Virginia Tech Athletics \ Dave Knachel
Virginia Tech had a top secret intersquad scrimmage today that was closed to fans and media alike. Virginia Tech provided a stat sheet, a few pictures, Frank Beamer, both coordinators, and four players to the media who were then left to fill in the blanks with what happened on the field.
Although Bud Foster acknowledged the dropoff between his starters and his backups, he did speak about some versatility that some of those backups are showing. Cornerback Chuck Clark played free safety today out of necessity, with the first (Bonner) and second team free safeties both not scrimmaging. Freshman safety C.J. Reavis played the nickel.
There are a lot of nicked up guys on the defense, and it sounds like a new player on that list is backup backer Dahman McKinnon.
"He's been battling turf toe, and he just hasn't been full speed. I looked at Jamieon Moss, I'm anxious to see how he played when it's all said and done, they popped a couple runs on his side, so I'm curious to see what happened right there."
"We've got to get that second backer better right now, D-Mac's been laboring for about a week and has missed a lot of time, and you know it's hurt him, and it's hurting us a little bit too from a depth standpoint."
While backer depth may be a bit of a concern right now, it sounds like Mike is not, with Bud praising both Chase Williams and his backup Andrew Motuapuaka as guys that stood out today.
"What Chase is good about right now is the communication and getting everybody lined up. A real take charge guy which is what you expect to see from a fifth year senior."
"I like where he [Motuapuaka] is right now. He's a guy that I'd like to get to where we can play him a little bit more."
For those with Ronny Vandyke questions, he was also held out today, I'll try to get more on him during availablity on Monday.
Scot Loeffler, Mark Leal, Michael Brewer, Shai McKenzie and Jonathan McLaughlin were the offensive players and coaches made available to the media.
Frank Beamer confirmed that the quarterback race is narrowed down to Michael Brewer and Mark Leal who split first team reps today. Brenden Motley was the No. 1 QB at the end of spring practice, but a back injury has kept him sidelined.
"I thought overall we took care of the ball," Scot Loeffler said. "They [the defense] had a couple good coverages called versus some of the things that we did, and again the emphasis is on protecting the football, and I thought for the most part we did that, we made good decisions. I thought Brewer did a good job throwing the ball away, not taking sacks, he made some big plays. I think Mark did the same, we're going to evaluate the tape and hopefully get this thing wrapped up as fast as we can."
It wasn't completely mistake free though, there was a lone interception on the stat sheet, which Leal confessed to throwing.
"There were a couple of throws I wish I could have back, a little checkdown route that I threw that got tipped and picked off, definitely wish I could have that back."
But it wasn't all bad for Leal, he said that he thought he did very well during a 2-minute drill. According to him, he hit Bucky Hodges for a big play on a corner route and then hit a "seam bender" to Cam Phillips for a touchdown.
Brewer also had a score, on a 35 seam route off play-action.
For those wondering if someone has the edge in the competition, the answer is no, but the words "working", "competing" and "perform" were thrown around a lot by Leal, Brewer, and Loeffler.
The running attack sounds like it had some bright spots. McKenzie said that he ran the ball seven times for 66 yards and a touchdown, including a 50 yarder where he was brought down inside the five. Loeffler described the play.
"He took an inside zone, ran it extremely well, and then they got him down into a goal line situation. ... He showed that he can get the ball into the endzone and run off the defender that wasn't blocked."
Travon McMillian had five-yard touchdown in addition to McKenzie's, and Beamer said J.C. Coleman had an 80-yard touchdown run called back for a penalty.
When asked about the running back rotation, Loeffler wasn't super specific. He said, "You want to have your top three, with a one-two-three punch, but you can never have enough running backs, they get beat up. Whenever Virginia Tech's been good running the ball, they've had a couple dominant tailbacks, so I think we're moving in the right direction in that area."
With McKenzie, newly moved McMillian and Marshawn Williams (who didnt play today) all vying for playing time, it seems like the problems of running back health from last season (Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman being dinged up) are trying to be avoided in 2014. In fact, planning for this season, as opposed planning around the future, was a big staple of Shane Beamer's message to the media Wednesday. I agree with that. You can't redshirt someone if they're going to help you win today.
McKenzie seems like he's been the star of camp thus far, with Loeffler saying that, "He's had a good camp, he's a freshman. There's a long way to go but you see some really, really good upside." That is about as close to a compliment from Loeffler as you're going to get.
When asked if he can notice a difference between now and before he got hurt McKenzie said, "Yeah, I can notice a lot. I'm still a little bit shaky with it, it gets sore still, like right now it's a little bit sore, but when you're playing in the game you don't really feel anything."
Tech might have found a really good one in McKenzie. If he can perform like he has while getting used to his knee, think about what he can do when he's fully back and running confident.
On a final note, Kendall Fuller blocked a field goal attempt, picked it up and ran it back 87-yards for a score. I think we can file that away in the "Kendall doing Kendall things" folder.