Here are several observations from Tech’s Thursday practice:
• After doing very little the past few practices because of a hamstring injury, freshman cornerback Donaldven Manning looked fresh. He made two nice plays in the pass skeleton drill on Thursday. On the first one, he broke on the ball nicely and got a hand on a pass that was intended for Corey Fuller. Then, on the next play, he broke up a pass intended for Christian Reeves. Tech’s staff needs for some younger players in the secondary to take a step forward, and Manning probably had his best practice so far.
• For the third straight practice, receiver D.J. Coles wore a sleeve instead of a knee brace, and on Thursday, Coles participated in every period except for the final period, which was a team period in which the offense goes against the defense (full tackle to the ground). The coaches held him out of that as a precaution, but Coles is moving better and better with each practice.
• Another walk-on certainly worthy of being mentioned for his effort this August is fullback Greg Gadell, a redshirt sophomore from Vienna, Va. He’s been impressive blocking in the middle drill and done a good job overall. Interestingly, he spent all summer dropping weight because running backs coach Shane Beamer wanted to work him at tailback, but with only two fullbacks in camp (Joey Phillips and Riley Beiro) – and Tech doesn’t use fullbacks much in its offense – and with Martin Scales working at tailback, Beamer has been using the 195-pound Gadell at fullback, and the young man keeps showing up.
• Ryan Malleck caught two passes in the team period Thursday, and while the coaches have praised his work so far, this was the first time we had noticed him in a game-like setting. He got behind Tech’s defense on his first catch and then broke three or four tackles en route to a nice gain. At 6-foot-4, 244 pounds – with athletic ability – he has a lot of potential. He showed some of it Thursday.
• Tech’s kickers missed two field goals in the team period, including one that was blocked by Kyle Fuller. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more live kicking work in the scrimmage.
• Freshman Josh Stanford made yet another great play in the team period. He caught a short pass that should have been about a 2-yard or 3-yard gain. Instead, he made Michael Cole miss and then broke three or four other tackles en route to about a 12-yard gain. However, he did drop a pass in this period. That’s the first drop we’ve seen from him this preseason. The coaches are going to have an interesting decision to make on whether to play Stanford.
• Freshman linebacker Deon Clarke certainly looks the part at 6-2, 214 pounds, and he made a nice play in the pass skeleton drill, breaking up a pass intended for Martin Scales. We’re not sure he’ll play this season because it’s so tough to come in as a linebacker and play right away in Bud Foster’s defense, but you can see the potential. A redshirt year, combined with continued development, could enable him to be a multi-year starter.
• BONUS: Jake Grove made an appearance at practice, stopping by after taking his nephew, who is coming to Tech, on a tour of the campus. Grove looks great, but he couldn’t play for the Hokies now – he’s lost a ton of weight. All that fishing and hunting apparently hasn’t left much time for eating and working out.
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