Virginia Tech held its fourth practice of spring football Tuesday. The Hokies are still in the installation portion of the program, but Tech strapped up full pads for the first time this year. Anthony Shegog, Eric Kumah, Reggie Floyd, Justin Fuente, James Shibest, Joey Slye, and Oscar Bradburn addressed the media beforehand.
Fuente is more concerned about Tech's "supporting cast" than the uncertainty at quarterback.
"I really like the way those three kids [Hendon Hooker, Josh Jackson, A.J. Bush] have worked," Fuente said Tuesday. "And I still don't know who it's going to be or any of that stuff, but to me we'll figure out who's going to start and that sort of stuff, but we've got to find some guys to play alongside them. My biggest concern is that we'll find someone to play quarterback and we won't be good enough around them to kind of highlight their skillset. Last year we didn't have that problem, Jerod [Evans] played really well and was very effective for us, and we had people around him that help highlight those skillsets."
He echoed the same sentiment to David Hale in an prior to spring practice.
It's a different deal. We're not as experienced on the outside as whoever was going to play quarterback for us last year would have. That's always the worry for me is if we'll be good enough everywhere else that whoever plays quarterback can let his talents show. To me, that's the big difference. I have no idea who's going to be playing quarterback. I'm looking forward to watching guys practice. I love their attitude and demeanor and work ethic. They have leadership qualities. All those things I'm excited about. I have no idea which way it's going to go, but my biggest deal is who will play around those guys. We'll figure out who's playing quarterback, but how good will we be around those guys to be successful?
At first glance, Fuente downplaying the quarterback competion goes against the grain. Yes, Tech returns only a single proven all-around wideout (Cam Phillips), and the running backs disappointed last season more than they dazzled. It's fair enough for Fuente (and Tech fans) to have plenty of angst over the lack of returning skill players/production, but how many teams rode their slot receiver to a championship? Thinking more on the matter, it might reinforce the notion the QB in Fuente's scheme is really only one proportional piece of the offensive puzzle. Tech's QBs are more often than not tasked with a single-read in the dropback pass game, and predictable outcomes are more coveted by Fuente than improvised touchdowns. Gaudy statistics aside, Tech's quarterback may be nothing more than a glorified facilitator. From that perspective his statements make more sense.
Shibest provided a rundown on tight ends Colt Pettit, Chris Cunningham, and Dalton Keene. Tech, like at the end of last season, is set to depend on Pettit, a former guard, as a blocking TE on the line of scrimmage in its heavy personnel/packages. As Shibest put it, "We need [Pettit] to get in there and smash some guys."
Cunningham's touchdown catch efficiency was stellar in 2016 (6 total receptions, 4 touchdowns), and the redshirt sophomore's overall development is progressing, but perhaps not at an optimal pace.
He's understanding the offense better," Shibest said. "He's getting a little more instinctive. He just has to keep growing, keep getting tougher, and keep fighting. You see glimpses of a guy that can do everything that we're asking for. He's just got to continue to grow and gain some confidence that he's going to go out there and win each rep. He's working in that direction, and we've been happy with him. It's hard to be patient at times with these guys, but he's still young."
Keene is an early enrollee who is primed for playing time. French analyzed the 6-4, 225 pound Colorado product's film and what he brings to the table at H-Back. Shibest gushed over Keene's potential, but kept expectations in check relative to (in)experience.
"He [Keene] looks a little raw," Shibest said. "He's almost like a newborn giraffe out there the way he moves at times, but god he's strong and athletic. We're going to need him. We're going to need the new guys that we did sign this year. It's awesome he's here early. Smart, and he's figuring out things every day. He's going to have to play next year just looking at it right now, so we're glad he's got this early start right now."
Fuente expects Terrell Edmunds to be the "quarterback of the secondary". With the redshirt junior's move from rover to free safety, Edmunds inherited the responsibility to make Tech's defensive backfield calls and get DBU into the proper defense/coverage. Bud Foster believes Edmunds has the right skillset, and rover Reggie Floyd knows who to turn to for guidance. The latter is evidence of Edmunds filling the leadership void created by Chuck Clark's graduation.
Question: "Who do you go to if you have questions, is it just coaches?"
Floyd: "No, I go to 'Rell. 'Rell, he's pretty experienced with everything. When he came in as a freshman he played corner, and then moved over to strong safety, now he's at free. So he's been everywhere in the secondary."
A teaser for Sam's tight piece on Bradburn and Slye.
(And Bradburn's nickname pretty much has to be "The Eraser" now, right?)
The Key Players Club is 45.3% of the way to its 1,000 member goal. Articles published exclusively for TKPC this offseason have resulted in a substantial increase in membership. It's been a tough balance to strike, but thus far has brought great awareness to the effort.