- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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2011 overall record: 11-3
2011 conference record: 7-1 (1st, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 3; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1
QB Logan Thomas, WR Marcus Davis, C Andrew Miller, DE James Gayle, DE J.R. Collins, DT Derrick Hopkins, DT Antoine Hopkins, ILB Bruce Taylor, ILB Tariq Edwards, OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, CB Kyle Fuller, S Antone Exum
2011 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: David Wilson (1,709 yards)
Passing: Logan Thomas* (3,013 yards)
Receiving: Danny Coale (904 yards)
Tackles: Antone Exum* (89)
Sacks: James Gayle* (7)
Interceptions: Jayron Hosley (3)
1. Logan Thomas: The ACC is loaded with talented quarterbacks in 2012, and Thomas is among the top returners. He accounted for 30 total touchdowns last season and threw for more than 3,000 yards. He is the unquestioned leader and centerpiece of the Hokies' offense, and a strong season could result in a handshake from Roger Goodell at Radio City next April.
2. Defensive line: This unit has the potential to be the best in the conference, as it will play eight or nine men on a regular basis and be the foundation for a defense among the best in the ACC. This group led the conference in sacks a year ago and has looked every bit as capable this spring of doing that again in 2012.
3. Security: The Hokies were faced with a similar position last season, only the exact opposite: Loads of offensive talent came back and the defense had some uncertainties. Virginia Tech still reached the ACC title game and a BCS bowl, extending its nation-best streak of 10 or more wins to an eighth straight season. Entering his 26th season and first as the longest-tenured FBS coach, Frank Beamer has an established track record and knows how to get the most out of his pieces. The hard part right now is finding them on offense.
1. Who will replace David Wilson? Wilson is off with the Giants, a first-round draft pick following a campaign in which he ran for more yards than any running back in Virginia Tech history. Michael Holmes figures to be the No. 1 back entering preseason camp, with J.C. Coleman pushing him for time. The Hokies welcome three new backs this fall, along with Tony Gregory, who missed spring while recovering from knee surgery.
2. Who will protect the newcomer? Holmes or any of his fellow backfield mates won't have the chance to accomplish anything replicating Wilson's production if they don't get the chance. The Hokies return just one starting offensive lineman from last season and will have to adjust quickly if the offense wants to resemble last year's.
3. Secondary help. Second-team all-ACC corner Kyle Fuller is back, along with leading tackle Antone Exum. Sophomore Detrick Bonner has moved from cornerback to free safety, sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett is now at safety and Exum is now at corner. Secondary coach Torrian Gray likes to build versatility, but he will have his hands full trying to replace Eddie Whitley (graduation) and cornerback Jayron Hosley (draft).