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The preseason honors continue to roll in for Virginia Tech's junior cornerback Kendall Fuller, who was recently chosen as a 2015 ESPN college football preseason All-American - CLICK HERE to see the full release.
Fuller was named a second team All-American by four seperate organizations last year (Walter Camp, Football Writers, Fox Sports and USA Today), while earning third team accolades from the AP and Athlon.
The Baltimore, Maryland native was also a 2014 first-team All-ACC choice by both the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association and the league’s coaches after he started all 13 games as a sophomore and had 54 tackles (32 solo), including 4.5 for a loss. He also had two interceptions and two sacks.
This is the 10th preseason selection for Fuller, which includes being named to the Thorpe, Walter Camp and Bednarik Watch Lists, and a preseason All-American by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele.
In Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 22, the Virginia Tech football team held its second scrimmage of the season, which was open to the public. It was the last time fans could get a glimpse of the Hokies in action before they take the field on the night of Sept. 7 against defending national champion and No. 1 Ohio State. Check out the photo gallery from the event below.
The Reese's Senior Bowl's 2016 Watch List was announced today and includes more than 350 student athletes from nearly every level of college football. Virginia Tech had four players named to the list, as three from the defensive line - Luther Maddy, Corey Marshall and Dadi Lhomme Nicolas - were joined by tight end Ryan Malleck.
This list of players is where the organization will start looking at to fill the 110 roster spots that form the North and South squads for the nation's premier all-star game. A player not on the initial list can be added to the watch list during the season and be invited to the 2016 game.
The game will be played in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised on the NFL Network.
CLICK HERE to view the entire list.
A familiar face shook Michael Brewer’s hand after practice on Wednesday, and he told the Hokies’ quarterback that he enjoyed watching him play and that the Hokies needed to throw the football more.
That’s to be expected coming from a receiver.
Antonio Freeman, maybe the school’s all-time greatest receiver, came to Blacksburg on Wednesday and showed up at the end of the Hokies’ practice. A regular visitor to Southwest Virginia – he usually comes to a few games each season – Freeman was in town this time to speak to Tech’s football squad as part of an NFL initiative to educate players about their futures.
“They [the NFL] do a bunch of initiatives at the high school and college level,” Freeman said. “I came last year as part of an initiative on social networking and social media presence.
“This year, we’re coming back to give these guys as much education as possible. There are those that do make it and get a chance to play on Sundays in the NFL, and those who go out in the real world. We try to emphasize what being on a team means and how it translates into the real world. So we come back and give these guys ideas and educate them a little on our experiences and things to expect moving forward.”
(Photo - Freeman and fellow Baltimore native Donovan Riley share some laughs following Tech's practice on Wednesday.)
This is just the latest effort by Freeman – who was a star with the Green Bay Packers in the late 1990s – to give back to others. In addition to working with the NFL on outreach initiatives, he also established his own charitable foundation – B’More Free, a play on words referring to his native Baltimore, where he grew up. His foundation does all sorts of charitable work, most of which centers on children.
“We have a financial and reading literacy aspect that I focus on,” he said. “Any time I’m able to get in front of high school kids or college kids or potential high school kids and kids with dreams of playing on Sundays, I try to make it my point to go educate them on how glorifying it is, but also how intense and how much pressure you live with daily. It’s not only on the football field, but also in life. You become a moving target.
“So I focus on going back and giving back to the schools and giving them little bits and pieces of me, things that helped make me a better man and things that don’t make me a better man. I tell them the whole story.”
Freeman also does some broadcasting, working with Comcast SportsNet and also serving as the host of a radio show in Wisconsin.
“I’m the jack-of-all-trades. Kind of like when I came to Tech. They put you on special teams and tell you to make the team. I’m all over the place, I guess,” he said, laughing.
Freeman, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers, played at Tech from 1991-94, participating on the first two bowl teams that started the current streak of 22 straight bowl games. When he departed, he held school records for career receptions (120), career touchdown receptions (22) and touchdowns in a season (nine in 1993). He still holds the record for career touchdown receptions and shares the record for touchdown receptions in a season with André Davis.
(Photo - Freeman and Tech assistant coach Cornell Brown share an embrace Wednesday. The two were teammates in the early 1990s.)
“It brings me great joy to read the stat book every year and see some of my records still stand,” he said. “I’ve got an 11-year-old son that I can brag to and show him, but he wants to see film. He doesn’t want to see the print. It does me great justice to know that what I was able to accomplish here still has meaning and is still in the archives at Virginia Tech.”
Freeman spends a lot of time at his home in Plantation, Florida; but he also returns to Wisconsin frequently in addition to making stops in Baltimore and Blacksburg. When he returns to Blacksburg, he practically receives a hero’s welcome.
“I was riding through the campus, and I was like, ‘Man, what would I do on a campus like this these days?’” he said. “I take myself back. I had a great time when I was here, but I miss being at Virginia Tech.
