Tech Tidbits: Spring Football is Upon Us, Let the Position Shuffles Begin

From Caleb Farley to Vinny Mihota, players of all stripes are changing things up ahead of spring ball.

Caleb Farley will be snagging balls as a cornerback instead of a WR this spring. [Michael Shroyer]

Reading about the football team's depth chart six months before the team takes the field always feels a little bit silly — particularly when Buzz Williams is about to take the Hokies to Pittsburgh for their second straight tourney.

But, if you're anything like me, you can't help it. Those few bits of position battle minutiae trickle out on Twitter, and all of a sudden, football season feels closer than ever.

So don't fight that impulse! Justin Fuente and the rest of the staff just spoke to the press for the first time in weeks and there are all sorts of goodies to sort through.

After all, the spring game will be here before you know it. Go take a few minutes to learn all about Bama's basketball team ahead of Thursday, but keep this tab open.

The Tidbits are back — for the spring, at least.

Hooker in the Spotlight

Look, the only thing anyone cares about this spring is the QB competition (or, perhaps, lack thereof). You know it. I know it. Fuente and company surely know it too.

We were in this boat just last year, if you'll recall! If you'd told me that Josh Jackson would lead all freshmen quarterbacks in the country in some statistical categories on the way to a 9-4 finish, I surely wouldn't have thought this is all we'd be talking about once more.

But it's hard to deny that Jackson's performance down the stretch left the door open for this eventuality, and Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson have received more than enough hype to justify an open competition in the offseason. Plainly, that's how Fuente is approaching the matter — he certainly offered reporters a vote of confidence in Jackson, but it wasn't a wholehearted, resounding statement of "he's the guy," either.

As you'll note, there's no mention of Patterson; the Hokies won't get a look at him until fall camp.

Realistically, the spring will be an audition for Hooker. If he can even start pushing for a number of reps on par with Jackson, that will tell us that Fuente is serious about giving a real shot to the other QBs, and will portend an even wilder summer.

If Jackson remains firmly in control, then we know that Hooker hasn't shown enough, and that will also be a strong signal that Patterson has a very large uphill battle to earn more than just a nominal shot at unseating Jackson in the fall.

Yet I'd caution against simply overlooking Hooker's chances at throwing himself into the mix. I'm old enough to remember when he seemed like the hot young prospect at quarterback last spring, and the coaches weren't shy about heaping praise on him Monday.

"Hendon's a guy we've been excited about since we've been here," said OC Brad Cornelsen. "Came in as an early grad, a high school kid and pushed for the job....He's still learning the game, learning what to do, fine-tuning his game, but he's going to be in the mix. It's going to be a fun spring."

Injury Bug Bites the WRs

In another repeat of last year's fall camp, the Hokies have plenty of uncertainty around who will catch passes, beyond just who's throwing them.

Only this year, Fuente and Cornelsen don't have Cam Phillips to fall back on. To make matter worse, the Hokies are looking at plenty of injury-related absences among the players who are returning.

Topping the list is Ball State transfer Damon Hazelton, who coaches were quite enthusiastic about when he arrived last year. After spending a season sitting out, the Hokies were surely anxious to get Hazelton integrated into the starting line-up's routine, particularly because his experience makes him an instant favorite to pick up some of the slack left by Phillips' departure.

Instead, the Hokies will be left wondering what he can do — Fuente said he won't be able to participate at all in the spring, though he declined to identify an exact injury keeping him out.

To make matters worse, Eric Kumah will also be limited for the spring, as will incoming freshman Tre Turner, another player the Hokies buzzed about upon signing him.

All those absences means there's plenty of room for unproven players like Phil Patterson and Hezekiah Grimsley to get plenty of reps, but it's a bit of a nerve wracking situation for the coaching staff all the same.

Caleb the Cornerback

Careful observers will notice that Caleb Farley's name is not among those competing for time as a wide receiver — that's because, as rumored, he'll be spending time on the defensive side of the ball this spring.

The team made the move official Monday, confirming that Farley (who had the poor luck to blow out his knee ahead of the season, following a promising spring) will indeed play cornerback instead. Fuente says the recovery from that injury will still limit Farley, but he seemed to think that the need at corner was great enough to justify the decision.

"He won't do much and I'm still holding out on the fact he could play offense," Fuente said. "I would like to play him on offense as much as anybody, but the bottom line is where we are out in the secondary right now, between our youth and some older players who have been less than consistent for us, we feel like in the long run that is his best spot. The number one thing for Caleb right now is to get healthy."

