Yesterday, Justin Fuente and the Virginia Tech Hokies opened a portion of practice to the media, giving us a chance to gain a little insight into some of the Hokies’ position battles. While there wasn’t a lot we could learn, here’s some of the insight we gained from practice.
Josh Jackson is the Favorite at QB, AJ Bush Can’t Be Ruled Out
Josh Jackson continues to be the favorite for the job, but AJ Bush shouldn’t be taken lightly in this QB battle with both Jackson and Bush splitting some first team reps. Meanwhile, true freshman Hendon Hooker got all of the reps with the second team as it’s clear that Justin Fuente is looking to get the youngest VT QB plenty of practice reps.
Though Jackson is the favorite, Bush has definitely made strides as a QB this offseason with it showing some in practice. Jackson is still the most refined QB, but Bush and Hooker are both better athletes and runners which helps both of their chances.
Bush’s dual-threat ability and good arm strength has helped give him a good chance at competing for and winning the starting job. While Jackson is still the favorite, AJ Bush definitely had a chance at winning the Hokies’ starting QB job.
Travon McMillian Leads Deshawn McClease at RB
It’s an open competition at RB, but Travon McMillian currently has the early lead over Deshawn McClease while Jalen Holston is expected to compete for the job according to Justin Fuente.
Fuente was quite direct in saying the RB spot was open but unsurprisingly, McMillian is the early leader in the competition. McClease did get some first team reps, but McMillian primarily worked with the first team and has the edge for the time being. This isn’t a big surprise with McMillian’s experience along with McClease just getting back to 100% recently after being limited this spring and getting injured in last year’s season opener against Liberty.
For now, McMillian leads at RB, but it’s clear that the job is still open with McClease, Holston, and Steven Peoples all having a shot at the job.
Henri Murphy, Phil Patterson, Eric Kumah All Competing For Starting Outside WR Spot
With Caleb Farley suffering a season-ending knee injury, the expectation was that the Hokies had a two-man battle on the outside between Eric Kumah and Phil Patterson. While both Kumah and Patterson are in serious contention, Henri Murphy also appears to be a major player poised for playing time this fall.
Murphy was getting some work on the outside with the first team offense in a couple of different drills. Murphy was clearly behind Kumah and Patterson this spring, but that gap appears to be gone for the Hokies’ kick returner who has a lot of big play potential due to his impressive speed.
Murphy is smaller than most for an outside receiver, but we’ve seen some smaller guys work on the outside even in the NFL like Antonio Brown or T.Y. Hilton. Now this is not to say that Murphy is as good as those guys, but smaller receivers definitely can play on the outside and Murphy could be one of those guys with the junior being in the competition with Kumah and Patterson.
Kalil Pimpleton Should Play This Fall
Looking for a true freshman WR to play this fall, Kalil Pimpleton is that guy. The Michigan native and early enrollee received some first team reps in the slot over CJ Carroll in practice and while it seems likely that Carroll is the top slot guy, Pimpleton should play this fall with a great chance at making the two-deep.
Pimpleton has made a strong impression on the Hokies’ coaches in his short time with the Hokies and definitely is a future starter in Blacksburg. Pimpleton may be one of the ACC’s smallest receivers, but he has the speed and agility to gain separation and make things happen.
Pimpleton has had the advantage of being an early enrollee compared to recent arrivals Sean Savoy and Hezekiah Grimsley and while both of those guys could work their way into playing time this fall, Pimpleton seems almost certain to avoid a redshirt and touch the field.
Parker Osterloh Getting First Team RG Reps
Parker Osterloh entered the fall flying under the radar after being out this spring due to injuries but the massive senior OL is right in the fight for starting jobs on the offensive line with Justin Fuente even saying that he expects Osterloh to push Tyrell Smith at RT.
During the open part of practice, Osterloh was working with the first team at RG while Tyrell Smith was at RT. Osterloh has the versatility to play at guard or tackle, something that gives him a chance at both jobs and should give him a significant role as a backup lineman if he doesn’t win a starting job.
While it’s too soon to tell if Osterloh is the favorite for the RG job, what is definitely clear is that the right guard job is a three-way battle between Osterloh, Kyle Chung, and Braxton Pfaff.
Not Much Insight on the Defense
There weren’t many opportunities to see what the current defensive depth chart may be especially with the open rover competition between Devon Hunter, Reggie Floyd, and Khalil Ladler.
One thing I was able to see was that there still isn’t a lot of clarity on the defensive line depth chart among the backups. DE seems fairly wide open for the fourth spot in the two-deep while Jarrod Hewitt and Darius Fullwood appear to have the early edge at backup DT.
However, freshmen like DT Robert Porcher IV and DE Zion DeBose have a great opportunity to play as true freshman while you can’t rule out newly-converted DEs Emmanuel Belmar and Raymon Minor either.
There’s still a lot of unknowns and plenty of time for things to change with the pads just starting to get worn.