If there was anything that stood out in the brief 20 minutes the media was allowed to view practice on Tuesday night, it was the tempo. The Tech offense was sprinting to the line of scrimmage and getting plays off very quickly, which is what most people expected, considering Justin Fuente’s past.
While the tempo might be fast, Fuente’s offensive staff is installing the playbook slowly. With a group of players who are getting used to new terminology, they really don’t have any other choice.
“We’re not moving really fast (in terms of installing the playbook),” Fuente told the media. “We’re trying to make sure we’ve got all our I’s dotted and our T’s crossed. We’re trying to teach base concepts, even if they don’t fit against what the offense is seeing every day (from the Tech defense).”
That strategy makes sense. Quarterback Jerod Evans is in his first semester at Virginia Tech. Dwayne Lawson is still a very young player. True freshmen receivers Divine Deablo, Samuel Denmark and Eric Kumah are experiencing college football for the first time. Even the experienced players are learning new plays and new terminology. It’s not a process that will happen overnight.
Still, the pace of the practice was telling. A Tech practice is made up of about 24 five-minute periods. In the past, practices consisted of roughly half that number of periods, and they generally lasted 8-10 minutes, or even longer. Fuente and his staff are clearly trying to emphasize tempo, pace and intensity.
Offensive Line Returns Plenty of Experience, but Vance Vice Will Experiment
Virginia Tech’s offensive line returns four starters from last season, as well as Yosuah Nijman, who played a ton of snaps. Those four returning starters were running with the #1 offense on Thursday. Here’s how the lineup looked from left to right…
LT: Jonathan McLaughlin (6-5, 292, Sr.)
LG: Wyatt Teller (6-5, 304, r-Jr.)
C: Eric Gallo (6-2, 297, Jr.)
RG: Augie Conte (6-6, 303, r-Sr.)
RT: Parker Osterloh (6-8, 336, r-Jr.)
Nijman (6-8, 298, So.) worked with the #2 offense at left tackle.
Don’t expect that lineup to be the same on a day-to-day basis this spring.
“Every position is open,” Augie Conte said. “You can go to practice today and see the starting lineup, and it could be completely different the next time you go out there.”
At this point, there’s no hurry to establish the depth chart. Offensive line coach Vance Vice is still learning about his personnel and how they fit together. He’ll have a better idea of what he has by the end of the spring, and that’s likely when we’ll have a much better idea of the depth chart.
“By the end of the spring, I’d like to have our depth chart established,” Conte said. “I’d like for the offense to start gelling and working as a unit.”
There were several other things to note, besides the tempo.
- Bud Foster really went after his defense for not sprinting to the finish line after interception drills early in practice.
- Likewise, new cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell really went after one particular defensive back who was not sprinting through the end of a different drill. He made him repeat the drill over and over, and at the end he still wasn’t satisfied. “I’m going to win,” Mitchell told him, implying that he’s going to get what he wants from his players whether they like it or not.
- Head trainer Mike Goforth was not available to the media on Thursday, so there is no injury report right now. Isaiah Ford was in a blue (limited) jersey, but he still went through drills with no issue. Players in green (out) included Brandon Facyson, Raymon Minor and Seth Dooley.