Certainly, the team's depth at cornerback leaves a lot to be desired. Adonis Alexander has one spot locked down and, from there, it's anyone's guess — is Bryce Watts ready for more? Jovonn Quillen? Even freshman Jermaine Waller?

It would seem the coaches are anxious enough to start casting about for other answers, and Farley is getting his shot. There's nothing to say he couldn't spend some time on offense still if CB doesn't work out, or perhaps even get time in the return game, where he looked so impressive last spring.

But plainly, the defensive staff wasn't ready to give up on him just yet.

Defensive Depth Chart Comes into Focus

Beyond CB, there are plenty of big question marks about the depth chart on defense.

At defensive tackle, the big news is that Vinny Mihota is officially moving inside to take over for Tim Settle, a neat instance of things coming full circle after rumors about him playing DT started swirling just about as soon as he got on campus.

But he'll also be out for the spring, giving Tech some time to test out the players who will rotate in behind him, and Fuente named Jarrod Hewitt in particular as one he's anxious to see more from. It's worth noting that freshman Joe Kane won't be among the options at DT; Fuente also announced that he made the move to OL once he got on campus.

Mook Reynolds is also missing (yes, it's an injury-laden spring in Blacksburg) and that will open up some playing time at whip. You might recognize one of the names Bud Foster is considering for the spot.

Both linebacker spots also have plenty of uncertainty, and that's without any injuries. Foster says redshirt freshmen Rico Kearney and Rayshard Ashby will start off playing mike, while sophomore Dylan Rivers, redshirt freshman Jaylen Griffin and freshman Alan Tisdale will play backer.

You'll notice there isn't a whole lot in the way of game experience among that group, particularly as they look to replace vets like Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds. Bear in mind that Dax Hollifield will surely shake up this competition when he gets on campus, but this group has a ton of uncertainty, and Fuente knows it.

"You don't have a junior, let alone a senior," Fuente said. "Nobody that's played a meaningful rep at linebacker, which is certainly a challenge. But I like the guys that we recruited. I like the way they're approaching it. There's opportunity for the guys that we've got here and the guys that we've got coming in in the summertime to make their mark and move forward."

I know, it's all a lot to take in. The Tidbits will be with you for the next few weeks to sort through it all.

Before we wrap up, extend a hearty welcome back to Bud's press conference one-liners.


Eh, I hate hearing about all the injuries, but c'est la vie during the spring. This is going to be a really exciting spring as a fan to follow all of the position battles - there's going to be some top-level competition going on for defensive starting spots.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

A lot to take in on that snowy day in Blacksburg.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I trust Fuente, but was really hoping Farley would stay at WR

sounds like fuente was too... just the need is more at DB, either a nod to the WRs we have in the room or a knock on the DBs in the that room, or a little of both.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

WRs will be interesting to see at the spring game.

People out of the stands.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

Like you Coma, I'm really excited to see how Hooker has progressed since last Spring. Like most QB's I'm glad he got a redshirt year and hoping he packed on some muscle and that he can be the consistent but electric guy Fuente is looking for. Jackson certainly can improve but is a known quantity, should shape up to be an exciting Spring.

Hazelton being injured is a bummer.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

What are your thoughts on Kane on the OL?

Not thrilled, but we will see.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Terrible news, I was really excited about seeing him in the spring. We damn near need him to become a producer this year.

thinking about Dax, Rivers, and Hunter as the Mike, Backer, and Whip gets me excited.

However, is it the right position for Hunter? I could see him doing well there, but is safety a better position for him?

Also, Reggie Floyd is getting too big. He struggled in pass defense at times last year and adding more size probably doesn't help.

If Floyd moves to rover - which I think he will, since the Godly Devil is coming back - it probably won't be as big a problem. A concern, but not a problem.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Every snap Floyd played last year was at rover. He always played to the boundary.

And for his frame, I think it is a bit too heavy.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Yup. Once Deablo went out, Edmunds ('Rell) switched from Rover to Free and Floyd played at Rover.

Hunter getting reps at Whip/Nickel indicates to me that 1) Floyd has Rover locked up and 2) the coaches think Hunter needs to be on the field.

Could be that Mook could see time at CB if the younger guys don't pan out there as well.

I've wondered the same thing. In the past Bud has put safeties in the corner spot and vice versa (i.e. Terrell and Adonis), I wonder if it could be a possibility with Hunter, Floyd or Deablo?

