Practice notes: More o-line shuffling and a ‘Chubby Backer’ (UPDATE: Wang, Acree shut down for spring)
– I’ll move this one to the top: There was an update on Frank Beamer‘s website late Wednesday night that left guard David Wang (ankle) and guard Nick Acree (knee) are shut down for the spring. Wang is expected to be back this summer, but the Hokies fear Acree might be lost for good because of persistent knee issues.
Wang severely sprained his right ankle in Monday’s scrimmage. He was in a green, no-contact jersey (with no pads) Wednesday with his foot in a protective walking boot.
Acree had practiced earlier this spring after missing all of last season after tearing an ACL. He had surgery in August.
– New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes was serious about shuffling things around for the duration of the spring. Today’s o-line, something that was confirmed by a depth chart update on Frank Beamer‘s website, looked like this: LT Jonathan McLaughlin, LG Brent Benedict, C Caleb Farris, RG Andrew Miller, RT Laurence Gibson.
McLaughlin went up to the first team over Mark Shuman, Miller slid over to guard, Benedict flipped sides and Farris came up to the first team at center.
“There have been times in my career where I thought guys were best at a certain position, but then for some reason later on down the road, I moved them maybe out of necessity and found out they could do something else, and at times maybe better than I thought,” Grimes said. “So I’ve learned over the years, especially early on with a group, let them do different things and kind of see where they fit best.
“And part of it is doing that on an individual basis. Part of it will end up being based on getting our best five on the field. So where one guy plays isn’t always based on his ability, it might be based on what other guys can do better. It’s a matter of getting the best five guys on the field and getting them in spots where they can help us best and play their best.”
Grimes reiterated that he doesn’t necessarily need to have a starting five decided by the end of spring. In fact, he’d almost prefer to have it not settled..
“I’m perfectly comfortable with that,” he said. “I actually like that typically a little bit better than knowing who the five are, because competition makes everyone better.”
– Miller, who it was assumed would be a lock at center, worked at right guard, a spot he’s played earlier in his career and in high school. He said guard and center are almost identical, though.
“This is a team sport, and you don’t only want to be the best that you could be, you’ve got to be the best you can be for the team,” he said. “We’ll see how it works out, and I’m trusting the coaches.”
Grimes called Miller Tech’s “toughest guy” up front, “unquestionably the guy that the other linemen and I think some of the offense kind of feed off of.”
– McLaughlin made the biggest move, going from second team to first at left tackle. Grimes has been impressed with the 6-foot-4, 306-pound true freshman, who prepped at Fork Union last year.
“He’s a very, very confident, competitive kid,” Grimes said. “Steps in with the first group and doesn’t flinch at all, doesn’t back away, no matter who he’s going against. And has a lot of want-to, a very strong desire to be a good player and just one of the hardest workers on the o-line right now.”
Grimes wouldn’t go as far as saying McLaughlin would start if there was a game tomorrow, but he did acknowledge that he’ll be in the mix and has “a great opportunity to win the starting job.”
– Four guys have worked at center this spring: Miller, Farris, Matt Arkema and Wang. “You can’t have too many,” Grimes said. “You can move a tackle to guard or slide one guy over from one side to the other at the same position, but when you’re snapping that ball and making all the calls, that’s a different animal altogether, so you can’t have too many guys that can do it.”
– The second-team offensive line looks like this, by the way: LT Shuman, LG Adam Taraschke, C Arkema, RG Jake Goins, RT Augie Conte. Don’t write it in pen. It’ll probably change by the weekend.
– Some other updated depth chart nuggets:
- The running back situation is a little more defined. J.C. Coleman is still listed with the 1′s, with Michael Holmes and Trey Edmunds listed as co-No. 2′s.
- Defensive end Dadi Nicolas is listed as a co-No. 1 at one of the spots with J.R. Collins.
