Virginia Tech might not be able to pronounce the name of Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, but they sure know who he is.
“He’s dynamic, he’s fast, he’s got great hands,” said Brandon Facyson on Monday. “I haven’t really watched much on him this year, we’ll start that (today).”
It would be hard for them not to. Etta-Tawo leads the ACC in receiving with 876 yards and six touchdowns through the Orange’s first six games. Preparing for Syracuse means preparing for Etta-Tawo, but Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente is cautious of overlooking the rest of Syracuse’s offense.
“I don’t know if you can over prepare for anything. I think you have to be conscientious of the other weapons out there,” Fuente said. “If you’re too dialed in on one guy, you can leave yourself open to be exploited at other places. We know that they’re going to put the ball in the air, we know that they’re going to operate at an incredibly fast pace, but they do want to run the football as well. You have to be a little bit careful when you pigeonhole this scheme as purely throwing the ball.”
“He’s a good ball player,” said safeties coach Galen Scott. “Every week you have different challenges. This week, it’s trying to slow him down. They do a good job getting him the ball, getting him out in space. He’s a big, physical guy, can make plays down the field. It’s another big time receiver who we’re going to have to play against. I think that’s how its going to be week in and week out.”
“Syracuse has outstanding skill kids, they’re big up front, they’re a fast tempo. They remind me a lot of Tulsa when it’s all said and done,” said Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster. “The ability to throw the football down the field, the ability to spread you out and run the football, the tempo. Each week, we’ve faced a faster and faster tempo type offense, other than BC. This will be the fastest.”
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Syracuse has had success offensively, but is just 2-4 on the season. Despite the record, Andrew Motuapuaka isn’t underestimating them.
“I think they could be pretty dangerous,” Motuapuaka said. “You got to make sure you get lined up pretty quickly, your tempo has to be on point and execution, making sure we’re executing and trying to get them off the field as quick as possible.”
Motuapuaka, Edmunds improving in second season as starters
Motuapuaka’s play has helped push Virginia Tech’s defense into the upper echelon this season. After a less than stellar redshirt-sophomore season, Motuapuaka is averaging 9.8 tackles per game and already has an interception to his credit.
“I think it’s all the way around,” Foster said of his improvement. “I see a more consistent play because of experience. I see a guy that has taken that leadership role and wants to be in that position, communicating, getting the guys up front lined up, chasing the ball. You talk about a guy that only knows one speed, whether it’s in the weight room or in our conditioning, I mean he runs with the DBs.”
Motuapuaka has made big impacts on Virginia Tech’s special teams units as well.
“The one thing he is, is a complete football player,” Foster said. “He played 60 or 63 snaps the other day and then he played on all special teams. That’s the thing, he starts on our punt team. Starts on our kickoff return team. I think he had a big knock, a big hit on our kickoff return team and that just makes a statement about the team player that he is.”
Terrell Edmunds said that Motuapuaka has become one of the players that the entire defense can count on and lean on for help.
“He leads by example and he’ll also talk to you throughout,” Edmunds said. “He’ll tell you what you need to do. If you need help, you can just go to (Motuapuaka) and he’ll tell you all about the defense. He’ll know everything about the defense.”
Edmunds has also been a big reason for the defensive resurgence at Virginia Tech. Edmunds moved to rover this offseason after playing at cornerback last season. The transition is still ongoing, but it’s going well at the moment.
“Having guys like Chuck (Clark) and (Der’Woun) Greene, just talking to me throughout and Coach Scott and Coach Bud (Foster), they’re just pushing me throughout to be the best safety I can be,” Edmunds said. “I’m still learning and I’m not where I want to be right now, but I’m still learning and I’m going to progress.”
Scott, Edmunds’ position coach, said that Edmunds’ versatility has made him a complete defensive back.
“I think Terrell could play either one really,” Scott said. “He can cover, he can run, he can chase, he can be physical but for right now for us, he’s at safety. That’s a good fit for him and he’s a physical guy. I think it works out when you can have a safety cover like a corner. That always works.”
Foster isn’t surprised at how well Edmunds has transitioned to the rover spot.
“He’s playing like I thought he would play, particularly after spring practice and what I saw from spring practice,” Foster said. “I’m real pleased with him right now.”
Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans feeling “nicked up”
Jerod Evans carried the ball a career-high 21 times vs. North Carolina last weekend, and admitted that he’s dealing with nagging injuries.
“Everybody is feeling some type of way, especially in week six of the season,” Evans said. “I’m nicked up, but who isn’t? Name me somebody who isn’t and he’s not really playing hard.”
“I was actually surprised I wasn’t as dinged up as I thought,” Evans said. “I had a feeling going into the game, they didn’t tell me, but you get the feeling that I might be carrying the ball a lot. That’s the feeling I got. After the game, I thought I was going to be more banged up than what I was. It’s not really that much.”
The weather will not be a factor for Virginia Tech’s game vs. Syracuse, since the Orange play inside the Carrier Dome. Evans said that he’s played indoors before, at Cowboys Stadium for a high school playoff game.
“That’s like a big thing in Texas, for Texas high school football and to play there was very neat,” Evans said.
Evans said that he’s looking forward to playing in normal football conditions, rather than in the middle of a hurricane like the Hokies did last weekend.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that,” Evans said. “It was definitely a confidence booster to play in weather like that and, obviously I didn’t put up good numbers and missed a lot of throws, but coming out with a ‘W’ and to complete some of the throws and throw some of them accurate is a confidence booster, but also never take a dry day for granted ever again. That was something else.”
Evans declined whether to say the designed quarterback run will be a major part of the offense moving forward, but he’s fine with it if it is.
“I want to do whatever it takes to win,” Evans said. “If that’s me carrying the ball 50 times, if that’s going to create a ‘W’, I’m willing to do that. If I can throw the ball 70 times, which I’d rather do because I play quarterback, if I throw 70 times then I’ll do that, but whatever it is. If it’s me sitting on the bench, whatever it takes to get a ‘W’, that’s all I really care about.”