BLACKSBURG - Picked to win the 2010 ACC championship by the media at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, the Virginia Tech football team opened practice Friday afternoon and began preparations for the 2010 season. The team consisted of 104 players, one under the limit as allowed by the NCAA. The coaching staff can expand the roster once school starts in a few weeks.
Following practice, Tech head coach Frank Beamer met with the media about his squad, which received 62 of 98 first-place votes to win the Coastal Division this season. The Hokies were picked to win the ACC in both 2007 and 2009, and they claimed the title in 2007.
“I think our first practice was good,” Beamer said. “It was good and hot, and that’s not a bad thing. Our kids fought through it pretty well. I thought the effort and execution was pretty good for a first practice. We pitched it and caught it pretty well. That’s usually something that can be a little sloppy with a first practice, but I thought we did pretty well.”
Most of Tech’s starters appear to be set, and Beamer said that he wants to get the entire two-deep set rather quickly as the Hokies begin preparations for Boise State on Sept. 6.
“I think we need to get our back-up situation on defense squared away,” he said. “We need to settle at punter and at field-goal, and from what I saw today, it’s the same as what it has been [Brian Saunders as the punter; Chris Hazley as the kicker].
“The back-up QB, that’s going to be an ongoing battle. But we’re going to make a decision pretty quickly.”
A few observations from practice:
•The big news of the day was Kenny Lewis, Jr.’s, absence from practice. The tailback from Danville, Virginia, decided not to return to the football program. Lewis played in 27 games during his career, starting eight of them. He rushed for 657 yards on 175 carries and scored nine rushing touchdowns in his career. He also caught 11 passes for 57 yards and a score.
“We met today and Kenny decided to give it up,” Beamer said. “I think he’s got a great future in administration [where Lewis had done an internship] and he’s doing things that go in that direction. He’s been a great performer for us and a great guy, and we wish him well.”
• While the official roster consists of 104 active players, two others were at practice working on getting back from injuries suffered in the spring. Linebacker Barquell Rivers (quadriceps) and offensive lineman Michael Via (knee) are classified as injured. Therefore they can be at practice and be fed as part of the team, but do not count toward the 105-man roster.
Head athletic trainer Mike Goforth all but ruled Rivers out for the first game. Rivers, Tech’s starting mike linebacker, tore the quadriceps tendon while lifting weights this past winter.
“It’s one of the biggest muscle groups in the body and has a very small tendon,” Goforth said. “When you tear that and have to repair it, you’ve got to take it slow.
“That’s a tough, tough injury. You’d rather have an ACL than you would that.”
Also missing most of practice was Dyrell Roberts, who had hernia surgery three weeks ago, along with Jayron Hosley (slight groin strain) and Chase Williams (slight hamstring strain).
• Twenty-five newcomers took the field for the first time, but none were more intimidating looking than mammoth defensive lineman Nick Acree. At 6-4 and 300 pounds, Acree certainly passes the eye test, but hasn’t played in two years. He played offensive and defensive tackle for King William High as a junior before transferring to Fork Union for his senior year and suffered a torn ACL before his final year, missing the entire season. He raised some eyebrows in the weight room when he bench pressed 450 pounds last months, tying for the team high among ALL players.
“He’s how I want to look,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster joked.
“We haven’t had a guy who looks like Nick in the 15 years I’ve been here,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “He’s a freak.
“Now, his hands and technique were all over the place, and you’d expect that. Whether he plays for me or whether he moves to the other side [offensive line], I don’t know. That remains to be seen.”
• One of the biggest battles is the battle for the back-up quarterback job behind Tyrod Taylor. Logan Thomas and Ju-Ju Clayton came out of spring practice in a tie for the job
“He [quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain] said the compeition would go into the first couple of days of camp and then they would make a decision,” Clayton said.
More than likely, the competition will extend to the first scrimmage to give both quarterbacks an opportunity to prove themselves.
And a few non-practice notes:
• The players reporting for Friday’s opening practice checked in Thursday and went through the gauntlet of paperwork, heights and weights, physicals, blood work, insurance, parking, etc. The team had an organizational meeting that night in preparation for the first day of practice. The day began bright and early with a wake-up at 7 a.m., breakfast, meetings at 7:15 a.m., followed by a lift for the varsity squad, lunch, academics for the freshmen, more meetings, practice, dinner, a team meeting and, you guessed it, more meetings. They’ll do it all again Saturday, Sunday, and Monday and Tuesday.
• Once again this year, Beamer will open the two preseason scrimmages to the public in Lane Stadium. The dates are: Saturday, Aug. 14 (4-6:15 pm) and Saturday, Aug. 21 (2-4:15 pm). As always, no video taping devices of any kind are allowed inside Lane Stadium during these scrimmages. All other Virginia Tech practices are closed to the public.
• Orion Martin is a late addition to the staff this year as the defensive graduate assistant. He was working in the Student-athlete Academic Support Services office, but was offered a GA opportunity when Jamel Smith left to become the defensive line coach at Coastal Carolina. Martin, a former defensive end, will be working alongside his mentor and current defensive line coach Charley Wiles.
Martin played at Tech from 2005-08, redshirting in 2004 after transferring from Norfolk State. He earned second-team All-ACC honors his senior season after making 56 tackles and notching 7.5 sacks. He spent time with both the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions before returning to Blacksburg to work in the Student-Athlete Academic Support Services office.
• Former Virginia Tech center Ryan Shuman has joined Mike Gentry’s strength and conditioning staff as a graduate assistant. Shuman played at Tech from 2005-2008 and was a three-year starter, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors following his senior season. His younger brother, Mark, is a freshman on this year’s squad.
• Media day is Saturday, as the Hokies will face a barrage of reporters from the state and region. The press conference portion for Beamer, as well as for Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams, John Graves and Darren Evans, will be streamed live on hokiesports.com. Beamer will begin at 11 a.m., with the players shortly after he finishes around 11:30 a.m. This is a media-only event and is closed to the public.
• The team will once again help with on-campus move-in this preseason, as the players will work in groups to help haul luggage, fans, beds, TVs and whatever else the students bring up to their dorms on Wednesday, Aug. 18, in the morning. They’ll have a team picnic for lunch and then practice that afternoon.
• The team will be in helmets and shorts again tomorrow (Friday), will go to helmets and shoulder pads on Saturday and will go live in full pads on Monday.
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