For the first time in three years, Virginia Tech is hosting a Spring Game as the Hokies kick off the Brent Pry era with the biggest on-field event before actual football season. There is as much excitement around a Spring Game as any in recent memory with loads of former players back and events surrounding this year's game.
So with that said, here are the 3 biggest things to watch for the Hokies in the 2022 Spring Game.
1. The Quarterback Battle Takes Center Stage
Virginia Tech will get their full introduction today to South Carolina QB transfer Jason Brown and Marshall QB transfer Grant Wells in a competition that still feels wide open. Connor Blumrick was technically involved briefly but a position change appears inevitable for him now.
Wells feels like the higher upside of 2 while Brown is the higher floor guy having had some success at South Carolina and having more experience than Wells.
Both have some good mobility though neither is a running quarterback which is similar in many ways to the type of QBs that Penn State had when Pry and Tyler Bowen were there including Trace McSorley and Sean Clifford.
Wells is more of a gunslinger and has had higher interception rates but also had loads of bigger plays while Brown brings a higher floor not only on his overall upside but in his current game play on paper.
Overall though, there's lots of unknown surrounding both Wells and Brown that should gain some clarity on who both of them are as quarterbacks even if it there isn't much separation in the competition today.
Meanwhile, the longer term position battle farther down the depth chart between Devin Farrell and Tahj Bullock is an under-the-radar battle to watch. Being the older QB, Bullock doesn't have the luxury of having a future clear path to starting if he falls behind Farrell who has been battling him well based on comments and some on-site media practice reports this spring.
2. What Does the Sam Linebacker Role Look Like?
There's been plenty of talk defensively of how the Hokies are shifting to more of a true 4-3 than the 4-2-5 style scheme they have had. A lot of that has been built around the sam LB position being a more linebacker-forward position.
However, some of the players that have worked at that spot this spring have been more safeties like Keonta Jenkins while others are more prototypical linebackers in terms of size like Keli Lawson.
That versatility rightly raises questions as to how fully Tech's new Sam LB spot will look like the previous nickelback spot and a full-on 4-3 linebacker spot that is a reflection of the backer and now will LB spot headlined by Alan Tisdale.
Based on comments including how Pry compared Lawson to former Penn State LB Cam Brown, it seems like the sam LB spot is more of a hybrid between an outside linebacker and a nickelback spot with the goal of providing some schematic versatility between a 4-3 and 4-2-5.
Today should provide plenty of answers especially with Brent Pry saying that the Hokies will be vanilla in what they do, creating a clearer picture of what the sam LB role will look like on this defense.
3. Who Will Be The Star Skill Guys For Virginia Tech?
With James Mitchell, Tre Turner, and Tayvion Robinson all gone, there is a big opening as to who the star skill position guys will be and plenty of questions about who can step into those roles.
The most known guy who seems ready to be a lead skill guy is Malachi Thomas who broke out mid-season at RB and hasn't looked back continuing on as the top RB this spring and being praised as Tech's "most complete" back by coaches. Today should present a great chance for him to show off and continue to establish himself as the top guy.
After Thomas, the conversation pivots to a pair of receivers in the prominent transfer Jadan Blue and sophomore Da'Wain Lofton.
Blue had a big season a couple years ago before Temple's offense became anemic at best and nightmarish at worst especially throwing the football limiting Blue's opportunity. Blue has the big time upside that you want having had 95 receptions, 1,067 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns in 2019 and shown plenty of productivity of a guy who can shine at a higher level with a quality QB and passing attack, something that he lacked at Temple.
On the other side is Lofton who received loads of preseason hype before receiving limited opportunities until after Justin Fuente's departure. Lofton followed that with a strong finish to the season against Miami and UVA and has built on that since then this spring with loads of praise from coaches and teammates, and WRs coach Fontel Mines calling him Tech's "most confident" WR.
There's plenty of other intriguing players from the veteran Kaleb Smith who has proven to be a solid starter but hasn't shown as much upside while younger guys like Jaylen Jones and Dallan Wright have also received some praise this spring. Connor Blumrick's role will also be one to watch while Nick Gallo leads an intriguing TE room that may not have a James Mitchell or Dalton Keene like star.
Tech will need to find some star playmakers on offense to expand their ceiling with the Spring Game providing a great opportunity to see who might be those guys.