Spring practice kicks off checks notes TODAY and the reigning ACC Atlantic Champions get to finally get back into pads. There’s always a group of people jostling for position and your breakout stars. Here’s who I’ll be keeping an eye on this spring:
- Drop End
Luiji Vilain is off to test the NFL Draft waters so as of now, this position will be manned by JaCorey Johns, Kendron Wayman, and occasionally Jasheen Davis. Johns played the first six games before suffering an injury and only sparingly being available in the last three games of the season. Wayman was a rollercoaster, showing both why defensive line coach Dave Cohen is so high on him while also showing how inexperienced he is. There’s not a Vilain coming in this year, these two have to be more than serviceable, they have to produce.
2. Blake Whiteheart
Brandon Chapman has graduated, graduate transfer Jaeger Bull doesn’t report until the summer, and young gun Michael Frogge is out until fall. Whiteheart needs to a) take control of the room and b) take the next step in his development. Whiteheart was basically a starter snap wise but I think we all see the potential for him in the passing game and know that there’s something left to be unlocked.
3. Backup offensive linemen
Starting Center Michael Jurgens and 6th lineman Luke Petitbon are both out for the spring after getting surgery to clean up injuries. We know how good guys like Je’Vionte’ Nash, Sean Maginn, and Loic Ngassam Nya, it’s time for the next group to take that next step. Guys like CJ Elmonus, George Sell, Zach Vaughan. Guys in their 3rd or 4th year have got to push the starters at this point.
4. Backup linebackers
Are you sensing a trend? What’s behind Ryan Smenda Jr. (who was lauded by the defensive staff yesterday) and Chase Jones is a bit of a question mark. Chase Monroe has been a good player but can’t stay healthy. Jaylen Hudson has tools that make you want to kick down the door and get him on the field, but hasn’t yet put it all together. Three freshmen in Dylan Hazen, Quincy Bryant, and Josh Sosanya are all there, but what can new linebackers coach Glenn Spencer do with this group?
5. Slot receivers
This one is less of, “we need to see improvement” and more of, “my god this one is going to be fun to watch. Taylor Morin moves back to his original position in the slot while Ke’Shawn Williams gets more time to shine. I made a note on twitter of just how absurd his numbers would look with a normal amount of snaps. As a reference:
Ke'Shawn Williams' stats get hilarious if you project him for a normal workload. If you give him his 581 snaps, which is his 254 + 1/2 of Roberson's snaps from 2021:— DeColdest Debro (@CamLemons_) March 15, 2022
62 catches for 924 yards and 7 touchdowns. Just laughable numbers given the makeup of the team