“This is home.”
Tech began preparations for the 2015 season on Friday afternoon with a two-hour practice, but before the Hokies started, they got to hear from arguably the greatest player in school history.
Michael Vick, who led the Hokies to a perfect regular season in 1999 and an appearance in the 2000 national championship game against Florida State, stopped by, and head football coach Frank Beamer introduced Vick to the team.
Of course, the players had heard of Vick, mostly from his exploits in the NFL. Most of them don’t understand the impact he had on Virginia Tech because they were in elementary school at the time.
“I can tell when I look and see their faces,” Vick said when asked if he realized how young the current crop of Hokies were. “I can also tell when I look in the mirror and see gray hair.”
Vick spoke to the team for roughly 5-10 minutes. His message was simple, but poignant.
“I told them to embrace the opportunity,” he said. “Don’t take anything lightly. Life is ahead of them, whether it’s the NFL or graduating and moving on to other things. They have a great opportunity to do many things with their life, and this is the platform to do it. They deserve it. They work hard to get here, and this entire school and program will give them everything that they need as long as they put in the hard work.”
It’s perhaps fitting that Vick arrived on campus the day after the school recognized Beamer for all his accomplishments. University officials renamed Spring Road, the road that runs in front of Lane Stadium, to "Beamer Way."
Vick spent three years in Blacksburg with Beamer. He took a redshirt year in 1998 and then started at quarterback in 1999 and 2000 before leaving school early to go to the NFL. He never forgot Beamer’s impact on his life.
“Coach Beamer deserves it,” he said of the renaming of Spring Road to Beamer Way. “This program wouldn’t be where it is without him. It feels good to be a part of something that … I won’t say this was built from the ground up … but [built] by a guy who paved the way for a lot of people. Coach Beamer did that for me and he did that for a lot of my brothers that I played with and for these guys who are ready to make a mark in their careers as well.”
Vick talked with media members inside of Tech’s new practice facility, which left an impression on him. Of course, a huge graphic of him is displayed on one of the walls in the facility, along with graphics of several other great players from Tech’s past.
“It goes to show that I did something right when I was here,” Vick said. “It’s remarkable. There are so many great players who did the same thing and made a contribution. We’re all proud to be a part of it.”
Vick, who is still hoping to land with an NFL team after having played with the New York Jets last season, expects big things out of the Hokies this season. He said he wasn’t concerned about what many perceive to be subpar seasons the past three years, though the Hokies made it to a bowl game each of those years – and won two of those bowl games.
“In any sport, the competition at this level is so high,” he said. “You’re in constant competition to get the best players in and playing against the best teams in the country. There are going to be years when you don’t do as well. It’s like Floyd Mayweather – it’s hard to stay on top, and that’s an individual sport.
“In a team sport, all components come into play. You have your moments and sometimes you don’t, and it’s all about rebuilding. That’s why you have to pick yourself up and keep doing it.”
Vick hopes to be in Blacksburg for the Hokies’ game against Ohio State. The decision mostly depends on whether he lands with an NFL squad.
Needless to say, he’s excited – like everyone else.“It’s probably the biggest game in the history of the program except for the national championship game,” he said. “We’re playing at home, playing Ohio State … it’s going to electrifying. It’s going to be exciting. It’s great for us because we’re playing at home. I expect the outcome to be nothing but us coming out on top.”
Marshawn Williams answers the question before it’s even asked.
“My knee is fine,” he said, with a laugh. “I’m getting better, getting stronger. I’m able to run almost full speed. I would say I’m 80, 85 percent in my mind. I don’t know what they’d [the sports medicine staff] say. But I should be ready, hopefully.”
Williams was one of the many injured last season when the Hokies suffered a rash of serious injuries. But his was probably the most serious.
The rising sophomore from Hampton, Virginia, tore the ACL in his left knee in the Hokies’ win at Duke. He also tore the lateral collateral ligament. He underwent surgery in December and missed all of spring practice.
If he plays against Ohio State on Sept. 7, he’ll be returning to the field approximately nine months after undergoing surgery – a lofty goal. But he’s optimistic.
“I’m doing everything – speed package [a series of conditioning drills], 110s [110-yard sprints],” he said. “I’m doing everything trying to get ready.
“I have no pain, honestly. Nothing major. With this surgery, you have your ups and your downs, but my downs are not as bad as they used to be. It’s getting better.”
In addition to getting fully healthy, Williams wants to get his weight down. He weighs 230 pounds and looks fantastic, but his injury limited his ability to work out over the winter and spring. So he hasn’t been able to get to his desired weight of 220.
“I’m trying to tone up,” he said. “I think 220 or 215 would be the best. When I was at 215 in high school, I was in the greatest shape of my life. Either way, I’m trying to get lighter and feel better.”
