Hooker definitely has a lot of work ahead if he wants to earn the starting job and avoid a redshirt. One guy that did show a lot of potential to provide solid depth down the road is Kansas transfer and walk-on Ryan Willis who threw some very nice passes in practice and showed some touch on his deep passes.

Running Back

Running back is one of the harder positions to tell much about in part because Deshawn McClease is currently limited and was wearing a blue jersey during practice Thursday. However, Travon McMillian does seem to be at the top of the depth chart among those who are cleared in full with Steven Peoples right behind him followed by D.J. Reid and Terius Wheatley in no particular order. McClease's health will be important to watch this spring as if McClease can get to full clearance this spring, McClease can definitely push McMillian a lot as he did last year when McClease took first team reps during the Spring Game over McMillian. Steven Peoples also is now full-time at running back and that could be another x-factor as while Peoples has shown great work ethic and is a bruising runner that can get that extra yard or two. Wheatley being down on the depth chart isn't a surprise given that this was only his second practice for the Hokies while D.J. Reid definitely has some work cut out for him this spring trying to earn himself a spot in Virginia Tech's running back rotation. If Reid is unable to earn himself a spot in the Virginia Tech rushing rotation, you have to wonder if Reid may consider transferring elsewhere to get himself a chance to play and start either at a smaller FBS or FCS school.

Wide Receiver

At wide receiver, Cam Phillips is undoubtedly the number 1 guy on the outside with Phil Patterson currently the other "starting" outside wide receiver and Kalil Pimpleton being the top guy in the slot among those that are healthy this spring. Eric Kumah and Henri Murphy are the backups on the outside with Sean Daniel as the backup slot guy while redshirt freshman Sam Denmark is currently on the third-string on the outside. The battle for the second starting outside wide receiver spot is definitely between Patterson and Kumah right now with both players doing some drills on the same side and actually having Isaiah Ford there to help them out on Thursday. Both Patterson and Kumah definitely have a lot of potential, and it's clear that both seem ready to make an impact next fall. Henri Murphy is currently working on the outside, opening the door for early enrollee Kalil Pimpleton to get first team reps in the slot with C.J. Carroll also out this spring. When watching Pimpleton, you can see why the Hokies are excited about his potential in the slot and while he is short, he definitely isn't small as Pimpleton is well-built to handle the hits that he may face while also showing some good burst. The Hokies didn't have a true freshman make an impact last year at wide receiver, but Pimpleton definitely has the potential to do so this year and should push Carroll a lot once Carroll is healthy.

Tight End

There wasn't a lot to see with the tight position but based on what I did see, the current tight end depth chart seemed clear with Chris Cunningham being the Hokies' top tight end followed by Dalton Keene with Colt Pettit third at tight end. Keene is definitely a guy to watch as the staff definitely seems high on him and the fact that he's ahead of Pettit who played some tight end at the end of last season is a good sign that not only has Keene has a good offseason since arriving in January, but Keene is also quickly impressing the coaches. No one should be surprised if Keene is at the top of the depth chart by the end of spring. Meanwhile, Chris Cunningham continues to be at the top of the depth chart with the Hokies likely looking for him to be more productive beyond his multiple touchdown receptions from pass plays less than 10 yards out from the endzone. Cunningham has the advantage of experience and being the incumbent, but he has plenty work ahead of him to hold on to the job. Pettit is definitely in a hole after making a full-time switch to tight end that seems to be a little bit of a head scratcher especially after he started a couple games at left guard last season. We'll see if the coaches made a good decision over the coming weeks and months but right now, it's hard seeing Pettit playing much outside of goal-line situations as an extra blocking tight end though he did show he can run some basic routes.

Offensive Line

The Hokies have two openings on the offensive line with Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen saying on Monday that Tyrell Smith was at the top at right tackle with Fuente also adding that Braxton Pfaff was the top guy at right guard currently. By Thursday, nothing had changed with Smith and Pfaff getting the first team reps respectively at right guard and right tackle. The one guy who likely could provide a serious challenge at right guard is Kyle Chung who is the top backup interior lineman for the Hokies at this point with his ability to play at guard and center. However, it's Pfaff who has the lead currently at right guard, but the battle at right guard seems likely to be one of the most contested position battles this spring. Meanwhile, Tyrell Smith has a great opportunity to win the starting right tackle job this spring with Parker Osterloh out due to injury. Smith was a "swing" offensive lineman last year being able to play guard, tackle, and center; but Smith has settled down at right tackle this spring and with the way he's started this spring, it's hard imagining Smith being passed this spring or not being the starting right tackle at FedEx Field against West Virginia. Elsewhere, the Hokies have continuity with Yosuah Nijman, Wyatt Teller, and Eric Gallo all projected to once again be starters at LT, LG, and OC respectively.