BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech opens training camp this week with practices on Friday and Saturday.
Before camp gets underway, The Roanoke Times is taking a look at what fans should look for over the next month. Here’s a list of the players to watch (in no particular order)...
Big play Tre.
How many ways can Virginia Tech use Tre Turner? The sophomore wide receiver could be the spark the Hokies need on special teams as a returner. He was used a gunner last year and thrived in the role.
On offense, Turner quickly developed into one of the team’s top receiving threats. He also took over running Tech’s jet sweeps by the end of the year and was pretty good at that too.
Turner, who was overlooked on just about every preseason All-ACC list, is a dynamic talent. If he puts up similar numbers to the ones he had down the stretch in 2018, a special season could be in store.
The hype surrounding the sophomore tight end continues to grow. Fellow tight end Dalton Keene called it “legit” at the ACC kickoff.
Mitchell got much of the first-team reps during the spring with Keene’s recovery from off-season knee surgery. A healthy Keene will jump back into the starting lineup in fall camp, but Mitchell is going to have a role on Virginia Tech’s offense this fall.
A focus for Tech offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen in the coming weeks will be determining how big of a role that will be. The coaching staff has strongly hinted they plan to use Keene and Mitchell together, a combination that could create some serious mismatches for opposing defenses.
Virginia Tech enters fall camp without a proven pass rusher. The Hokies competing to get on the two-deep all have experience (Garbutt, Emmanuel Belmar, Zion Debose and Nathan Proctor), but no one has shown they can consistently get to the quarterback.
Garbutt, a sophomore defensive end, has received rave reviews behind the scenes thanks to a strong spring, can he stay on that upward trajectory?
The defender has slimmed down seven pounds since the end of last season and enters fall camp at 238 pounds. He’s come a long way from the 220-pound freshman signee that Tech’s training staff had eating 4,000 calories a day. Physically, he’s ready to make an impact and the mental part of the game has slowed down for him as well.
The junior defensive tackle’s continued development will be a key ingredient to Tech’s defensive success in 2019.
Tech turned to the junior college ranks after last season to add experienced depth up front including Crawford. He enrolled early and got a jump on the competition (including fellow junior college transfer Jaden Cunningham and three freshmen).
He worked with the first-team defense throughout the spring and turned in a solid performance in the team’s annual spring game. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster raved about Crawford after the performance.
Tech needs similar consistency from Crawford this fall as he looks to lock up his starting spot alongside Jarrod Hewitt.
A home run threat.
That’s what Virginia Tech coaches saw when watching film of the Oakleaf (Florida) running back dominating the competition around Jacksonville. No one is looking for King to put up 2,000-plus yards like he did as a high school senior, but Tech’s offense could use some of the explosiveness he showed.
The Hokies only had seven runs of 30 yards or more last season, which has been an issue for the offense since Justin Fuente arrived in Blacksburg.
Can the four-star signee carve out a role right away? Tech won’t worry about burning King’s redshirt if he flashes that game-changing speed and athleticism during camp. With Tech’s running back rotation up for grabs, King’s unique skill set will earn him a hard look.