Virginia Tech football program held its preseason media day on Saturday, as media members from around the state gathered to interview the Hokies’ coaches and players.
Tech head coach Frank Beamer gave his opening statement, saying that practices have been good. The Hokies put on the pad for the first time on Saturday, and Beamer stressed the importance of a closed scrimmage on Sunday involving most of the Hokies’ younger players. The staff wants to solidify the game-day roster for the Georgia Tech game, which means determining which freshmen play.
“We’ve got a couple of important days ahead of us,” Beamer said. “We’ve got a couple of big decisions to make here in the second couple of days.”
Not working in the Hokies’ favor – opening up with the Yellow Jackets in what figures to be an important Coastal Division game right at the start. Plus, the game will be on Labor Day night in front of a national audience. Beamer and his staff, thus, won’t have a chance to ease the younger players along.
“That’s a concern,” Beamer said. “You just don’t know how those guys will react. But the good part is I think we have some talented kids. Trying to get them to a point where they can function and play consistently is a challenge, but you kind of like that. I’ve been in some situations that, no matter how hard you coached, you weren’t going to get much better. That’s not how I feel about these kids. I think they’ve got a bright future. We’ve just got to coach them up.”
Now, here’s a closer look at the array of topics addressed at Media Day:
• Arguably, Beamer’s biggest concern centers on the secondary, where the Hokies lack experience at safety and depth overall. Tech could play as many as four true freshmen in the secondary in 2012.
“That’s a concern right now,” Beamer admitted. “We’ve got some guys who haven’t played very much. We’ve got to bring them along. They’re going to get the work. It’s just a matter of getting them functioning and consistent. I like the talent level. It’s just going to take some work.”
Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray confirmed today that freshman Donaldven Manning would play, but that comes as no surprise considering Manning enrolled at Tech this past January and went through spring practice. Gray may also play Donovan Riley and Davion Tookes, depending on how they progress.
“I’m assuming one or two corners will have to play also,” Gray said. “We’ll have to get more information after this scrimmage and just proceed from there. For sure, we’ll play one of them. Maybe it’s one or maybe it’s both.”
The other true freshmen in the mix are at the safety spots, where Desmond Frye and walk-on Greg Jones are in the mix. Those two, though, face more of an uphill battle because Tech possesses backups at the safety spots in Michael Cole and Boye Aromire behind Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner.
“I would think those positions would be tougher for a true freshman to play,” Gray said.
• Speaking of the secondary, Tech’s staff made a bunch of changes in the secondary before spring practice last spring, and one of those changes included moving Antone Exum to cornerback. That move has worked out well for Exum, who excelled in the spring and appears poised for a big season.
“Yes, I do,” Exum said when asked if he felt he was a better cornerback than safety. “I feel confident in my abilities and I’m comfortable with the position. I feel I’ve gotten better physically and mentally during the offseason. I feel like I’ll be better than I was last season.”
• The Hokies haven’t put on the pads yet, but Beamer expressed optimism about the Hokies’ offensive line – a concern among many Tech fans.
“We lost some starters there, but we’re probably as athletic as we’ve ever been,” he said. “You take our two tackles [Vinston Painter and Nick Becton], and we’ve probably never been that big and that talented. Now, neither of those guys has been the starter.
“I feel like we’ve got work to do, which is how I feel really about the whole football team. We’re not a good, good football team right now, but we’ve got the possibility of being a good, good football team.”
• The spotlight will be on freshman Trey Edmunds on Sunday during the scrimmage, as the staff determines whether he can help them at tailback. Some speculated that the staff would move Edmunds to linebacker – he excelled at both in high school – because of Tariq Edwards’ injury, but Beamer said no such plans were in the work.
“I think he’s got all he can handle trying to learn tailback,” Beamer said. “That’s the problem, the terminology. The skill level is fine. It’s just trying to get him to a point where he can function. I don’t think that’s where we are right now.”
Sunday’s scrimmage isn’t necessarily the drop-dead date to make a decision on Edmunds or any other freshman. But it certainly gives the coaches a feel of who can handle his position. Edmunds has been incurring the typical freshmen problems at the running back spot – great with the ball in his hands, shaky without it.
“I have to slow Trey sometimes,” running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “He’s a little too fast. But he’s an exciting guy. He’s a great kid. He’s explosive, and I think he’s got a great future at Virginia Tech. He’s got a lot of big-play ability. That’s why we decided to start him off at tailback and see how it goes.”
Edmunds, for the record, wants to play.
“I do,” he said. “If you ask me, I think all the freshmen want to play. I definitely want to get out there as soon as possible.”
• Andrew Miller, an outstanding wrestler in high school, gave up wrestling a couple of years ago, but Tech’s starting center certainly keep tabs on the sports, and he knew all about Jordan Burroughs, the U.S. wrestler who won the gold medal in his weight class at the Olympic Games in London.
“Before I left for meetings, I caught his semifinals match,” Miller said. “I really wish I had caught his championship match. He won, but I’m not sure of the details. Can you fill me in?”
Burroughs won 1-0, 1-0 in the freestyle 74-kilogram division.
“I do keep up with it,” Miller said. “It’s an honor to have someone from America do well like that.”
• Tech defensive end James Gayle may be the most impressive looking athlete on Tech’s squad. He stands 6-foot-4 and nearly weighs 270 pounds – all muscle. It has been an amazing transformation for Gayle, who came in at 220 pounds.
When asked if he felt he was at a disadvantage during his freshman season because of his 220-pound frame, Gayle just smiled.
“No, not really,” he said. “I felt like I could start.”
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