BLACKSBURG – Picked to win the 2012 ACC Coastal Division by the media at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, the Virginia Tech football team opened practice Tuesday afternoon and began preparations for the 2012 season.
The team consisted of 105 players, right at the NCAA limit. The coaching staff can expand the roster once school starts in a few weeks.
The Hokies practiced in just helmets, jerseys and shorts, as they will for the next few days. The practice resembled most of Tech’s practices in format, and for the most part, things went smoothly, according to head coach Frank Beamer.
“I thought it went well,” Beamer said. “I thought our freshmen showed up and competed. I said all along that I thought it was a good freshman class, and from what I saw today, I think it’s a good freshmen class. We’ll evaluate this practice and get ready for practice No. 2.”
The only concerns of the day were the health statuses of both D.J. Coles (knee) and Tariq Edwards (leg). Though neither was dressed in a blue or green jersey, which signifies no contact or limited work, neither did a lot, and both appeared to be moving gingerly. Mike Goforth, Tech’s associate AD for sports medicine, didn’t have a timetable as to when either would be back.
“I’m concerned,” Beamer said. “When you come out here and you’re not able to work full tilt … we’ve got three weeks here and we’ll see where we are. I know Mike Goforth has a plan on how much work they should do and so forth. But they’re two quality players who can’t do things full tilt right now.”
Now for more information on Tech’s first practice:
• Beamer said one of his top concerns was the punting position. That makes sense – the Hokies were 108th nationally last year in net punting.
Windmuller, a freshman from Oakton, Va., and Hughes, a left-footed freshman from Terre Haute, Ind., got off some good punts and caught Beamer’s eye.
“I was impressed,” he said. “I thought both of those guys showed some good stuff. They’re going to get a lot of kicks. I tell you that.”
To be honest, Branthover may have been the best of the bunch. He launched three bombs. All the punters punted across the field instead of down the field, so it was tough to gauge distances, but Branthover’s seemed to go much farther.
• Beamer also mentioned getting things squared away at tailback and at receiver as important tasks. Right now, the Hokies are working six tailbacks and 15 receivers, which is too many.
“We’ve got some talented kids at tailback, but we have to decide who we’re going to work with,” Beamer said. “There are only so many reps you can get in preseason practice. Then you look at wide receiver and the numbers there, we need to get it down to who we need to work.”
• A lot has been made of the Hokies having extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets’ option offense. But it really comes down to one extra week of practice time. Beamer said that the Hokies wouldn’t concentrate on the Yellow Jackets until two weeks out from the game.
“I think it’s important also to work against each other,” he said. “This preseason practice, to get the tempo and playing full speed, it’s important that our good offense works against our good defense. But I think a couple of weeks out, we’ll start working our offense and defense against our scout teams running Georgia Tech’s stuff.”
• Mark Leal was very impressive today at quarterback. By my count, during the pass skeleton drill against Tech’s secondary and linebackers, he completed 8 of 12 passes, including a 65-yard touchdown to walk-on receiver Charley Meyer. He also had a 35-yard completion to Demitri Knowles.
As for Logan Thomas, according to my count, he was 6 of 13, with maybe an interception. He was trying to hit Daniel Dyer across the middle, but Antone Exum either intercepted it or stripped Dyer of the ball. It was tough to tell from my angle.
• Knowles had an interesting day. He made a great move on Kyle Fuller during the pass skeleton drill to get open down the sideline, but then dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Thomas. The drop drew the ire of receivers coach Kevin Sherman.
But Knowles came back several minutes later. He again made a nice move on Fuller and hauled in the 35-yarder from Leal.
However, not long after that, Knowles drew the ire of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring for dropping an underthrown pass from Leal. In my opinion, that would have been an incredibly tough catch, but Tech’s coaches have high expectations of the young man.
• Speaking of receivers, it was interesting to see the reaction of D.J. Coles and Dyrell Roberts after freshman Joel Caleb missed a block on a running play. Right after the play, both Roberts and Coles ran up to Caleb and showed him what he did wrong. It was a nice piece of leadership by the two seniors.
• Bruce Taylor spent the day working at backer, while Jack Tyler handled mike linebacker. This is defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s contingency plan in the event Edwards doesn’t return any time soon.
“We’re working some people around, so we can hopefully build a little depth,” Foster said. “He’s [Taylor] started a bunch of games, and we’re going to put our best 11 on the field, and he’s one of our best 11. Jack is one of our best 11.
“Bruce has played at backer one game [Stanford in the Orange Bowl], and there are some subtle differences between the positions, especially when people spread the field. He’s capable of doing it, but I fully expect we will get Tariq back. When? I don’t know. I was kind of discouraged today by his inability to run. We’ll take it one day at a time, and Bruce will have to grow into that position.”
Taylor himself is working his way back from a Lisfranc injury that ended his season early last year. But he showed no ill effects today from that devastating injury.
“It takes a while to warm up, but once it warms up, I feel pretty good,” Taylor said. “I’d say I’m 90-95 percent, but I’m not 100 yet. Right now, I could go. If we played tomorrow, I’d be out there.”
Williams, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive lineman from Richmond, underwent shoulder surgery recently, while Vandyke, a 6-0, 205-pound linebacker, underwent minor knee surgery. Both continue to rehab and both may return to the practice field once school starts on Aug. 27.
• Speaking of true freshmen, four currently are among the two-deep on the depth chart. That group includes two who enrolled this past January and participated in spring practice – J.C. Coleman and Donaldven Manning. Both figure to play this fall.
The other two are cornerback Donovan Riley and free safety Desmond Frye. Riley, a 5-11, 200-pounder from Reistertown, Md., currently backs up Antone Exum, while Frye, a 6-2, 181-pounder from Chester, Va., backs up Detrick Bonner.
• The players reporting for Tuesday’s opening practice checked in Monday and went through the gauntlet of paperwork, heights and weights, physicals, blood work, insurance, parking, etc. The team had an organizational meeting that night in preparation for the first day of practice. The day began bright and early with a wake-up at 7 a.m., breakfast, meetings at 7:15 a.m., followed by a lift for the varsity squad, lunch, academics for the freshmen, more meetings, practice, dinner, a team meeting and, you guessed it, more meetings. They’ll do it all again for the next four days.
• Former Virginia Tech players John Graves and Mark Muncey have joined Tech’s strength and conditioning staff as interns. Graves, a former defensive tackle from Richmond, played at Tech from 2007-2010, earning second-team All-ACC honors his senior season. Muncey, a walk-on from Tazewell, Va., played as a linebacker from 2006-2009.
Their spots became open when former Tech center Ryan Shuman received a full-time job within the Hokies’ strength and conditioning program. Also, former Tech received Brandon Dillard received a full-time position, taking over for former basketball player Terrance Vinson as the coordinator of women’s basketball strength and conditioning.
• Once again this year, Beamer will open the two preseason scrimmages to the public in Lane Stadium. The dates are: Saturday, Aug. 18 (4-6:15 p.m.) and Wednesday, Aug. 22 (2-4:15 p.m.). As always, no video taping devices of any kind are allowed inside Lane Stadium during these scrimmages. All other Virginia Tech practices are closed to the public.
• Media day is Saturday, as the Hokies will face a barrage of reporters from the state and region. The press conference portion for Beamer, as well as for Logan Thomas, Michael Holmes, Marcus Davis, Dyrell Roberts, Bruce Taylor, Kyle Fuller, James Gayle and Antone Exum, will be streamed live on hokiesports.com. Beamer will begin at noon, with the players shortly after he finishes around 12:25 p.m. This is a media-only event and is closed to the public.
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