Williams started eight games last season and rushed for 475 yards and four touchdowns. He entered the starting lineup in the second game of his career, which happened to be the Ohio State game.
He hopes to be in the starting lineup again against the Buckeyes.
“In my mind, I’m practicing that first day. I’m full that first day,” he said. “But it goes back to the training room. It’s all about the work that I put in from here. If I slack at any moment, I’ll be in the green jersey [signifying limited work] the whole camp. It’s all on me. In my mind, I’m going to be practicing and ready to go game 1. It’s all in how I work.”
Three Virginia Tech football players are spending a portion of their summers in the Dominican Republic as part of a summer school course on leadership.
Donovan Riley, a senior from Baltimore, Maryland; Woody Baron, a junior from Nashville, Tennessee; and Carson Wise, a redshirt freshman from Blacksburg, are the football players among a group of 10 student-athletes who are taking a course entitled “Global Citizen Leadership.” The course focuses on leadership theory, international aid and service learning. It also requires that the student-athletes put leadership initiatives into practice.
A portion of the course includes spending 11 days in the Dominican Republic, and the group left Monday. Others in the group included Kelly Williford (women’s tennis), Nick Brascetta (wrestling), Logan Stevens (men’s swimming and diving), Lauren Buckworth (women’s swimming and diving), Ben Borgert (men’s swimming and diving), Maggie Tyler (softball) and Haley Lukefahr (lacrosse).
They will be staying at the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation and will be visiting the poorer parts of the country to work with underprivileged children. They will be coordinating sports camps to expose kids there to different sports, while also putting those leadership initiatives into practice. The group will not only have to teach kids different sports, but also need to overcome the language barrier.
This is the fourth year that student-athletes have taken part in this course. The athletics department’s office of student-athlete development, overseen by Reyna Gilbert-Lowry (associate AD for student-athlete development) and Danny White (assistant AD for student-athlete development), coordinate the trip.
Baron is majoring in Spanish, while Wise has declared business as his major. Riley is majoring in property management.
Former Tech offensive lineman Sergio Render was a fan favorite when he played for the Hokies from 2006-09. Fans will have even more of an appreciation for him when they learn that he is close to wrapping up coursework toward a degree in human development.
Render needs only to pass a psychology class this summer and to wrap up a field study to complete his degree requirements. It will mark the end of a journey for Render, who enrolled in January of 2006 and left following the 2009 season. At the time he departed, he needed just five classes (three courses and a two-semester field study) to graduate.
“It was a little hard to get back into the groove of things,” Render said. “I’m glad I finished most of it [his degree requirements] while I was here, so it’s actually been a little easier on me.”
Like many football players, Render thought he had an NFL future. He signed a free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2010 NFL Draft. The Bucs, though, released him. Then he tried out with the Carolina Panthers, but an injury hindered his chances there.
Render bounced around after that. He played for the Georgia Force, an Arena League team in Atlanta, not far from Render’s hometown of Newnan, Georgia. He was going to play for the Hartford Colonials, a United Football League team in Connecticut, but the league shut down the team because of finances.
Render then returned to Georgia and took a job in the sheriff’s office in his hometown.
“After the Connecticut deal, I just decided to leave football alone, so I worked at the sheriff’s department in my hometown for three years,” Render said. “I was like a prison guard. I was always around inmates for the 12 hours I was at work. It was kind of crazy.”
After three years, though, Render decided to make a life-changing decision.
“I thought law enforcement was something I wanted to do, and after being there for three years, it was very stressful,” he said. “Any job is stressful, but that place was stressful. When you go into work, there’s always a negative atmosphere because of the inmates. It was a big headache. I enjoyed the time there, but it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t where I wanted to be for the rest of my life, and I just decided then that I needed to come back to school.”
Render had stayed in touch with Sarah Armstrong, who works in the Student-Athlete Academic Support Services office and helps football players with all things related to academics. She kept encouraging him to come back and get his degree.
He re-enrolled last August, getting some financial help from a family in his hometown who kept encouraging him as well. They covered the tuition costs for the first semester, and Render secured a place to live on the Blacksburg farm of J.B. and Pam Simpkin, whom he met while at Tech. A self-proclaimed country boy, as many Tech fans will remember, he loves to hunt, and he used to do both with J.B. He helps on the farm – located off Price’s Fork Road – as payment, and in return, gets to live there.
Last fall, he took one course, passing a pre-calculus course. This semester, he took a statistics course and worked a field study at Warm Hearth Village, a retirement community in Blacksburg.
To pay his tuition for the second semester, Render received a tip from Armstrong. She encouraged him to apply for the NCAA Degree Completion Award, a program designed to assist student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility for financial aid. Applicants must be within 30 semester hours of their degree requirements. Render ultimately was awarded the aid.
