Media day is usually a bonanza of quotes, but it also takes a while to sift through them all. But I’ve gotten through enough to bring you a blog post of some of yesterday’s highlights. I’ll expand more on some of these items in the next week, but for now, we’re going no frills. Straight to the bullet points …
– First things first: Virginia Tech sent out an injury update on outside linebacker Ronny Vandyke, who suffered a sprained right shoulder at Saturday’s practice.
Vandyke had his shoulder wrapped in ice late in practice Saturday and was later seen with his arm in a sling. On Sunday, head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said Vandyke was “not in as much pain today as he thought he would be in.”
Goforth said Vandyke will be limited in practice this week and an MRI will be performed.
Tech has used cornerback Kendall Fuller in a nickelback role, which is similar to the whip, early in practice. The backup whip linebacker is walk-on Josh Trimble, a special teams standout last year who is trying to make it on the regular defense.
– Aaron McFarling covered the Hokies’ reaction to being 7-6 last year in greater detail in his column today, but I thought I’d highlight Beamer’s take on it: “I think what happened last year is we understand there’s a real thin line between being OK and not being OK, that you’ve got to play every play, prepare for every team. It’s hard to win football games. So yeah, I think all those things became very clear to us last year.”
– Defensive coordinator Bud Foster drew some parallels between this year’s team and the one in 2004. He noted that Tech is coming off what it considers a down season and opens up with as difficult of a test as possible in the season opener in Alabama, whereas the ’04 squad opened up against No. 1 Southern California.
Tech lost that game to a loaded USC team that featured Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, keeping the game closer than many thought. The Hokies rebounded to make a surprise run to win the ACC.
“As a coaching staff we’re not new to this,” Foster said. “But we do have some question marks on this football team. It will be a measuring stick for us. … I think what this kind of game prepares you for is, you know you’re getting ready to play a big time football game.
“Alabama’s not a make or break game for us. Alabama will be a measuring stick where we are and we’re going to find out a lot of questions with some things that we’ve got to find out at some positions. But it will be the starting point from where we can go as a football team.
“Now you know, you play the game. That’s why you play it. We’re going to play it for four quarters. I like our mentality, the way our kids are approaching this thing. But they know this game, yeah, it can really do big things for our program but it’s not going to make or break our season. It’s a tremendous challenge but at the same time it’s a tremendous opportunity. So we’re looking forward to it.”
– A couple of players were asked about how good Alabama is defensively and you could tell they were probably getting a little sick of hearing about it all the time.
“We’re just as good as anybody around,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “We have the talent. We have the coaching. We’re on scholarship too. That’s what we like to say. We think we’re just as good.”
“I think we’re pretty good on defense too at Virginia Tech,” defensive end James Gayle said.
– This isn’t surprising, given the news that Donaldven Manning is contemplating his future with the program, but Fuller is getting reps as the field corner with Brandon Facyson. The Hokies’ coaches said earlier this week that they were only going to have Fuller focus on nickelback, although that role has obviously expanded given the latest possible attrition.
“Really I think we’ve got two outstanding prospects with Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller,” Foster said. “I’ve really been pleased with Kendall’s just football IQ, his body positioning. Just a very instinctive, solid technique-wise, beside the fact he has tremendous ability.”
By working them at field corner, Foster thinks Tech can do things schematically to help them out.
“I wouldn’t say hide them but you can protect them with some technique things or playing more of a deep half with those guys, how we play our coverage concepts a little bit,” Foster said.
– The starting lineup on the offensive line remains up in the air. Line coach Jeff Grimes used his sixth different line up in six days of practice Saturday night. Head coach Frank Beamer said the interior spots are closer to being settled than the tackle positions. Augie Conte and Mark Shuman worked at tackle with the first team last night, with Jonathan McLaughlin and Laurence Gibson on the second team.
If McLaughlin earns the starting left tackle job, he’d be a rare true freshman to start on the offensive line under Beamer (only Sergio Render and Jimmy Martin have done it since 2000). Doing so against Alabama in the opener would be no small task.
“Right now, that [tackle] position needs to get stronger,” Beamer said. “I think the real emphasis day-by-day is just to get better. Starting as a freshman and starting [against a team] as good defensively as Alabama, it can be a shock to your system. So I think you need to practice and get better and come down with the shock a little bit. It is what it is and they need to mature in a hurry.”
– Receiver D.J. Coles still needs to lose a little weight. At least that’s what Beamer said yesterday.
“I think the weight adds to the knee problem,” Beamer said. “I think if he could lose some weight, he’d be a little more nifty. And that would be good.”
The senior’s weight was the subject of a little levity yesterday. When receivers coach Aaron Moorehead was speaking with reporters, Coles came up behind him, leading to this mock interview:
Aaron: Oh hey, D.J., how’s it going? Do you need to talk to the tight ends coach? Are you a receiver now? [GUFFAWS]
D.J.: No. I’ve got one question for you: I’ve heard there’s a weight issue in the room?
Aaron: It’s me. I’m a little fat right now. They’re making me eat four meals a day and I usually only eat about 2½.
D.J.: So how are we supposed to resolve this problem?