- Defensive line coach Charley Wiles said Woody Baron and Nigel Williams are probably the backup tackles right now, although he’s a little concerned about depth there. (More from Wiles, who was his usual boisterous self, tomorrow.)
- Donaldven Manning was in a No. 1 corner spot, followed by Donovan Riley. That’s a flip from before.
- Again, all of this probably changes by the day, so nothing is written in stone right now.
– On the injury front, running back Tony Gregory (ribs) didn’t dress Wednesday. DL Jarontay Jones was in green jersey.
A bunch of guys were in blue today for various reasons: DE Tyrel Wilson, TE Zack McCray, DE Matt Roth, FS Detrick Bonner, FB Riley Beiro.
– Defense dominated Tech’s “T-Time” drill Wednesday, winning 4-1. But the highlight was probably the finale, with punter Michael Branthover going against kicker Brooks Abbott. They spilled out of the circle and had some extracurricular shoving after the first matchup. After a second one, it looked like they had a split decision.
– Had a good chat with redshirt freshman/sophomore linebacker Deon Clarke today. He said they decided to go for the redshirt last year because the lineup ahead of him was pretty well set. He also said he had a shoulder injury that’s fine now. The NCAA still hasn’t made a ruling on that medical redshirt that we know of.
– Clarke said he was 190 pounds when he signed and wanted to pack on weight last year. How much? Try 240. He got so big that other players on the team started calling him “CB” for “Chubby Backer.”
“I was eating a lot of little meals from DX, West End, going to class, grabbing a bit to eat,” he said. “Yeah, it gains quick. …
“I was watching all the other backers, and Riq [Tariq Edwards] and all them were like 220, and I was getting up to 230 and they were still there. And I just kept going up and kept going up, so I started slowing down, getting back to my right weight and staying there.”
Clarke says he’s at 215 to 220 now, which he thinks is a good size for him.
– Sitting last year helped him learn. Clarke said he’d get confused a lot on the checks when a player would go in motion, typical stuff for a first-year player. He called himself a visual learner, so being able to watch was a big plus.
When did it make sense?
“It’s like when you’re in the film room and you just say the answer before Bud [Foster] even finishes the question, you start feeling like you know the stuff better,” Clarke said.
– Receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said he’s seen major steps forward from Demitri Knowles, who has been more of just a deep threat in the past.
“I actually laughed with Demitri today,” Moorehead said. “I said, ‘When you’re done with spring ball and you watch your reps from Day 1 and you go back and you watch your reps from the spring game, you’re going to be sitting there laughing at yourself, saying, Holy cow, I was terrible back at the beginning of spring ball.
“But that’s just how he was. Now you see him being able to get in and out of these breaks and running these routes and he’s understanding what we’re trying to tell him. And as he develops and gets into the offense more and really gets to understanding more, he’s going to be a really dangerous player.”
– Freshman Carlis Parker is down with his possible role as a Wildcat quarterback, although Tech hasn’t gotten into any of those formations yet. He thinks he needs to pack on some pounds to his 6-foot-3, 183-pound frame to hold up, though.
“I make eating a job now, really,” he said. ‘It’s definitely eating a lot more than I’m used to.”
Parker is also moonlighting at receiver, still retaining the yellow quarterback jersey during practice (and presumably not making a full-time switch at this point). He said it’s not too difficult to pick up.
“As a quarterback learning the offense, you know where the receivers line up at, you know what routes they run, so I mean, it’s pretty easy,” he said.
Moorehead called him “a work in progress,” making the transition sound a little harder that Parker did.
“A guy that has some potential,” Moorehead said. “He’s a fast kid. He’s got some quick twitch to him. He just has to get more of a comprehension of the position.
“And right now, he has no idea what he’s doing. I’m kind of trying to tighten it down for him, teach him a couple things small, kind of in and out of his breaks, some small things each day. But he’s far away from being a functional receiver right now. But he hasn’t played receiver. That’s just part of the deal. And hopefully he’ll be able to get in a position where he can possibly help us this fall.”