Once upon a time, I was a member of the ranks of beat reporters in Blacksburg covering the Hokies for our beloved TKP.
I dearly loved the job, so much so that I even stayed connected to the team once I moved up to Northern Virginia, driving down to cover every home game in Frank Beamer's final season: all for you, dear readers.
But as time's gone by, and media access in Blacksburg has tightened, we've decided to take a slightly different approach to covering the team — if we'll all be chasing the same stories with the same limited access, why kill ourselves over having someone in the room?
So I present to you "Tech Tidbits," our new feature condensing the top Tech news into a bite-sized format.
We won't just cover the obvious stuff — when Justin Fuente names a starting quarterback, I doubt many of you will miss that news, after all. Instead, we'll try to provide perspective on everything you need to know to be an informed Tech football fan. We'll primarily focus on the team's media availability each week, since that's when Fuente and company tend to disseminate the most information all at once, but we'll hardly be bound to those gatherings either.
Without further ado, here's the first edition, and feel free to let me know what you think of the new format. We are nothing if not good listeners at TKP.
Caleb Farley's Year is Over Before it Started
Not to start things off on a glum note, but freshman WR/CB Caleb Farley is out for the year with a knee injury, and, surely, no one in Blacksburg is pleased with that development.
The coaching staff praised him as recently as Monday as a potential contributor this season, given the team's dearth of experience at wide receiver, and it's certainly not the way he'd prefer to start his Tech career.
But it's worth putting Farley's absence in context, as well. For as electric as he looked in the spring game, he's just one of a variety of young receivers the team is looking to depend on this season.
Cam Phillips and C.J. Carroll are the only known quantities at the position headed into the year, and it was always a given that the team would need to find a true "number two" to play opposite Phillips. It's not inconceivable that Farley could've helped fill that role — he certainly has size at 6'2", and enrolling early never hurts when it comes to learning the offense — but more experienced hands like Ohio State transfer James Clark, Henri Murphy, Eric Kumah or Phil Patterson all seem like strong contenders to earn reps there as well.
Everyone in that group is still healthy (knock on wood), and Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times even reported seeing speedy freshman Kalil Pimpleton getting work with the first-team offense in an oh-so-rare open practice session Thursday afternoon.
Farley's absence perhaps might be felt most acutely in the kick return game, where got limited work this spring, though Murphy showed some promise in that department last year.
The staff hardly seems panicked over Farley's loss as of yet, with Fuente telling the media that former WR/current safety Divine Deablo won't be reverting to his old position any time soon (and with the team's roster listing him at 6'3" and 210 pounds after spending some quality time with Ben Hilgart, it would seem that Bud Foster is in no hurry to turn him back over to the offense).
If the Hokies struggle to find a reliable option beyond Phillips this season, the coaches may look back at Farley's injury as quite the "what if?" But the bigger concern for Farley should be ensuring that this setback doesn't derail his promising future in Blacksburg.
A.J. Bush Spent Time at QB1 in Open Practice, Please Don't Sound the Alarms
Fuente is as tight-lipped as coaches come, so we're left fighting over scraps when it comes time to divine just who will take the reins at quarterback this year.
Among those scraps are reports from the brief section of practice open to the media that junior college transfer A.J. Bush kicked off a series of reps as the starting quarterback. Considering that Josh Jackson and Hendon Hooker have been the two names most frequently floated as potential starters, that move has certainly prompted some chatter (not least among those of us who will remain #TeamJackClick for life).
While Jackson and Hooker also reportedly spent some time with the starters, this episode is perhaps as good a reminder as any that Fuente has proven in his brief time at Tech that he'll monkey around with QB reps plenty before things get serious.
Half the reason Jackson is so widely viewed as the favorite to earn the job this season is because Fuente and company decided to insert him into the mix last season, even as Jerod Evans seemed all but guaranteed to be QB1. Call it a motivational tactic to keep Evans on his toes or a true indication of Jackson's ability, but either way, it says something that Fuente would throw a true freshman into the mix with two other veterans in fall camp.
So let this serve as a reminder that Fuente won't rule anyone out of the competition. Perhaps we should be gleaning from this that Bush learned enough in JUCO/Nebraska to have a leg up on newcomers like Jackson and Hooker — more likely than not, it's just evidence that Fuente won't give anyone on the outside much clarity on the QB situation until West Virginia week.
Right Guard Position Battle; Wait, No, Why Did You Stop Reading?
Between quarterback, wide receiver and running back, there are higher profile position battles to cover this fall.
But it's worth considering that the Hokies are bringing back one of the more experienced (and talented) offensive lines in recent memory this season, with right guard looming as the lone spot that seems truly up for grabs right about now.
Tyrell Smith seems to have established himself this spring as the clear favorite to start at right tackle, and there's little doubt who will man the other three positions on the line. That leaves RG, where the coaches seem to be giving both Parker Osterloh and Kyle Chung a shot in the early going.
Braxton Pfaff worked with the first team back in the spring, but taken as a whole, the trio of current RG possibilities represent the players with the most lopsided "words written about them" to "time spent on the field" ratio of any group on the team. At various points throughout the years, all of them have been mentioned as candidates to start at one spot or another, only for an injury or inexperience to derail those hopes.
But this year, it would seem the rubber is about to meet the road. Vance Vice will have to tab one of them as the starter this season, and it's worth keeping an eye on who earns that distinction (and how much, or how little, Vice decides to rotate the others in).
There, you've made it through your vegetables, learning about guard play and such. We'll end with dessert.