Aaron: Stop eating late-night snacks and I am probably going to have to hit the treadmill a little bit. And that’s probably first and foremost. As an older guy, sometimes you get out of your habits. I’m trying to get back there. I’ll get back there. How are you going to do that? [GUFFAWS]
D.J.: [Quickly exits]
– Receiver drops continue to be an issue. Here’s how offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler phrased it (delicately, I might add): “The positive thing and we said this today, our young wide receivers are getting open. Now we’ve just got to at times finish the plays on a more consistent basis.”
Translation: catch the ball.
– Moorehead knows it. The drops frustrate him as much as anybody.
“It’s disheartening,” he said. “I’ll tell you, I laugh. Because my head coach in college [at Illinois] was Ron Turner. My first two years, I had a little bit of the same stuff going on. I sent him a text message and said, ‘I am so sorry my freshman and sophomore years of college,’ because it’s exactly what you said: third down and five, best play you can call, you win the route and you drop the ball. You just want to pull your hair out.”
Moorehead focuses on it before, during and after practice (Tech’s receiver did 90 pushups yesterday as punishment). He thinks it will sort itself out.
“We’re going to find the guys who are going to go in there and catch the ball,” he said. “And the guys that won’t, honestly, they’re not going to be out there too often.”
– Loeffler seems encouraged by quarterback-turned-receiver Carlis Parker, who played some receiver in high school and began to play the position in the spring. He’s 6-foot-3 and pretty fast, but he’s raw at the position. Still, he’s right in the mix at second-team wide receiver, tied with Josh Stanford on the depth chart.
“He’s going out there and has made plays,” Moorehead said. “He’s got the ability to make tough catches. He’s a big, long target. And you like that. At the end of the day, the kid’s a great athlete who can run. He does some things that you don’t necessarily teach as a position coach. He’s got a lot of work to do. He’s very raw. And you don’t mind that in a player. You just mold them and keep working with them.”
“I wish to goodness I could coach him the rest of my career, to say the least,” he said. “I love being around him. He’s competitive. I think his leadership is really really improved. I just really really enjoy working with him. He’s fun to have in meeting rooms. He knows when it’s his business. He also has a great personality to settle me down at times, but I absolutely really really enjoy working with him. He is a delight.”
– Moorehead has been around some good quarterbacks. Namely, Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck with the Stanford Cardinal. He sees some of those leadership qualities in Thomas.
“In my short time coaching, being able to be around Andrew for two years was great, but being able to be around Peyton when I was playing, you were able to see a lot of similar traits between those two guys,” Moorehead said. “Andrew developed in his last year, really started to get about guys with the drops, about the wrong assignments. And Logan, you saw the transition from the spring where you kind of did it some, to know where he’s really getting on guys.
“Logan I think is a natural leader. I think it took somebody to get it out of him like coach Loeffler did, to let him understand that you don’t need to be friends with all these guys on the field to be a leader. And sometimes a leader is not the good guy. But being a leader, I guarantee when you walk off the field, you respect him, you’re hanging out with the guys, they respect you, but at the end of the day, we’re all in this thing together.
“We’re all trying to win a national championship, win an ACC championship, get to BCS games. And Logan understands it. He needs to be the guy to lead this team, especially on offense. And whether he wanted to or not, he’s the guy that everybody looks up to. He’s done a great job so far this camp and is going to continue to. At the end of the day, he’s our captain and we’re rolling with him.”
– Running backs coach Shane Beamer said the different packages Tech will use with the running backs will be mostly for passing packages. Both J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds will be used in all running situations.
“Run-game-wise, to be honest with you, we feel as good about J.C. running the play as we do Trey running the same play. There’s really nothing different from that standpoint. … Right now, both of those guys have shown the ability that what we’re doing in the run game, they can do it equally as well.”
So, it’s third-and-1 against Alabama, does Tech need Edmunds in the game?
“I would say we do,” Shane said. “I think the first time we have third-and-1, fourth-and-1, we’ll have a bigger back in there. But at the same time, if J.C.’s in there, J..C.’s small, he’s tough to see back there. He’s powerful. He’s little guy, but he’s pound-for-pound extremely strong. I’d have no problem with him being in there in that situation. But you’d like to have a bigger guy can fall forward and get that first down like that.”
– I’ll have more on walk-on fullback Sam Rogers from Hanover High a little later this week, but Shane told us that Moorehead as nicknamed the freshman “Drago.” That probably both because he’s a tireless worker and because he does look a little bit like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. Here’s a side-by-side look. There’s a height disparity, but the eyes are similar. You be the judge.
It’s not clear if Rogers will get on the field this year, but it won’t be because of effort. Shane says he knows the playbook as well as any player on the team and is relentless in his workouts. With Riley Beiro done with football because of a shoulder injury, Rogers could emerge from the four-man fullback competition as one to watch.
“From Day 1 he has been on a mission to play,” Shane said.
– This came out late last night, but six athletes will be inducted into the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame. Former defensive end John Engelberger made it from the football team.
He went from walk-on to All-Big East performer, pairing with Corey Moore to give the Hokies a fearsome pass-rushing duo. Engeleberger had 253 career tackles, with 26.5 sacks from 1996-99. His career totals for sacks (26.5), tackles for loss (25) and total tackles behind the line (51.5) still rank in the top five all-time at Tech.
Engelberger was a second-round pick by the 49ers in 2000 and payed nine years in the NFL with them and the Broncos. He started 80 career NFL games.