2012 Class Key In 2013

by JustinC on January 9, 2013 · 13 comments

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605210 300x155 2012 Class Key In 2013Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a few articles on the 2013 class.  Today, I want to rewind time one year and talk about the class we signed last February.  Tech’s 2012 class was large and impressive.  It was the first true class sculpted under our current Recruiting Coordinator Shane Beamer.  The results were clearly noticeable as Shane pulled four star Joel Caleb out of Richmond and four star running back Drew Harris out of Pennsylvania.  That along with about six other recruits completed an impressive haul for the Hokies running backs coach.

For those who didn’t play this season, their four years of eligibility will begin this spring.  Since spring practice is just around the corner (a little over two months), I thought today would a good day to do a little rewinding and talk about this talented group. 

I decided to break this class up into 3 parts, those will definitely contribute, those who could contribute, and those who will fight the good fight for at least one more year. 

Players Who Will Contribute in 2013

WR Joel Caleb: I was a little surprised that the Hokies chose to redshirt Caleb but for the future of our program, it ended up being a good move.  Yes, our wide receivers struggled at times last season but Caleb wasn’t the answer for those problems.  At least, not yet.  Caleb is a strong, physical receiver who will need to show improvement this spring.  If he does, he could find himself challenging for the no. 2 WR spot this fall opposite of entrenched starter DJ Coles.

RB Trey Edmunds:  There still hasn’t been any official word on the status of Drew Harris for this spring.  However, with Edmunds going through a full season in the program, I’m not sure the status of Harris will even matter.  If Edmunds impresses this spring, he has a good chance at being the starter against Alabama.  Of course, JC Coleman and the rest of the returning players in the backfield will have something to say about that.

WR Josh Stanford:  The Hokies used Stanford sparingly in the Georgia Tech game this season but eventually chose to sit him and pursue a medical redshirt.  Because of that, Stanford received at least one game of experience and that will benefit him this off-season.  With his skillset, he is going to be an impact player at some point.  Hopefully, that point comes sooner rather than later.

RB JC Coleman:  Coleman was the Hokies most productive back this past season and I don’t see that changing next year.  However, Tech really needs to find different ways to utilize JC’s athletic ability in space.  He’s not a downhill runner so having him in on sweeps, tosses, counters, and even a few old school option plays next season would be the best way to utilize him. 

CB Donaldven Manning:  After an off the field issue this past season, Manning returns this spring on a bit of a short leash.  He did play in spots early on last season so Manning will return this fall as a sophomore.  However, as long as he keeps his nose clean off the field, Manning should be able to take that next step.  Most great Virginia Tech cornerbacks tend to come out of their shell as sophomores.  Although Manning won’t have the opportunity to start, I think you will see marked improvement in him this spring. 

OT Augie Conte:  With a new offensive system likely being installed this season, it’s hard to say how the offensive line will shake out. But, one player who impressed the coaching staff during practice this past season was Augie Conte.  The former three star has that aggression and passion you look for in young offensive linemen.  It’s clear he still needs to get stronger but hopefully with a new OL coach assisting him, Conte can turn the corner and perhaps win the starting job at one of the tackle spots.  If not, he’ll be a primary backup at either position. 

DB Donovan Riley:  After spurning a redshirt, Riley played only sparingly this season.  Nevertheless, the Baltimore native did intercept his first pass of his career against Florida State.  That alone is a reason for optimism although he does have a ways to go to be trustworthy enough to start.  Riley is a good prospect and one I think will take on a larger role as a backup. 

Players That Could Contribute in 2013

DT Nigel Williams: The Hokies will need to find a 4th defensive tackle that they can count on this spring.  As it stands, Williams is the most likely suitor but he’ll have to battle with Alston Smith, Justin Taylor, and spring enrollee Woody Baron. 

DT Alston Smith:  For the same reasons mentioned above, Smith will have an opportunity to entrench himself on the depth chart this spring. 

