As fall camps start for college football teams across the country, observers are focused on quarterback competitions and new offensive schemes. But as practice opened here at Virginia Tech, all eyes were on some feet.
Specifically, it’s the feet of linebackers Bruce Taylor, Tariq Edwards and Jeron Gourveia-Winslow that have Hokie fans concerned, as all three are coming off major injuries as camp begins.
“I’m concerned because I think when you come out here and you’re not able to work full tilt, it creates problems,” said Head Coach Frank Beamer. “I know (head athletic trainer) Mike Goforth has got a plan as to how much work they should do, but it’s some really quality players that can’t do things full tilt right now.”
While Taylor and Gourveia-Winslow were both full participants in Tuesday’s practice, it’s Edwards that is still recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his shin. Although he was able to participate in some light drills with the squad, he was clearly still coping with the injury.
“I didn’t think I was even going to be able to run today, it’s just the pain when I cut that’s tough,” Edwards said. “I was sort of limited, but I tried to get myself into the game to really get those reps.”
Coaches previously pegged Edwards’ return to full practice as the latter weeks of fall camp, so he’s attempting to work toward that goal.
“As a linebacker, you’ve got to be able to cut and run side to side, and right now, that’s where all the pain comes in,” Edwards said. “If I can get that prepared by the time the first game comes, I’ll be ready.”
Taylor may be a sure bet to start the season, but that doesn’t mean that he’s playing pain-free quite yet. The Lisfranc surgery he needed to repair his foot sidelined him for six games last year and all of spring practice, and promises to bother him throughout the season.
“It takes a while to warm up, but once I’m warmed up I feel pretty good,” Taylor said. “But right now, I could go. If we played tomorrow, I’d definitely be out there.”
He estimates that he’s 90 to 95 percent healthy, but he’ll work on rehabbing the injury throughout the remainder of fall practice.
“In warm ups, I can feel I’m not where I need to be,” Taylor said. “It’ll get better as practice goes along, but I have to talk to the doctors.”
Despite these issues, Taylor will still play a pivotal role in practice, as he takes over Edwards’ spot at the “backer” spot until he can return, but early signs indicate Taylor won’t have to linger there too
“I don’t feel it as much on the stress fracture any more, it’s really just in my knee and will shoot down through my ankle,” Edwards said. “On the shin, the actual bone, I really don’t feel much pain.”
Regardless of these challenges, coaches recognize that injuries like these are part of the game and have prepared accordingly.
“Guys get hurt, that’s part of football, and the next guy’s got to step up and he’ll get some more reps and get a chance to get in there and get playing time,” Beamer said. “But when you talk about these players you’re talking about guys that can really go, so we want to see them get well.”
Beamer stresses that it’s important to remember that this was just the first practice of many, and despite these tests, the team has plenty of time to improve.
“I thought for the first day it really went well,” Beamer said. “So we’ll evaluate this practice and get ready for practice number two.”