Virginia Tech Practice Report: Amare Barno To Defensive End

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has finished four practices. (Dave Knachel, Virginia Tech athletics)

The college football landscape drastically changed this past week when the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled their football seasons for the fall. However, Virginia Tech and the ACC are still slated to play, with the season opener against NC State less than one month away.

As a result, the Hokies are rolling through fall camp, having completed their fourth practice on Friday.

“They’ve been productive and good given the circumstances,” head coach Justin Fuente said during a Zoom call with reporters after the practice. 

In the midst of the uncertainty there have been no additional opt outs from the roster following the decision by Caleb Farley at the end of July. On the same front, one crucial playmaker for Virginia Tech may not be suiting up in the fall for different reasons.

Fuente received news on Thursday that Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear’s NCAA waiver request was denied.

“We were shocked and saddened by that,” Fuente said. “Raheem was shocked. I feel like our administration feels like we have a very strong case. We’re going to absolutely appeal that and see if we can make any headway there.”

In a day and age where waiver requests are granted at the drop of hat, the Hokies have had their fair share of issues with the entire process. Last year, Brock Hoffman made national headlines when the NCAA denied his waiver request, even given the reasoning of moving closer to his sick mother. Similarly, Braxton Burmeister’s waiver was denied last year, a rare sight to see for a transferring quarterback.

Virginia Tech is in the process of appealing the NCAA’s decision.

“That comes through the administration and compliance,” Fuente said. “They feel good about our stance. They were surprised. I’m cautiously optimistic they can turn it around in relatively short order.”

The potential loss of Blackshear forces the Hokies to lose out on another explosive player at their disposal. The 5-foot-9, 192-pound running back and wide receiver appears to be a player who would be tailor made to operate in space in Fuente and Brad Cornelsen’s offense.

“I’ve only seen him practice four times, but he’s a pretty remarkable talent,” Fuente said. “There’s probably four to five positions on either side of the ball that he could play. He is talented and highly intelligent and really skilled.”

Amare Barno, Virginia Tech
Amare Barno will improve Virginia Tech’s athleticism at defensive end. (Jon Fleming)

Position Change for Barno

Fuente also announced in his opening statement that redshirt junior Amare Barno has switched positions from the backer linebacker spot to defensive end.

“He’s been there for two practices now,” Fuente said. “Seems to be taking to it very well. Obviously has a lot to learn, but I think he has a chance to have success there. He was a willing participant in that.”

Virginia Tech is hoping it can replicate the success of Farley and Divine Deablo, who also underwent position changes and became key cogs in the defense. Barno’s 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame makes him an ideal candidate for Bill Teerlinck and Daryl Tapp’s defensive line unit, especially with the precedent they’ve put on getting bigger and longer at those spots.

Defensive end TyJuan Garbutt has not been at camp due to a personal family matter, which could’ve played a role in moving Barno now.

“We have this great kid who works his tail off and everybody loves and we want to see him get a chance to have success,” Fuente said. “We feel like a position move is going to give him the best chance. For Amare, I thought it was fantastic the way he went about it. He listened. He called home and he came to visit with me about it. He trusted us and trusted the process. He’s gone about it with a great attitude. I said it last night in the team meeting, I think he’s gotten better every period of practice, not just every practice. We’ll see where that leads.”

Wide Receiver Room Beefed Up

Following the departure of Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson, and Jacoby Pinckney from last year’s roster, the wide receiver position was lacking depth heading into the 2020 campaign. Fuente and Co. did their part to add to the unit this past week with the addition of Changa Hodge, a transfer from Villanova.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound wideout tallied 65 catches for 1,118 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior with the Wildcats. The 13 touchdowns were the sixth most in the FCS.

“We needed to shore that room up,” Fuente said. “Changa hasn’t been on the field for us. You can imagine the protocols he has to go through in order to make it to working in large groups. Not just getting to school and the paperwork in that, but COVID and those protocols, so he’s not on the field. I feel good about it.”

Another player on the outside who could see a huge increase in playing time is redshirt freshman Jaden Payoute

“I start to see Jaden Payoute out there and I get really excited about the progress he’s made, and he’s still learning,” Fuente said. “He’s working incredibly hard and he’s got talent. He’s grown by leaps and bounds without even the benefit of a spring practice. I get to feeling pretty good about that group when they’re good and healthy and what they can do there.”

Payoute, the second-highest rated recruit from the 2019 class, comes from L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield where he played quarterback. As a result, it’s taken him a little longer to learn the intricacies of the position, but day-by-day the pieces of his game are starting to come together.

“There’s an element of playing wide receiver that he hasn’t really done,” Fuente said. “He played quarterback in high school. He doesn’t have it all figured out, but he’s made huge strides in that direction. The nuances or the ability to play fast. That’s what gets some young players, they can run fast and they can draw what they’re supposed to on the board, but playing fast and doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that’s coming around for Jaden, which is pretty exciting.

“His testing numbers in terms of lifting have skyrocketed. He’s going to be a really, really strong wide receiver with great explosiveness.”

Offensive Line Continues to Impress

It seems to be a recurring theme every year that this is the year that Virginia Tech’s offensive line comes into its own and really makes a distinct mark game after game. That theme will continue into the 2020 season as well, and there’s evidence to show it might be true this time. 

When asked to name a position group that has impressed him the most through four practices, Fuente was quick to name the offensive line.

“I still feel good about our offensive line,” Fuente said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t feel good about the tight ends or the defensive line when we get those guys all sorted out. Just feel like we have some really quality depth up front. That group is pretty talented.”

