In every preseason, there are players that you identify on the depth chart as “important” in terms of playing well or to their potential. Many times it is these players, not the stars or the star recruits, that are the key to your season. At Virginia Tech, it’s been a testament to the development ability of Frank Beamer and his staff for the past two decades plus that in most years, somebody usually steps up. These five Hokies will need to play up to their potential if Virginia Tech is to have the season it hopes.
1- Nick Becton, LT
Becton, who will be the full-time starting left tackle for the first time in his career, has the athletic upside to contend for All-ACC honors and as all left tackles are, is critical in protecting the blindside of quarterback Logan Thomas, who when given time is as good of a passer as any in the country. It’s imperative this season for the Hokies to get Becton’s best performance of his Virginia Tech career.
2- Marcus Davis, Z Receiver
Given the losses that Virginia Tech endured at receiver following 2011, it’s important that the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Davis emerges as the matchup nightmare he could be. Davis averaged 17 yards per catch last season and impressed during the spring as one of Thomas’ top targets. There is little doubt that he is capable, but like Becton needs for his fifth year on the Hokies’ roster to be his best.
3- Michael Holmes, RB
Holmes steps in for the departed David Wilson, who was a first-round draft pick of the New York Giants last April, and the redshirt freshman from Harrisonburg looked the part in the spring. Holmes vision, speed and size (5-foot-11, 208 pounds) give him a chance to pick up where Wilson left off and continue the Hokies tradition of excellence at running back. It would not be a surprise at all to see Holmes approach the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season if he lives up to his potential, gets blocking and stays healthy.
4- Antone Exum, Boundary CB
Exum has started 18 games at safety and was honorable mention All-ACC last season for his play at that position. This year, he is Virginia Tech’s starting boundary cornerback. The transition went smoothly in the spring, but you never really know how something like this is ultimately going to work out until things are live. Exum, a 6-foot, 220-pound redshirt junior, certainly has the athletic ability to adjust and play the position. Given the Hokies’ relative lack of depth at cornerback, it’s important that he play it at a high level and prepare for a bunch of snaps.
5- Bruce Taylor, Backer
Taylor has a clean bill of health heading into preseason practice and the 6-foot-2, 253-pounder has the chance to contend for postseason honors provided he stays healthy. Taylor was Virginia Tech’s leading tackler in 2010 with 91 and it’s important that he returns to form and anchors what figures to again be one of the top defensive units in the country.