Young Virginia Tech Players Grow in the S&C Program
Virginia Tech put a lot of young players on the field for the first time last season, and many of them weren’t physically ready to play a lot of snaps in major college football games. Players usually make their biggest strides in the strength and conditioning program early in their career, however, and anybody who saw practice on Friday could see that from a physical standpoint this 2019 team is a step ahead of the 2018 team.
“Physically, I do think we’ve got some guys that after another year of nutrition, another year of lifting, that look better,” head coach Justin Fuente told the media on Saturday afternoon.
Some players gained weight, and some players, such as Dax Hollifield, intentionally got lighter to increase their mobility. Hollifield told the media on Thursday that he was 250 when he enrolled last summer (he played at about 245 during the season), and now he’s closer to 230. The weight drop should help him in coverage against running backs this year.
Besides the well-known players such as Hollifield, Fuente has also seen major strides from players who have yet to break into the playing rotation. He specifically talked about two players who redshirted last season.
“Guys that maybe we haven’t talked about very much…Alan Tisdale to me continues to develop and improve his body,” Fuente said. “Armani Chatman is another one on the defensive side of the ball that continues to develop and grow.”
Tisdale, a backer, enrolled at 214 last year, but he’s up to 220 as a redshirt freshman despite missing last season with a shoulder injury. Chatman, a redshirt freshman cornerback, is up to 195 from 183 and appears to be ready to mount a challenge for playing time.
“It’s fun to see those guys give themselves a chance through their hard work to have a chance to be players,” Fuente said.
The Freshmen Offensive Linemen
Each member of Virginia Tech’s four-man freshman offensive line class enrolled at over 300 pounds, and they are perhaps the most physically advanced offensive line recruiting class the Hokies have seen in quite some time.
Doug Nester was the prized recruit who flipped from Ohio State to Virginia Tech on Signing Day. He enrolled at 6-6, 315. Bryan Hudson, another 4-star prospect, is 6-4, 315. Lord Botetourt’s Jesse Hanson checked in at 6-5, 301, while Will Pritchard is 6-2, 301. They all look the part already, and they’ll continue to develop with the help of Vance Vice and Ben Hilgart.
On Friday, Nester worked out at right guard, with Hudson at right tackle. Will Pritchard was at center, with Jesse Hanson at left guard. However, we all know that Vice likes to experiment with his linemen at multiple positions to try and figure out their best fit and to improve versatility.
“I’d say it’s pretty fluid,” Fuente said. “We haven’t even put pads on. I don’t know where they’ll end up. Will’s probably a little more of a center body. That was kind of our vision with him when we went through recruiting. The other guys, we’ll just see, I don’t really know how it will all shake out. We’re just trying to get them pointed in the right direction right now. “
Hoffman’s Status Still Uncertain
A big piece of Virginia Tech’s offensive line could potentially be Coastal Carolina graduate transfer Brock Hoffman. Hoffman, who would be a junior this season, is waiting for word from the NCAA as to whether or not he’ll be eligible to play this season.
The Tech coaching staff has penciled in Hoffman has a probable starter at either center or guard. However, at some point they’ll need to start narrowing down the reps for those who are most likely to play a major role. They’d like some clarification from the NCAA so they’ll know exactly what to do with Hoffman when that time comes.
“Sooner rather than later would be good,” Fuente said when asked when he expected to hear back from the NCAA. “I haven’t projected forward my own thoughts as far as a drop dead date. We’re all anxious to hear some good news. We’ll continue to manage it, certainly get him a lot of reps, but also play both sides of the coin a little bit. It’s early enough that it’s not a huge issue.”
However, after a couple of weeks of practice this month, Vice will begin to give the vast majority of practice reps to those players in the two-deep. The Hokies will need to know by then whether or not Hoffman is eligible. Despite the delay, Fuente claims that he still feels good about the situation.
“I’m optimistic,” he said, before joking. “I’m not sure why I’m optimistic, but I’m optimistic.”