Here are five observations from Tech’s first day in full pads:
• Josh Stanford continues to impress. In the pass skeleton drill, the freshman from Lithonia, Ga., ran a great route against cornerback Antone Exum and caught a bullet from Logan Thomas. Exum slipped on the play, and Stanford went 60 yards for a touchdown. From this perspective, Stanford and Kevin Asante, a redshirt freshman from Charlotte, N.C., have been the most impressive of the younger receivers.
By the way, Stanford is listed at 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, but he looks bigger.
• David Wang, the Hokies’ starting left guard, sprained his left ankle in a half-line drill and sat out the rest of practice. That allowed Matt Arkema, a 6-3, 287-pound redshirt sophomore, to get extended reps with the first-team unit. Offensive line coach Curt Newsome likes Arkema and wants to see him take the next step. Working him with the first team should help him.
• Desmond Frye, a freshman from Chester, Va., made a spectacular interception during the team period, diving out to pick off a Mark Leal pass as Leal tried to hit a running back in the flat. The play got both his teammates and his coaches fired up and showed a glimpse of his potential. He’s the third-team free safety right now, and is one of four freshmen in the mix for playing time this season.
A question being asked is why so many freshmen are in the mix in the secondary. Well, Torrian Gray pointed out today that former cornerbacks James Farrow and Jerrodd Williams left the program early, and then cornerback James Hopper, who is currently helping coach, gave up football because of an injury. Former safety Lorenzo Williams also gave up football because of an injury, and former safety Theron Norman left the program. Of course, Jayron Hosley left early to go to the NFL.
So the program lost six defensive backs within the past three years. Thus, all the freshmen find themselves in the mix for playing time.
• Speaking of defensive backs, walk-on Greg Jones keeps making plays. The freshman from Lorton, Va., who attended Lake Braddock High School, made an interception of a Trey Gresh pass in the pass skeleton drill. The 6-2, 197-pounder, third on the depth chart at rover, had an interception the other day as well.
• To try and bring the younger guys at the skill positions along a little faster, Tech’s staff made a change. Instead of making those guys do conditioning after practice (e.g. running), they have them do a pass skeleton drill and use that as an extra teaching period. So young guys like Frye, Donovan Riley and Davion Tookes get additional reps, and so, too, do young receivers like Stanford and Joel Caleb and tailbacks Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus.
The change by the staff makes sense. These young players don’t need conditioning right now. They need reps, and they’re getting a little extra attention from the coaches in the process.
For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).