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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.”