Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Logan Thomas
Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:04 pm
 

What I learned this spring: ACC Coastal

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Coastal Division.

DUKE: Head coach David Cutcliffe exits his fourth spring practice with the Blue Devils with as much optimism as ever, but knows that the 2011 Blue Devils have some work to do before kicking off the season against Richmond on Sept. 3.

"A successful day," Cutcliffe said after the spring game. "But I told them this is just the beginning. In college football now, [you have] the remainder of the spring term to work on weights and conditioning. And a summer that's going to very important to a young team."

Almost two-thirds of the Blue Devils roster is made up of freshman and sophomores. While youth can easily breed optimism, there is also a realistic expectation that this group needs to put in more work on the fundamentals this summer. Duke does have the benefit of returning both pieces of their quarterback rotation from 2010. Junior Sean Renfree will remain the starting quarterback, coming off a pleasantly surprising 3,131 yard, 14 touchdown season. Sophomore Brandon Connette will continue in his role as a run-first quarterback in rotation with Renfree, but the spring has shown some improvement in Connette's passing game. Defensively, we didn't learn much about Duke this spring due to widespread injuries across the unit. If anything the injuries made a talented Blue Devils offense look spectacular at times. Duke will likely not be able to escape a similar bowl-less fate in 2011, but at least now they have the athletes on the roster to remain competitive.

GEORGIA TECH: Georgia Tech set out to improve defensively this spring and try to focus on special teams. The good news is that the Yellow Jackets defense finished spring practice looking much better than the offense. Which might actually reveal more issues with the offense than it does compliment the defensive improvement. At different times this spring, both Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days have struggled in scrimmage situations against the first-team defense. Both quarterbacks have struggled to find a rhythm, and as head coach Paul Johnson said, they have been "running for their lives" on the field.

The defense was highlighted this spring by players like defensive end Jason Peters and inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who entered spring practice as a backup. Nealy, a redshirt freshman, has seen time with the first-string this spring due to injuries to Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond. He has made the most of the opportunity, capping off his spring by leading the Yellow Jackets in tackles during their annual T-Day game. Paul Johnson also wanted to increase the mistakes in the special teams after last season. Unfortunately that is not completely solved as Georgia Tech's kickers combined for misses from 28, 47, and 49 yards in the T-Day game.

MIAMI: Miami's spring has been much publicized due to the arrival of new head coach Al Golden . Therefore it should come as no surprise that we learned just as much (if not more) about Golden's vision for the Miami football program this spring than we did about the actual players on the roster. In following the Hurricanes this spring one word stands out to describe Golden's brief time at Miami: demand.

Golden demands that Miami play, practice, and think at a fast pace. He demanded that the Hurricanes get in better shape, and instituted a rigorous winter conditioning program. He demanded that players need to earn starting positions, and that is obvious with the unusually fluid final spring depth chart.

But will all these demands and the implementation of a new attitude around Miami catch on in time for the 2011 season? There are still plenty of question marks on the field, most notably the ongoing quarterback battle between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. The Hurricanes have a stable of running backs and a solid offensive line that should provide stability to the offense, and take some pressure of whichever signal-caller ends up as the starter. If nothing else, Golden has brought hype back to "The U." More than 300 former players showed up for the Hurricanes' spring game in Ft. Lauderdale, a who's who of active and retired NFL players.

Something else I learned from Miami this spring? I really need to get a Michael Irvin alarm clock.



NORTH CAROLINA: - While several former North Carolina defenders are preparing to hear their name called this weekend in the NFL draft, many of the stars from 2010's defense are still in Chapel Hill preparing for next fall. If anything, the spring showed us that the heart of of the Tar Heels' defense will be on the defensive line. The Tar Heels will be able to rotate 8-9 defensive lineman, highlighted by Quinton Coples, Jared MacAdoo, and Donte Paige-Moss. Much of the depth and added experience on the defensive line is due to the suspensions of Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn forcing players into positions unexpectedly before the season started. One of the things that makes North Carolina's line especially dangerous is the ability of several players to play multiple positions. Both Coples and MacAdoo are able to play inside or out, and that versatility can benefit a team when injuries hit during the long season. One of the biggest surprises on the already deep defensive line has been the play of junior college transfer Sylvester Williams. Williams has been building buzz since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and could end up challenging Jordan Nix for a starting defensive tackle job by next fall. North Carolina's secondary is a concern once again, making it even more important for the defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback to prevent opposing wide receivers from getting space down the field.

