Tech Talk Live Notes: Fuente, Rogers Talk About Hokies’ Preparation for Liberty

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Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop hosted their second Tech Talk Live of the 2016 season at Frank’s Theatres Cinebowl and Grille, as Virginia Tech prepares to host Liberty in their season-opener on Saturday, Sept. 3. The guests for the show were Sam Rogers and Head Coach Justin Fuente. Here are the highlights from the show.

Sam Rogers

Excitement of first game

“We can’t wait to get there and play someone different and just show what we’ve been working on since January. It feels like forever since we actually played a game, so we can’t wait to get out there and do what we do.”

Surprised by success at college level

“I expect a lot of things from myself. Growing up, that’s what I was taught to do. My brother and my dad, they told me to expect a lot of myself, so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily surprising, but it’s definitely a blessing and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

How coaches will use his versatility

I’m excited to do whatever these guys want to do with me. Whether that’s running the ball, catching the ball, blocking or playing special teams, I’ll do whatever these guys ask.

Mock weekend

“It was awesome. The intensity was high throughout the weekend, just getting ready and getting focused and prepared. Not that the focus isn’t there early in the week, but around Thursday it definitely ramps up. Just getting ourselves tuned in and ready for gameday.”

Schedule for the week before Liberty

“Just what you would expect, practice. Tuesday, tomorrow, we’re going with shoulder pads and the next couple days we’ll take the pads off and just get geared towards the game. What do you expect? Practice, practice, practice.”

Leadership ability

“I think leadership is something you can work at. I’ve learned from different people throughout my life, learning from my dad, my brother, really my mom and my sister too and just coaches that I’ve had. They’ve been great examples for me and I just imitate those and just use my own personality in that way.”

Involvement with the Student Hokie Club

“It’s a fun thing to be a part of, just getting people excited about giving back once they leave Virginia Tech, just knowing that all of the stuff we have didn’t come out of thin air. People have to pay for that, so I just want to get people excited about giving back to our university.”

Sam Rogers
Sam Rogers (45) could be a coach whenever his playing days are over.

After football career

“I don’t really know yet. I’ve thought about coaching. I know Coach Fuente told me that he wants me to coach but I don’t know yet, we’ll see what happens. Whatever God has planned for me.”

How far along the offense is, how good the offense can be after a few games

“I still think we have a lot of work to do, but it’d definitely be nice to get out there and see the offense clicking a little better. Obviously it’s a new offense. Just getting in with the 1’s, getting a better routine, just clicking a little bit helps a lot. We’ve just got to keep going.”

Thoughts on how defense looks

“That defense is incredible. Going against them the last couple years, it’s just been a challenge for me, seeing the different looks that they give you. They give you a lot of complicated looks and it helps your knowledge of the game if you study the defense. It’s a tough defense to figure out. I don’t envy other teams coming in to play our defense.”

Relationship with Jerod Evans

“Jerod’s been awesome. It’s been great working with him. We were in the same lifting group over the summer so I got to run some routes for him and do things like that this summer, so it’s been great working with him. He’s a really hard working guy and he just wants to come in here, contribute and do the best he can. You have to respect it.”

Ending recent struggles in Lane Stadium

“Just taking it one day at a time. Coach Fuente preaches just going 1-0, taking it one game at a time and not looking ahead. It starts with Liberty.”

Anyone looking ahead to Tennessee?

“No, if we did, Coach Fuente would get us right real quick.”

Thoughts on No. 25

“I think it’s awesome. It’s going to give everybody a new level of competition, especially on special teams. I know all of the starters, we want to rush on special teams, we want to wear that No. 25 jersey. It’s going to be an honor, whoever gets that each week. It’s something really exciting.”

Justin Fuente

How No. 25 tribute got started

“… Basically we came up with honoring it through special teams, a way to honor his number and also have it be something with the team where the team is involved with it. I went to Whit when we made that decision, to run it by the boss real quick just to make sure everything was alright and Whit was 100 percent behind it. We’ve been sitting on it for a long time, it’s kind of been bothering me. I’m not a great secret-keeper. I really wanted to talk about it. I hope people take it for what it is, and it is truly what we have to do. We have to build off of what Coach accomplished here and also his time here. We felt like with his tie to special teams, it was a great way to do it. It was also kind of a neat way for kids to participate in it, maybe more than just hanging a banner or something like that. Let’s let our kids participate in it, let’s highlight special teams and change it from week to week so that more than one kids gets to participate in celebrating, and hopefully the fans will look forward to seeing who’s in 25 and hopefully our kids will continue to strive to get that moniker, get that reward and it will continue to grow.”

How No. 25 player will be decided

“That’s kind of how we originated it, with the thought behind special teams and who had been playing well and who’s been contributing and doing a great job. Obviously, there are a few things there. It is an eligible number, so you’ve got some offensive line issues, because we do have on our special teams with our new shield punt. We’ll kind of massage it. I tried not to make any strict rules to start with so we can kind of figure it out, but I think it should reward somebody who’s been contributing, working hard and being a team guy. They may only be on one special team but if they’re playing that to their fullest, making plays there and playing on either side of the ball as well, we’ll take that into consideration as we move forward.”

