Virginia Tech fall practice Aug. 2

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente coaches the team's offensive lineman at practice on Friday, Aug. 2. 

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech held its first fall practice of 2019 at the team's indoor practice facility on Friday afternoon. 

A portion of the practice — stretching and the first six periods — were open to the media. 

Here are some observations from the viewing window...

Teaching moment — It's no surprise that Virginia Tech coaches were in teach mode on Friday. No where was that more evident than at quarterback with offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen spending much of his time during position group work with his two summer enrollees Braxton Burmeister and Knox Kadum. When the quarterbacks split up in pairs, Cornelsen spent an entire period with them mostly focusing on their footwork. 

Center of attention — Virginia Tech did drills with linemen in groups of three (center, guard and tackle). Brock Hoffman, Zachariah Hoyt and Louis Mihota were the three lineman that rotated snapping the ball. A Virginia Tech spokesperson confirmed that Tech still hasn't heard about Hoffman's NCAA waiver request (the same goes for Burmeister). Hoyt was the team's first-team center through much of spring camp and during the team's spring game. 

Drill it down — Virginia Tech spent one period of practice on ball security drills with all the skill position players and quarterbacks. Every player had to stay focused between reps as staffers roamed the field trying to knock the ball away from any unsuspecting player. There was one fumble and the team had to series of up-downs. 

Position change — Third-year sophomore Jaylen Griffin has moved from linebacker to defensive tackle, a position that Tech is hurting for depth. The team graduated two tackles (Ricky Walker, Vinny Mihota) and two more left the team during the offseason (Xavier Burke, Jimmy Williams). The 6-foot-1, 260-pounder played in eight games last season mostly on special teams after redshirting as a true freshman.

Sloppy — Virginia Tech special teams coordinator James Shibest wasn't pleased with the opening minutes of practice when the team worked on punt returns. Players weren't coming to the ball and Caleb Smith let a ball slip through his hands. Shibest screamed at one point, "it's (the ball) not poison  guys!" Tech is still working more than a dozen players on returns including (in no particular order) Nadir Thompson, Phil Patterson, Tayvion Robinson, Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley, Armani Chatman, Caleb Farley, Deshawn McClease, Cole Beck, DeJuan Ellis and Jaden Payoute. 

Welcome back — Virginia Tech defensive back Jeremy Webb practiced for the first time as a Hokie. Webb has torn both of his Achilles since arriving in Blacksburg and spent the last year rehabbing the injuries. He was running at full speed with defensive backs coach Brian Mitchell not putting any limitations on him during the open viewing period. Tech is looking to replace starting defensive back Bryce Watts — who surprised the Hokies by transferring after spring camp — and a healthy Webb will get a chance. The other players working at the position were returning starter Caleb Farley, Ny'Quee Hawkins, Jermaine Waller, Armani Chatman, Nadir Thompson, Jovonn Quillen and Hunter Green. 

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Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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