Lane Stadium played host to the annual Hokie football preseason media day this past weekend, and after getting the chance to talk with a variety of different players and coaches, there were a few interesting things to take away about the upcoming season.
Once more, I’ve picked out a few choice quotes from some of the Hokies, and I’ll do my best to provide perspective.
Running backs coach Shane Beamer:
“He doesn’t look like a freshman from a physical standpoint when the play is going on. He’s not afraid to put his nose in there. With a lot of these freshman, they get out there, and they maybe don’t play as fast as they are because their mind is tying up their feet, and Trey I think has got a little bit of that right now, but when he gets the ball in his hands and the play is going on, he’s full speed and isn’t shying away from anybody.”
Trey Edmunds is just a freshman running back out of Danville, but he’s been a frequent topic of conversations among players and coaches both. It’s been rumored that he could spend some time at linebacker due to the injuries at the position, but Frank insisted they would keep him at tailback, and Shane confirmed that the coaches were impressed with what he was showing in practice. I had never really thought of him as an imminent contributor to the offense, but I’m definitely starting to reconsider. It’s entirely possible that they could choose to redshirt Edmunds, with the decision likely coming late next week, but if they don’t, he could see time right away. He’s a good size, at 6’ 1”, 212 pounds, and since, by all accounts, this will be a running back by committee, he could play a role right away. I’m very interested to see how he’s handled going forward.
Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray:
“I really like the way the safeties have taken charge. You don’t hear Exum and Fuller as much because those guys are really starting to take charge, which is a great thing for us.”
The secondary is the one weak link of what should be a stellar defense, so it was encouraging to hear Gray praising the safeties. Kyshoen Jarrett is slated to play rover, while Detrick Bonner is at free safety, which is the opposite of the positions they started spring practice at, and their inexperience is really the defense’s main point of concern. Bonner played at corner last season, and given the fact that the safeties will likely spend more time defending the pass than the run this season, it’s promising that he’s developing well with the new position. Jarrett in particular will have to be the vocal leader in the defensive backfield, and Gray stressed that his communication was improving. However, it is inevitable that Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller will be leaders in the secondary given their experience, so it’s good to know they’re back there as well. Exum is a converted safety himself, and apparently he’s handling the change to corner well, although Gray did note that, “he almost becomes too comfortable at times, he takes a lot of chances, but he wants to make every play,” which is no change from his days at safety. Here’s hoping that as boundary corner, he’ll be largely tasked with man coverage, and let Fuller deal with the greater zone responsibilities of the field corner, giving him the opportunity to use his impressive frame to make plays and stop the run, with the support of some developing safeties.
Tight end Randall Dunn:
“We’ve really been involved a lot. We’ve seen it in the passing game, seen it in the running game. We always had a big responsibility in the running game, but even more so now in the passing game.”
Dunn and Eric Martin are listed as co-starters at the moment, with Martin serving as the big, blocking tight end and Dunn as the hybrid, more receiving-oriented tight end, and by all accounts, Dunn could be the key to this offense really taking off this season. All of the buzz around the offense at media day involved the spread elements Mike O’Cain and Bryan Stinespring have been installing, and Dunn could be a key part of it. It’s a commonly known fact around camp that Dunn isn’t much of a blocker, but the ability to put him on the field and give the defense real pause about whether Logan Thomas will run an option read or send him out into the slot for a five-wide set should be invaluable. O’Cain has frequently hyped Dunn’s potential, and there was no change this weekend, and the fact that both Dunn and Martin told me that they were working more in the passing game gives more credence to the theory that the spread will be a prominent part of the offense this year.
The team will hold its first open scrimmage this Sunday, in addition to redshirt decision announcements, so look for more updates then.