The Virginia Tech football squad held its second practice in El Paso, practicing for almost two hours at the Socorro Activities Complex Saturday afternoon. The practice was a normal Wednesday for the squad as the Hokies went through another full-pads practice while finishing up game prep before scaling back for the final two days of work.
After practicing full yesterday and looking like a return from an ankle injury was possible, senior Antone Exum was declared out by defensive backs coach Torrian Gray and Exum was in street clothes for the practice. The news on Kyle Fuller (core) was a little better as Gray said there’s still a possibility that he plays.
“After watching Antone yesterday, I don’t think he’s going to make it for the game,” Gray said. “He didn’t moved well enough and I don’t think he was going to be 100 percent, full-speed. For Kyle, we’ll watch practice again and we’ll know more after today. It’s going to be close, but we’ll know more after today. Antone was favoring his ankle somewhat still, just when he had to burst full speed. He just wasn’t up to where he wants to be himself and where we’d also like him to be to play at his highest level.”
Exum tore his right ACL in the off-season and worked hard to return, but didn’t make it back until the Duke game on Oct. 26. He played that game and against Boston College the week after, but injured his left ankle against Miami early on and didn’t take another snap the rest of the season. Because he’s already redshirted and that he played after the cutoff mark of the season regulated by the NCAA, he can not qualify for a sixth year. He finishes his career with 186 tackles, 36 PBUs, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and six interceptions.
The hot topic for juniors Luther Maddy and Kyshoen Jarrett was their upcoming decision on whether to declare for the NFL Draft. Both submitted paperwork to be evaluated, but neither has gotten his grade back and said they’ll sit down and talk to their families after the bowl game. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15, 2014 to declare for the draft.
Before practice, head coach Frank Beamer had a special visitor speak to the team. Lt. Col. Charles Roede, who graduated from Virginia Tech and was a member of the Skipper cannon crew when he was in school, is stationed at Ft. Bliss and spoke to the team about how the values of the Army are similar to those of any team. Roede gave out dog tags to some of the Tech’s players yesterday when they spent the day there and several of the words on the War Memorial Chapel like “service”, “sacrifice”, “honor” are also on those dog tags used by the Army.
“When you go to war, there are no rules and you’re playing for keep,” Roede said. “In football, while there are rules, you’re playing for keeps Tuesday.”
Following practice, head coach Frank Beamer made the short walk next door to the Hawthorn Suites for the bowl’s first press conference of the week. Beamer and UCLA head coach Jim Mora each answered questions for about 15 minutes in their first formal bowl media setting of the week.
Upon return from the press conference, the team and official party got to go to Indian Cliffs Ranch in nearby Fabens to take a motor coach ride to a true West Texas ranch setting where cattle drives and stage coaches once passed through. Players and staff had an opportunity to take a tractor-drawn hayride out into the desert to visit sites where Hollywood movies like Courage Under Fire, On The Border and Resurrection were shot on location, and also to get up close with Texas animals at a petting zoo. The dinner at the world-famous Cattleman’s Steakhouse, named “The Manliest Steakhouse in America, 2012” by Men’s Health magazine, highlighted the evening as the two squads showed the eating prowess.
Tech line coach Charley Wiles, a connoisseur of all things food, called it “the best meal of the week, hands down.” Pretty high praise. The event ended with a spectacular fireworks show over the lake and then both teams headed back west to El Paso.
After the dinner, the players were on their own for the rest of the evening before curfew. There are a few places nearby for the players to check out, but curfew is slowly being reeled back in as the game gets closer and the players are getting more focussed on the game. Tonight’s curfew is midnight.
Tomorrow, the team will hold its “Thursday” practice in the early afternoon at Socorro and will have the chance to take a tour of the Lucchese Boot Factory.
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