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Friday, August 6, 2010
Opening camp: Virginia Tech

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Schedule: Practice starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 6:15 p.m. All practices, with the exception of two open scrimmages, are closed to the public.

What’s new: The offense is ahead of the defense. It doesn’t happen often, but the storyline has switched in Blacksburg. One of the nation’s consistently best defenses is in a rebuilding mode, having to replace six -- and possibly seven starters, if Barquell Rivers is not cleared by the Boise State game. Meanwhile, the offense is loaded with a veteran quarterback in Tyrod Taylor and two 1,000-yard rushers in Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.

Sidelined: Redshirt sophomore backup center Michael Via (knee) and Rivers, who missed spring practices after surgery to repair his left quadriceps tendon. Via is expected back in the next week or two, and a school spokesman said Rivers will be cutting it real close to being cleared in time for the Boise State game.

Key battle: We need not mention the obvious (Williams vs. Evans), so let’s go with defensive tackle. Kwamaine Battle finished spring practice with a slight lead for the job vacated by Cordarrow Thompson, but Antoine Hopkins will keep things interesting this summer. There will also be good competition at field corner between Jayron Hosley and Cris Hill.

New on the scene: Nick Becton at left tackle, where he takes over for Ed Wang. Becton won the starting job this past spring, and the coaches think Becton has the potential to be a three-year starter.

Breaking out: Defensive end Steven Friday. He made plays in every scrimmage this past spring, and is one player defensive coordinator Bud Foster is expecting to be a leader. He was named the most improved defensive player this spring and is capable of game-changing plays like forced fumbles. He was the top backup to Jason Worilds last year.

Don’t forget about: Evans. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, Williams isn’t the only talented back on this roster. Don’t forget Evans became the first Hokies freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and at the time, his 1,265 yards was the highest season total in ACC history by a freshman. He finished spring ball listed as a co-starter with …

All eyes on: Williams. Until proven otherwise, he is the best player on this roster and has a legitimate shot at the Heisman Trophy this year. He rushed for a school-record 1,655 yards last year, also an ACC freshman record. He scored 22 touchdowns, including 21 rushing, breaking ACC season records in both categories.

Quotable: “Obviously the talent that I have is the best I’ve ever had at Virginia Tech from top to bottom. … The thing we are going to try to do as an offensive staff is to get more than one of them on the field at the same time. I think that will be a big help to us offensively and will stress some defenses.” -- Running backs coach Billy Hite.