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HokieHaven.com will be catching up with the beat writers from each of Virginia Tech's opposing teams' Rivals.com network sites. For teams without a Rivals site, we'll be speaking with the team's daily newspaper. Second in our series, we look at the Hokies' second opponent of the season, Austin Peay, with The Leaf-Chronicle staff writer Luke Thompson.
1. Which loss, player or coach, from last season will be the toughest for Austin Peay to replace?
Thompson: That's pretty easy. I think it'll be their running back, Ryan White. He was their leading rusher, close to 1,200 yards last season. He's a senior and the focal point of their offense.
They're a running team and that's the way Coach Rick Christophel likes his offenses. They have several guys with experience, but the running back spot is kinda wide open. They're gonna miss him for sure.
2. Which newcomers should make the biggest impact?
Thompson: That's probably a couple of D-I transfers. First, they've got D.J. Rutledge, who's from here in Clarksville. He went to Navy, didn't get to play. He's a cornerback and maybe the fastest guy on the team.
He got to join them this spring and that should help them out. He could be an impact player, be a big return man for them as well if they can find a spot for him.
The other guy is O.C. Brown, who you might recognize if you ever saw the movie, "Undefeated." He was the main guy featured in the documentary. He went to Southern Miss, redshirted a year, didn't play much last year and transferred to Austin Peay to join a couple of guys from his high school team. He's a big offensive lineman who should be able to start right away and help out with the running backs, clearing some space.
3. What, if anything, will change in playcalling, schemes, etc. this season?
Thompson: I don't see anything huge. Jake Ryan is a fifth-year senior and he's played quarterback all four years. He knows the offense and maybe coach will open up things a little bit for him, especially if he can go the whole year.
Coach Christophel, this is his sixth year and he's never had a quarterback that has made it the whole year without injury. They're hoping Jake can do that and he might get to throw a little bit more. There were some signs of it earlier in the season before he went down last year.
4. Were there any surprises this spring and do you anticipate any more?
Thompson: The one thing that surprised me was Ean Pemberton had probably the most impressive spring game. He's a 5'3" 150-pound running back. You look out there and you think, 'What's that middle school player doing on the field?'
He actually showed some quickness and did pretty well. There may be some freshmen that could be impact players, but it's tough to say at this point.
5. What are realistic expectations for Georgia Tech this season?
Thompson: This is definitely they're still kind of in the building phase. They'd probably be satisfied with going .500 or getting a winning record. That's something they haven't done much.
Their defense definitely needs to be a lot better and they've gotta find a way to cut down on turnovers. If they can do those things they did have an impressive win over Eastern Kentucky last year and showed a little bit of potential.
If they keep everybody healthy, I think they could have a winning record in the OVC.
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