If spring football is about discovering new talent, then the Hokies found some gems.
And nowhere are those newfound riches more bountiful than Virginia Tech's new crop of pass catchers. Redshirt and true freshmen accounted for 216 of the 265 receiving yards amassed on Saturday during Virginia Tech's spring game.
Among the players that shined brightest was early-enrollee Dalton Keene. The 6-4, 225 pound Littleton, CO., Chatfield HS product played primarily at H-Back and tallied 4 receptions (scrimmage high) for 38 yards. He also caught the only receiving touchdown of the day.
"He's had a good spring," said Justin Fuente after the game. "That position [H-Back] is not as difficult mentally as quarterback, but it's probably the second most. To have a true freshman come in and pick it up and be able to line up in different spots and do some things combined with some good athletic ability, I think he had a really, really good spring and I was really pleased with him."
Consider too that Tech's more experienced wideouts were either inactive or limited. Categorize Cam Phillips in the latter group due to a slight knock on his hip suffered a couple weeks ago, but Phillips was clear it was a precautionary measure. C.J. Carroll, Henri Murphy, and Eric Kumah, who impressed earlier this spring, did not participate. Fuente mentioned Tuesday Murphy and Kumah are nicked up, a vague injury report.
Immediate take-aways follow.
Hendon Hooker moved a step closer to earning QB1.
When you complete 10 of 11 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, you're going to turn some heads.
Even though Hooker chopped up the second-team defense most of the afternoon, it was an impressive outing for the true freshman highlighted by a drive in which he went 5 of 5 and completed a 23-yard touchdown strike down the seam to the aforementioned Keene.
"I felt pretty comfortable," said Hooker after the game.
Hooker's only blemish, an interception picked off by CB Brandon Facyson, was due to a crossed wire.
"It was an in and an out route, and I don't know if we didn't get the signal or what," Fuente said. "Hendon threw it inside, and Phil [Patterson] was doing what he was supposed to be doing. Hendon threw it inside. I don't know the reason for it, but yes, it was a miscommunication."
Hooker looked in control when he was in the pocket, but noted adapting to the increased quickness of a collegiate d-line is quite the transition from high school.
"The speed of the game, it really changed from an aspect of defensive lineman, you know, moving much faster," Hooker said. "So you have to make quicker decisions, so you really have to know your information."
Caleb Farley dropped jaws at wideout... again.
On the opening drive of the scrimmage, Farley shook Facyson at the line of scrimmage, beat him with speed down the sideline, and was wide open for an easy touchdown — six points that Facyson prevented by tackling Farley before the ball could reach him. It was one of three pass interference calls Farley would draw on Facyson.
Farley (2 receptions, 61 yards) scorched Tech's corners and was a constant deep ball threat.
"He's very fast," said QB Josh Jackson of Farley. "He also has good hands, so the speed and just being able to catch the ball just really helps him out."
Jackson wasn't the only teammate who praised Farley's athleticism either.
"I think everybody said it, speed, that's the number one, that's thing that sticks out from him, is his speed," said QB A.J. Bush. "And he's just a great football player, whatever coach says he goes and does it 110%. He was like that at offseason workouts. That's when we knew he was a dog for real, when we seen him workout."
As for whether or not Farley will play receiver or corner, well, Fuente won't divulge that information just yet.
"We just wanna see him go play a little bit," said Fuente on Farley's time at wideout. "I think I know how that's all gonna workout, but Caleb and I haven't talked about any of that yet. So, through our player evaluations as we talk as a staff we'll come up with what we're gonna do with him moving forward. The thing I will say is he's been fantastic in terms of being willing to learn new things and try new things. But we will settle down and kinda get things solidified as we go through our evaluations here in the next couple days."
Regardless of whether it's offense or defense, Farley's poised to become a contributor.
"I was doing cartwheels and somersaults inside when he came on our side of the ball, and I was watching him grow and develop," Bud Foster said. "I'm sure the offensive guys are doing the same thing right now." He's just a young guy that has a lot of abilities, a tremendous skill set, loves the game of football, and whichever side of the ball he's going to play on, he is going to compete and work to be the best."
Adonis Alexander stars for #DBU, Beckett impresses at mike.
Adonis Alexander followed up on his impressive two-pick outing during Tuesday's open practice with two pass breakups on Saturday. Both plays were on deep balls and prevented touchdowns. Alexander spent most of the day playing on the right side of the defense, and was put in more pure one-on-one situations, whereas Facyson and others were granted safety help over top.
Tavante Beckett tied for the team lead with two tackles on Saturday, including a vicious hit on WR Kahlil Pimpleton.
"Tavante's just a really good football player, has a nose for the football, very instinctive," said Foster. "Sometimes that will get him in trouble a little bit when he's supposed to be fitting in this gap and he's running around, but an outstanding football player.
"We moved him to the Mike position because, well, Sean Huelskamp was hurt, and I think that's a natural position for Tavante. But, he had a great spring. I'm excited about his future, too. He's a guy that's still learning a little bit, the position, but as you guys can see he's got a nose for the football. He's a thumper. When he comes to the party, he's gonna strike ya. And that excites me, you know. I'd rather have to slow a guy a down, and he's one I have to slow down. Very good football player, and I'm excited about his summer because he'll be a guy that's a play away from being the guy, and we need a playmaker at that spot, and I think think he's got those abilities."
Tech's kicking and punting was reliable.
Joey Slye nailed a ridiculous 58-yard field goal. That after the senior drilled a 49 yarder earlier in the scrimmage with plenty of room to spare.
"Yeah it was cool that it worked out there at the end of the first half that he got to kick a big one," said Fuente on Slye's 58 yarder. "We know he's got a big leg."
And just a bit of trivia: that would not have been the longest field goal made by a Tech kicker. In 1975, Wayne Latimer kicked a 61 yarder against Florida State in a 13-10 win for the Hokies.
As for the Australian punter, Oscar Bradburn, the freshman was solid. Bradburn punted three times for an average of 45.66 yards per punt, and he pinned the ball inside the twenty twice. His third punt was another beauty, but, due to the lack of a punt coverage team, it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.