As soon as wide receiver D.J. Coles caught the 26-yard pass from backup quarterback Mark Leal in Saturday’s scrimmage, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was ready with the quick math.
Prior to the scrimmage, Coles had spent most of the preseason in stop-and-start mode. His right knee, which he had surgery on in January to repair a torn posterior cruciate ligament, wasn’t permitting him to do much more than jog around without causing him pain.
Coles was back in the fold in the scrimmage, but starting quarterback Logan Thomas was dealing with a little bit of a sore throwing arm that basically kept him out of half the scrimmage. The sore arm doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but more on Thomas in a moment.
Getting cleared to do everything in Friday’s practice, and following the practice up by working with the first team in the scrimmage – which was closed to media and fans – was huge for Coles. Stinespring recognized the significance of the day in numerical terms.
“I told him, ‘You caught a 6-yard hitch and a 4-yard slant. You’ve run approximately 10 yards’” said Stinespring regarding what Coles had done in practice prior to the scrimmage. “He actually had a deep crossing route (Saturday) that he hit, so when he caught it, I made sure that he (knew) he’d just quadrupled the length of any route that he’d had for the entire preseason. He just looked at me and said, ‘I know. I’m worn out. I need a break.’”
All knee-slappers aside, it was a critical sort of tell-all route for Coles. Stinespring said it was a good route for Coles to run to show how far he’d come in his rehabilitation.
Now, the question still remains regarding how much Coles can actually play and help Tech in the Sept. 3 season-opener against Georgia Tech.
“I think he’s closer to being ready to contribute,” Stinespring said. “If you’d have asked me three or four days ago, I may have said he’s a long way. Now, I know he’s closer.”
The scrimmage featured two quarters of play. In the first quarter, Virginia Tech’s first team offense played against the first team defense, while the second team offense went against the second team defense.
In the second quarter, Virginia Tech used its scout team to run Georgia Tech’s offensive plays (with backup quarterbacks Brenden Motley and T.J. Shaw running the offense) against the Hokies’ first and second team defenses. Also, Virginia Tech’s scout team defense ran some of Georgia Tech’s 3-4 scheme against Virginia Tech’s first and second team offenses.
Coles, who was third on the team last season in receptions with 36 for 480 yards and three touchdowns, thinks he’s ready to do something against Georgia Tech. He’s still trying to figure out exactly what his role will be in the opener, too.
“It feels good to get the green light, get back out there, get some reps, just go full contact and not be limited and excused from certain things,” said Coles, who had two catches for 29 yards in the scrimmage. “Basically, it’s full-go and out there getting a lot of reps and just trying to get back into the flow of game-like situations and everything.
“My body is just sore. I’ve just got to get back into shape. I didn’t really condition that much during (preseason).”
Fellow receiver Marcus Davis has been amazed with how far Coles has come this preseason. There was a time Davis wasn’t sure Coles was going to be able to make it back in time to be much of a contributor.
“Two weeks ago, I didn’t think he would be back,” said Davis, who added after seeing him in the scrimmage he thinks Coles will be ready for the Georgia Tech game. “He was always trying to run a few routes and do a little something, but it just looked like after every time he did something he was in pain. I was thinking that as a group, we’ve got to prepare to play without him. Sometimes, it’s hard, but that’s how it’s got to happen.
“I’m just glad to have him back out there running around and making some plays. When he gets back to himself, I think it’ll be a lot better for us as a group.”
Stinespring said while most of the focus last season when it came to Virginia Tech’s receivers was on Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale and Davis, Coles was one of Tech’s best players because of his receiving and downfield blocking ability.
While Coles finally got his chance to do anything at all in the preseason, Thomas may have hit the wall just a tad after what was allegedly a grueling week of practice.
He completed 5 of 16 passes for 80 yards (including a 50-yard touchdown to receiver Corey Fuller) in the first quarter of the scrimmage, but he only attempted one pass (an incompletion) in the second quarter, which, again, was more focused on getting a look at Georgia Tech’s offense and defense.
“If you go back and look, we threw the ball around a lot the last couple practices…We ran a lot of two-minute offense in the last couple days,” Stinespring said. “It’s not just your normal pass skeleton that (Thomas is) throwing. You add on to it a team period that you’re running, and another skeleton, so he actually probably threw more balls in the last couple days than he did in three or four practices total.
“It’s just a little tired (Saturday). I think the ball sailed on him four or five times (Saturday) probably. He was disappointed in that, but you know why, so we kind of got Mark out there a little bit more today.”
Leal ended up going 7 of 14 passing for 105 yards in the scrimmage.
Thomas got a rest, as did defensive end James Gayle (the Bethel High graduate is still dealing with ankle injuries; didn’t play in any of the preseason scrimmages) and linebacker Tariq Edwards (hasn’t practiced with the team all preseason while rehabilitating from March surgery to have a rod placed in his left tibia to relieve pain from a stress fracture).