“Sarah’s been a big help,” Render said. “Even when I was in Georgia, I stayed in contact with her because I never knew when I was going to come back and finish school, but I knew I wanted to. She never gave up on me. She was always there to help me, and she let me know everything I needed to do to finish. She helped me set up my classes. She’s been great. I really appreciate her.”
This summer, Render is taking a psychology course and finishing the second part of his field study. Once completed, he’ll receive his coveted degree.
After that, he isn’t sure what path he will take.
“I have a lot of things that I may want to do,” he said. “I may work for this company called IronPlanet. They sell and auction off all kinds of equipment around the world, or maybe I’ll try to get a job with the railroad. There’s a mixture of things I want to do. Once I settle down and find a job, I’m going to start my own beef cattle farm on the side.”At least he’ll have options, more than he had before. His is a great story, one for all student-athletes. A degree can be gotten. The choice is there for those with the motivation to pursue it.
With graduation ceremonies at Virginia Tech set for Friday and Saturday, several Hokie football players are preparing to walk across the stage and accept their diplomas.
The list of current players who will be graduating includes defensive tackle Luther Maddy (photo on the right), offensive tackle Darius Redman and whip linebacker Ronny Vandyke (photo on bottom right). Maddy, from Delray Beach, Florida, will be receiving a degree in apparel, housing and resource management, with a concentration in residential property management. Redman, from Washington, D.C., is earning a degree in sociology, while Vandyke, from Lorton, Virginia, is getting his degree in psychology.
Also, J.C. Coleman and Demitri Knowles are participating in graduation ceremonies. Coleman, from Chesapeake, Virginia, needs only to finish one class this summer to wrap up coursework for his degree in psychology. Knowles, from Freeport, Bahamas, needs 12 hours this summer to finish up work toward his degree in apparel, housing and resource management.
There are several other former football players who are graduating this weekend – players whose eligibility expired after the 2013 season, who gave up the sport for personal reasons, or who gave it up because of injuries, etc. That list includes the following: Michael Branthover, Griffin Hite, Matt Roth, Michael Cole, Josh Trimble, Zach Snell, Brian Rody, T.J. Shaw and Joshua Stanford.
The university’s commence ceremony will be at Lane Stadium at 9 a.m. on Friday. Individual college and department ceremonies begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
Tech tailback J.C. Coleman helped the men’s track and field team with the ACC title this winter by finishing in fifth place in the 60-meter dash at the ACC Indoor Championships held at Rector Field House in late February. But that will be the extent of Coleman’s track exploits this season.
Coleman, who earned All-ACC honors for finishing in fifth, decided not to join the track and field team for the outdoor season. His reasoning certainly was worthwhile – graduation ceremonies at Tech are the same weekend as the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Tallahassee, Florida, and he wanted to attend those.
Coleman, the MVP of the Military Bowl in December, will walk across the stage next weekend and get his diploma. He needs just one course this summer to wrap up coursework toward a degree in psychology. The university’s commencement ceremony is next Friday, which coincides with the second day of the ACC Championships. The individual college/department ceremonies are next Saturday, which coincides with the final day of the league’s outdoor meet.
“Obviously, graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” said Dave Cianelli, Tech’s director of cross country and track and field. “A lot of times, families are coming in, and it’s a big event. You have to allow them [student-athletes] to make their choice. It’s not a situation where we’re going to dictate to them what they should do. We won’t do that.”
Coleman is the rare student-athlete who earns his/her degree in three and a half years. He enrolled at Tech in January of 2012, skipping his final semester at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Demitri Knowles is in the same situation as Coleman. He’ll wrap up coursework toward a degree in apparel, housing and resources management this summer and is participating in graduation ceremonies next week. Unlike Coleman, though, Knowles elected not to participate in the individual college ceremony and will fly down to Tallahassee that Friday after the university’s commencement ceremony. He will compete as part of Tech’s 4x100 relay team on Saturday.
A couple of CianellI’s other student-athletes ran into similar conflicts.
“We’re not the only school dealing with this,” he said. “There are a couple of others that have graduation on the same weekend.
“Sometimes, it [the decision] will depend on where the meet is. If it’s in North Carolina, then it will be easier for us to get them there or get them back. If it’s Tallahassee or Miami, then we’re talking about a flight, and it becomes a little more difficult. Also, which days do they compete? That’s a factor. There are a lot of moving parts.”
For Coleman, the past six months have been eventful. He rushed for at least 95 yards in each of the Hokies’ final four games of the 2014 season, he won the Military Bowl MVP honor after rushing for 157 yards in the Hokies’ win over Cincinnati, he earned All-ACC honors in track and field during the indoor season after finishing in fifth at the league’s indoor meet, and next weekend, he will be participating in graduation ceremonies.
The Virginia Tech athletics department has selected two longtime season ticket holders to be honorary coaches for the annual Maroon-Orange Spring Game that will be held Saturday starting at 2 p.m.
