Virginia Tech had its first practice in full pads Monday evening, but since it was closed to the media, the biggest news of the day comes in the form of a former big-time recruit switching positions.
Redshirt freshman Nick Acree, a four-star recruit out of King William, Va. in 2009, has decided to switch from defensive tackle to left tackle after struggling to move up the defense’s depth chart. Before moving to offense for Sunday’s practice, Acree was listed on the depth chart as a fourth-team defensive tackle.
“I felt like I would be a much better player on the offensive side of the ball. It felt like a good move,” said Acree, a 6-foot-5, 278-pound specimen who bench pressed a team-best 450 pounds as a true freshman a year ago. “I looked at my attributes and what I have to offer the team as far as long arms and big chest, strong, and pretty quick feet for an offensive lineman.”
Acree said both offensive line coach Curt Newsome and defensive line coach Charley Wiles were immediately receptive to the move. Acree played left tackle in high school, but was rated more highly by recruiting services on the defensive side of the ball.
According to Rivals.com, Acree was the No. 9 player in Virginia in 2009, as well as a top 25 defensive tackle nationally. He transferred to Fork Union Military Academy in search of better competition during his senior year of high school, but suffered a torn ACL and missed the entire season.
The problem for Acree was turning sheer strength into on-field skill. Wiles recently described him as a “robot” who lacked a certain smoothness and still had a lot of room for improvement in terms of technique.
The hope is this latest move will give Acree a better chance of actually getting on the field at some point in his career. The Hokies will lose four of their five starting offensive linemen after this season.
“He was struggling with some of the aspects of playing defense and I think he just wasn’t playing in a position that he was comfortable with,” said offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who also coaches the team’s offensive tackles. “We just figured we’d give him a shot and see what he looks like over there.” . . .
In other news, Stinespring singled out tight end Eric Martin and reserve offensive linemen Caleb Farris and Matt Arkema as pleasant surprises now that the Hokies are five days into training camp. Stinespring seemed particularly impressed with Farris, a true freshman playing center, and Arkema, a redshirt freshman playing right guard.
“For young guys, they’ve really enabled us to survive and be competitive out here because we’ve had to go against the first team defense a bunch and they haven’t been overwhelmed by it so far,” Stinespring said. . . .
Freshman running back Michael Holmes, meanwhile, received approval from the NCAA clearinghouse Monday and participated in his first practice. That means the Hokies have 29 true freshmen participating in training camp, including walk-ons. . . .
File this one in the ever-growing “Shane Beamer is a breath of fresh air” folder: At the conclusion of Monday’s practice, the new Hokies running backs coach and son of Coach Frank Beamer ran every single wind sprint with the team’s linebackers. For some reason, I just can’t envision Dad ever doing that.