Tech Talk Live Notes: Virginia Tech Football Nearing Beginning of the Season

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Virginia Tech Talk Live

Tech Talk Live made it’s return for the 2017-2018 athletic season on Monday night, as hosts Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop interviewed Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente. Here are the highlights from the first Tech Talk Live of the season.

Justin Fuente

Thoughts coming off of the practice field on Monday

“Well, just overall, I’d say coming off the field I’m a little fresh off the field, so I kind of like to get a little distance before I rush to judgment, but there was some good and some bad, on both sides of the ball. It was centered on a little bit of situation work, some open field stuff. Very little special teams work, we did that (Sunday). We had some things that I really liked and some things we’ve got to get done. We’re continuing to try and develop some quality depth and improve our discipline level. We’ve got some really older, accountable football players mixed in with some younger guys that are trying to learn that expectation level of not just knowing what to do and playing hard, but executing at a high level to give us a chance to win.”

New fall camp rules from the NCAA

“It’s essentially just a rubber band, it stretched everything out. I’m all for player safety, I think on a personal note, we need to take a look at fall camp in general. We’re operating under rules that were made I don’t know how many years ago, in terms of the number of practices and acclimatization period, and all those sorts of things, combined with this new rule that states there are no two-a-days. We kind of have this intermingling of philosophies and nobody is really sure when this other set of rules started. I just think we need to go back and pick a number, an agreed upon number of days to practice, and maybe it’s less than 29. That’s what it’s been forever, as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s only 24, if so, that’s fine, but the length of camp, in my estimation, is not good. There’s usually a three or four day stretch in there where the kids get to go home right before camp starts that they missed out on this year because of the length of camp. I understand the player welfare and I’m all for that, and player safety, I think if we just go back and look at it, we can pare it down a little bit more so that we’re not keeping these guys in camp mode for quite as long a time.”

Special teams scrimmage over the weekend

“Yeah, I really think it is important to do live kicking. As much as we all hold our breath, in terms of keeping guys healthy through camp, I think it is important to do it. Our kids’ approach to it is great. We’re only on the field for about 30 minutes when we do it, but we do live punts, live punt return, live kickoff, live kickoff return… it’s really one of my more enjoyable days of the year. I coached the scout squad vs. Coach (James) Shibest and varsity. We get those guys pretty jacked up, and we’ve had several guys since James and I have been doing it together at Memphis and here, that have been on my team and have ended up playing on special teams through the years. We had a couple of them last year that made big plays for us on special teams that were on my team. It’s a fun day, the kids get into it… I thought we did some good things. We had some young guys in there, kind of getting live game action, punt return. We made some mistakes. The people that actually kick the ball did fine, it’s a little more centered on all the people doing coverages and the blocking. I really believe we are as thorough of a technical, fundamental-teaching group in special teams as anyone in America. The drill work James has put together is absolutely fantastic, and it paid dividends for us last year. I’m optimistic it will pay dividends for us this year.”

How well Oscar Bradburn is acclimating to United States and American football

“He’s done fine. It’s a pretty simple job — catch the ball, punt it in under two seconds. Not that it’s an easy job, but it’s simple. There’s not a lot of X’s and O’s that go into his role. He’s acclimated well, he’s done a good job. He’s getting the ball off in time with good hangtime. I’ve been pleased. He’s working some at holder for us, we obviously have some trust in his hands and his ability to handle the stage, and that sort of stuff.”

Things standing out on offense, things that have elevated certain players on depth chart

“First of all, it’s pretty simple. Fall camp is difficult, it’s really hard. It’s hard to get up every day, and do what we’re asking them to do on a consistent basis. It’s easier the older you are, the more mature your body is, the more you understand the grand scheme of things. It’s just easier. For younger guys, it’s not just the speed of the game, it’s the techniques. We’re not really complicated offensively. Several years ago, we made a conscientious effort to pare it down, to make it easier for young players to play, and that’s benefitted us everywhere we’ve been. It’s not so much knowing what to do, it’s understanding the technique and having the discipline to execute that on a consistent basis. Those are the biggest things. That takes some toughness and some mental discipline to pull it off.”

Defensive line depth

“Everyone knows our front four have played, I don’t know how accomplished they are, but they’re good, solid guys that I think have a chance to be productive. After that, it’s a group of guys that has not played much. We need them to be able to play at a high level. I’ve been pleased at times with their dedication to their craft, they continue to improve. They’re kind of grouped together, there’s not really a single person that’s stood out in those six guys that are repping for those four spots. They’re continuing to improve, continuing to get better and hopefully as the season goes along and they get to play in the games, they’ll get to a high level.”

Development of safety Divine Deablo

“He made a big play today down there on the goal line, had a big tackle. He can really run. The thing I really love about Divine is he’s a highly intelligent, tough player that always has a smile on his face. We can be in the middle of the hardest, most difficult thing we’re doing and it’s almost permanent on his face. I’ve never seen him without a smile. He’s going to be a good player. He’s certainly working through some of the things that it takes to play in the defensive backfield, which in our scheme, is challenging. There are some times out there when you’re by yourself, because there’s usually a lot of people in the box, but he’s embraced that and I think you’ll just continue to see him improve. He’s improved from a physical standpoint, from a long, slender kid into a much stronger, more filled out, long player in the defensive backfield.”

Origin of using “mock weekend” to prepare players before season-opener

“We did this at TCU when I was there, and I thought it was a really good idea. We have been doing the exact same thing, in terms of preparation model in our Thursday and Friday practice, and meeting schedule, I’ve done it for five years at TCU, for four years at Memphis and now our second year at Virginia Tech. It’s been the same for me, I can recite it to you by heart. It just becomes… I like the routine. I like the kids knowing exactly what to do, where to go and what’s to be expected. I think practicing that helps those guys. If I was a true-freshman, and I was on kickoff and kickoff return, and I knew I was going to play in that first game, that’d be enough for me to worry about, as opposed to worrying about where I’m supposed to be doing.”

Beginning to start talking about depth chart, redshirting players?

“Yeah, those are the kinds of conversations that will occur tomorrow. Basically, there will be three categories of guys with available redshirts. If we’ll play them, no question, let’s go. Don’t play them, no question, let’s go. Then there will be a group of guys that can’t play unless they have my approval. There’s always guys that fall in the middle that you’ve kind of got to try and ease your way through the season, and sometimes you make a decision in the second or third game of the season that you need him, or you don’t need him. Sometimes it drags on. Hendon Hooker will be a great example. It continues to get better, he’s improving, but he has a redshirt year and he’s a quarterback. He’s going to have to be involved with what we’re doing, then we’ve got to try and figure it out as we move forward, if it’s going to be ‘Alright, we’re going to have to put him in,’ or ‘No, we’re going to have to try and hold him.’”

Playing more wide receivers in 2017 than Virginia Tech did in 2016

“Yeah, probably. Last year, there was a pretty clear cut line, if you will. There were three guys that were a lot better than anybody else we had, and CJ (Carroll) was the 4th guy that as the season went on, continued to prove that he deserved playing time, so he got in the rotation a little bit, but there was certainly a pretty clear line. This year, there’s a much fuzzier line, if you will. There may be some hiring and firing going on on the spot with guys, because you’ve got to get guys in there that can get the job done.”

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I really like his statement about practice time and dates. Seems authentically concerned about the players well being.

    1. Fuente definitely knows he’s got to monitor things. Isn’t afraid to change schedule if needed.

  2. I love CJF’s systematic approach to every aspect of running this football team. Seems to me he puts players in the best possible circumstances to succeed. Go Hokies!

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