I wrote something earlier about the Hokies’ day off, along with a few injury updates. You can get to that post here. Now for a few more notes and quotes from Monday’s round of interviews with assistant coaches …
– Freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller‘s role is expanding. The five-star prospect was initially going to just focus on nickelback, but some attrition at corner and Fuller’s high aptitude now have him at the top of the depth chart at field corner. In a nickel situation, he’d move to nickelback position, with Brandon Facyson coming onto the field as a cornerback.
“You know what? I only give him what he can handle,” defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said. “That was the plan. Let’s play him at nickel, let him learn that and let him be great at that.
“And I played him a couple reps at boundary corner the first few days, just in case. And he picked it up. I wasn’t correcting him a lot. And field corner and boundary corner, although they’re corner, there’s a lot of different nuances, so you move him to field corner, get him a couple reps there and he picks it up. It’s like, wow. And you understand that he has his brothers here and everything, but it’s still amazing that there just wasn’t a lot of mental errors. So I was like, woah, I think he can handle it and he can handle it well.”
Gray added that he is more comfortable with the mental readiness of this year’s freshmen (Fuller, Facyson) compared to last year’s group.
“Now, we can go out there versus Alabama and they may really show that they’re true freshmen, which they are,” he said. “But I feel more comfortable with their mental aptitude that they will grasp it and hopefully perform at the level that we need them to perform at.”
– Sophomore cornerback Donovan Riley is getting closer to becoming a viable option. He’s currently the backup to Kyle Fuller at the boundary corner spot.
“I think Riley is going to be big-time here,” Gray said. “Riley has improved a lot from the mental standpoint and physical standpoint. But sometimes the mental and the physical altogether wouldn’t let him perform at the level I need him to perform at consistently. And he’s alleviated a lot of that. There’s still about three plays of practice that like, wow, I can’t really quite trust yet. But I think hopefully by the Alabama game, but definitely three, four games into the season, he’s going to be where I need him to be and where the team needs him to be.”
– Head coach Frank Beamer said cornerback Donaldven Manning‘s decision to transfer was a mutual agreement between he and the coaches. Beamer reiterated that he’d help the sophomore find a better situation.
“Virginia Tech’s not for everyone,” Beamer said. “College football is not for everyone. I think you have to be special. And if there’s a place that’s better, I’m going to help that guy. But if we recruit him, I want his life to turn out good, whether it’s here or somewhere else. That’s the way I feel about it.”
– Beamer has talked up Alabama at every opportunity this offseason, doing so again Monday. He outright called the Hokies an “underdog” against the Crimson Tide, something he normally wouldn’t talk about in such specific terms.
“You can’t help but notice it,” Beamer said. “Like I said, they’re the best team in the country. … Facts are facts. They’ve won national championships and we were lucky to finish with a winning record.”
– We asked offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler about the shuffling offensive line, and he he said Tech has some of the answers it is looking for. ”There are some solidified, done-deal answers in my mind,” he said. “But there are some scenarios and a couple guys that we’re not sure on, so we’re trying to find a best five fit.”
Did he want to share those done-deal answers? ”No,” he deadpanned, drawing some laughs.
He said each training camp is unique when it comes to how much competition a group has up front.
“There’s been times where we’ve talked into a training camp and known it’s five, and there are times you go into training camp and you know it’s four. There are times in training camp, you walk in and you know there’s zero,” he said. “It’s all based on your scenario. It’s not where there’s a set rule. There’s years you know and years you’re no sure of.”
The first-team o-line, according to Beamer’s official website as of Monday night, was (right to left): Mark Shuman, Andrew Miller, David Wang, Caleb Farris and Jonathan McLaughlin.
– Loeffler has a similar philosophy with wide receivers. He doesn’t have a number in mind for how many he’d like to play. He just wants to have playmakers in positions to make plays, regardless of who starts and at what position.
“We’re going to play with a lot of groupings, so in our mind there are a lot of starters at Virginia Tech,” he said. “Which is good, because that keeps everyone involved in the offense and it also creates an atmosphere that’s going to take everyone to contribute.”
– Defensive line coach Charley Wiles is still trying to figure out that second backup defensive tackle to go along with Corey Marshall, playing behind Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins. True freshman Woody Baron is listed as the top guy of the remaining players, although Wiles said it’s really a group of four working for that spot, with Kris Harley, Nigel Williams and Alston Smith in the mix.
“That’s still a decision to be made,” Wiles said. “Woody played real well the other night. Woody can run. He’s gotten more physical. He’s gotten bigger. He’s stronger. So we’ll determine that over the next two weeks. Is it redshirt Woody or is it play Woody? And that’s going to be based on Nigel, Alston and Harley.”
– A lot was made of Harley being listed as fourth team at the start of August. Wiles said not to read too much into that.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s in there with that four mix,” Wiles said. “He’s getting work. He’s getting evaluated. I wouldn’t say that he is below Alston and Nigel or Woody. It’s just that he’s been here. He’s gotten work. I’ve got a pretty good idea. I want to make sure those guys know what to do, can execute and when we scrimmage, they’re going to get equal amount of work. So he’s going to get an opportunity.”
– Wiles said he doesn’t think freshman Wyatt Teller will be able to contribute this year. He’s got potential, but he’s not far along enough technique-wise.
“He was, I think, just bigger, stronger [and had] more ability than anybody [in high school] and just ran around and made plays,” Wiles said. “But Wyatt’s a very good prospect. He ran 5.1, 5.2. He’s 280 pounds. He can run. I think he’s going to help us.”
Wiles said Teller will stay at tackle.
“I’d love for him to be that big and run 4.6,” Wiles said. “But he just doesn’t run well enough to be an end.”
– This is from my old beat, but it gives a little insight as to part of the reason Loeffler and Auburn struggled so much on offense last year. The Tigers’ former No. 1 quarterback and long-assumed starter of the future, Kiehl Frazier, has voluntarily moved to safety.
Frazier, a former highly-touted recruit, was one of three Auburn starting quarterbacks last year. He threw for 753 yards, two touchdowns and eight interceptions, a big reason for the Tigers’ offensive struggles.
If you’re looking for something that puts Loeffler’s one year at Auburn in perspective, it’s that Frazier was one of his quarterbacks. Veteran Clint Moseley, who had to quit because of arm problems, was another. The third was a true freshman, Jonathan Wallace, who was thrown into the fire in the final few games of the season.
Loeffler got lambasted by those in Auburn circles for some pretty innocuous comments at a Roanoke Valley Sports Club meeting about the Tigers’ talent level last year. This move by Frazier is pretty telling, however. Personnel does matter.
– Golfer Jason Dufner, who just won the PGA Championship, went to Auburn and still lives there. He’s a big football fan, so he pops over to practice quite a bit. Loeffler got to know him last year and seemed genuinely excited to see him break through by winning his first major.
“He’s an awesome dude,” Loeffler said. “An awesome guy.”