The Hokies return nine offensive linemen who started at one point during the 2019 campaign, and that doesn’t even include Hoffman, who seems like a sure bet to start at one of the interior offensive line spots. The maturity from such a young but experienced group should pay dividends throughout the year.

Doug Nester no longer looks like a freshman,” Fuente said. “He looks like an adult. Luke Tenuta no longer looks like a baseball player. He looks like a starting right tackle in the ACC. Getting Hoffman out there certainly adds something. [Bryan] Hudson was a little developed already as a freshman. He’s a big, strong kid. I haven’t even gotten to the older players in [Christian] Darrisaw and Lecitus [Smith]. Those young guys don’t look like young guys anymore.”


21 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Some of you folks who are close to the program need to set up a “go fund me” account on behalf of the players family to hire a lawyer to suit the NCAA on the transfer denial. Somebody needs to start a movement and push it along until the big doners are willing to step up. The threat of a lawsuit that will embarrass the NCAA is the only way to get this kid approved. I read a story about the QB who transferred from USC to GA, he lawyered up and let the NCAA know he was ready to fight a “no” and they approved him. Personally, I don’t have any confidence that Tech’s compliance department or administration can get the decision overturned by appealing. I will bet that the Player’s family will accept help if offered.

  2. I hope Barno works out at DE, He’s got the measurables. I just have seen too many times when staff decides to move somebody, they talk them up in the press quite a bit almost to build their confidence. Remember Bruce Smith kid who they moved from OL to DL and said he was looking fantastic. He was off the team the next year I believe.

    1. They moved him from defense to offense I believe. He was not highly recruited.
      Obviously they were hoping genetics would play a roll 😂

  3. Like many other commenting, I don’t understand why it seems we have issues with undergrad transfers getting approved. Is it out compliance dept., is it the NCAA bias, is it shady dealings? We don’t know and it is the lack of transparency in the process it seems and that causes mistrust. Even when we get explanations for those in the past as many feel the data points to a different answer than the NCAA gave as agree … so it appears. To those that think some shake up in the VT compliance team is inappropriate, well that is how my world works: you produce or you are replaced the circumstances be damned. Life is tough, wish it wasn’t so

  4. this is the time of year, in a normal year, that my PATT and NATT tendencies engage in tug-of-war.

    Last year, I was *sure* that we were going to woodshed BC. Ha.
    Weird off season. Not good at pre-season prep in the best of circumstances.
    I’m not going to have any expectations at all vs NCSt. None. I just can’t Charlie Brown Lucy’s football every year.

    OL? Yeah. Let’s wait and see.

    As for the NCAA… ugh. Neidermeyer must run the NCAA. I’ve seen the rumblings that this is, once again, on our staff. Maybe it’s time for some tuff love w/ the compliance folks. This is killing us.

  5. One of two things needs happen if Blackshear’s appeal is denied. Either our incompetent compliance people get fired or VT sues the NCAA for bias against us. Tua’s brother gets cleared at Maryland, Pitt gets their transfers clear, so does UGA. It is time this gets rectified and if it takes a lawsuit so be it

    1. I agree 100%. Someone at VT has to be dropping the ball. Time to make some tough moves and find someone else.

      1. If the compliance dept is incompetent, how come other transfers are here and approved? We have two transfers from Kansas, a Villanova transfer, a defensive end. We had Michael brewer once. We have had transfers who were granted eligibility. But we have two incidents of ncaa rejections and we blame the compliance. When people spread that mantra, give real evidence

        1. Sure, but Evan Fairs, Khalil Herbert, Changa Hodge, and Justus Reed have ALL been grad transfers. Brewer was as well. Grad transfers are a lot more cut and dry in terms of eligibility – if you’re a grad transfer, you’re immediately eligible.

          Where we’ve been coming up short has been in getting immediate eligibility waivers signed for undergrad transfers. Every recent one has been denied as far as I can tell – Hoffman, Burmeister, Blackshear, hell even Aluma if you want to expand to bball, and I think all of them had a recent coaching change as their initial reason (Hoffman also had his personal family reasons), which have been granted all over the place *except* at VT.

    2. Do you actually think we have an incompetent compliance department? I don’t think so. These guys know what they are doing. When things go wrong, the first thing that most people blame are the people running the show-why not find out the reasons and then go from there. It’s like in the real world today-you are guilty and you have to prove your innocence. Just give it a break people. If you think you can do a better job, contact Whit and let him know you are interested in replacing these incompetent bozos so that we can get them cleared to play immediately. He may take you up on the offer-who knows!

  6. I cannot understand why it appears Tech is getting the shaft with the NCAA. Are other P5 schools running into the same problem as often as Tech (I don’t hear that in the news)? Could it be the wording on our waiver requests is not what the NCAA wants to see? Or, does the NCAA just have it in for us and if so why? I don’t know the answer, but we really need to find out…….Why Tech!!??

    1. Lots of Carolina people on the NCAA committees ? Just reaching here because nothing else seems to come to mind unless there’s a payoff slot somewhere that everyone but us knows about (sorry for the cynicism but this is really getting ridiculous).

    2. If the compliance dept is incompetent, how come other transfers are here and approved? We have two transfers from Kansas, a Villanova transfer, a defensive end. We had Michael brewer once. We have had transfers who were granted eligibility. But we have two incidents of ncaa rejections and we blame the compliance. When people spread that mantra, give real evidence

  7. I would really, really like to see us focus on the running game first. Not getting the waiver on Blackshear is another smack in the face. He and Herbert were going to give us a heck of a 1-2 punch.

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