Offensively much of the focus will be on quarterback Bryn Renner, who is taking over for four-year starter T.J. Yates. Renner showed promise at times this spring, but he is still getting accustomed to his new role as leader of the offense. Thankfully he'll have Dwight Jones and Erik Highsmith to throw to, and an experienced offensive line to give him time to operate. Ryan Houston was a touchdown machine in 2009, but after redshirting last season and undergoing shoulder blade surgery this summer the depth at running back will be a concern heading into the fall.

VIRGINIA: Earlier this year, head coach Mike London made headlines by pulling in yet another unexpectedly strong class on National Signing Day. Unfortunately, these small victories will take some time before they translate into more marks in the "W" column for the Cavaliers. This spring did not answer many of the questions that existed near the end of last year's four-win season. Defensively, the Cavaliers return seven starters from a unit that finished only better than Duke and Wake Forest in both scoring and total defense. Improvement from those numbers will be necessary considering the lack of offensive firepower.

Virginia rotated through four different quarterbacks during their spring game (Michael Rocco, Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss, and David Watford), but no candidate stood out among the group. The offensive line has been porous, and the Cavaliers still lack an answer at running back as well. What did I learn about Virginia? Greener pastures may lie in their future, but unless someone steps up to make the Cavaliers a threat on offense they will have a difficult time keeping up with opponents in 2011.

VIRGINIA TECH: Not to drone on about new quarterbacks, but when a sophomore takes over for the ACC Player of the Year it is going to turn some heads. Logan Thomas has looked impressive this spring, grabbing most of the positive notes out of Blacksburg across the last several weeks. He finished spring practice as the star of the spring game, throwing for 131 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the Hokies in rushing with 46 yards on just five carries. However, Thomas' impressive performance did showcase some depth issues for the Hokies on offense. With starting running back David Wilson away with the track team, backup running backs Daniel Dyer, Josh Oglesby, and James Hopper struggled against the Hokies' defense in the spring game. Last season head coach Frank Beamer had the benefit of three NFL-caliber running backs to choose from, right now it looks like Wilson is the only competent option. The backup quarterbacks did not fair well either, with second-string Ju-Ju Clayton completing just three of his ten passes, and tossing two interceptions.

Defensively, Virginia Tech's returning talent seems charged up by the 40-12 lashing they took from Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Orange Bowl. The competition on the field has been aggressive, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster has not backed down from calling his team's performance in that game "unacceptable." Players to keep an eye on heading into the fall include linebacker Tariq Edwards and defensive end James Gayle, who was voted the spring defensive MVP. For those still curious, wide receiver Danny Coale did punt in the spring game and is still considered in the running for the job come fall.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 5:06 pm
 

Va. Tech WR Danny Coale competing for punter

Posted by Chip Patterson

There have been several reasons to keep your eye on spring practice in Blacksburg.  The defending ACC Champions have been adjusting to live without Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor, with touted signal-caller Logan Thomas getting adjusted to the new position.  You have the storyline of the explosive David Wilson assuming a running back position that was shared for most of the 2010 season.  You have a defense that will be looking to reload and bounce back from a season that was uncharacteristic at times for the Bud Foster era.

But what about the search for a starting punter?

The open compeition on the special teams unit includes Scott Demler, Ethan Keyserling, Grant Bowden, Connor Goulding, and starting wide receiver Danny Coale.

Coale broke out last season for the Hokies, finishing second on the team in receptions and receiving yards.  But with the position open, Coale has expressed serious interest in getting back into the kicking game.

"I was just kind of thinking to myself there wasn't a set punter," Coale said. "There has been (a set punter in the spring for Tech) in the past. I've punted in the past and I really enjoy it. Punting is something I love. I've done it since I was little. My dad taught me how to do it, so once I kind of realized there's an opportunity, I wanted to try it and give it a shot. It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it at some point. I don't know."

