Before diving into today’s notebook, be sure to get caught up on the latest Virginia Tech football news. The Hokies are still searching for reliable options at cornerback and explosive plays from their running backs, but redshirt junior D’Andre Plantin seems to have earned a starting role on the offensive line, for now at least.
Also, be sure to listen to last week’s podcast, which covered a variety of topics and issues facing Virginia Tech.
Finally, Virginia Tech is holding an open practice for students and media on Tuesday, April 10. The practice will be held inside Lane Stadium at 6:45 p.m. Students will be allowed to meet and greet with players and coaches on the field after practice. This will be the Hokies’ final “open practice” before Virginia Tech’s Spring Game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Now, the notebook.
Holston healing up as Spring Game approaches
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente plays it close to the vest when it comes to injuries. The Hokies did publicly declare several players either out or limited for spring practice, but haven’t provided many updates since. However, Tech informed the media last week that running back Jalen Holston is now taking on a heavier workload.
“He hasn’t done much this offseason, so he’s got quite a bit of rust right now,” Fuente said last Tuesday. “At one point in the season I thought he made large strides. I think now, he’s focusing on getting back and getting back in practice shape and kind of knocking the rust off right now.”
Holston contributed off the bench last season, in what was a transition year for the former Wing-T fullback. Holston carried the ball 70 times over 12 games, rushing for 226 yards and three touchdowns. However, with Travon McMillian off to Colorado, Holston figures to be the third back in the Hokies’ rotation behind Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples.
Vice pleased with progress at offensive line
Despite losing two starters from last season, offensive line coach Vance Vice feels confident about the guys in his meeting room this spring.
“We’re a young room right now,” Vice said. “Being able to — to have (Kyle) Chung back and honestly, be able to play all five [positions]. He can, (Braxton) Pfaff can, Tyrell (Smith) can, and that just gives you quite a bit of depth to mix and match. It gives me an opportunity with some of these young guys to leave them at one spot. ‘Just learn this right now, and then we’ll expand on that as we go and mature.’
“But I’ll tell you what, I like this group. I was telling Justin the other day, I’m blessed right now with having this large number of guys that actually like practice. It’s a fun group to be around. They’re competitive, they come and strain every day and they’re working at it to get better every day.”
As of now, Virginia Tech is working sixth-year senior Kyle Chung at center, Braxton Pfaff and D’Andre Plantin at guard and Yosuah Nijman, Tyrell Smith, T.J. Jackson and Christian Darrisaw at tackle. Nijman is almost guaranteed to start at left tackle, while the right tackle position remains up for grabs.
For Tyrell Smith, this is the second-straight season that he has a chance to earn a starting role. Smith finished last year’s spring practices as the leader at the right tackle position, only to lose the battle to Kyle Chung in the fall. Vice noted last week that while Smith was dealing with a high-ankle sprain, Chung also earned the role.
“Chung took it,” Vice said. “I think you all — we’ve talked about Chung’s turnaround. It’s been a complete 180, in a good way. He is one of the leaders in that room right now.”
This spring could be Smith’s final opportunity to earn a starting role at Virginia Tech. Smith is entering his fourth year in the program and his competitors at right tackle, Dzansi, Jackson and Darrisaw, are all younger.
“Tyrell’s had a tremendous offseason also,” Vice said. “Right now, probably this last week, he was one of the highest grades there this last week. Obviously, we’ve got another week in front of us so we’ll see how that goes. But I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen so far this spring, getting more to where he was last spring and the summer.”