Rather than split the roster into two teams, Tech’s coaches have changed the format for this year’s game. The first-team defense and the second-team offense will comprise “Team Pylon,” while the first-team offense and second-team defense will be “Team Medal of Honor.” The team names honor the university’s Corps of Cadets and its military tradition.
Dr. Dwight Bradshaw of Suffolk, Virginia, will be the coach of Team Pylon, while David Lawson of Crownsville, Maryland, will be the coach of Team Medal of Honor. The two renewed their 2015 football season tickets by the “Early Bird” deadline of March 30, and by doing so, entered a lottery from which the honorary coaches of the spring game were chosen.
Dr. Bradshaw and his wife, Jennifer, have been longtime season ticket holders in both football and men’s basketball. They come to just about every football game and most basketball games, and were honored to be a part of the festivities this weekend.
“First of all, my wife was ecstatic about it,” Bradshaw said. “I was thrilled, too. I don’t know too much about what it entails, but it sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re thrilled. I’m not too worried about calling any plays. I’m going to leave that up to the coaches.”
Dr. Bradshaw graduated from Tech in 1966 with a degree in biology, and while at Tech, he served a two-year stint in the Corps of Cadets. He then attended the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, where he received his D.D.S (Doctor of Dental Surgery). He returned to his hometown of Suffolk, where he continues seeing patients in his private practice.
Lawson, like Bradshaw, has been a season ticket holder for more than 10 years. He graduated in 1991 with a degree in electrical engineering, and like Bradshaw, was also in the Corp of Cadets. He currently works as an engineer for Northrop Grumman. He also serves as the president of the Maryland Hokie Club, something he’s done for the past three years.
He and his wife are excited about the opportunity as well.
“I was excited and surprised,” Lawson said. “How many thousand season ticket holders are there? It was a great honor, and I was excited to be asked. I’m looking forward to it. It sounds like I’ll be on the field for the coin flip and then have a field pass and be on the sidelines. It will be fun. This will be the first time I’ve been on the field since college.”
Both Bradshaw and Lawson may get additional help on Saturday. Bradshaw and his wife are bringing their 5-year-old grandson to his first spring game, and Lawson and his wife are bringing their 2-year-old daughter to her first football game.
“Hopefully, she’ll enjoy it,” Lawson said of his daughter. “I think she’s a little young to stand on the sidelines, but I’ll get to spend some time with her. She’ll be upstairs with my wife.”
“The coaches better be looking at him already,” Bradshaw said of his grandson. “He’s a ballplayer. He’s been to games and he really watches the game. He’s not just there to go to the concession stand and all that stuff. He’s attentive to what’s going on. This is going to be fun. He’s going to have a great time.”
The game kicks off at 2 p.m. Admission is free.
Tech fans who know Trey Edmunds well will not find this nugget of news surprising – the young man spent a big chunk of this past weekend helping out with a couple of Special Olympics events.
Edmunds, a tailback from Danville, Virginia, went to a dance on Friday night and then to a regional swim meet at the Christiansburg Aquatics Center on Sunday. At the swim meet, he handed out medals to the winners of the respective events.
“It was their championship swim meet, and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “Just giving back and seeing those people out there competing, just like we [football players] do every day, it’s very inspiring to me. Any little thing I can do to help them, I’m all up for it. I’m always willing to help others.”
Edmunds, a communications major, used the events to amass hours for a service project as part of a Business Leadership and Ethics class. But he’s been helping with the Special Olympics long before he arrived on Tech’s campus.
While a student at Dan River High School, he often worked Special Olympics track and field events. He did that again recently at Tech, and one of the coordinators invited him to another event.
“Talking to the coordinator and talking to the people within, they invited me to different things, and I wanted to widen my variety,” he said. “I decided to go to the dance and see how it was, and I enjoyed myself. Then they invited me to the swim meet, and I went there and gave out some medals to those guys. They really enjoyed it. I had a blast, and they had a blast. I was talking with them and sitting with them. Just being around their presence made me feel good.”
Edmunds is currently No. 2 on the depth chart at tailback behind J.C. Coleman. But he’s No. 1 in the hearts of a special group of people. Expect to see him doing more things like this in the future.
“I compete every day on the football field, and to see them competing in track, basketball, swimming and bowling, it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.
Tech kicker Joey Slye recently volunteered to help with a “Kindergarten to College” program – an initiative that is part of a partnership between the Tech’s School of Education and VT-STEM, a campus organization that shares research and resources among the university, public education and other partners to contribute to Virginia’s leadership in science, technology, engineering and math education.
The Kindergarten to College program is for high-needs schools across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Fifth graders from various schools across the state have visited Blacksburg and Virginia Tech throughout the academic year, and student volunteers give these children a background of life at a university.
The fifth graders participate in hands-on science projects in labs across the university, receive a meal in the nation’s top campus dining facility, visit with ROTC students and get a peek inside of Lane Stadium.