Edwards said he’s feeling better after having a screw removed from his knee two weeks ago. He feels like he’ll be able to play this season, and he’s been encouraged by the fact that he’s gotten completely off crutches in the last few days.
“It’s coming along,” said Edwards, a junior who was third on the team last season in both tackles (71) and tackles for loss (11 1/2). “It’s getting a lot stronger. My knee bend is all the way to where it’s supposed to be…As far as running, I’m out there jogging and everything for therapy, so it’s getting a lot better.
“At first, I was like I want to be ready by the end of (the preseason) and Georgia Tech. It’s not there yet, so I don’t want to keep giving target dates and then I’m not there.”
It’s hard to give any real context to what transpired in the scrimmage without seeing it, but it looks like there were some pretty strong rushing performances just based on the numbers.
J.C. Coleman only carried the ball twice, but he had a 53-yard run. Tony Gregory had runs of 39 and 12 yards. Michael Holmes also had a 39-yard carry. Trey Edmunds logged runs of 34 and 11 yards. Martin Scales had a 15-yard run.
Speaking of Edmunds, after the scrimmage, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said an abbreviated package of plays has been given to Edmunds for him to concentrate on. The idea is not to put too much of a load on Edmunds, see how he handles what he’s given and go from there. Of course, there’s still no guarantee he’ll actually play as a true freshman.
Beamer also mentioned freshman A.J. Hughes remains ahead of fellow freshman Hunter Windmuller at the punter position.
Here’s a couple different looks at numbers from scrimmages. First, you’ll see numbers from Saturday’s scrimmage. Then, in parentheses next to most players, I’ve compiled numbers from all three scrimmages.
Logan Thomas 5-17, 80 yds., 1 TD (24-52, 352, 3 TD, 0 INT)
Mark Leal 7-14, 105 (20-42, 286, 1 TD, 2 INT)
Scout team 0-6, 1 INT
TOTALS 12-37, 185 yds., 1 TD, 1 INT
J.C. Coleman 2 carries, 53 yds. (14-136, 1 TD)
Michael Holmes 3-60 (13-122, 1 TD)
Trey Edmunds 4-47 (24-149)
Martin Scales 5-33, 2 TDs (17-88, 3 TDs)
Tony Gregory 6-72 (11-108, 1 TD)
Scout team 15-14
Kevin Asante 2-13
Dyrell Roberts 1-3
TOTALS 42-271, 3 TDs
Demitri Knowles 4-36 (5-49)
D.J. Coles 2-29 (2-29)
Corey Fuller 1-50, 1 TD (6-158, 2 TD)
Asante (6-109, 1TD)
Ryan Malleck 1-5 (3-28, 1 TD)
Eric Martin (2-52)
Randall Dunn (3-30)
Roberts 3-36 (7-62)
Marcus Davis (3-21)
Duan Perez-Means (4-79)
E.L. Smiling (3-55, 1 TD)
Joshua Stanford (4-65)
Joel Caleb (1-3)
Knowles 1-21 (2-21)
Kyle Fuller 1-7 (2-9)
Roberts 1-11 (3-22)
A.J. Hughes 4-32.8 avg. yds. per punt; long 48, two inside 20-yd. line
Hunter Windmuller 2-44 yd. avg.; long 49
Cody Journell 1-1, 48 yds. (6-7, long 48, only miss from 40)
Scout team 15 tackles, 2 pass breakups
FS Detrick Bonner 5 tackles, 1 pass breakup (10 tackles)
LB Deon Clarke 4 tackles, 1 sack (8 tackles, 1 sack)
DT Derrick Hopkins 4 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss)
CB Donaldven Manning 3 tackles (9 tackles, 1 pass breakup)
SS Michael Cole 3 tackles, 1 forced fumble (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
CB Donovan Riley 3 tackles, 1 pass breakup (6 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 1 INT)
DE Corey Marshall 3 tackles, 1 sack (7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 1/2 tackles for loss)
DL Zack McCray 3 tackles, 1/2 tackle for loss (4 tackles, 1/2 tackle for loss)
LB Jack Tyler 3 tackles (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss)
LB Bruce Taylor 3 tackles (11 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 1 INT)
DE Matt Roth 3 tackles, 1 sack (5 tackles, 1 sack)
CB Kyle Fuller 2 tackles, 1 pass breakup (7 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 1 blocked FG)
DT Kris Harley 2 tackles, 1 forced fumble (2 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
LB Ronny Vandyke 2 tackles (9 tackles, 1 sack)
DT Antoine Hopkins 2 tackles (9 tackles, 1 sack)
DT Luther Maddy 2 tackles, 1/2 tackle for loss (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss)
CB Antone Exum 1 tackle (8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss)
FS Boye Aromire 1 tackle (6 tackles)
LB Dahman McKinnon 1 tackle, 1/2 tackle for loss (3 tackles, 1/2 tackle for loss)
LB Alonzo Tweedy 1 tackle (5 tackles, 1 sack)
CB Kyshoen Jarrett 1 interception (2 tackles, 1 interception)