Virginia Tech Notebook: North Carolina Feelings, Stroman’s Ability and Coleman Fox

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Justin Fuente (left) was sure to set the record straight, in his eyes, on how he and the team feel about North Carolina. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Before diving into today’s notebook, be sure to ready not only the game recap from Saturday’s win over North Carolina, but also my game notes from Sunday. Tons of good information and quotes to peruse.

Fuente backtracks on Phillips’ comments on North Carolina

Wide receiver Cam Phillips was very open about how he perceived the coaching staff, particularly head coach Justin Fuente, felt about North Carolina. Here’s what Phillips said after the Hokies’ 59-7 blowout of the Tar Heels.

“Every player, every coach has a certain team that like, gets under their skin, like that they really want to beat more than anybody else. I know for Coach (Justin Fuente), this is probably that team.”

On Monday, Fuente told the media that Phillips’ statement is not indicative of how he feels about North Carolina and head coach Larry Fedora.

“Cam speaks for Cam. Cam does not speak for me. Ok? I want to win every game that we play,“ Fuente said. “No one game is more important than another one. I wish Cam had not said that, quite honestly, because he does not speak for me. We try and get our guys ready to play every single week. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Larry Fedora and the job he’s done at North Carolina. I know they’re going through hard times. They have a whole rash full of injuries and those sorts of things, but that is not indicative of my feelings from week-to-week. Do we want to absolutely win every time we take the field? You bet.”

Even if the game doesn’t mean more than any other, it still might, in terms of recruiting. Virginia Tech and North Carolina often recruit against one another for high-end talent, and winning head-to-head games can sway a recruit one way or the other. On Saturday, Virginia Tech hosted all five of their commitments from the state of North Carolina, as well as blue-chip recruits KJ Henry and Dax Hollifield, both of whom hail from the Tar Heel State. So winning does matter.

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“Well, I mean it certainly doesn’t hurt,” Fuente said. “It’s like we talked about — winning helps. I know we talked a little about this last week, and I walked out of the room and I kind of caught myself, because I felt like I didn’t do a good job of articulating the value of winning. I mean certainly, that is always a good thing, in terms of helping you sell your program. It’s tangible evidence that what you’re doing is working. When you’re not winning, you have to take stock in other things to measure your success. So, those things are good. I still stand by a little bit of what we alluded to that day as well. I mean, there are a lot of other things that go into it, but having success certainly helps.”

Stroman continues to make a difference

Special teams has been a hallmark at Virginia Tech for decades, and the emphasis on special teams has been amped up even more in 2017. With an admittedly smaller margin of error, Virginia Tech’s coaches have ingrained into the team the importance of special teams, and making big plays. As close as the Duke series has been over the last few years, it could come into play again on Saturday.

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Greg Stroman (3) has been one of the best punt returners in the country this season. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

“I think if you look at the last four games that these two teams have played, they’ve split 2-2 and I think there’s one point differential between the two teams in the last four games,” Fuente said.  “So we had to block a field goal and hang on to win by three. We’ve had four-overtime games and so on and so forth, you all know as well as I do. But it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought football game and we’ll need to have a great week of practice.”

Fortunately for Virginia Tech, they’ve got one of the best special teams playmakers in college football. Greg Stroman flashed his ability again vs. North Carolina, returning his second punt for a touchdown this season. Stroman is 12th in the country in average yards per punt return, and is one of six returners in FBS with multiple return touchdowns.

“Well, I just think he’s a gamer,” Fuente said. “When I say that, I don’t mean he takes days off in practice. He shows up every single day and works hard. But what he may lack in terms of size and stature, he makes up for in intelligence and competitiveness.”

Other coaches have noticed how good Stroman is. In fact, last season, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe talked to Justin Fuente about it after the game, in which Stroman was injured.

“I remember vividly after the game last year, David telling me, ‘I hope Greg’s okay. That’s a really good kid.’ And I don’t know if they had been in touch through recruiting or what, because as you guys remember Greg got banged up on the punt return last year in the game,” Fuente said. “So I think it’s more than just myself that realizes what a special youngster he is.”

Fox making the most of opportunity

Virginia Tech’s running back corps has been in flux all season long, and Saturday was no different. The Hokies were down to three healthy running backs — Travon McMillian, Jalen Holston and Coleman Fox — and Steven Peoples was available in an emergency-only basis. With the extra opportunity, Fox took advantage of the situation and led the Hokies in rushing with 58 yards.

Fox is an intriguing player. The redshirt sophomore didn’t play at all his first two seasons on campus, but has been rather efficient in his third season at Virginia Tech. Fox has received 36 carries and rushed for 211 yards, which averages to be 5.9 yards per rush. Fox is second on the team in rushing, and leads all running backs in yards per carry.