For more details on the series, please read: http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2015/04/041015-clahs-kindergartentocollege.html
Slye, from Stafford, Virginia, apparently was a favorite among the children. But that comes as no surprise. He has developed a reputation as someone willing to help others.
Slye’s take on life probably is different than many because his brother, A.J., passed away last year after a 14-month battle with leukemia. On the one-year anniversary of his passing, Slye and his family came up with a “Selfless Selfie” campaign – a concept in which a person does a kind deed, writes it down beginning with the phrase “I honored A.J. Slye by …”, takes a selfie of it and posts to a social media platform with the hashtag #SelflessSelfie or #SlyeStrong6.
The Slye family has a foundation called SlyeStrong#6 in honor of A.J., who wore the jersey No. 6. The foundation raises money and awareness about cancer and offers scholarships to those who exhibit the same values that A.J. Slye exhibited.
To learn more about the Slyes’ foundation, please click here: http://www.slyestrong6foundation.org.
Virginia Tech is halfway through its spring practice, and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray (in the photo) continues to play musical chairs with his defensive backs. In fact, there is only one certainty in the defensive backfield.
“We’re going to leave Chuck [Clark] at the corner spot,” Gray said. “He’s been doing such a great job this spring. We’ll evaluate him after spring and see where he goes. Does he stay at corner, or do we move him back to nickel? It’s all musical chairs. Do you get Brandon [Facyson] back and is he healthy? You’ve got contingency plans in different ways.”
Gray and defensive coordinator Bud Foster wanted to give Clark a look at free safety, a position that demands a dependable guy. The Hokies lost a dependable one in Detrick Bonner, along with rover Kyshoen Jarrett.
But injuries at corner have messed with those plans. Kendall Fuller (wrist) and Facyson (leg) are out this spring with injuries. Then Greg Stroman injured a hamstring last week and has missed a week so far.
Clark thus provides stability at the corner position. Freshman Mook Reynolds, who enrolled in January, and redshirt freshman Shawn Payne have been rotating with the first-team defense this week on the opposite side of Clark.
Gray originally wanted to look at the 6-foot Reynolds as a nickel back in Tech’s scheme. The Hokies routinely use five defensive backs in their scheme these days because of all the spread offenses that use four and five receivers at the same time.
“We started him off at corner, and then Greg got injured,” Gray said of Reynolds. “So we left him at the corner spot because we’re short with Greg and the other injuries we’ve had.
“In high school, he played more of an outside linebacker role. He was good off the edge as a blitzer. He’s got corner ability. We haven’t had a chance to evaluate him there [at the nickel spot], but we assume that will translate over to what we do defensively.”
This week, Der’Woun Greene and Anthony Shegog rotated at the nickel spot. Greene gives the Hokies a lot of versatility – he’s played everywhere in the secondary.
Gray made another move this week when he flipped redshirt freshman Terrell Edmunds and true freshman Adonis Alexander. Edmunds was working at cornerback behind Clark, while Alexander was getting reps at free safety. Both played well in Tech’s scrimmage, with Alexander leading the team with six tackles.
Now, the 6-3, nearly 200 pound Alexander will be at corner for the time being, with Edmunds going to safety.
“He’s raw,” Gray said of Alexander. “You’re talking about a guy who was a high school linebacker. He hadn’t even played safety. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do with him. We wanted to see how he runs, see how he moves, see about his agility and all those things. He can change directions, which is impressive for a guy his size, so we’re going to try him at corner. Once he learns it, I think he’s got a huge upside.”
As for Edmunds, Gray said, “Terrell is a great prospect. He seems to pick up things pretty well. He’s coachable. I think he’s a good prospect moving forward.”
Gray also continues to look for answers at free safety and rover, where the trio of Donovan Riley (a former cornerback), Desmond Frye, C.J. Reavis are working, with Edmunds being the new addition to the group.
The final two weeks of spring practice should be interesting. Given all the mixing and matching, Gray should have a good feel for who can do what at what position by the end of spring.
On Tuesday, media members interview Yosuah Nijman for the second time this spring, and he’s practiced all of seven times with the Hokies. But anything involving the offensive line attracts the attention of Hokie Nation, and media outlets try to deliver.
Tech coaches moved Nijman, a freshman who enrolled in January, to the offensive line after working him at defensive end the first six practices. The move became the latest involving the offensive line, as the coaching staff continues to address what head coach Frank Beamer stated was the most important goal this spring – develop cohesion with that group.
The move made offensive line coach Stacy Searels (in the photo) – who played a large role in Nijman’s recruitment – very happy.
“I’ve had several guys in the past that I’ve coached that were defensive linemen or tight ends and things like that,” Searels said. “When you get the bigger athletes that can grow into the lineman body … it’s always better to have guys that can move their feet. You have to have guys that can move their feet and be athletic.
