Virginia Tech is just eight days away from their annual Spring Game signaling the end of spring practice. Every spring produces players who take their games to the level and position themselves to take on larger or more valuable roles the following season.
Here's a look at three Hokies who have been on the rise this spring.
LB Jaden Keller
Jaden Keller has had plenty of rises and falls during his time in Blacksburg having been seen as the likely will linebacker during fall camp last year before stumbling down the depth chart during the fall as he struggled to find consistency. However, Keller's athletic and physical talent is undeniable with signs this spring being that everything else is clicking.
Brent Pry had downplayed having Keller at mike linebacker feeling his skill set fit better at one of the outside linebacker spots. With Alan Tisdale and Jayden McDonald out for parts of this spring for various reasons and VMI transfer Stone Snyder not on campus yet, the door opened for Keller to get his chance to make a move at the mike LB spot.
So far, he's done just that impressing Brent Pry with his work at the mike linebacker. When recently asked about Keller, Pry was excited to talk about the Bristol native and then had to say about Keller's development.
"He's been a pleasant surprise. I was hoping he could just learn will (LB) better. And he's done that and he now has tackled mike (LB) because of the injury situation. And he's setting the front and making the calls. I saw him today, the D-Tackles were lined up wrong and he was able to get them lined up right and get back where he needs to be and line up himself. He's made a lot of progress that way. Coach (Chris) Marve has done a good job with him," Pry said.
That's some extremely high praise from Brent Pry regarding Jaden Keller and shows how much Keller has grown his game.
Of course, the competition at the mike LB spot is going to pick up greatly in the coming months with Tisdale back, McDonald getting healthier, and Snyder arriving in the summer. However, Keller is going to be a top contender to win the starting mike LB job thanks to his strong spring so far, something that even Pry may not have expected going into it.
WR Tucker Holloway
Virginia Tech has gone through a wide receiver overhaul this offseason landing three transfers to try to boost the production and talent in that room. While there's no doubt that Ali Jennings, Jaylin Lane, and Da'Quan Felton will do just that; there's a younger receiver who is also showing significant growth and climbing up the depth chart.
After primarily working as Tech's punt returner for the second half of last season, Holloway should not only get his first few catches of his career this year, but also looks like a regular WR potentially for the Hokies. During open portions of practice throughout this spring, Holloway has spent plenty of time working with the first and second team offenses giving himself valuable reps with Tech's top two quarterbacks: Grant Wells and Kyron Drones.
I wrote earlier this spring about Holloway has been impressing the Hokies' staff and his teammates in large part because of the student of the game mantra that he has taken on during his time with the Hokies so far. Combine that with his big time speed, good size, and a year of experience; and it's been a recipe to have Holloway climbing the depth chart this spring.
While the WR focus is understandably on the transfers this spring for the Hokies, Holloway is making lots of noise and seems poised for a much larger offensive role this season.
OL Kaden Moore
This may seem like a stretch since Kaden Moore is a multi-year starter, but the big storyline surrounding the junior season was the fact that Joe Rudolph was moving him from guard to center after the expiration of eligibility of Johnny Jordan.
Then Rudolph left with Ron Crook coming in which is the type of thing that can either throw off a position change or see a new coach shift a player back to his original spot and then look for a replacement elsewhere including the transfer portal. That won't be the case for the Hokies as Kaden Moore has proven himself to be just what the Hokies need at center impressing Crook in the process.
"I think everyday he's getting better and more comfortable with it," Crook said. "It's a tough thing to snap a football with a 300-pound defensive lineman lined up over top of you when you've never done it before. It's one thing when you've done it everyday of your life. When you've never done it, that's a hard thing.
"So he's gotten better everyday so far with snapping the ball which is the most important part. Once you get past that and you understand who you're ID-ing on every play and getting the offense started, and as we call it 'driving the ship', it's still blocking after that. And we all know he's a pretty good blocker so I think that part of it is pretty smooth."
The fact that Kaden Moore has been able to take on the additional responsibilities than come with playing center well from snapping to being the leader of the offensive line is a great sign that he can be a quality center for the Hokies.
After center seemed like a top need for the Hokies in the transfer portal this offseason, Moore has quelled those concerns with a strong spring and successful move to center.
Audio sourced from Virginia Tech football's YouTube press conference videos.