News With Commentary by TSL Staff
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
One week into fall football practice, here's a look at how the Hokies, including their freshmen, are doing.
Tight end John Kinzer, as noted in last week's TSLMail, came in a lot shorter and lighter than listed in his recruiting profile. Listed in recruiting profiles at 6-5, 255, Kinzer measured in at 6-2, 230. While that may or may not bode well for a future at the tight end spot, it has spurred the Hokie coaches to move him to fullback, and for the time being, that's where his future is.
This is not a problem. While at first glance it hurts to lose a tight end, the Hokies have plenty of depth there, with Keith Willis, Jared Mazetta, and Jeff King, plus freshmen Duane Brown and walk-on freshman Matt Roan.
Fullback, on the other hand, is a different issue. Behind Doug Easlick and H-back/converted tight end Jeff King, there's a gaggle of walk-ons that may or may not be able to contribute. At 6-2, Kinzer is probably more suited height-wise to be a true fullback, and don't be surprised to see him stay there for his career.
At wide receiver, Josh Hyman has been very impressive, as has David Clowney. Both players have repeatedly earned positive reviews from the coaches for their physical skills (they run well, and they turned in the top two times in the 10-yard dash among the freshmen), and it's just a question of seeing if they can learn enough of the offense to contribute.
Defensively, Chris Ellis has shown some good stuff, and he demonstrated his burst with the third-fastest 10-yard dash time, an important measurement of pass-rushing ability for a defensive end.
At the linebacker spot, everyone wants to know about Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall, and the news there has been interesting. Coming in, Adibi weighed in at 209, and that makes you think "redshirt" immediately. Hall, who played at 230 in high school, seemed more suited to play this year.
After the first week of practice, however, Adibi is earning praise for his instinctive ability to get to the ball, and his aptitude for learning the position quickly, while Hall arrived at VT weighing a hefty 255. Suddenly, Hall looks like the redshirt candidate, not Adibi.
Not so fast. In drills, Hall is moving pretty well and showing the same ability to quickly read a play that he had in high school. If he drops 10-15 pounds throughout the course of preseason practice and whips himself into shape, he may not redshirt, after all.
Defensive end Michael Brown has been moved to Whip linebacker. He played both defensive end and linebacker in high school, and it was felt that he was slated for defensive end upon arrival at Tech. He reported a little light (205 pounds), and he plays well in space, so the coaches have put him at Whip.
Brown told TSL last April in a recruiting profile that he prefers linebacker. "Linebacker was a better position for me, because I like to hit. I'm in the middle, linemen coming at me, and fullbacks, and stuff like that. That's what I like. I like to go home with a headache every night."
But sources indicate to TSL that Brown's switch to Whip is most likely temporary, and his ultimate destination is still probably defensive end. That being said, funny things happen along the way, and nothing is set in stone.
Defensive tackle Carlton Powell has shown up and made a statement by bench pressing 390 pounds, tops among freshmen (and tied with walk-on DE Omar Hashish, who may be a steal). Right behind him were Kinzer and OL Matt Welsh, with 380 pounds.
In the defensive backfield, sources say that the coaches are thrilled with cornerbacks Michael Hinton and Roland Minor, as well as free safety Corey Gordon. Minor (6-0, 181) and Hinton (6-1, 192) are showing the potential and have the size to be great corners, while Gordon is a great size, already 6-2, 213. Hinton and Minor are almost sure redshirts, due to Tech's depth at cornerback, and Gordon is a likely redshirt, unless starter Jimmy Williams and/or backup Mike Daniels goes down with an injury. But, looking down the road, this past recruiting class was a good one for defensive backs.
Showing up this fall much improved are redshirt freshman wide receiver Michael Malone (6-3, 202), and cornerback Brian McPherson (5-10, 184, and starting to "get it," we're told).
Redshirt freshman placekicker Brandon Pace has moved ahead of redshirt senior Carter Warley by winning three of the last four placekicking competitions. Meanwhile, sophomore Nic Schmitt, who was pressed into service prematurely last year, is probably bound for a redshirt year.
As is the case with any team going into preseason practice, injuries abound.
Injured players going full speed: Whip LB Aaron Rouse broke a bone in his hand but has continued practicing full speed, with a cast. CB Eric Green sprained a shoulder but is also going full speed. Tailback Cedric Humes tweaked a hamstring but is expected to be back on the field soon (if not today).
Players participating in limited fashion: Wide receivers Josh Hyman (back spasms Monday) and Richard Johnson (quad contusion).
Players sitting out: Wide receiver Robert Parker (broken toe) and DE Noland Burchette (high ankle sprain).
Previous injuries: C Robert Ramsey (ankle sprain) is participating in limited fashion, and OT Tripp Carroll (compartment syndrome) is still out.
Noland Burchette's injury is the most troublesome. Redshirt freshman Burchette had worked himself into the two-deep rotation at DE, and high ankle sprains take a long time to heal (think Michael Vick, 1999). If Burchette returns to action before he's completely healed, he may not be 100% for the entire season. If he waits too long to come back, he'll miss valuable playing time.