August 7, 2015
Hokies begin preparations for 2015 football campaign
Tech returns 16 starters and is optimistic about upcoming season
Media Session – August 7, 2015

BLACKSBURG – With thoughts of taking on defending national champion Ohio State in exactly a month, the Virginia Tech football squad took to the practice field for the first time to begin preparations for the 2015 season.

Tech practiced for two hours, alternating between the new indoor practice facility and the Steve Johnson practice fields. The new practice facility was completed in late June, and Tech officials replaced the natural grass turf on the practice fields in July with a strain of Bermuda grass designed to tolerate colder weather.

Tech head coach Frank Beamer is entering his 29th season as the Hokies’ head man and as many know, he currently leads all active FBS coaches with 273 career wins. Other impressive numbers: Tech’s 106 victories are the most by an ACC program since 2004 when the Hokies joined the league, and the Hokies’ 13 seasons of 10 or more wins since 1995 rank only behind the Buckeyes (15).

Tech enters the 2015 season with 16 starters returning and 44 letter winners (24 on offense, 20 on defense). Every player who scored in 2014 returns.

After the first practice, Beamer was pleased.

“If we can have however many practices we have left, 20 or 21, whatever it is, just like today, we’ll be as ready as we can be and that’s all you can ask,” he said. “I thought the moving around and the tempo and working together – and that’s a thing you can’t take for granted – was good. I thought the offense and defense got better. It was a good first day.”

Despite the number of starters returning, Beamer wants to address certain positions and find answers quickly here in August. Ideally, he’d like to see some receivers emerge and find depth on the offensive line and at the linebacker positions.

“We need to get some skill guys going in that area and maybe [Greg] Stroman would be one,” Beamer said. “Can he work both sides of the ball? I think we’ll get into that, and there are a couple of other guys I’ve got in mind, too.

“Our offensive line, we’re as close as we’ve been to being very good. I wish we had some more experience. But we’re athletic and we’re tough. We have some athletic guys for offensive linemen and I think that’s going to pay off.

“Then after that, depth at linebacker, and I think we know who the people need to be. Now it’s just a matter of stepping up.”

Other news and notes from the first practice:

• Defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray worked Desmond Frye, Donovan Riley and Der’Woun Greene at the rover position in search of a replacement for C.J. Reavis, who has been dismissed from school. Foster wasn’t concerned about his list of candidates.

“One of those guys is going to step up and be a big-time football player for us,” Foster said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Dez. He’s played both spots for us. Donovan has a lot of abilities. We’ve played him a lot at corner, and we’ve tried him some at free safety. Rover is a little easier spot to learn. There is not as much of a demand on that position mentally, so I’m hoping he can be a quick learner at that spot. He reminds me a lot of Antone Exum.”

• Along those same lines, Foster and Gray moved Chuck Clark from cornerback to free safety. Brandon Facyson’s return at cornerback gave the staff some flexibility, and the coaches view Clark as a good fit at free safety.

“Our safety needs to be a really good corner-type guy,” Foster said. “He really needs to be a good-tackling corner. Your two best guys are probably your boundary corner and your free safety because he’s going to be asked to be involved in a lot of coverage and involved in the run game, too [as a free safety]. That’s as critical of a position as our boundary corner.”

• Brandon Facyson returned to the field healthy for the first time in more than a year. He injured his shin in the spring of 2014 and missed most of spring practice. Then he never got healthy last year. After three games, the staff decided to sit him, and toward the end of the season, he broke his lower leg in a practice.

But he looks like his old self.

“Day 1 felt great,” Facyson said. “This is the first time in a while that I’ve felt great. Physically, mentally … it’s just a great feeling to be back out there helping my team in any way possible.

“There was no hesitation [today], which is a good thing. I’ve been working with everyone over the summer, so most of the hesitation was out of my system. I was relying off natural ability, and it felt great.”

“He made a couple of nice plays today,” Foster said. “I love the way he was competing and transitioning out of his breaks. I saw the Brandon Facyson I saw two years ago. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and not even thinking about that leg.”

• Tailback Shai McKenzie has been reinstated to all team activities following a meeting with AD Whit Babcock and Beamer. McKenzie had been suspended indefinitely pending the resolution of an off-the-field situation. He is suspended for the Ohio State game, but can return to game action for the Furman game on Sept. 12.

• Receiver David Prince has left the program and will join the track program on a full-time basis. Prince competes in the long jump and participated in the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships held at Rector Field House last February. Prince’s best mark came during the outdoor season when he jumped 23 feet, 9 inches (7.24 meters) at both the Hokie Invitational and the Marshall Invitational.

• Backer Dahman McKinnon is back with the football program after leaving the squad last winter. McKinnon, a redshirt junior from Hope Mills, North Carolina, played in six games last season, but only seven plays on defense (27 on special teams).

• Also, Marshawn Williams will be doing limited work as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered late last season at Duke. Everyone else is full speed.

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