Before diving into this article, be sure to read my notes from Monday. Also, if you’re a subscriber, check out Will Stewart’s Monday Thoughts and Brandon Patterson’s defensive breakdown. Chris Coleman wrote on Tuesday that Virginia Tech is having another flyover for the Old Dominion game this weekend.
Now, let’s dive into it.
Old Dominion starting true-freshman quarterback
When Old Dominion suits up on Saturday vs. 13th-ranked Virginia Tech, they’ll be doing so with a freshman quarterback. Not only is Steven Williams, Jr. a true-freshman, he’s just 17 years old.
Williams took over for the Monarchs midway through their home defeat to North Carolina last weekend, and made some noise. Williams completed just nine of his 20 pass attempts, but threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 20 yards on the ground.
“First of all, he’s pretty convicted about where he’s going with the football,” said Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente. “He led two drives for touchdowns, he had another drive that got down inside the 5-yard-line and they fumbled. They had another drive that stalled out on downs that got down to, I’m not sure, the 20-yard line. So he was really effective getting in there, and he can throw the football. They pushed the ball down the field. They were not afraid to kind of cut it loose and let him go.”
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster says the Hokies’ defensive staff hasn’t watched any of Williams’ high school film for preparation this week, and that they saw plenty in his roughly two quarters of action vs. the Tar Heels.
“I didn’t go back and look at any high school film, but we saw enough with him this past weekend of what he can do, and I’m sure they’re going to continue to add to his plate, so-to-speak, what he can do and what are his strengths,” Foster said. “And limit maybe what he can’t do, at least put that on the shelf and rely on what his strengths are. We’ll just have to see how they’re devising plans for him.”
Foster said at Williams, who is 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, reminds him a lot of Tech’s backup quarterback AJ Bush, who is 6-foot-4 and 225-pounds.
“As far as his height and his explosiveness with the ball in his hands, and he’s got a live arm. Just doesn’t have a lot of experience,” Foster said. “But I do see a tremendous athlete, and he has a supporting cast.
Williams is also left-handed, like Bush.
If Foster and Fuente have any questions about Williams, they can always go to freshman wide receiver Sean Savoy, who played with Williams at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. On Monday, Fuente said he hadn’t approached Savoy about it yet, but maybe that could change later in the week.
“I’m not sure in my career, if I’ve had many of these — opportunities or coincidences, where two guys that had just played together are now playing integral roles on each other’s teams, and so quickly too,” Fuente said. “It’ll be interesting to see, I’m sure. I’m sure Steve has heard Sean say he’s open many, many times over the years.”
Foster praised the Old Dominion supporting cast on Tuesday, saying that Williams has a good set of receivers. Old Dominion’s receiving corps reminds Foster of East Carolina’s receiving corps prior to this season.
“They remind me in a lot of ways of the team we just played. Not the team we just played Saturday, but the team we just played from years ago, in East Carolina” Foster said. “A really good football program with dynamic athletes and very explosive athletes, and in a similar type of offense.”
Jackson preparing for ODU’s dangerous defensive line
Defensively, Old Dominion boasts a talented and so-far successful defensive line. The Monarchs are tied for first in the country in team sacks with 16 and are tied for second in the nation in tackles for loss.
In the film that Josh Jackson has seen, Old Dominion isn’t sending extra heat, their defensive line is just that good.
“I haven’t seen too many blitzes, but I think they just have good players,” Jackson said. “I saw it, it was like 16 sacks already, or something like that. That’s pretty good, no matter what you’re playing or what level you’re playing at. So definitely, they’ve got some players.”
Fortunately for Jackson, he’s been kept upright for most of this season. Virginia Tech has allowed just three sacks, partly due to the offensive scheme, but also because their offensive line has played relatively well vs. the pass rush. Only allowing three sacks is even more impressive, considering Tech is starting two relatively inexperienced players on the right side of the offensive line — Braxton Pfaff and Kyle Chung.
“I haven’t been sacked very often,” Jackson said. “I think maybe once last game I was sacked. I mean they do a great job, in my opinion, all around. Chung and Pfaff, they’re kind of the new guys, and they’ve been doing a great job.”
If Jackson faces pressure, he’ll surely look for Cam Phillips, his most reliable and explosive receiver. Phillips has made 27 receptions in just three games, totaling 417 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Phillips’ 417 receiving yards leads the entire country.
Despite Phillips’ status as the only really proven threat for Tech, opposing teams aren’t trying to gameplan him out of the equation.
“Even when we get into the goal line, defenses will do that, but it’s kind of been more of man-concepts, which me and him both like,” Jackson said.
One would think that is rather surprising, since Tech’s other receivers have been limited contributors. Phillips is one of only two Tech receivers to make over six receptions and total over 100 receiving yards. Outside of Phillips and Sean Savoy, Tech’s weapons have put up rather uninspiring numbers.
“I don’t know,” Jackson said. “I don’t really know how defensive coordinators go about that, with their scheming. If that’s not their scheme, then they’re probably not going to do it, so I guess they just have to trust their guys.”
Foster not banking on Alexander being available
Virginia Tech has stayed mum on cornerback Adonis Alexander’s status for Old Dominion. However, Foster said on Tuesday that he does not expect him to be available on Saturday vs. the Monarchs.
“I don’t think so, no,” Foster said.
Alexander was held back from the trip to East Carolina last weekend. In a written statement last Friday, Fuente said Alexander had “not lived up to our expectations at Virginia Tech.” Fuente told the media on Monday that the coaching staff would reevaluate his status for Saturday’s game throughout the week.