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April 15, 2015 - 3:22 pm
Edmunds helps at Special Olympics events

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.

April 13, 2015 - 1:47 pm
Slye continues to lend helping hand

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.

April 10, 2015 - 1:16 pm
Lots of moves going on in the Hokies' secondary this spring

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.

April 8, 2015 - 3:16 pm
Moves continue, as Tech staff looks for cohesion on OL

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.

April 6, 2015 - 1:19 pm
Virginia Tech helmet research extending to the sport of hockey

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.

March 30, 2015 - 2:36 pm
Loeffler thankful for the building of new indoor practice facility

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.”

March 24, 2015 - 5:16 pm
Beamer's back, as Hokies begin spring practice

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.”

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