BLACKSBURG, Va. — Demitri Knowles apparently was one of the last Hokies to find out. Told that the maroon team, for which he'll be a wide receiver, will start Saturday's annual Virginia Tech football spring game at Lane Stadium down 21 points, the redshirt freshman was taken aback.
"Oh wow," Knowles said when asked about the format. "We've got some work to do then."
The maroon team, consisting primarily of the first-team offense and defense, will spot 21 points to the white team, which will include mostly second-teamers. It's a departure from how past spring game rosters were divided, but Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer thought it was important to give the first-team offense, particularly the offensive line, the chance to compete together.
"I wanted to keep the team together," Beamer said. "I think it just helps the offensive line if they're working with the guys they've worked with all spring.
Junior quarterback Logan Thomas, who will lead the maroon team, agreed.
"This is their first time really working together, and I think it's good they're going to have the time to be able to gel and get things done that way," Thomas said. "And also, it's good to have the receivers that I do, trying to get that rapport with them."
Thomas didn't sound too concerned about the 21-0 deficit to start the game.
"It's definitely something I didn't expect, it's something different," Thomas said. "I think they want to see how we react and see how we play down. I think it will be a good evaluation."
And that, Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster both said, is the real point of the spring game. While it certainly draws fans, is a major recruiting weekend and attracts alumni back to campus, all of which combines to create a festive atmosphere around Lane, the coaches said Saturday's 4 p.m. game is very much a vital part of their evaluation of the team.
"The spring game is real important, real important," Beamer said. "That's the one time there will be people in the stands, a regular game. I've always felt like some people are just gamers. We'll really, really evaluate that spring game."
And it will be the final tool coaches use as they finish their two-deep depth chart for fall's preseason practice.
"The spring game, you find out some guys, they respond," Foster said. "We've had traditionally, 40-45,000 people here. It's different when you're out here playing in front of 5,000. All of a sudden, the adrenaline is flowing, there's a lot of things going on. Some guys, when the lights come on, so to speak, they really step up. And there are some guys who kind of go in a shell."
A number of players will be held out of the spring game, including linebackers Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (foot), Bruce Taylor (foot), wide receivers D.J. Coles (knee) and Marcus Davis (hamstring).
Freshman tailback J.C. Coleman, who graduated high school early to enroll at Tech this spring, is expected to see time with both squads. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes will start for the maroon team. Converted fullback Martin Scales will run the ball for the white.
Backup quarterback Mark Leal's status is unknown. Leal has been out of practice the past week with a respiratory illness.
Tech has drawn more than 40,000 fans to spring games in recent years, though a forecast calling for rain might limit that number.
Read more about the Hokies at VTeffect.com