“I think he’s a very athletic talented big guy. We want as many of those that we can get.”
The move probably means that the Maplewood, New Jersey, native will take a redshirt season in 2015. The 6-foot-7 Nijman only weighs 265 pounds and needs to put on 30-40 pounds. Plus, he needs to learn the nuances of playing on the offensive line.
Right now, Nijman is behind projected start Jonathan McLaughlin and Darius Redman at left tackle (though Redman has worked at both tackle spots). Redman, a 6-4, 285-pound redshirt senior, was part of another move to bring depth to the offensive line, as the staff moved him from tight end to tackle before the start of spring practice.
“He’s doing a good job,” Searels said of Redman. “He’s got a good attitude. He plays hard, and he’s got good feet. We meet in the mornings, and then he’ll come by in the afternoon and we’ll meet again. He wants to learn. He wants it to be natural. He’s not having a whole lot of missed assignments. That’s the thing. They’ve got to get where we can trust them, and he’s starting to gain our trust. He just got to do it on a consistent basis.”
Searels was pleased with how the first-team offensive line played in the 54-play scrimmage this past Saturday. That group consists of McLaughlin, left guard Wyatt Teller, center Eric Gallo, right guard Augie Conte and right tackle Wade Hansen.
“I was excited about the first group,” Searels said. “I thought they did a good job. They played as a unit. They tried to play hard. We’ve got to be more consistent. We’ve got to eliminate the pre-snap penalties. That was an issue last year, and we’re not going to let it be an issue this year. We’ve got to get better at that. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting the quarterback. But I was pleased with their work ethic and the way they competed.”
The second unit consists of Redman, left guard Alston Smith, center Tyrell Smith,, right guard Colt Pettit and right tackle Parker Osterloh.
Gallo continues to enjoy a strong spring, but Searels continues the search for depth behind him. There were some snap issues with Smith, which is to be expected. Smith, like Nijman, enrolled in January.
Searels has given Pettit, a redshirt freshman some reps at center this spring as well. Unfortunately, Kyle Chung, whom the coaches wanted to work at center, is out with an injury this spring.
“Kyle Chung is going to be a really good center,” Searels said. “Tyrell Smith has really competed. He’s had seven days of practice, and I like the way he’s competing. Is he ready to go and start a college football game? No, not yet. But he will be a good player.”
The Hokies have another scrimmage this Saturday morning. The practice portion starts at 10:45, with the scrimmage to follow. The scrimmage is open to the public.
Stefan Duma, the head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, and a group of researchers have been nationally recognized in the past for their studies of football helmets and their roles in limiting concussions. In fact, in 2011, the group introduced a ratings system for helmets that led to some companies overhauling their product lines in an effort to reduce head-related injuries.
How impactful was this research? Only one football helmet received a 5-star rating – the highest on the ratings system – following the initial testing. In most recent testing, however, 12 received five stars and another eight received four stars.
Now, this group of researchers has branched into the sport of hockey, where they recently tested and rated 32 helmets in the marketplace. Their study found that hockey players wearing the "not recommended" helmets risk incurring at least six concussions per season, and in some cases, more than eight.
Duma, his researchers and Virginia Tech received national attention on March 29 when ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” produced a story on the study of hockey helmets. For those with an interest, please check out it by clicking this link - http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/12564082/virginia-tech-study-hockey-helmets-finds-many-unsafe.
Meanwhile, Duma and his research team will continue to study concussion and head impact exposure through a $30 million effort sponsored by the NCAA and the U.S. Department of defense. For more on that, please click here: http://www.hokiesports.com/pr/recaps/20140930aaa.html.
Count offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s among the biggest fans of the Hokies’ new indoor practice facility.
Construction continues on the $21.3 million facility, which is slated to be finished at some point later this summer and certainly before the season begins. It will allow the Hokies’ staff to conduct a full practice during inclement weather – something the team can’t do at Rector Field House because of its low ceiling and sparse room beyond the sidelines.
The new facility also will eliminate the sharing of Rector for both the track and field programs and the football program. Currently, Tech’s indoor track resides in Rector during the months of January and February, as the men’s and women’s track teams participate in their indoor seasons.
That’s what Loeffler loves the most about the new indoor facility. It gives the quarterbacks, centers and skill players an area to work during those winter months.
“That’s why we need that thing built – so they can go out there,” Loeffler admitted. “At times, you feel like you’re running against the clock. On Feb. 1, those guys should be on a throwing program. Well, we can’t throw here in February [because of the weather]. There’s nowhere to throw in February.
“What we’ve done as an administration getting that building, what all the people did giving us the money to get that building, that is crucial in my opinion.”
The building also gives the centers an area to work on snapping in the winter. Most people tend to forget about their role in the passing game. Right now, Tech’s centers are sophomore Eric Gallo, who played just 14 snaps from scrimmage last season, redshirt freshman Colt Pettit and true freshman Tyrel Smith.
