BLACKSBURG, Va. — As Virginia Tech’s football team rolled out of its locker room Monday for the first practice of the preseason, an orange barrier and a chain link fence greeted the Hokies before the practice field. A sign read “No thru traffic,” as if the cement trucks and hard hats that now serve as a background to Virginia Tech’s practice field weren’t enough warning.
The cramped quarters are the new normal for the Hokies, who will conduct training camp -- and most of their practices this season -- side-by-side with the construction crew that is currently in the early stages of building Virginia Tech’s new indoor practice facility.
For a program that will spend the next month breaking in a new quarterback, a new kicker and an almost entirely new front seven on defense, it seemed an appropriate backdrop. The Hokies are very much a work in progress, and with scrimmages closed to the public this season, Monday proved to be the longest look reporters will get of them until the season opener against William and Mary on Aug. 30.
“We got a lot accomplished, probably as much as any first day of practice we’ve ever had around here,” Coach Frank Beamer said.“It’s difficult, but it’s worth it to get this indoor facility built because once we get that done, I told our donors I’m not going to ask them for another dime. We’ve got everything we need here.”
It was a busy day of depth chart movement and injury updates in Blacksburg, so here’s a rundown, with some reaction, of what took place.
●The quarterback depth chart remained mostly unchanged from the end of spring practice. Senior Mark Leal and redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley are still the co-No. 1 options under center. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer was listed with the second team, but for the record, he took the first snap of Monday’s practice with the first team offensive line and receivers.
“I thought Michael Brewer handled himself well for his first practice at Virginia Tech. Had a couple throws I think he’d like to have back,” said Beamer, reiterating he and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler plan to narrow the competition quickly. “Motley, I thought, was very consistent out there.
●Senior Mark Shuman was listed atop the depth chart at right tackle above sophomore Jonathan McLaughlin while senior Laurence Gibson enters training camp as the first-team left tackle. McLaughlin started all 13 games at left tackle last year, and also took reps there during Monday’s practice. The other first-team offensive linemen were sophomore Augie Conte (RG), senior Caleb Farris (center) and redshirt freshman Wyatt Teller (left guard).
“Gibson’s an athletic guy who can protect the backside if it’s a right-handed quarterback,” Beamer said. “We need to compete for positions and playing time … It’s early.”
●Sophomore Eric Kristensen, who went 4-for-5 on field goals replacing senior Cody Journell in two games last season, started training camp as the team’s No. 1 kicker, but the competition remains wide open. Senior Michael Branthover, Richmond transfer Remington Hinshaw and freshmen Michael Santamaria, Joey Slye and Carson Wise should also figure into the battle over the course of training camp.
●Head trainer Mike Goforth announced defensive tackle Woody Baron is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery and Virginia Tech is considering him for a redshirt year. Baron appeared in 13 games as a true freshman last year and was expected to provide depth again this fall. It could open the door for freshman Ricky Walker to earn some immediate playing time.
●As expected, offensive lineman Brent Benedict has been granted a medical disqualification after suffering a blood clot in his leg near the end of spring practice. The redshirt will remain on scholarship to complete his degree, but his playing career is over.
●Freshman running back Marshawn Williams is questionable for Virginia Tech’s season opener against Williams & Mary after recently undergoing surgery for a hernia. He was limited to conditioning drills during Monday’s practice.
●Starting cornerback Brandon Facyson was in a blue (limited contact) jersey to open training camp after suffering a hip flexor injury. It is not related to the stress fracture that kept Facyson out during spring practice. That injury is fully healed. Wide receiver Demitri Knowles is also dealing with an ankle sprain suffered during offseason workouts and did not practice Monday. Both Knowles and Facyson are expected to be healthy in time for Virginia Tech’s season opener against William and Mary.
●Linebacker Devin Vandyke (South County) will miss 6-8 weeks after suffering a lower leg stress fracture during his recovery from knee surgery. Freshman wide receiver Kendrick Holland underwent shoulder surgery last month and will redshirt this fall.
●Virginia Tech announced running back Chris Mangus has elected to transfer to another school. Redshirt sophomore Trey Edmunds started training camp as the co-No. 1 tailback with junior J.C. Coleman after breaking his tibia in last season’s regular season finale at Virginia.