A receiver above him on the depth chart is no longer on the team.
Virginia Tech confirmed Sunday that wide receiver Kevin Asante will not be on the team this year.
Asante, a 6-foot, 184-pound sophomore from Charlotte, did not appear in the team’s media guide, which was handed out Sunday. No reason was given for his departure.
Asante finished the spring on the second team at flanker behind fellow sophomore Demitri Knowles. He played in two games last year, starting once, but only caught two passes for 18 yards.
Thomas hinted that changes were afoot when he talked up Meyer, a 6-foot-1, 208-pound walk-on from Richmond who redshirted last year.
“He’s a workhorse,” Thomas said. “He’s got a passion to be better like I’ve really never seen. He’ll definitely play this year. And he’ll be huge for us. He’s the one that’s going to make that receiving corps go, and they follow after him because he brings it every single day.”
Thomas’ statements are surprising, although head coach Frank Beamer was pleased with Meyer’s progress last preseason, even though the decision was made for him to redshirt.
“It surprised me, because I didn’t really know him that well,” Thomas said of Meyer’s move. “This summer, when we started working out together, I really got a feel for who he was.”
There were plenty of more quotes from the players on Sunday. Here’s a sampling of things they talked about:
– Thomas and linebacker Jack Tyler aren’t by nature the most vocal leaders on the team, but both are taking on that role this year out of necessity, particularly after Tech struggled to a 7-6 record last season, its worst in 20 years.
“I really haven’t held my tongue much lately,” Thomas said, noting that he’s meaner this summer. “You all probably see I’m not all smiles and stuff like I used to be. I’m kind of on a mission to one thing, and that’s to be better and win games, to be the best team we can possibly be.”
Has that been a tough transition?
“It is tough, because they’re your peers,” Thomas said. “They’re the guys you’re around every day, but now I just really don’t care. You’ve got to, because they need some encouragement. They need a kick in the tail to keep them going.”
– Tyler said defensive coordinator Bud Foster came to him in the offseason to talk about leadership. Senior linebacker Bruce Taylor served in that role last year, although that didn’t hit full stride until the middle of the season, well after Tech’s struggles had begun.
“I don’t want to bash anybody, but that was probably our biggest downfall last year was we didn’t have anybody we could rely on,” Tyler said. “I have to do that, but do that in the summer, in the spring, start it early so we can hit the ground running when we hit that first game.”
– Tyler openly admitted that the coaching changes were probably a good thing at Virginia Tech. “We had that culture shock of having new coaches,” he said. “So the expectations of Virginia Tech having a top-tier defense and a sub-par offense have changed. Those new coaches have brought in the mindset that we’re not only going to have a great defense, we’re going to have a great offense at Virginia Tech. I think we need that, that we’re not just a defense anymore. We’re a full team.”
– Tyler gushes about Foster at every opportunity. Foster was the one who gave him a walk-on chance at Virginia Tech, even though Tyler had only a couple I-AA offers coming out of high school. “I consider him my second dad,” Tyler said. “I’m always with him. I’m very fortunate. How better than to have the premier defensive coordinator in the country than the guy who’s teaching you to do absolutely everything on his defense?”
– Having Alabama, the team that’s won two straight BCS titles and three of the last four, on the schedule has pushed the Hokies this offseason. “That’s the kind of games we came to Virginia Tech to want to play,” Tyler said. “You don’t want to play a Division I-AA team. You want to play the cream of the crop. You want to play Alabama, and I think our offseason, our training, has been that much more amped up. And the energy levels and excitement levels are that much higher because of it.”
– Tech isn’t backing down from setting lofty goals, despite how last season played out and despite who’s on the schedule on Aug. 31. “Our expectations are always the same,” Tyler said. “They’re always to win the ACC. They’re always to be the best defense in the ACC. We expect to win every game. We expect to beat Alabama. We expect to win every game. Some teams might go into that game thinking, ‘Well, if we don’t win this, we’ll win next week.’ Well no, we expect to beat Alabama. We expect to win every game. Those expectations will never change. That’s our program. That’s our tradition.”
– Thomas has some lofty individual goals this season too. Specifically, he’d like to throw five or fewer interceptions and complete 62 percent of his passes. For a player who threw 16 picks last season, tied for fourth-most nationally, and completed only 51.3 percent of his passes, some would say those are unreachable. Thomas and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler don’t.
“It’s easy to get five interceptions and it’s easy to get them quick, but you’ve got to have aggressive thinking,” Thomas said. “You just can’t sit back and try to finesse everything.”
– Thomas said Andrew Miller, who was the team’s center before he broke his ankle last year, will be a guard this season. Miller practiced at guard in the spring. Junior Caleb Farris is atop the depth chart at center.
Thomas touted Miller’s toughness, saying he’ll “fight you to the death.” Miller was a wrestler in high school and briefly at Tech, so he can mix it up if need be.
“If he fights somebody, that person already lost,” Thomas said.
– Thomas has slimmed down seven pounds to 250. He doesn’t think that’ll make a huge difference, but it’s noticeable in conditioning drills.
“In running, I can still be standing, be completely in shape and be able to talk to my guys,” he said. “I’m not bent over asking for air. I’m there standing up saying, ‘Let’s go, we’ve got a season to get ready for.’ They see me working to be the best I can be. It pushes them to be the best they can be.”
– The strangest question Thomas and Taylor got during Sunday’s portion of media days: what does football smell like?
Thomas immediately passed. “I had nothin’,” he said later. “Nothin’.”
Tyler managed a decent answer: “One hundred and fifty sweaty guys all packed into an elevator.”