The 2014 edition of the Virginia Tech football team is a lot like the indoor practice facility being built in the shadow of Lane Stadium — it's still very much under construction.
As workers diligently laid the foundation for the new building that will cover nearly half of the Hokies' practice field, the coaching staff opened fall training camp yesterday with an eye on sorting out several key positions.
The construction forced the team to alter their practice routine slightly, moving into Lane Stadium for the second half of the session for some much needed breathing room, but head coach Frank Beamer is trying to look at the positives of the change.
"It's difficult, but it's worth it to get this indoor facility built," Beamer said. "Once we get that done, I told our donors I'm not going to ask them for another dime, we've got everything we need here."
That last comment came with a wink and a smile from Beamer, but the coach is taking the prospect of adding a slick new facility seriously.
"There's not many places where you can sit in my window and see every facility that you've got," Beamer said. "The stadium, the lounge over here, the dressing room, it's really neat. There's not many places like this."
But when the staff stepped on what limited field space they have, they were confronted by a variety of vexing position battles.
The one on everyone's mind was, of course, the competition at quarterback, expected to mainly feature Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and spring starter Brenden Motley.
"I thought Michael Brewer handled himself well for a first practice at Virginia Tech. He had a couple throws he might want to get back," Beamer said. "Motley I thought was very consistent out there."
The staff also gave Mark Leal, Andrew Ford and incoming freshmen Chris Durkin and Travon McMillian some reps at the position, but Beamer expects them to whittle down the rotation as soon as possible.
"(Offensive coordinator) Scot (Loeffler) and I both have said we need to make our decisions pretty quickly and get moving and I think we will," he said.
The Hokies also have a plethora of options at running back to sort through. Although the program will be losing Chris Mangus, Beamer is still trying to find the right balance between likely starter Trey Edmunds, veterans J.C. Coleman and Joel Caleb and freshmen Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie.
McKenzie earned the first mention from Beamer, and his recovery from ACL surgery last fall seems to be going well.
"I was impressed with McKenzie, it was the first time I've seen him on completely (healthy) knee," he said. "He made a cut there in practice one time, just very natural."
Williams is another name that seems to be on the tips of fans' tongues after a big spring practice, followed by some confusion over his readiness for the season.
However, the coach wants to see him a little bit slimmer.
"We're going to shoot for 225," Beamer said. "He's gotten down a couple pounds since we talked, but we've got him a goal to get to."
There was more confusion over a media release that said he'd be out for 3-6 weeks after undergoing hernia surgery on July 25, but Williams denied that on Twitter.
Beamer downplayed the injury, but certainly still reacted as if Williams would be missing some time.
"Marshawn, we're going to get him back before too long," he said.
It's an odd situation, to be sure, and certainly one to keep an eye on given Williams' potential importance to the RB rotation.
Another battle to watch is the one brewing on the offensive line.
The team's new depth chart lists Laurence Gibson as the starter at left tackle, after he spent last season on the right side. Meanwhile, Mark Shuman is the starter at right tackle, with former blind side starter Jonathan McLaughlan behind him.
"I think Gibson is an athletic guy that can protect the backside," Beamer said.
But fans shouldn't take this new alignment as gospel quite yet.
"McLaughlin, we can challenge him a little bit and make sure he knows it's always a battle," he said. "I think competition will get that crowd better."
So it would seem the new order is mainly aimed at providing a little motivation for McLaughlin, as well as giving the team a chance to work in three different tackles at times.
"Gibson should be a little bit ahead there, but McLaughlin or whoever the third tackle is can probably go back and forth a little bit," Beamer said. "But it's early, so we need to figure out who's who."
And, true to form, Beamer is also keeping an eye on the kicking situation.
"I like our new kickers," he said. "Joey Slye, he's a good kicker and a really good kickoff guy.
(Michael) Santamaria was very good, (Carson) Wise was very good. Three new guys that were impressive for the first day."
He's been talking about the prospects of the new players at the position for some time now, but he also allowed that some returning players could get in the mix as well.
"A couple of the guys that have been here really seemed much better today, better than when they left in the spring, so that's going to be an interesting competition," he said.
There are 25 days left until the season opener for the Hokies to make some decisions and resolve some of these position questions. Fans will have to hope that the building process goes as well in the next few weeks as it did yesterday.
"The practice we had today I thought was really, really good. I really thought we had great energy out there," Beamer said. "I thought we got a lot accomplished, probably as much as any first day practice as we've had around here."