Spring Outlook: Virginia Tech

CUTigers.com continues its springtime tour of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

School: Virginia Tech
Location: Blacksburg, Va.
Enrollment: 28,000
Stadium: Lane
Capacity: 65,115
Scout.com Recruiting Ranking: 31 (6th ACC)
Spring Practice Starts: March 22
Spring Game: April 15

GLANCE AT 2006: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer knew all along he was going to have to do some major retooling this season, but the task got ever bigger in January when QB Marcus Vick was dismissed from the team for off- and on-the-field issues.

Even with holes to fill in the line on both sides of the ball and in the offensive backfield and secondary, finding Vick's successor is the No. 1 priority, without question.

It figures to come down to a battle between sophomores Sean Glennon, who served as a backup in 2004 before redshirting last season, and Cory Holt, who backed up Vick in 2005. They are 1-2 in the spring with redshirt freshman Greg Boone and junior Grant Throckmorton behind them.

A fifth candidate, redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker, was suspended in the off-season until legal issues revolving around his court appearance on alcohol-related charges are cleared up. If resolved in his favor, he could join the team in the spring.

In addition to quarterback, the Hokies also are looking to replace three starters in the offensive line and their top two running backs. The good news there is that senior LT Brandon Frye showed he is capable of holding down that spot with his play in the Gator Bowl when Jimmy Martin was injured.

Also, sophomore TB Brandon Ore showed promise at running back and actually finished No. 2 on the team in rushing when Mike Imoh was limited by injuries.

The key up front defensively will be replacing the tackle spots. Juniors Kory Robertson, Carlton Powell and Barry Booker look to be the answers there.

* Virginia Tech has a reputation as being solid on defense, and 2006 figures to be no different. Though there are key losses in DE Darryl Tapp and DTs Tim Sandidge and Jonathan Lewis, the Hokies have a premier linebacking corps led by returning starters Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall, both juniors, and a potential all-conference performer in junior DE Chris Ellis. Senior DE Noland Burchette also is experienced.

* Coach Frank Beamer, who will be entering his 20th season at Tech, will have several new faces on his coaching staff this season, the first changes in four years.

Torrian Gray, who had taken a job at Temple in February, instead will coach defensive backs at Tech. Gray is a former Hokie player and spent the last two years with the Chicago Bears. He replaces Lorenzo Ward, who left to join the Oakland Raiders staff.

Also former North Carolina State head coach and Clemson offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain will take over quarterbacks in place of Kevin Rogers, who went to the Minnesota Vikings. Kevin Sherman, a Wake Forest assistant the last five years, will take over receivers for Tony Ball, who moved on to Georgia, and Curt Newsome will coach tight ends/offensive tackles. Newsome, who was with James Madison the last seven years, replaces Danny Pearman, who was reassigned to another position in the athletic department before taking an assistant's post at Duke.

* The Hokies' 2006 schedule appears made for success. Virginia Tech will have non-conference games against Northeastern, Cincinnati, Southern Mississippi, and Kent State, all at home. They also have games against ACC rivals Duke, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia in Blacksburg. Their only road games are at North Carolina, Boston College, Miami, and Wake Forest.

SPRING QUESTIONS: Replacing Marcus Vick at quarterback is obviously one of the biggest keys for Virginia Tech this spring. Whoever wins the battle will have a strong group of wide receivers but inexperience at running back to work with. Keep an eye on Eddie Royal - he had somewhat of a disappointing season as a sophomore in 2005 when he was third on the team in receiving with 27 catches. But he has breakaway speed and also is a threat on special teams in returning punts and kickoffs. Defensively, the Hokies should be strong once again led by an impressive front seven.

ROSTER REPORT: TE John Kinzer's future is somewhat cloudy because of a history of neck stingers. He will take off the spring and will have some more tests before a decision is made on whether he will play again. Three redshirt freshmen -- Richard Graham, moved from the interior offensive line, Ed Wang, and Sam Wheeler -- will compete at the position. TB Brandon Ore, the top returnee among running backs, and C Danny McGrath, the likely starter there, will miss the spring drills because of injuries.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We prefer those athletic guys there at quarterback. I think it helps to have a guy who can throw it and run it." -- Coach Frank Beamer, on the athletic ability of his quarterback candidates

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