For three seasons at Episcopal High School, Coale took care of both the kicking and punting as well as being the primary return man for both.  Coale may not be the primary man for the job, but he has just as much college punting experience as the rest of the compeittion (none).  He has always fooled around punting before practices, but this spring is the first time he has taken the opportunity seriously.  

"Everybody asks if I'm serious, and I am," said Coale explained recently. "I'm completely serious. I don't know if I need to get a punting shoe or what I need to do to let everybody know I'm serious. Maybe the one-bar (helmet cage design) across the front."

I don't think that adding Coale to that aspect of special teams will have any "Beamer Ball" mystique, though it doesn't hurt to have that talent stuffed away on your roster.  Coale may be serious, but he is obviously utilizing this opportunity to have a bit of fun as well.  As a senior, Coale will need to be one of the leaders of a young offense - as well as a big play threat for Logan Thomas.  Last season Coale stepped up down the stretch for the Hokies, pulling in a 40+ yard reception in 4 of the final 5 games.  When things get tough for the first-time starter, he will need Coale to get out of tough spots.  

If he can't, then Coale might have to stay on the field to punt.  Not exactly the "win-win" Frank Beamer is looking for if you ask me.   
Posted on: April 5, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Virginia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Virginia Tech , who started spring practice on Wednesday.


With turnover at several key positions, will the Hokies be able to fill the holes and successfully defend their position atop the ACC?

After Virginia Tech started last season with losses to Boise State and James Madison in a five day span, the college football world was ready to file the 2010 Hokies into the "bust" category. But when the Hokies fell from the spotlight, they dug down and pulled off an 11-game win streak that finished with their fourth ACC Championship in seven years. As the Hokies lifted the trophy in Charlotte under a monsoon of oranges, head coach Frank Beamer spoke about the character and fight of a Hokie squad that refused to quit. At season's end, eleven players were named to either the first or second all-conference teams, and senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor was crowned the ACC Player of the Year.

But as the Hokies are preparing for 2011, things look a little different in Blacksburg. The Hokies bring back 12 starters from 2010, including five of those all-conference selections. But many of the names and faces that helped bring in three ACC Championships in the last four years are now gone, leaving those positions open for the next crop of headline-grabbing Hokies in 2011.

The most noticeable and arguably most important transition is at the quarterback position. With Taylor gone, the signal-calling responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas. Don't try to hit Thomas with questions about "filling Tyrod Taylor's shoes," because the 6-foot-6 245 pound quarterback wears size-18. Thomas has spent the last two years in meetings with Taylor, watching what he watches becoming familiar with quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain. Recruited by some as a tight end that could see the field right away, Thomas opted to bide his time waiting behind Taylor. His arm strength has been praised by anyone who has watched him throw, and his reported 4.6 40-yard dash makes him just as much of a threat running the ball as Taylor was before him. If Thomas can get in a rhythm with his receivers and improve his accuracy, he could prove to eventually be just as much of an offensive threat at Taylor was in 2010. He knows the history of quarterbacks under Frank Beamer, and Thomas appears to understand the importance of that leadership quality. On the first day of spring ball, he was asked if he had a mental checklist of things to improve.

“I was writing down some goals today for the spring," Thomas explained. "Just get command of the offense, get used to my players, more familiar with the playbook, get great accuracy and just get the team to feel more comfortable with me and how I play, just get the respect from the coaches and everyone around. It’s written down in the first page of my playbook.”

Virginia Tech will also suffer from the loss of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Both running backs had stellar freshman seasons, with Evans being named the Orange Bowl MVP at the end of the 2008 season and Williams earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2009. Last season was the first time that both backs saw the field at the same time, which combined with David Wilson's emergence made for one of the most dangerous backfields in the conference. But in that system with three all-conference caliber running backs, the responsibility was evenly spread week in and week out. With Evans and Williams taking their talents to the next level, Wilson must carry a significantly larger load in the Hokies backfield.

