BLACKSBURG – Here are five observations from Thursday’s practice:
• The Hokies training staff has its hands full. Not even through two weeks of preseason camp, the list of the walking wounded keeps growing each day. Mike Goforth, associate AD for sports medicine, had this to say in a release earlier Thursday night.
• Who will be playing where along the offensive line continues to be a mystery to most outside the hallways of the Jamerson Center as the shuffling continued on Thursday. With injuries to Mark Shuman, Augie Conte and Jake Goins, along with Adam Taraschke’s leaving the program, the number of healthy bodies is dwindling. That explains the move of freshman Wyatt Teller from defensive tackle to left tackle on Thursday.
Teller has the frame to play the position at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds with a gigantic wingspan, but two weeks into preseason camp of one’s first year isn’t the best time to catch up to speed. Tech has done this before, moving Duane Brown from tight end to left tackle just two weeks before its 2005 season opener and it worked out for Brown, who is now considered one of the top tackles in the NFL. While no indication of whether this move is permanent or not, for at least one day, three of Tech’s top four at the offensive tackle spot were true freshmen: Teller, Jonathan McLaughlin and Parker Osterloh. Here’s a glimpse of Teller working out this evening via Tech's Instagram account.
“Coach [Frank] Beamer kind of joked about me making the move the other day, but we mutually decided today that it’s the right move right now, and I’m excited,” Teller said. “I played [tackle] in high school and Coach [Jeff] Grimes [Tech’s offensive line coach] told me if he saw my tape from high school while he was at Auburn, he would have offered. That’s pretty awesome.”
• The running backs corps also got a shake up Thursday, and again, it was because of injury. With J.C. Coleman (ankles) and Tony Gregory (knee) sitting out the practice, Chris Mangus was moved back from wide receiver to tailback and freshman Jerome Wright was moved from fullback to tailback. Again, there’s no word if these are permanent moves or just moves to give running backs coach Shane Beamer some bodies to work with in practice, but with Coleman and Gregory out Thursday, and Joel Caleb suspended for the opener, it left just Trey Edmunds as the only available scholarship tailback for the Alabama game if it were to be played today. Mangus played tailback last year and started camp there, while Wright was a tailback in high school, but opened camp at fullback.
Both Mangus and Wright looked pretty good at tailback on Thursday. Both look natural at the spot, and both made some nice cuts on running plays.
• Ronny Vandyke’s pending shoulder surgery means the end of his season – a crushing blow both for him and the Hokies. His injury also means that both Josh Trimble and Derek DiNardo, two walk-ons, move up the depth chart.
Trimble, a 6-foot-0, 215-pound redshirt sophomore, worked with the first team, but DiNardo, a redshirt junior, made the biggest play at the spot, intercepting a Mark Leal pass and returning it for what would have been a touchdown.
DiNardo has been a solid walk-on since coming to Tech. He’s able to back up several positions, and he contributes on special teams. He may end up with an even more important role this upcoming season.
On offense, receiver Willie Byrn fits that same mold. He can play both receiver spots, and he also contributes on special teams. Byrn got reps as the punt returner on Thursday and had one nice return. Given the lack of experience at receiver, Byrn – like Trimble and DiNardo – may play an important role this season.
• There was some chatter earlier this week about Dadi Nicolas working as a gunner on the punt team. Well, he has been working with the second-team punting unit on occasion, but the two guys working with the first team have been Der'Woun Greene and Donovan Riley. Both those guys possess good speed, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to tackle in the open field. That’s not to say Nicolas couldn’t move into that role, but Greene and Riley appear to be the guys at those gunner positions.
• With summer school ending this week, the load will lift off the players for a week until classes start on Monday, Aug. 26. As of now, Tech will still stick to the same schedule next week though, meeting in the morning and afternoon, doing an installation walk-thru, meeting some more, eating dinner and then practicing at 7 p.m. The Hokies will move practices back up to their normal afternoon time once they go into game week on Sunday, Aug. 25 in their final preparations for top-ranked Alabama.
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