It’s been a fairly mundane training camp thus far for Virginia Tech, with backup roles and minor injuries dominating the headlines. But on Monday, the first position battle in the starting lineup — other than who will punt the ball — finally emerged.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster confirmed that redshirt sophomore Telvion Clark has been elevated to first-team backer ahead of classmate Tariq Edwards following the first full scrimmage of the preseason last Saturday. Clark switched from middle linebacker to backer before the spring, and went on to lead the team in tackles during spring practice scrimmages.
But Foster said his growth since then, combined with a nagging hamstring injury that has limited Edwards’s practice time thus far in training camp, have allowed Clark to demonstrate he could be a significant part of the defense this fall.
“With Tariq being nicked up … Telvion has been able to get a ton of reps and has really taken advantage of it,” said Foster, who is also the position coach for the defense’s inside linebackers. “He was making plays in the spring, but it was from running around blocks and things of that nature. Now he’s playing his position and still making plays. … I just like where he’s headed right now.”
Physical tools have never been the issue for Clark, a chiseled 6-foot-1, 228-pound Norfolk, Va., native who has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. But he came to Virginia Tech “very raw,” according to Foster, and had to work hard at his craft.
Last season Clark was routinely one of the last Virginia Tech players to leave the practice field, oftentimes doing additional footwork drills while working on his hand-eye coordination. He had six tackles, including two for loss, in Saturday’s scrimmage, but did not register a tackle on defense during the 2010 season.
Standing on the sidelines was especially hard since his cousin, redshirt senior Jaymes Brooks, has been a mainstay as the Hokies starting right guard for much of the past two seasons.
“When you got family on the team, you’re expecting to play with them,” Clark said. “And then you see them in the game, contributing to the program, and you just want to be a part of it.
“The position change helped a lot,” he later added. “Even with me being uncomfortable with it throughout the spring, I tried my hardest. I played hard. I made plays. I came out and tried to contribute and now things are starting to click a little more.”
As for Edwards, he told me his left hamstring is “hurting daily, but I’m gonna push through it.” He tweaked it the week before training camp opened, and then it “popped” during his conditioning test at the start of the preseason.
Edwards, who had 21 tackles in a backup role last year, participated fully in Monday’s practice and Foster said he “noticed him out there.” It would seem, then, that this position battle has only just begun.
“I’m lucky right now because I’ve got two playmaking guys at that spot,” Foster said. “Competition is good. That’s a healthy thing.” . . .
In other news, defensive line coach Charley Wiles said freshman Corey Marshall has been moved from defensive end to defensive tackle now that redshirt senior Kwamaine Battle is out for the year after re-tearing his ACL in Saturday’s scrimmage. Marshall will get a chance to compete with redshirt junior Isaiah Hamlette for playing time.
Regarding the biggest surprise so far in camp, freshman defensive tackle Luther Maddy, Wiles also made a prediction for down the road.
“He’s a front-line guy, he’s a starter,” Wiles said. . . .
Secondary Coach Torrian Gray said Monday that he still doesn’t feel particularly comfortable with any of his backup safeties after the scrimmage. Washington area freshmen Ronny Vandyke (South County HS) and Boye Aromire (H.D. Woodson High) are currently competing for the No. 2 rover spot, and redshirt sophomore James Hopper is the No. 2 free safety. But, Gray said, none of those players are game-ready at this point.
“With the starters we’re pretty good when we’re focused in, we’re communicating and we’re playing together. The scary part gets after that,” Gray said. “Right now at the safety spot, after that first group we gotta find some guys.”