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Virginia Tech Football: Hokies Begin Spring Practice

Virginia Tech began spring practice on Monday with head coach Justin Fuente discussing 2017.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It seems just like yesterday the Virginia Tech Hokies were pulling off a comeback for the ages in their Belk Bowl win over Arkansas. Well, that’s been almost three months and a lot of things have changed in Blacksburg.

Much of Tech’s offensive production is gone. Quarterback Jerod Evans is gone, as is record-setting wide receiver Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges. Dependable fullback and team captain Sam Rogers is also gone.

Much of this spring will be about finding out who will play quarterback for the Hokies in 2017. And who will step up opposite of Cam Phillips at receiver?

Head coach Justin Fuente met with reporters on Monday and addressed a number of topics concerning the 2017 Hokies.


Terrell Edmunds is the New Free Safety

While much of the talk is about who the Hokies lost on offense, they lost some important players on defense, too. Specifically, starting free safety and team captain Chuck Clark.

Now, the Hokies have shuffled some bodies in the defensive backfield and junior Terrell Edmunds will move into the free safety role. Changing positions is nothing new for the talented 6’2” junior. As a freshman, Edmunds played cornerback before moving to rover last fall. In his two seasons in Blacksburg, Edmunds has started 21 games.

Edmunds’ athleticism, experience and football smarts should make this a seamless transition.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is certainly comfortable with Edmunds at free safety, according to Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times.

I think it’s natural for him. A guy that played corner for us, a guy that’s a very good tackler, a very good finisher. That position, because of our coverage concepts, gets a lot of one-on-one coverage whether we’re in man or whether we are in our zone or quarters concepts, more so than our rover position. He has that skill set. And I think it’s a natural position for him and he’s excited about it.

Divine Deablo is Officially a Safety

Now that Edmunds is entrenched at free safety. Who will play behind him?

Well, that would be sophomore Divine Deablo.

It’s not exactly a secret that the talented sophomore from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was moving to defensive back. We’ve heard whispers of it since before the season ended. At 6’3”, 208 pounds, Deablo certainly provides interesting size for a defensive back.

Deablo flashed on special teams as a freshman in 2016. That gave coaches the idea to maybe try him out at defensive back. The key for Deablo is can he play fast enough and trust his instincts at defensive back? He doesn’t possess a wealth of experience at the position. This spring is big for him.

Fuente believes it’s a natural fit, while Foster is excited about Deablo’s potential.

I’m anxious to see that, to be honest with you. Obviously you saw what he could do on special teams, making plays, throwing his body around. He can bend his body. For a big kid he has tremendous feet and suddenness. He’s not a long strider who takes time to get up to speed.

If Deablo struggles at all, the coaches can move him back over to the offensive side of the ball but don’t expect that to happen.

Right Side of Offensive Line Will be Brand New

Jonathan McLaughlin and Augie Conte are gone from Virginia Tech’s offensive line. Unfortunately for the Hokies, that’s a lot of experience gone. McLaughlin was a four-year starter, while Conte started for parts of three years.

Who will Virginia Tech turn to fill out its offensive line?

Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelson said Tyrell Smith and Braxton Pfaff will get the first crack at right tackle and right guard, respectively.

Cornelson seemed particularly optimistic about Smith at right tackle, per Jimmy Robertson of the team’s official site.

I think Tyrell Smith is a guy that we trust. He’s basically played every position up front. He got some snaps last year. To me, he’s the one, maybe at that right tackle spot, that can step in there and win that job.

Cornelson certainly seems confident in Smith, but what is he supposed to say? The coaching staff should be concerned about the right side of the offensive line. Smith and Pfaff have failed to impress thus far in their careers, but now is a prime opportunity for them to establish themselves this spring in order to get reps together in the fall in preparation for the season.

Injuries

Unfortunately, some key contributors will miss the spring. Among them are wide receiver C.J. Carroll, defensive end Vinny Mihota and defensive backs Mook Reynolds and Greg Stroman.

Carroll is expected to assume a much larger role in the offense in 2017 so it’s a bit disappointing he’ll be unable to compete this spring. Carroll should be a favorite target of whoever plays quarterback next season.

For players like Mihota, Reynolds and Stroman, it’s just about staying healthy and being ready for the summer, although Foster would certainly like each of the projected starters in the lineup.