Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed tons of aspects of our lives temporarily with college football not exempt from those changes.
For Virginia Tech, that has included making sure social distancing is enforced when players aren't actively involved in a drill or on-field play.
“We literally put up a drawing before every practice with the guys standing like this,” Fuente said. “That’s how we are trying to get our guys to stand in a line.”
On August 7th, Virginia Tech football was officially allowed to start fall camp. This was due to how the NCAA allowed teams to start regular practices just a month before their opener which at the time was September 12th against N.C. State. Of course, that has since changed to September 19th against Virginia with the N.C. State game being postponed to the 26th.
After not being able to have spring practice and their normal summer offseason schedule, the Hokies are attempting to make the most out of the limited situation they have right before the start of the season.
“You know you are starting to make an impact when you start to see players start to police themselves,” Fuente said. “We start to see players stick their arms out when they are standing in line and so forth.”
Even some of the players have talked about the changes they’ve experienced in the practice field. Team leaders like Divine Deablo have stepped into enforcing social distancing on the sidelines.
“It was definitely harder at first,” said Deablo. “It has definitely become second nature now, coaches policing themselves and making it second nature for sure.”
Tight end James Mitchell also chimed in to talk about the differences in the practices compared to past seasons.
“You know, people aren’t used to it like hitting drills and other drills that people get real close so we had to police it a little more,” said Mitchell. “Now, people are starting to get used to it and now know it’s going to be a necessity for us to be successful this fall.”
There have been more changes than just the way the players have been practicing over the last few weeks. Players have started to make changes to their helmets to increase their safety.
Deablo is one of the players wearing newly-innovated face shields in practices and will plan on wearing it in games this season. Those face shields did have some issues at first that made players quick to get rid of them but after a couple of adjustments, Deablo says he's comfortable wearing them now.
“At first, they were good. Then it got a little humid so it got a little foggy,” Deablo said. “Recently, they cut part of the bottom half so it still covers the mouth, but it has more air coming through.”
Despite having to make multiple changes in their practices to be able to hit the field, the Hokies are enjoying being together once again and are hoping to be healthy and ready to go once the season gets underway. In it all, the team is having to balance both getting better on the field and being smart in even the simplest movements when at practice or elsewhere.
“It’s all our jobs to continue to do that now at times,” Fuente said. “Coaches are coaching in the middle of the drill and we all need to be cognizant of our spacing out there and doing the best we can.”