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DE Ken Ekanem:  With a full year of recovery after knee surgery, Ekanem could become a factor at defensive end, especially if there is some attrition at that position.  The word on the street is that Ekanem has done a good job slimming down and is currently working on changing his body.  He may need another year to increase his strength a little more but he’ll have the opportunity at making a push on the defensive line this spring.

LB Deon Clarke:  The Chesterfield native was impressive in what little playing time he received last season and the coaching staff is pursuing a medical redshirt for him.  That extra year could be extremely beneficial going forward if the NCAA grants it.  For 2013, Clarke will likely be the backup at Backer and depending upon the health and the effectiveness of starter Tariq Edwards, Clarke could play a major role on our defense. 

S Desmond Frye: The coaching staff chose not to redshirt Frye for depth purposes so hopefully that works in his favor this year.  Frye is a rangy prospect that will likely be the backup at free safety this year, depending upon the health of Michael Cole.

CB Davion Tookes: With lackluster depth at cornerback this spring, Tookes will receive a good amount of work against our first string offense.  How he performs in those reps could decide where he’ll be slotted on the depth chart this fall. 

LB Dahman McKinnon:  With two WHIP linebackers graduating, McKinnon will have an opportunity to win the backup job behind Ronny Vandyke.  However, I don’t see him playing a whole lot this season unless injuries begin to mount.  With more flexibility in the secondary, the Hokies would likely move Kyle Fuller to WHIP if anything happened to Vandyke.

Players Who Will Fight The Good Fight For At Least One More Year

DE Jarontay Jones: Midway through the 2012 recruiting cycle, the Hokies landed four star Jarontay Jones out of Georgia.  It was a surprise get and a huge pickup for Virginia Tech.  But, Jones is a tough player to slot and he still needs some development.  Plus, the Hokies aren’t losing anybody this season at defensive end.  Jones will receive some reps this spring and he’ll really need to impress if he wants any shot at playing time this fall on something other than special teams.

LB Devin Vandyke:  The Hokies are not overly deep at linebacker but Vandyke will need at least one more year to bulk up.  The only way he plays a major role this fall is if he can overcome his size and really impress the coaches this spring. 

CB Der’Woun Greene:   After making the switch to cornerback last season, I think Greene is at his more natural position.  That said, he will probably need an additional year to learn the position.  It’s tough to make that switch right before the season and receive the proper coaching needed to truly grasp what you’re doing. 

RB Chris Mangus:  As a player, I like what Mangus brings to the table.  However, with so much depth in the backfield, I think it’s unlikely Mangus plays a huge role in the offense this year. 

WR Mark Irick:  As a natural receiver, I like Irick’s abilities.  He knows how to high point the football and seems to be a good route runner from what I could tell from the preseason scrimmages.  But, Irick still needs to add some mass to be effective.  His best hope is to impress our new WR’s coach and perhaps latch on as our 6th receiver this year. 

C Jack Willenbrock:  Much like the other players on this list, Jack has the want to but just needs some additional work in the weight room.  He’ll get there eventually and the backup center job is his for the taking in 2014. 

OT Adam Taraschke:  I’ve heard a lot of positive reports about the freshman out of Fredericksburg, VA.  But, I can’t see him making a huge impact this season.  At best, he’ll work his way into a backup job at right tackle but he may have to battle Nick Acree this fall for that honor. 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Vhokie January 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Nice write up Justin! Thanks!

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justinc January 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Thanks. I actually wrote this entire thing this morning when I got to work. Today’s been a productive day haha.

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Daniel January 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm

My guess is Knowles will be the #2 receiver aside DJ Coles- he showed enough this year for me to think he will beat out Stanford and Caleb. Caleb seems more like a DJ in his size where Knowles is the exact opposite.
Justin, you think Asante gets much more PT?

