Virginia Tech held an open practice for students and media on Tuesday night, giving a small glimpse of the state of the team before the Hokies’ Spring Game on Saturday afternoon. Here are some takeaways from the open practice.
Farley getting work on both sides of the ball
Caleb Farley worked exclusively with the offense on Tuesday, giving Virginia Tech depth at wide receiver. Farley, who started spring practices at cornerback, got plenty of reps as the Hokies battle injuries at the position. Eric Kumah and Henri Murphy were both no-contact on Tuesday, and the Hokies are already missing CJ Carroll, who has been out the entire spring.
With so many bodies limited at receiver, it really comes as no surprise that the true-freshman Farley has been getting work there.
“Caleb has played a little bit of offense here lately, as well as defense,” said Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster. “He is a dynamic athlete with dynamic potential. I’m really excited with how far he’s gone and come, as far as a football player at the corner spot. Is there yet? No, but do I like his length, do I like his explosiveness, do I like his ability to learn and improve and grow and develop? Yes.”
Farley looked good in his reps on Tuesday night, making several catches in scrimmage situations. He even caught a touchdown pass on a double move, shaking the defender. Farley’s athleticism and speed was one of the biggest reasons the Virginia Tech staff fell in love with him, and he looks like he could line up at receiver come the fall.
Mixed bag for quarterbacks
The quarterbacks were not live on Tuesday, as they were the previous week. Head Coach Justin Fuente said before practice on Tuesday that those live periods were the best evaluation time so far this spring.
“It’s just a hard balancing act,” Fuente said. “We’re trying to practice the best we can and simulate it the best we can, and when a guy breaks out, would he have been tackled, would he not have been tackled, that’s a fine line there, trying to get it all figured out.”
Fuente reiterated that the quarterbacks will not be live for Saturday’s Spring Game, and that the glorified scrimmage will not hold any more weight over other sessions.
“I don’t think we grade them any differently,” Fuente said. “We’ll stay off of them, in terms of contact in the scrimmage. We’ve had two episodes of live quarterback play so far in the spring — I think that’s the best indication that you can get.”
As far as Tuesday’s session, it was a step back for the group as a whole. AJ Bush looked rattled at times, throwing into double coverage on multiple occasions, resulting in a couple of picks. Josh Jackson looked steady, but threw an interception on a comeback route. Hooker missed on a couple throws, but showed good instincts in the pocket.
Deablo, Floyd impressing defensive coaches
Divine Deablo might’ve been no-contact on Tuesday, but the coaches raved about his performance so far this spring.
“Divine has been everything we had hoped for,” Foster said. “He’s been very consistent, very steady and has improved every day, has 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 a defensive player.”
Deablo is working at free safety this spring, after playing wide receiver last season. Despite the apparent depth issues at receiver, the coaches are happy they made the move.
“The thing about Divine is that he’s a highly intelligent, tough, competitive kid, who’s also been blessed with some special athletic tools,” Fuente said. “I felt good, even though he hadn’t done it since high school. I shouldn’t say good, I felt optimistic that it had a chance to work, because he’s the type of kid to pick things up.”
Reggie Floyd has been the starting rover this spring, and has continued to take advantage of the extra reps.
“He’s dropped a little bit of weight, I like his abilities,” Foster said. “I’ve always felt good about him attacking the line of scrimmage, the question mark was what he could do away from the line of scrimmage. I think he’s answered those things for us this spring.”
This spring should give Floyd a leg up on Devon Hunter, a highly-touted freshman who will enroll at Virginia Tech this summer. Hunter figures to compete with Floyd for the starting job, something that Foster looks forward to.
“Competition is healthy,” Foster said. “For us to be the type of team we want to be, we have to have quality depth, and we have to have competition at each spot… I do know this, for us to be successful, we’re going to need Reggie Floyd, we’re going to need Devon Hunter and whoever else, Khalil Ladler, who’s in there battling.”
Virginia Tech improving at defensive end
Defensive end is another spot where the Hokies are desperate for depth. Converted linebackers Emmanuel Belmar and Raymon Minor took most of the first-team reps on Tuesday, with Xavier Burke and Jimmie Taylor also seeing work there. Virginia Tech is missing incumbent starters Vinny Mihota and Trevon Hill, both of whom have missed a majority of this spring.
“I’ve seen a big improvement,” Foster said. “I see a couple guys that can really help us. We’re going to have to have a big summer though, and not just at that position, but that position in particular, whether it’s with those guys that we just mentioned continuing to grow and develop… we’d like to finish with the Spring Game and turn around and have 15 more practices, but we’re not allowed to do that.”
The defensive backs seemed to have their way with many of the Virginia Tech receivers. Adonis Alexander, Terrell Edmunds and Brandon Facyson all made plays in the secondary, as did Deon Newsome. Part of that may be attributed to the plethora of walk-ons getting reps at wide receiver, but it’s worth noting. Overall, the defense looked way ahead of the offense.
Kalil Pimpleton will likely see the field a lot this season. There is too little depth at receiver, and Pimpleton’s quickness is too good to keep on the sidelines. Pimpleton made several receptions in passing drills against defenders on Tuesday, and should continue to get better as he gets more reps.