The Tech Lunch Pail is excited to announce the launch of the new TLP Insider subscription. Sign up for an account and get the best news, inside scoops, and analysis on the Hokies! Learn more

Virginia Tech Football Open Spring Practice Notes 3/25/23

Malachi Thomas 1 VT Miami 2022 HT

Virginia Tech Football held an open practice for fans yesterday while also allowing media to get some field access as well during a portion of it. Here's a look at some of my notes from the Hokies' open practice.

Malachi Thomas vs Bhayshul Tuten RB1 Battle Is On

The battle is on to see who will be the top running back for the Hokies as a healthy Malachi Thomas vs transfer addition Bhayshul Tuten should be one of the best starting battles. While I've leaned towards Thomas given his success at the Power 5 level, it's clear that Tuten has what it takes to also be a highly-productive RB at this level after transferring in from North Carolina A&T.

Head coach Brent Pry is also excited about that competition especially as it should intensify in the coming weeks as Tech moves past a fundamentals and installation focused phase of spring practice.

"I'm excited about that competition too. What happens these next 5, 6 practices is there's a ton of valuable reps for evaluation, for growth. You start talking more and more about the competition in each room because right now, it's about fundamentals and techniques, trying to get guys in the right places, and understand things. And as they get a little bit more comfortable in the structure, then you can turn it up," Pry said.

Having a healthy Thomas last season made a big difference for the Hokies with Tech having three of their largest offensive scoring outputs against Power 5 opponents when Thomas was healthy. However, Tuten's production over a full season is undeniable even at a lower level and makes this a fascinating competition to watch going forward.

No Surprises on the Offensive Line

Here's a look at what the top three offensive line units looked like yesterday from left tackle to right tackle with some players overlapping.

  • First Team: Xavier Chaplin, Braelin Moore, Kaden Moore, Jesse Hanson, Parker Clements
  • Second Team: Brody Meadows, Jesse Hanson, Jack Hollifield, Johnny Garrett, Griffin Duggan
  • Third Team: Layth Ghannam, Lance Williams, Tyler Smedley, Johnny Garrett, Hannes Hammer

The top 5 shouldn't come as a surprise given the promise of Xavier Chaplin and Braelin Moore. While that is a very young left side of the offensive line, the upside is definitely significant with that pair.

There may be some who are concerned seeing the early enrollees on the third team though that shouldn't come as a surprise 5 practices in. It'll be interesting to see how guys like Ghannam and Williams progress in the coming months especially with the clear opportunities out there to climb into the two-deep.

Bob Schick is another guy to keep an eye on in regards to this depth chart though you do have to wonder if he may consider the transfer portal if he feels a path to a starting opportunity isn't available in Blacksburg.

One interesting shift on the second team is the fact that Brody Meadows is working at tackle after working primarily at guard this past fall while Johnny Garrett has slid inside and appears to be the top backup guard at the moment. This is an interesting shift from Joe Rudolph to Ron Crook especially given the talk surrounding Garrett at tackle early in 2023 before Rudolph left for Notre Dame.

Leaders Emerge at Defensive End

Defensive end feels like one of the most open spots on the roster and while two potential factors are either not 100% in Pheldarius Payne or not on campus yet in James Jennette, a couple of unsurprising leaders have emerged on the depth chart.

Cole Nelson and CJ McCray were getting the first team reps while Jorden McDonald and Keyshawn Burgos were backing them up. This comes after Nelson and McCray were both heavily in last year's DE rotation while McDonald and Burgos were around the third team per the two-deep last season.

There's no doubt that this is a fairly open competition, but Nelson and McCray being at the top for now shouldn't come as a surprise given their greater experience. Of course, don't be surprised if a healthy Payne and the JUCO addition of Jennette add more chaos to this open competition.

You must login in order to comment on this post.
Loading Indicator