Enjoy your first leg as a bunny.

“I turned down 12 other opportunities. You know what I mean?” - Fuente

Hmm. I always thought he was at free. Never mind then.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Love that football is back!

Thank you Mr. Koma. It has been WAY too long since we've had something football related to read/discuss. Im greatly looking forward to learning more as we progress through spring.

Mike Barber - "back" to DB from WR. Was he a DB before? This makes me less apprehensive of the move. All I remember is hearing all last year how the receiving corps was suffering by losing him and would get better when he came back.


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

He started out spring practice as a DB then moved to WR a week before the spring game. He did well in the Spring Game but then he got injured. So he really hasn't had much time at either position so far.

"Be yourself is about the worst advice you can give some people"

"particularly when Buzz Williams is about to take the Hokies to Pittsburgh for their second straight tourney."

Leg for seeing what you did there. Great write up, so which of you young bucks still in college is walking on since our roster resembles TWD right now?

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"


Optimistic side of me says Fuente is OK with the young receivers and thinks they can make more "explosive" plays, thus allowing Farley to move to defense. Pessimistic side says we are screwed in terms of a deep threat at WR and CB is going to be an issue all year of the older guys can't hold it down forcing Farley's move. We'll see

Nothing about this gives me any kind of comfort.

Only things I'm looking forward to are Hunter and the QB shakeout. Other than that this article has me all depressed.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

I'm interested to see Rivers and Hunter, both have a chance to shine this spring. We will have a lot of the guys Fuente has recruited playing, so excited to see his guys step up.

1-0 every week

not happy to hear devin hunter at the whip... that means he wont be seeing the field much this year because hes not going to supplant mook and hes not getting reps at anything else. hope to see DD is back fully that will make me feel better about the safety spot and no mention of webb as the 2nd DB concerns me some as well I thought for all accounts he was supposed to come in and be game ready day 1.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

To be honest, I see Floyd replacing Mook in future years. Hunter will find his way in somewhere, if he is the package that was promised.

Not mentioning Webb is concerning, but I know he wasn't on campus as early as other folks due to his school's class scheduling. If he lives up to expectations, we're assuming he should be pushing for the starting role. That puts Farley on the bench. If the goal is to get your best players on the field, I can't see Farley riding pine all year. They'll get him on the field, somewhere.

As far as I can tell, it looks like Webb still hasn't enrolled yet. So he may not be here for the spring. Thought I had read that he was going to be enrolling after his JUCO trimester but it doesn't look like that happened.

I think because of how ASA's trimesters overlapped with the Spring Semester they realized it wouldn't be feasible for him to come in already behind in his classes.


ACCCG here we come! Probably

"Sure, I've been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I'm not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren't as good. That used to be called patriotism." Kenny Powers

Yeah, at THIS point, this thread isn't inspiring a ton of confidence or optimism in me. Feels like the team is taking yet another step back.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Think positively, all kinds of ways for these kids to contribute.

I know, I just wish that narrative could've been injected a little more strongly into the thread.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Of all the people on TKP, you are the one looking for more optimism????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Chem PhD '16

No, of course not. I was just vocal about it (& could def have used it today).

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I expect a tough year that's going to be centered around growth of the new VT players that Fuente has recruited for his system. Could really struggle this year but 2019 and 2020 looks to be really strong. I am actually more concerned on defense. Unclear and experience issues at just about every position. That's scaring me.

I would feel more worried if Bud wasn't there. I trust him and his staff (& the players to buy into it).

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Oh, good grief. ONE article before spring practice even starts and people are pessimistic about the season. Guys are hurt every spring after surgery.

This team will be fine. Depth will be developed and younger guys will get a lot of reps.


"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

Mihota moving inside further reinforces the mystery at the DE position heading into this season. Are we going to see Proctor, DeBose, or Garbutt step up into a meaningful role this season? Do we trust the Gaines/Hill DE combo as starters. That will be a very slight DE pairing if that is the case. Hopefully we will have a few guys we can rotate in and out on the ends this season, but as mentioned earlier, that hinges heavily on the progression of Proctor, DeBose, and Garbutt, among others.

I think that you will see a mixture or Belmar and Debose occupy the two spots behind Gaines and Hill. Garbutt and Proctor could suprise and see early time as well but all the reports I've heard seem to say that Belmar was a serviceable backup and Debose was close to being ready to get time towards the end of last season.

