Virginia Tech opened its Tuesday practice up to the media and students alike. The most eye catching part was the best-on-best passing skeletons ran by all three quarterbacks in contention for the starting job, Josh Jackson, Hendon Hooker, and A.J. Bush. It was a rough evening for Jackson, who threw two picks in quick succession. However, his ability to get the ball out quickly was visibly better than his counterparts.
The monstrous defensive tackle duo of Ricky Walker and Tim Settle were on show and the pair gave the inexperienced right side of the offensive line fits throughout the drills. Even with the noted emergence of Tyrell Smith, the o-line seems to be a work in progress.
The Hokies' Maroon-Orange game is an opportunity for Tech's younger players to shine, but won't provide any hints as to the quarterback competition.
"It's the first real glimpse we get at the atmosphere of a actual game, so it's pretty exciting," said JR CB Adonis Alexander. "I know it's gonna be exciting for the young boys too...I had never played in front of that many people."
As for the starting QB in Tech's offense vs. defense spring game format, Justin Fuente said he hasn't put much thought into it.
"I don't know, we haven't talked about it. There will be some method to it, but I'm not really sure. I wouldn't read a lot into it, whoever it is, somebody's gotta trot out there first. So, we just haven't talked about it. I don't know."
Although the live action will give Fuente the best assessment of Tech's QB play.
"We've had two episodes of live quarterback play so far in the spring," said Fuente. "I think that's the best indication that you can get. We were in our second round of having live quarterbacks, it was a little more limited than the first time, but no we don't look at it any differently. To me those are the best evaluations you can get. We're done with those, so there is plenty of evaluation time ahead of us. I don't think the spring game will be any different."
McMillian and Peoples have separated themselves as frontrunners for starting tailback role.
The shifty Travon McMillian and power-runner Steven Peoples are on the thick-end of carries this spring.
"Yeah, Travon has had a good spring. Steven Peoples has had a good spring," said Fuente. "I've been pleased with the improvement that those two guys have made."
McMillian followed up an impressive freshman campaign (1,043 rushing yards, 5.2 YPC, 7 TDs) with a sophomore slump in which his attempts (200 to 145), yards (671), and yards per carry (4.6) all dipped. The C.D. Hylton product is focused on avoiding a forgettable junior season by way of racking up quadruple-digit yards.
"At the end of the day winning matters," said McMillan. "I try not to put my personal accolades ahead of the team or anything like that, but I mean I do wanna rush for a thousand yards, yeah. So I'm just gonna try to utilize every rep I can this year, and see what it gets me, see where it falls."
Defensive depth development continues.
Wideout turned DB Divine Deablo has transitioned to the defensive backfield smoothly.
"Divine has been everything we hoped for," said Bud Foster. "He's been very consistent, very steady, has improved everyday, he's been physical. I've been real pleased with his coverage ability. That was always a thing being a longer guy being a guy that's been attacking a defender rather than back peddling and moving away from an offensive player, or a defender so to speak. I've been pleased with that. You get longer guys sometimes, they don't have the turnover that you'd like as far as DB's with their quickness and explosiveness with their feet, and he has those things and I've been real impressed with what he's done and how's he's picked it up."
Foster is pleased with the development at defensive end this spring, but the depth is far from settled.
"We've answered some questions with some guys," said Foster. "Are we, like I said earlier, are we where we want to be yet? No. But you've got a couple guys in [Emmanuel] Belmar, in Ray Minor and Xavier Burke that have been there for, this is day thirteen at defensive end. But, I've seen a big improvement. I see a couple guys that can help us. And we're gonna have to have a big summer though, not just at that position but at a couple positions, but at that position in particular."
For whom the bell tolls.
When asked if he's ever gotten his bell rung on kickoff returns, Deon Newsome replied, "I normally ring the bells."
And the redshirt senior defensive transplant is pushing for playing time.
"I wish with Deon, since we've moved him, I'd like to have him one more year," Foster said. "He reminds me, he's a skill set better than Brenden Hill. Brenden played one year for us at whip and I wish I could have had him for one more year. He just had a gamesmanship about him. He kind of reminded me of Mook Reynolds a little bit. A little bit bigger than Mook, but Mook can probably move around a little bit better, cover a little better. Just had some instincts. Deon reminds me of that a little bit, except he's a little faster and twitchier. I've been really impressed with his coverage ability, his ability to make plays in space, which that position entails. I think he's put himself in position to help us. He's going to compete with Mook for that spot, but also, when we start getting into our 30 package, looking at a game where you may need another defensive back. But a guy that's a good blitzer type guy that might have a little bit more speed than maybe a guy like a Shegog or somebody that we've used at the Bandit spot. He's done enough things that I've been really, really impressed with him. He's been one of the players that's had one of the better springs this spring in Deon. I really appreciate the effort he's put into it and how he's progressed."
Caleb Farley impressed in Tuesday's practice... at wide receiver.
True freshman Caleb Farley has worked on both sides of the ball this spring, primarily at corner, but recently at wide receiver.
"Caleb has played a little bit of offense here lately, as well as defense," said Foster. "He is a dynamic athlete with dynamic potential. I'm really excited about how far he's come as far as a football player at the corner spot. Is he there yet? No, but do I like his length and do I like his explosiveness, do I like his ability to learn and improve and grow and develop, yes. I think he's got a great, great future."
And excited as Foster might be for Farley to anchor DBU for seasons to come, the 6-2, 180 pound Maiden (NC) HS product practiced exclusively at wideout Tuesday, and he was more than impressive.
"I just recently switched to receiver like last week," said Farley after Tuesday's practice. "It's fun, learning both positions...I'm having a good time."
Although it was always in the cards for Tech to evaluate Farley on offense, it's an opportune time for him to flash his upside at wideout given the absence of Eric Kumah and Henri Murphy who are each a little bit "nicked up" according to Fuente. Regardless, Farley says he looks to continue to be a factor on both offense and defense.
"I try and hope I can have a career like Adoree Jackson from Southern Cal," said Farley about his two-way role. "It's just whatever my coaches want to do, that's how we're gonna do it and I'm gonna give it a hundred percent."
As for the spring game, Farley doesn't have a preference which position he plays.
"I have no clue. I don't know if I'm gonna have a white jersey in my locker or a red jersey. They just, they let me know that day and we just get it rollin'."