BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech football team opened practice on Monday evening, beginning preparations for the 2013 season.
Tech practiced for a little more than two hours, finishing roughly after 9 p.m. The coaching staff wants to conduct meetings and installation sessions during the day and then have practice be the last thing the team does each today.
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, but this first practice appeared to be filled with more energy and intensity. Tech’s staff constantly urged players to do things the right way, and defensively, there was an emphasis placed on running to the football.
“I want 11 heat seekers out here,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster shouted. “I don’t care what position you play.”
The energy and intensity was not lost on head coach Frank Beamer.
“I thought it was an outstanding first practice,” Beamer said. “There was effort and people flying around. There were a lot of moving parts, and they were moving around very well and correctly. I was really pleased with that.
“I came away from that practice feeling really good. The key to us is can we come out and practice that same way tomorrow and be a little more efficient. But for a first practice, I don’t know that I’ve been around a better first practice.”
Other notes from Tech’s first practice:
• Antone Exum spent Monday visiting with Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopaedic surgeon who operated on Exum this past spring to repair his torn ACL. The news wasn’t good, as the doctor recommended increasing some of his rehab exercises and then he’ll check Exum again in a couple of months.
That means Exum will probably miss the first month of the season.
“It’s one of those things that takes time,” Beamer said. “In a couple of months, they’re going to re-evaluate. It needs to be right for him and for us. It is what it is.”
In Exum’s place, Brandon Facyson and Donaldven Manning are listed as co-No. 1’s at the field corner position. Facyson enjoyed a great spring after enrolling in January and could very well play this season as a true freshman.
“Facyson had a good practice,” Beamer said. “I noticed him a couple of times. He’s a sharp guy, and he’s got some height and ability.
“Antone was playing at a high level, but another guy now needs to step up and play at that level. That’s the way it is.”
• Freshman Kendall Fuller worked a lot at whip linebacker. Fuller was rated the No. 2 cornerback prospect in the country according to Rivals and probably will wind up there, but he figures to see time in Tech’s nickel defense as the fifth defensive back.
Remember, his brother, Kyle, played in a similar role as a true freshman.
“We want a guy who can be a cover guy and who can run our defense, someone we can bring pressure with – just like his brother [Kyle] did,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “That’s when we’ve played our best football, when that guy is a playmaker and can run our defense.
“I’m hoping he’ll be that impact guy that we think he can be. That gives him an opportunity to get on the field right away. Our whole deal is when we’ve been good, we’ve been able to execute at that position [whip]. When we haven’t been good, we’ve been trying to piece-work it, so to speak.”
• Corey Marshall will spend August working at both defensive end and defensive tackle, a sure sign that the Hokies lack depth at the defensive tackle spot. Tech is fine with projected starters Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, but after that, things are murky, with true freshman Woody Baron and redshirt freshmen Alston Smith and Nigel Williams battling for playing time. Also, Kris Harley, a redshirt sophomore, is in the mix, but Harley is fourth on the depth chart behind Maddy at the tackle spot.
“We talked to Corey as a defensive staff yesterday,” Foster said. “I like where we are with our ends. We’ve got some experience, and I like the emergence of Dadi Nicolas, so I think we’ve got four guys [at end], and we’re trying to get our eight best defensive linemen out there. Right now, Corey would come in and be our third, maybe our second, defensive tackle. He showed two years ago that he could be very productive at defensive tackle – maybe more so there than he was at end last year.
“I gave him my word that I would move him back to end in the spring. I want him to buy into it [moving to tackle], and he’s all into right now. He’ll make us better. We’ve already become better.”• Work continues on the new Lane Stadium video screen, and the Tech athletics communications staff will continue to post photos of the progress periodically on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr (http://vthokiefootball.tumblr.com/). All sorts of football-related news can be found on the Tumblr page as well.
For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).