Perhaps Belmar was a victim of the overall weakness of our backup DL last year, but when the twos were in, it felt like we got no pressure and no push up front for the most part.

I agree in that our backup line played awful last year but I think that playing time will pay dividends for realizing what they need to do to get to a starter quality level going forward. Whether guys like him and Hewitt at DT progressed is the main question. Will be interesting to see the post-Spring DL two deep, I'm interested to see who can be a quality 4th DT behind Walker, Mihota, and maybe Hewitt.

“I turned down 12 other opportunities. You know what I mean?” - Fuente

I wouldn't write off Ryan Willis in the QB competition yet...

Why not?
I'm not expecting much from a walk-on

Yeah can someone explain this love affair to me? I don't really get it. He's a walk on, sitting behind two highly ranked recruits and a guy who just had the most passing yards of any freshman in america.

He was a 3 star recruit out of highschool. I would not consider him just a walk on.

Already has D1 experience:

Kansas: Played two seasons for the Jayhawks ... Started the final eight games of his freshman season ... Threw for a Kansas freshman record 1,719 yards with nine touchdowns ... Threw for a touchdown in six-straight contests ... Played in seven games as a sophomore with two starts ... Threw for 811 yards and three touchdowns.

He is also 6'4" 221 lbs and from what I've heard from people on team, he is a hell of an athlete.

He had 2 or 3 offers as a recruit. Put up pedestrian passing stats in the season he played a bunch for Kansas. 52%, more INT than TD negative rushing yards (took a lot of sacks). That was in a league with maybe one or two decent defenses. In the ACC we need a QB who can victimize Clemson and FSU and Miami level defenses.

He may have been on scholarship at Kansas, but he's not in Kansas anymore and he's not on scholarship anymore. That indicates to me that the chances of him becoming a big contributor aren't very high. If he were good, he'd have a scholarship somewhere. Obviously the coaches see some potential in him or he wouldn't have been recruited as a PWO/T. I certainly would be excited if he blossomed into a star dual-threat QB that flourishes under Cornelsen's tutelage, but I'm not expecting it to happen.

My personal odds for next season's starter at QB:
Jackson = 75%
Hooker = 23%
Patterson = 1.5%
Wills = 0.5%

I'd say about 50/50 with the Jackson and Hooker battle. I honestly believe Hooker would be able to produce about the same if not a little more due to having a liitle more pep in the step. The guy literally came in and performed well in the spring not knowing what F he was doing. I definitely love what Jackson is all about as well. Hard-nosed game manager for sure. We will see come spring time though.

Hokie Love!

I just hope our medical staff is better than the Sixers'

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

any #sauces as to why hazelton is out?

"I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them." - Lee Corso

Read on other sites it was a hip issue. Take that for what it's worth.


In my opinion Jackson did well to avoid major injury last season. Since he is now a known entity, having viable options to somewhat protect him this Spring is an envious position to be in. Except for Bitter's tweet, no mention of Ryan Willis in the QB competition here. Is it realistic to believe he could shine and make things more interesting?

Interesting that you would say that about Jackson avoiding major injuries.. I thought it was widely known that Jackson was playing hurt the last couple months of the season and the injury had a noticeable negative impact on his performance. Healthy JJ is going to be tough to beat out, which means if Hooker (or somehow Willis) pulls it off, it means we've got at least 2 really good QBs.

See above for why some of us don't expect much from Willis.

Yes, I knew that he was playing hurt. I could have been more specific and said "avoided an injury that prevented him from playing." I feel he was lucky to finish the season in his obvious poor condition. I admire his toughness.

Offtopic but does anyone know if tomorrow's pro day will be live streamed?

Based on past, no. There will be plenty of video and stills out of it during and after though.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Bud Foster on Caleb Farley moving back to DB from WR: "I celebrated quietly."

FOSTERS: Australian for defense

New LB corps: River(s) Hunters

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Those quotes on Farley aren't too reassuring. If he's going to be playing CB it should be because they really believe he'll be a better CB than a WR and not just because the depth is worse there. Not the way it sounds in Fuente's quote at all.

Bud's initial quote on Farley playing corner..."no brainer"

...then make it so!

Every year there are new recruits debated over to be defense or offense. Farley is one of those people that the OC and DC want and feel that they would be a welcome addition to their side of the ball. The HC ultimately has to decide which way the guy goes and how it works out is on him.

Whatever it take to build a strong team, I'm in. Go CJF and Coach Bud!