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Teel Time: Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle "has all the tools"

The number leaps off the depth chart. James Gayle, once among Virginia Tech’s slightest defensive ends, is now the heaviest at 269 pounds.

That’s 49 pounds heavier than when the redshirt junior arrived from Bethel High School.

“I’ve put on pretty much all muscle,” Gayle said Saturday at the Hokies’ preseason media gathering. “So I feel like I’m more physically prepared.”

Did Gayle ever feel like he was too light to battle the 300-pounders who have become commonplace at offensive tackle?

“I felt like I could start freshman year, to be honest,” Gayle said with a smile.

The 6-foot-4 Gayle started two games as a redshirt freshman, 13 last season when he earned second-team All-ACC honors and played at approximately 250 pounds. He led Tech with seven sacks and this year could become a truly dynamic pass-rusher.

“When we offered him as a junior (in high school), I know he was like 207,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “Guys react a lot differently to weights. But he’s put a lot into getting bigger, faster, stronger. He looks great. …

“I think he can be really good. He’s got all the tools. Where he needs to grow is just from a knowledge standpoint, film study. … He had a tremendous summer. … I love coaching him. You don’t have to baby him. He has goals for himself, and he’s open to coaching. He doesn’t have that know-it-all attitude.”

While Gayle’s transformation is the most visible, another critical product of Mike Gentry’s strength program is tailback J.C. Coleman. A 5-foot-8 freshman, Coleman has gained 16 pounds since spring practice, up to 192.

“He wasn't big enough,” running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “He wasn't strong enough in the spring if he's going to be a tailback and line … up in the backfield.

“You can throw the ball to J.C. at 175 pounds out there, get him out in space and be OK, but when you're a running back, you're going to have to pick up 220-pound blitzing linebackers coming off the edge and sometimes they're responsible for a defensive end in pass (protection).

“J.C. versus James Gayle is going to be a mismatch regardless, but if (Coleman is) 190 pounds, he's got a chance to hang in there a little bit better, I think.”

Coleman doesn’t figure to supplant Michael Holmes (6-foot, 208 pounds) as the starter, but with his added weight, he could be a viable backup.  

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