Here are five observations from Wednesday’s practice:
• Joshua Stanford, the freshman receiver from Georgia, enjoyed a nice practice. First, during the pass skeleton drill in which the quarterback, running backs, receivers and tight ends face the linebacker and defensive backs (basically, running pass plays without linemen), Stanford beat Antone Exum – and maybe Exum was supposed to get safety help – and hauled in a pass from Logan Thomas for about a 50- or 55-yard gain.
Then, a little later, Stanford caught a pass in the middle of the field and burst up the field for a 15- or 20-yard gain He didn’t waste time dancing trying to make people miss, like some young receivers do.
• Bruce Taylor made arguably the best play in practice in that same pass skeleton drill. Thomas tried to hit a receiver (or maybe a running back?) on a short pattern, and Taylor made a lunging interception. He would have returned it for a touchdown, if not for the coaches blowing their whistles to stop the play.
It was nice to see Taylor make such an athletic play, considering the Lisfranc injury he suffered last season. He looks really good as he adjusts to playing backer with Tariq Edwards out.
By the way, Edwards got a few reps in the pass skeleton drill. But he still looks a ways away from being 100 percent.
• The punters had their moments during the special teams period, with A.J. Hughes, the left-footed punter from Indiana, getting off arguably the best punt. But the thing that struck me about Hughes, Michael Branthover and Hunter Windmuller is that all three appear a bit slow in getting their punts off. Expect that to change as practice rolls along.
• Speaking of special teams, there were numerous players fielding punts during the early portion of practice. That group included Stanford, Kyle Fuller, Kyshoen Jarrett, Dyrell Roberts, Chris Mangus and a few others.
Punt returner hasn’t been talked about enough, and it should be because the Hokies lost their two punt returners from last season (Jayron Hosley and Danny Coale). Plus, returning punts may be the toughest thing in football to do. We’ll keep a closer eye on this as practices continue.
• Tech’s coaches continue to push the freshmen along, with a blend of encouragement and scolding.
A case in point came during the final period of the practice – the team period in which the offense goes against the defense. Cornerback Donaldven Manning, a freshman who enrolled last January, got beat by tight end Randall Dunn for what would have been a long touchdown (again, the whistles blew), and defensive coordinator Bud Foster gave Manning an earful.
On the very next play, Manning made a nice play to break up a pass that was intended for receiver E.L. Smiling. Who was the first person to run up and give Manning a high-five and congratulate him? Bud Foster.
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