The junior from Danville, VA was one of the Hokies' all-conference selections for his work as a return specialist. Wilson led the ACC last season averaging 26.55 yards per kickoff return, and ran back two for touchdowns. Even sharing snaps at running back, Wilson displayed his "home-run" potential. Wilson broke at least one run of 15 yards or more in eight different appearances last season, averaged 15.6 yards per reception as a dangerous threat in the passing game.

If Wilson can maintain that level of production consistently, he will easily become one of the most important pieces to the Hokies' success. The big question for the spring will be how the rest of the depth chart shapes out behind him. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Josh Oglesby (converted from fullback) and Tony Gregory are the only other scholarship players at the position. Wilson not only will have the opportunity to shine in the running attack, it will be expected.

Virginia Tech also is dealing with depth issues on the defensive line. Starters Steven Friday and John Graves have graduated, and Chris Drager has been moved to tight end. Bud Foster's best defenses have been anchored by a solid defensive line that seems to cue turnovers by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Kwamaine Battle will return to the field after tearing his ACL in the second game of the season, as will his replacement Antoine Hopkins. But the Hokies will be putting a lot of faith in redshirt freshmen James Gayle and J.R. Collins to contribute immediately.

But even amidst the depth and development questions, you can't help but feel like the Hokies are still going to contend for the ACC Coastal Division title. Frank Beamer has led the Hokies to double-digit wins in 10 of the last 12 seasons. This is far from the first time he has entered spring practice with question marks on the depth chart, and it will certainly not be his last. Beamer knows what it will take to make a return visit to the ACC Championship Game, and being in contention is absolutely a realistic expectation for Virginia Tech fans.

A quick glance at the schedule for 2011 will show a slate that should work perfectly for a team breaking in a new starting quarterback. Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall will be the first opponents for the Hokies before hosting Clemson and Miami in back-to-back weeks. Their toughest road opponents will be Georgia Tech and Virginia, but those matchups don't come until the last month of the season. There may not be a lot of national hype around this year's bunch from Blacksburg, but it is not unreasonable to think that they could be back in Charlotte for a rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship game in December.

If that happens, you can bet Logan Thomas' size-18's will be ready to do the best Tyrod Taylor impression you've ever seen.

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:52 am
 

Tech's Stinespring asked off play-calling duties

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When the news broke yesterday that longtime Virgina Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring had been relieved of his play-calling duties (if not the actual title of offensive coordinator) in favor of Mike O'Cain , the immediate question was: Why now? Stinespring's offense had largely succeeded the past two seasons after largely flailing the two before. If Frank Beamer was interested in a change, why after 2010 and not 2008?

The answer, according to Beamer , was that it wasn't him that wanted to shake up the staff ... it was Stinespring himself:
Coach Stinespring was the guy to decide it, and that's the reason we ended up going that way ...

That came about in sitting down with Bryan and talking about it. Mike O'Cain meets with the quarterbacks every day, and I think having that guy that meets with them every day and is watching video and watching video of the last game, I think in the big picture, actually having that guy be the primary play-caller ... sometimes you’d run into a situation where you're watching film of the upcoming team and it's third-and-10 and it's, 'Logan, what would you like in this situation?' I think coach O'Cain has that opportunity.
The "Logan" in question here is Logan Thomas, the Hokies expected 2011 starter. O'Cain has been Thomas's quarterbacks coach and may have more familiarity with calling plays for a pocket-passer like Thomas (it's worth noting that Stinespring struggled mightily with the similar Sean Glennon and had much, much more success with Tyrod Taylor), leading Stinespring to ask for the reshuffling (and Beamer to agree).

Beamer would dis agree, however, that the reshuffling is a major change for the Hokies, saying that "it’s not as big a deal as maybe you guys would make it out to be." Stinespring is still expected to be a major part of the Hokie game-planning, and Beamer noted that O'Cain was already calling plays during two-minute drills.

But nonetheless, there's few (if any) more crucial in-game decisions for a coaching staff than offensive playcalls. And for the first time in nine years, those calls for the defending ACC champions will now be made by someone other than Bryan Stinespring. Whether that decision was Beamer's or Stinespring's, yes, it's still a big, big deal.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com