With the Hokies lacking a true workhorse at running back, is there a chance that Fox could see the field more than he has, and in situations outside of garbage time?

“I have been pleased with Coleman, what he’s done when he’s been in the game and how he’s worked,” Fuente said. “We’ll continue to push and bring him along. I’m not going to discredit what he’s done because it was late in the game. When he’s had his opportunity, he has done well.”

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20 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Fox certainly displays more moves and quickness than the other backs..so imo , he may very well be the most elusive runner..the blocking and pass catching ability is something I dont have enough knowledge to comment on. To stretch a point, I do know alot of very good runners are not known for blocking or pass catching..whether from lack of desire, size, or toughness–the latter doubtful as runners have to have to be very tough to take the punishment. The running game is obviously, the weakest part of the team..Some very shakey play calling plays a part..thats the easiest conclusion to draw.

  2. Kinda funny to hear posters on here substituting their incomplete knowledge and expertise for that of Coach Fuente. In Fuente, I trust.

  3. Great stuff. Mochas Gracias on the Coleman ???? As his production in games (regardless of Qtr) have earned him the opportunity to contribute in Qtr 1&2.

    Let’s Go…Hokies!!!

  4. One reason (at least for now) that I will never hate Duke football is because of the classiness of Coach Cut. For him to say to Coach Fuente after the game last year ‘I hope Greg’s okay. That’s a really good kid.’ speaks volumes.

  5. Duke’s coach had such a great vacation to Serbia this year he’s now changed his name to Davic!

  6. Ricky, do you think we are we really “lacking a true workhorse”, or does Fuente’s offense spread it around to multiple RBs on purpose? it would appear that even after one RB has a great drive, and may even score at TD, he isnt “rewarded” as i would see it by being in on the ensuing drive.

    1. I think the definition of a workhorse RB is different for Fuente and Cornelsen’s offense. A workhorse RB, in their scheme, must be versatile above all else. The back must be able to a) be an effective runner, b) be an effective receiver out of the backfield and c) be an effective blocker, pass and run. They also need to not fumble the ball.

      Each of the running backs on the roster struggles with at least one of these, or has yet to prove he can do one of these. That’s how I view it. I could be wrong, but that’s how I see things.

      1. Yes. Agreed. The closest is TMac. He is a good runner, a good receiver and is much improved at blocking (best besides Peoples). Holsten has yet to show much and Fox is not playing early dues to blocking ability.

  7. Well coach the fans aren’t blind watching the yardage gained by Fox. How about giving him more “quality time” and see what results occur. To this fan he is the best running back on the team unless I have lost my vision.

    1. I really don’t see how you think Fox is the best. You are suggesting that Fuente cannot tell who is the best back in his stable? Fuente gets paid millions because he deserves the money based on his expertise in winning football games. Why would he play 3 running backs ahead of Fox? Answer: Fox is the 4th best RB (based on practice, games and “expected outcomes”) and really happy for Fox to be productive – exciting to watch.

    2. Imagine if McMillian had continued to get carries in the second half of the BC game. He would have had bigger numbers. The coaches make decisions. McMillian was not playing poorly. They were getting different people reps in different parts of the game. If they had decided to give McMillian the reps that Holston and Fox had gotten, he would have litkely gotten close to 100 yds.

      1. u are right. he would get 100yds. travon has a running style thats best for attacking the edge and not as great at making finer cuts in the A and B gap runs, traps, inside zone. I think Fuente gets mad (like fumble mad) when travon wiffs on blocks. open field blocking is so hard and he just demands it before he gives carries to guys.

    3. It could be that Fox struggles in practice and plays better when the light comes on. Which happens to a lot of players. Or it could also be that he is in games when the outcome is not in doubt. I would like to see him get more playing time earlier on to see what type of impact he can have.

        1. And you know how Fuente values blocking. Fox has played very well in mop up when teams are dead tired and defeated and he is fresh. I think he has done well and deserves to see the field some, but he doesn’t have the tools of this offense

  8. Fuente with a backhand complement at end…not going to discredit his accomplishments??? I doubt Coleman sees anything but mopup time the rest of the season…unless we depleted down to 2 backs.

    1. I didn’t read it as backhanded. I read it as Fuente getting in front of what most people would say in reaction to his late-in-the-game yards…that they were easier to earn because the game was out of reach for UNC. Therefore Fuente see his output as all positive.

      But the way Fuente has reacted every time to questions about the emergence of Coleman this season leaves me to believe that something is going on, or has happened, that Fuente is not happy about with the kid. He is quick to admit his success, but then even quicker to say “We will have to see how things progress as the season goes on.” So either Fuente is reluctant to use Coleman as more of a feature back for some unknown reason, or he is keeping that card in his pocket for when we really a good hand later in the season.

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