From last night: Rotation of inexperienced tackles holding its own on Virginia Tech’s defensive line
While Derrick Hopkins held down one defensive tackle spot for nearly the entire Wake Forest game, Virginia Tech used a trio of tackles in the other spot. The group held up quite well.
True freshmen Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall and junior Isaiah Hamlette each got around 20 snaps last Saturday, holding down the spot vacated by the season-ending ACL injury to Antoine Hopkins.
“There’s a coupe guys in there that I think down the road will be — whether it’s this year, whether it’s next year — that are going to be dynamic football players for us,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “But I think right now we’ve got to do it by committee, because as freshmen, you’ve got guys who don’t quite understand. They think they’re playing hard but you’ve got to play at a high level here.”
The play breakdown against the Deacons was as follows: Maddy 21 plays, Marshall 25, Halmette 17. The three combined for three tackles, two assists, one pass deflected and six factor plays, according to defensive line coach Charley Wiles.
Tech went with the rotation out of necessity. None of the three players are quite ready for a full-time gig, from a developmental and physical standpoint.
“Luther really got kind of tired,” Wiles said. “I noticed this during camp with Luther. He just doesn’t have a lot of stamina. Seven plays is his max. They were going through us on that first drive and he was dead, so I made a really wholesale change and kind of came up big a little bit.”
The rotation, for the near future at least, appears as if it will continue.
“I think they’re still figuring things out,” Foster said. “They’re playing hard, but I think when it’s time, we need them to play 100 mph, 100 percent.”
“Ain’t nothing easy,” said Maddy, who got his first career start last week. “Nobody told you it was going to be easy, so I was kind of expecting it to be tough. But it ain’t nothing I can’t handle.”
This is how I’ll usually do practice posts. Something up top as a lead and then a bunch of quick hitters afterward. Let’s get to them.
- The young tackles have a good role model in the sophomore Hopkins, who at the ripe age of 19 is the old man of the group. ”He’s become probably the bell cow for us before all is said and done inside,” Foster said. “And what I mean by that, it goes back to him being the steady Eddie guy. And he’s like that in all aspects of his life, though. He’s a solid person off the field. He’s a solid guy in the weight room. He’s a solid guy in our classroom here and he’s a solid guy on the field. And you know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to give you an honest day’s work, in addition to having abilities.”
- Hopkins played 62 of 67 defensive snaps against Wake Forest, finishing with two tackles, two assists, a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hurry. Wiles remains concerned about heaping too much on the sophomore. “We need to get off the field,” he said. “Anybody is going to get tired if you’re out there for 13 plays. We can’t do that. But if we can get off the field and play three or four plays at a time, I think we’ll be OK.”
- Interesting injury note that kind of got overlooked: Wiles said DE Tyrel Wilson‘s knee cap came out and back in, although he was able to return for a few more plays. Tech finished the game with Zack McCray and Duan Perez-Means at defensive end, getting them some work.
- Moving on to more pressing injury news, which I wrote about in the notebook for today’s paper. Four guys were in blue jerseys Tuesday, which means limited contact: DE James Gayle (ankle), CB Jayron Hosley, WR D.J. Coles and LG Greg Nosal.
- Gayle’s progress was encouraging, so much so that he says he’ll play Saturday (which apparently he said last week too, so take that for what it’s worth). He couldn’t do much Monday (“He was terrible,” Wiles said bluntly. “I didn’t think the kid could play.”) But he moved around better Tuesday, doing scout periods and bag drills but not team work. “I’m not running full speed, but I can feel my movements starting to come back,” Gayle said.
- Wiles said Gayle needs to be healthy to be on his game. “Everybody’s a little different,” he said. “James needs to be 100 percent to mentally turn it loose. While other guys might be able to have a little nick.”
- Hosley sounded less optimistic. He was in blue Tuesday after receiving treatment and missing practice Monday. “I don’t want it to be a lingering thing for the rest of the season,” the All-American said.
- Secondary coach Torrian Gray echoed those sentiments. “You want him to be smart with it ” he said. “You don’t want him to go out before it’s ready and it’s set back the rest of the year, so as far as I see from what he’s done today, he really didn’t push it much, so I don’t know what to expect right now. But it’s still early in the week.”
- For a reference point, Hosley didn’t practice the first two days last week, returning for the final three practices. Is there a cut-off point? “Normally Thursday is your cut-off point,” Gray said. “If you’re not ready by then, then the other guy has gotten a lot of reps. But that’s not my call. It’s ultimately coach Beamer’s call whether he plays if he can’t go by Thursday or not.”
- Also interesting, Gray, a former Virginia Tech standout who played three years for the Vikings, said he never pulled a hamstring in his life. That’s got to be rare.
- If Hosley can’t go, freshman Detrick Bonner would step in and replace him, not senior Cris Hill, who is listed behind Kyle Fuller on the depth chart. ”It’s really not field and boundary as much this year as much as Jayron, we’re going to put on the side we think they’re going to throw the ball to the most, and Detrick has always backed up Jayron,” Gray said. “And that’s always been our plan and what we’ve stuck with. Just like last week’s game. Probably the next guy in.”
- Bonner said he’s preparing as though he’ll start. The Wake game helped his development, coming in cold off the bench into a starting role. “It just made me better,” he said. “That’s how I look at it. Playing in the game is just a different speed than in practice. It just makes you better, you know.”
- The coaches have tried to instill a next-man-up mentality, but it doesn’t always hit home until the situation presents itself. “We try to warn them all the time that you’re a play away, but until it actually happens, I imagine they’re like, ‘Yeah, right,’ a lot of times,” Gray said. “Especially a freshman, ‘Man, I’m not going to play.’ And to go out there and play a guy of the caliber of (Wake WR Chris Givens), who he lined up on that guy all night. I thought they were going to go after him and attack him, but for a freshman, he really held his own and did a good job.”
- As for Coles, he said earlier this week he expected to play. Not sure what Nosal’s injury is. We beat hacks were surprised to see him wearing blue yesterday.