Virginia Tech's 2008 season had more twists and turns than an amusement park ride.
Yet, in the end, it was the Hokies who reaped the laurels of victory in both the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl.
Expectations for 2009 are lofty, especially after losing just six starters from last year's 10-4 club. This year, Tech will probably have its highest preseason ranking in team history.
But head coach Frank Beamer knows it would be unwise to look too far ahead, especially to the Hokies' opening game showdown with Alabama in Atlanta on Sept. 5.
"A lot of that depends on what happens here in spring practice," Beamer said. "It's all about getting back to work and improving as a football team, then hope you can get to where you want to go. So let's have a great practice on Wednesday. That's what we need to think about right now."
But some key contributors won't be in full-time action for the next few weeks.
Cam Martin, Sergio Render, Jason Worilds and Kenny Lewis are missing spring practice due to injuries, while Davon Morgan is likely to see limited action.
Ailments aside, there are five areas to pay close attention to between the time practice commences on Wednesday up until the Spring Game on April 25.
Replacements in the offensive line: The offense remains mostly intact. However, the line is the one area that needs minor reconstruction. Gone are center Ryan Shuman and guard Nick Marshman. The latter, at this point, will be replaced by Jaymes Brooks, who showed his effectiveness as a starter in the Orange Bowl. Shuman's successor is looking like Beau Warren, who is listed as the starter on the Hokies' pre-spring depth chart. Michael Via, Richard Graham, Greg Nosal and others will duke it out for the backup roles.
"I think we're more athletic in our offensive line," Beamer said. "We'll see how the progress and the aggressiveness and the learning comes along. But I think we've got a good starting point with our offensive line in terms of being athletic, and we'll see where we go from there."
Will Ju-Ju be the backup QB?: It won't be the primary focus like it was last spring, when Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon competed for the starting job. However, with Glennon gone, it is a point of emphasis to find a backup to Taylor, who has been injured in each of the past two seasons.
The likely candidate is Ju-Ju Clayton, who ran the scout team last year while serving his redshirt.
"I still think Ju-Ju has a lot of Bryan Randall's qualities," Beamer said, referring to Tech's all-time leading passer. "That's who he kinda reminds me of."
Also in the mix is tight end Greg Boone, occasionally used as a signal caller in the "Wild Turkey" formation. Redshirt freshman Marcus Davis, primarily a wide receiver, will also see action at quarterback. Davis was behind center in his senior year of high school.
"When we recruited him, I thought he was good enough to play quarterback and still do," Beamer said.
Revolving door at placekicker: Tech has had a succession of successfull single-year kickers. In 2007, it was Jud Dunlevy. Last season, Dustin Keys occupied the spot. The man looking to continue a trend of consistent special teams work this time could be a variety of individuals. Currently listed No. 1 on the depth chart, Matt Waldron is in line for field goal duties with Justin Myer handling kickoffs.
"I think we got some good candidates," Beamer said. "The one that's most consistent is the one that's going to end up being our guy."