BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech held its first fall practice of 2019 at its indoor practice facility on Friday afternoon.
A portion of the working — stretching and the first six periods — were open to the media.
Here are some observations from the viewing window:
Teaching moment — It's no surprise that Virginia Tech's coaches were in teaching mode. Nowhere was that more evident than at quarterback, with offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen spending much of his time during position group work with his two summer enrollees Braxton Burmeister and Knox Kadum. When the quarterbacks split up in pairs, Cornelsen spent an entire period with them, mostly focusing on their footwork.
Center of attention — Virginia Tech did drills with linemen in groups of three (center, guard and tackle). Brock Hoffman, Zachariah Hoyt and Louis Mihota were the three who rotated snapping the ball. A Virginia Tech spokesperson confirmed that Tech still hasn't heard about Hoffman's NCAA waiver request (the same goes for Burmeister). Hoyt was the team's first-team center through much of spring camp and in the spring game.
Drill it down — Tech spent one practice period focusing on ball security, with all the skill position players and quarterbacks. Players stayed focused between reps as staffers roamed the field trying to knock the ball away from unsuspecting linestanders. There was one fumble and the team had to do a series of up-downs.
Position change — Third-year sophomore Jaylen Griffin has moved from linebacker to defensive tackle, where Tech is hurting for depth. Two tackles (Ricky Walker, Vinny Mihota) graduated and two more (Xavier Burke, Jimmy Williams) left during the offseason. The 6-foot-1, 260-pounder played in eight games last season, mostly on special teams after redshirting as a true freshman.
Sloppy — Virginia Tech special teams coordinator James Shibest wasn't pleased with the opening minutes of practice during punt-return drills. Return candidates weren't coming to the ball and Caleb Smith let punt slip through his hands. Shibest screamed at one point: "it's not poison guys!" Tech is looking at more than a dozen candidates on returns including (in no particular order) Nadir Thompson, Phil Patterson, Tayvion Robinson, Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley, Armani Chatman, Caleb Farley, Deshawn McClease, Cole Beck, DeJuan Ellis and Jaden Payoute.
Welcome back — Defensive back Jeremy Webb practiced for the first time as a Hokie. He has torn both of his Achilles since arriving in Blacksburg and spent the last year rehabbing the injuries. He was running at full speed with defensive backs coach Brian Mitchell not putting any limitations on him during the open viewing period. Tech is looking to replace Bryce Watts — a surprise transfer after spring camp — and a healthy Webb will get a chance. Others working at the position were returning starter Farley, Ny'Quee Hawkins, Jermaine Waller, Chatman, Nadir Thompson, Jovonn Quillen and Hunter Green.