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RB Trey Edmunds is one of several freshmen who will see their first college action against Alabama.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
“Trey is a competitor. Trey is made of the right stuff. He’s excited. I don’t worry about him,” Tech RB coach Shane Beamer said of redshirt freshman RB Trey Edmunds (above).
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Although he’s dressed for games and stood on the sideline at Lane Stadium, redshirt freshman Virginia Tech running back Trey Edmunds still hasn’t truly experienced college action yet.
He’s sought advice. Former running back David Wilson, while in town this offseason, told him what to expect under the bright lights of the Georgia Dome, where the Hokies will play Saturday against No. 1 Alabama, Edmunds’ college debut.
It only helps so much, however.
“I think at the end of the day, you can’t really understand it until you really actually are put in it,” Edmunds said. “Until I actually play and get to that point, I really won’t get a grasp of how it is.”
This is true for a good chunk of Virginia Tech’s travel roster, which has a youthful makeup this season. Of the 71 players who will make the trip to Atlanta, 11 are true freshmen and 16 are redshirt freshmen.
Those 27 freshmen make up 38 percent of Tech’s travel roster this week, a chunk much larger than past years.
Of that group, 16 are listed on the depth chart on offense or defense. Last year, only 11 were for the season opener. In 2011, that number was seven.
What makes this year’s crop of freshmen more striking is how many of them are expected to start. Left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin will be the first true freshman offensive lineman to start in a season opener since Sergio Render in 2006.
McLaughlin said the largest crowd he’s played in front of before was about 8,000 in high school. The Georgia Dome, which is expected to have a very pro-Alabama crowd, seats 71,250. To help combat that, Tech pumped in crowd noise during Tuesday’s practice.
“I like to tell them just to play like you’d play anybody,” senior guard Andrew Miller said of the newcomers. “I don’t like to focus on who the team is, what the rankings are, all this stuff that’s going on in the media. It’s just get out there, do your job, play as a team.”
The backfield has a pair of freshmen starters. Edmunds is expected to be Tech’s featured back, particularly with J.C. Coleman nicked up. Sam Rogers, a walk-on who has been with the program only since this summer, snagged the starting fullback job.
“You worry about a first game to begin with,” running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “You worry about who they’re playing, the atmosphere that’s going to be down there in Atlanta. That’s a concern, certainly.
“But Trey is a competitor. Trey is made of the right stuff. He’s excited. I don’t worry about him.”
Both Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson could start at cornerback if Tech comes out in a nickel package. The last freshman defensive back to start an opener with the Hokies was Antonio Banks in 1993.
Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray has spoken plenty about how quickly both have picked things up this August, although he conceded you just never know until someone gets on the field.
“They’ll probably do a freshman thing here or there,” Gray said. “I believe it’s something you have to go through.
“You can tell them, ‘Hey, the speed of the game is going to be like this,’ but until they get in the Georgia Dome and kind of see it and [Alabama receiver Amari] Cooper runs on the go route for the first time or catches a quick screen, they’ll probably go, ‘Oh, OK. Now I get it.’ ”
Fuller, a five-star talent who has shot to the top of the depth chart this August, doesn’t sound as though he’ll come into the game timid, even at the prospects of going up against an All-SEC talent like Cooper.
“I don’t know of any big-time player that tries to shy away from good competition,” Fuller said. “I’m excited for it. I’m not going to shy down from him, whether I’m a freshman or a senior.”
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