The facility should help the passing game in general. It gives all parties a chance to develop cohesiveness in advance of a spring practice – something that they really haven’t been able to do to this point.
“It’s like a pitcher showing up on day 1 and throwing a ball,” Loeffler said. “It’s not right. That building is going to be really, really helpful at the end of the day.
“We can have a year-round program. We can throw year round. That’s where the leadership is built because we [the coaches] can’t be there. That building is crucial for our success, and I’m so happy that we got it.”
Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer was on the field today for the Hokies’ first spring football practice, marking his first return to the field since before Christmas.
Beamer underwent throat surgery in early December and his doctors wanted him to stay on the sidelines while recovering. He was not an active part of the Hokies’ preparations for the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, but now the longtime head coach is ready to return fully to his current role.
“The first thing I’d like to say is that this place is special, and I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers over the last few months,” Beamer said. “My throat is doing great. I’m here ready to roll. Everything is looking up.
“This place is special, and the people are special. What we’ve all gone through and how everyone has stepped up … I appreciate people. I appreciate our administration. I appreciate the people around us.”
Beamer said a couple of times during a news conference with media outlets that he really appreciated the efforts of his staff during his absence. Tech’s coaching staff handled the bulk of the work, running practices and meetings and preparing the game plans. Beamer did attend the game, overseeing things from the press box, but stayed in the background.
“It was different, but I was proud of our guys [the players],” he said. “Our coaches really did a great job of preparing them. We played well. We got that bowl win. Season tickets are going well right now. I think our fans are excited. We needed that bowl win. The staff did great. We’ve really got a good operation. You look at our coaching staff and our administration and so forth, and we really do have a good operation here at Virginia Tech. I like being a part of it.”
Beamer also admitted that he missed being a part of the day-to-day interaction with his coaches and players. That made this spring practice a little more special than most.
“When you’re not a part of it, you start thinking about how much you want to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s a day I’ve been looking forward to.”
Beamer liked what he observed from his players over the winter. Dr. Mike Gentry, Tech’s associate AD for athletic performance, and his staff ran the offseason strength and conditioning program, and the testing results were very good.
But Beamer said that the important part is what takes place over the course of 15 practices.
“This part coming up is the most important part – how you play the game,” he said. “You finally get evaluated on that. It’s great to have records [in the weight room], and we look at that and it makes a difference and you’re evaluated on that. In the end, you’ve got to play the game, play it the right way and play it consistently. That’s what we’re looking for starting today.”
Other notes from today:
• Beamer said the top priority for this spring practice was getting cohesion along the offensive line. The Hokies lost three starters in Caleb Farris, David Wang and Laurence Gibson, and they need to find replacements, particularly at center. Farris and Wang both played center in their careers. Eric Gallo, a sophomore, went into spring practice in the top spot on the depth chart.
“We need to get our offensive line together,” Beamer said. “We’ve got a couple of young guys. We need to have some young guys not play like young guys. We’ve got a couple of new guys at center, and we feel great about them as far as their athletic ability.
“Experience means a lot in the offensive line and we don’t have it totally. Guys like [Wyatt] Teller and [Augie] Conte are great leaders in there. They’ve got that toughness that you like. I see our offensive line going in that direction.”
• Beamer said he was interested in seeing a couple of young tailbacks – Travon McMillian and D.J. Reid – and how they progressed this spring. J.C. Coleman and and Trey Edmunds return, but Marshawn Williams is out this spring while recovering from a knee injury and Shai McKenzie has been suspended indefinitely. So the Hokies need to find depth at the tailback position.
“We’ve got some experienced guys, but I’m interested in McMillian and Reid,” Beamer said. “McMillian’s got the speed with good size, and Reid has the size with good speed. I’m eager to see what they do. I think it’s good competition.
“We need to get it narrowed down to who it’s going to be, and some good backs may not be in the game. I don’t think we can get too many going, but I do think we’ve got some really good possibilities.”
• Mike Gofoth, Tech’s associate AD for sports medicine, informed the media that defensive tackle Corey Marshall would undergo surgery on his ankle this week and be out for spring practice. Marshall injured the ankle last fall, but played through it, and the staff decided to go in and repair the damage now rather than wait until after spring.
Numerous Tech players are going to miss spring practice or be limited, including some big names (e.g. Luther Maddy, Brandon Facyson, Kendall Fuller, Marshawn Williams). Goforth explained the rationale for taking care of these players now rather than wait.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do is seek kids that we think might present us with problems down the road, problems from high school, and we decide to go ahead and choose to fix them now to have them ready for next season,” Goforth said. “You saw quite a bit of that last year.
“Then also, we were proactive as far as cleaning some things up, so that the kids don’t have to suffer through spring and then decide if we’re going to have surgery and hopefully get them ready for fall. So a lot goes into that.”