Reply

justinc January 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

There’s a good chance of that but I would like to see Knowles add some mass to his frame. He’s still a little too thin to be our no. 2 option. Plus, I feel like he’s still limited in what he can do. This spring will be big for him. If he can go up against JS and Caleb and win, that would be big for us next year.

As for Asante, it’s hard to guess where he’ll fit in. I don’t think he’ll ever crack the top 3. He’s a good receiver but he’s just not in the right system. Hopefully, with a new OC, that changes and we can begin to see some potential from him.

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Vhokie January 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Justin…What type of skill set does Stanford bring? And Caleb? If you had to compare them to NFL WR’s or past VT WR’s, who would you compare them too? I guess Stanford was farther along than Caleb this past year? I am just trying to get a sense of where Stanford and Caleb fit in next year. Especially Caleb since he was such a highly touted recruit. What type of recruit was Stanford? Was he a 3 star?

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justinc January 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Caleb and Stanford are both big guys. I would argue that Caleb will be able to do more after the catch but I would put both in the possession receiver category. Stanford gets out of his breaks a little better but that may be because Caleb was a QB in high school. He’s got to work on his footwork and learn the moves needed to beat his man in one-on-one coverage.

I like both guys a lot. Plus, you have to remember Stanford, while he was a lower rated recruit, played in a very sophisticated passing offense down in Georgia. Those little nuances you have to learn at every position, he already knew. Add in that he’s a good athlete and I think that’s why so many were impressed with how far along he was. Where he hit the “freshman wall” or so to speak was win he had to start learning the offense. Stiney’s offense is detailed and we’ve all heard how our playbook is twice the size of most NFL teams. I think with a new OC in here, you are going to see some of these guys flourish.

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ray January 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm

caleb is a more athletis Jarret Boykin with the physicality of DJ coles, Standford is a unique WR to us, not only is he fast but he accelerates quickly, think marcus davis catch against GT, thats what standford can do but he’s quicker, and he’s very physical,

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justinc January 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I would argue that Davis was a little quicker but it’s close. I think overall, it will be hard to ever recruit a wide receiver that’s a great of an athlete as Davis was. I mean the guy has all the measurables and statistics. He runs a 4.5 40, 44 inch vertical, which I believe is an all-time team record, and benches 400+ lbs. However, those numbers don’t always equal production and I think we found that out in MD’s case. He has his weaknesses as well and those were well documented this season.

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Mark January 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm

So who do you think has the edge right now between Nigel Williams and Alston Smith? It sounds like Nigel is a beast. Do you think Alston will ever be All-ACC material or be stuck under his father’s shadow. He must have it in his DNA, he just hasn’t flipped the switch. Maybe that will happen soon. Look at the Currys. They weren’t highly regarded/recruited and didn’t make waves until college.

Also, when will we know the deal with Harris? Shouldn’t that come out soon??!?!

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justinc January 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Nigel missed all of last August so he’s a little behind. But, this spring will be big for both of those guys. I like Smith a lot. He’s improved leaps and bounds since he was a junior in high school. He’ll never be his Dad but he has a good future if he continues to work hard. Williams is guy who is a bit of a tweener as well. But, he has the skills to be an extremely disruptive defensive tackle. I’m looking forward to seeing both of them in the Spring.

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kenroe January 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Hey justin do the hokies have any early enrollees and how did Bucky hodges perform in the O-D bowl?

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justinc January 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I wrote an article on the early enrollees last week. You can read it here: http://www.virginiatechfan.com/2012/12/hokies-earlyenrollees/

As for Bucky, he struggled during the week and I was never able to watch the O-D Bowl. Nor did I ever find out if it was going to be on TV or not. But, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. He just needs some time to develop.

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Mark January 10, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I have a bad feeling that fans won’t give Bucky ‘time to develop’. Everyone seems to expect A LOT from him from day one. No one seems willing to give Leal a shot at running the O. Also no one is giving Carlis Parker a shot. So many fans expect to have a MV7 or T-Mobile every year.

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