Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and his staff will get to see several players working out at new positions when spring practice opens Wednesday, but a few other familiar faces won't be present due to decisions to transfer and injuries.
Beamer announced Monday that linebacker Lyndell Gibson, wide receiver Austin Fuller and cornerback Jacob Sykes have all opted to transfer at the end of this semester. Beamer also noted wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, a rising senior who graduated from Smithfield High, won't be able to participate in spring drills at full speed while he continues to rehabilitate from a thigh injury.
While the departures of Fuller and Sykes symbolize depth hits for Tech, the loss of Gibson means the Hokies will have to find a new starter.
"We certainly wish each of these guys the best of luck and will help them any way we can," Beamer said. "That said, I will not have any further comment on this."
Gibson, a graduate of Salem High in Virginia Beach who would've been a rising junior at Tech, didn't exactly put himself in the good graces of the coaching staff during the offseason. He was charged in February with driving under the influence in Blacksburg.
He was also found guilty in 2009 and paid fines stemming from a charge of interfering with property rights in association with a stolen bike incident in Blacksburg.
Though Gibson wouldn't have participated this spring while he recovers from a fractured scapula suffered in December in Tech's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game win against Florida State, he still leaves a void at a position where he started 13 games last season.
Last season, he finished tied for fourth on the team with 66 tackles. With Gibson gone, rising sophomore Tariq Edwards, rising redshirt freshman Chase Williams, rising sophomore Telvion Clark and rising redshirt freshman walk-on Jonathan Halfhide will compete for Gibson's starting role.
Beamer also discussed several position changes and injury situations heading into the spring. Roberts had to undergo emergency surgery on the morning of Nov. 5 after suffering a compartment syndrome injury in his left thigh the previous night in Tech's 28-21 home victory against Georgia Tech. He has been working to rehabilitate, but he may not be back to 100 percent until the summer.
"He's going to do what he can do (this spring)," Beamer said. "I think he's ready to do a lot, but I don't think he's ready to go full-tilt. We want him to recover as soon as he can and make sure he's full-speed when he does get back. He's going to run some routes and so forth, but I think it'll be limited."
Roberts missed Tech's last five games last season, but he still finished third on the team with 21 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns.
Roberts joins starting left guard Greg Nosal (out for spring after having shoulder surgery) and backup running back Tony Gregory (limited this spring while rehabbing from surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament) on Tech's injury list. Defensive tackle Kwamaine Battle (torn ACL) and linebacker Barquell Rivers (torn quadriceps tendon) will be back at full strength this spring.
While Roberts, Nosal and Gregory all try to get healthy, several players will be getting looks at new positions.
Chris Drager will be moving back to tight end after spending the last two seasons at defensive end, where he started 11 games last season. Antone Exum is going from backup free safety to strong safety.
J.R. Collins will stay at defensive end, but he'll also get some work at defensive tackle. Vinston Painter is shifting from offensive guard to offensive tackle. Laurence Gibson is going from offensive tackle to offensive guard.
James Hopper is going to offer depth at running back after spending last season at cornerback. Josh Oglesby will move from fullback to tailback. Dominique Patterson is shifting from strong-side linebacker to weak-side linebacker, while Nick Dew is making the move from strong safety to weak-side linebacker.