Thoughts and emotions about the start of the season

“Obviously we’re excited, the kids are excited to play. We’ve had about enough practice, not that we don’t need more, but we’ve had enough of that. The kids are ready to move forward and go play a stranger. The defensive coaches have had enough going against the offense and the offensive coaches have had enough going against the defense. It’s time for us to go play. My emotions are pretty suppressed right now. I want to make sure we go about it in the right manner, that we’re prepared, that we have every scenario covered in all three phases of the game, that we go about it in a very workmanlike attitude, but also there’s a buildup of emotion, of excitement. I want our guys to play with great emotion, I want them to play smart, I want them to play good football, but it’s an emotional game and I want them to play that way. We’re kind of in the buildup phase and I know everybody is excited.”

Doing the Hokie Walk last week

“No, there were students kind of wondering what we were doing, walking up Beamer Way, but it was good. I’m pretty particular about the way we prepare and how our practice is structured. We went through our Thursday and Friday practice and then led up to our Friday night meetings, we actually went to Roanoke and had our meetings there and we ate our Friday night meal. We didn’t stay the night, we drove back and we woke up in Blacksburg and went over to the Inn, and just pretended like we were in Roanoke, and did our pregame meals, then bused over and did the walk. There’s just a lot of organizational structure that goes into a 120 guys or however many you dress out, less than that probably, but getting stretched and getting warmed up and all those sorts of things. So we went through the entire pregame, then we went through a scripted game, to make sure we’re getting our communication right with coaches, make sure we get guys substituted correctly and special teams alert calls, all those sorts of things that can happen in a game, we try to make sure we got that dry run. I want our team focused on just playing football. I try to go to the ‘nth’ degree explaining what we want, how we want it so they just have to worry about playing ball. I think we got a lot of that accomplished. It’s not the most enjoyable weekend, there’s a lot of logistics getting worked out, but it serves a very good purpose and I think we got something out of it.”

Surprises coaching at VT compared to Memphis or other jobs

“There’s always a few things that are just slightly different. There’s a 45-minute bus ride to the game that we didn’t have at Memphis, which I think is a good thing. I love where we’re staying, I love the setup, the people have been fantastic for us, but there’s just a few logistical things. It’s pretty nice, honestly, that we play at the same place that we practice, I think. We did not have that luxury at the last place, our stadium was off-campus, so there were some logistical issues there that we don’t have to deal with here that make life a little bit easier.”

Jerod Evans
Jerod Evans (4) was named the starting quarterback for Virginia Tech for the season-opener vs. Liberty on Sept. 3

Decision to start Jerod Evans at QB for Week 1

“I’ve been proud of all three of the guys. I think Josh (Jackson) has made big strides and he’s continued to get better. I like how Brenden (Motley) goes about his work on a daily basis. There was a lot of discussion about it. Obviously, Coach Cornelson and I were the main ones involved in it, but we weren’t holding secret meetings by any means. We were just talking our way through it and figuring out the various scenarios and we felt like right now, at this point in time, that Jerod gave us the best chance to win ballgames, win a ballgame I should say, and that we also felt like we needed to continue to evaluate them. We still need to develop those other two guys, we need to get those guys ready to play. It’s a long season and there are a lot of different scenarios that could fall into play, so we need to be prepared for all of them.”

Jerod Evans’ personality on and off the field

“He hasn’t had the most direct road to being a Division I, ACC quarterback. There have been a lot of peaks and valleys for him and he’s worked incredibly hard, and this is important to him. The one thing about Jerod, is he is a good listener. He wants to be coached, he wants to be good, he wants to do it correctly, that’s not to say those other two aren’t, they are very good at that too, but Jerod, it’s awfully important to him to learn how to play the position and to do it correctly.”

Is the depth chart “much ado about nothing”?

“Pretty much. That doesn’t mean that we don’t value earning a starting job, we absolutely do, but particularly on offense and defense is getting more like this, in terms of defensive substitution with the offense, whether you’re playing three down or four down, nickel, you’ve got an extra defensive back in there or you’re playing three linebackers, whatever it is, and offense is kind of the same way to another degree, in terms of whether you have two running backs on the field or one tight end, two tight ends, three receivers, so on and so forth. One game, you may play with two running backs in the game 65 percent of the time. In the next game, you may not. Just designating 11 starters is a little bit difficult, but that’s a good thing. You can take them however you want and Sam is a perfect example, he really plays more than one position for us. People would think you’re crazy if you put 14 positions out there on your depth chart. You take it a little bit with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go compete for jobs. There’s only five offensive linemen on almost every play. There’s usually just one quarterback. The rest is kind of negotiable. We’ve had good competition. The thing is, our depth is still where our biggest concerns are at. We’ve got some young guys in the two-deep that we need to bring along as the season goes on.”

Goal for number of plays?

“No, I don’t. Some people do. I just never have. I look at first down efficiency, third down efficiency, I think those correlate with each other, in terms of, if you get four yards or more on first down, you have a better chance of having a third and short, then your percentages go up from there. We look at those things, obviously we look at turnovers, penalties that stop a drive, how we are in the redzone, we pay attention to all of those things. We do look at how many plays we ran, but I have never set it as a goal that we have to run this many plays. There’s times when you’re up and you’re trying to take the air out of the ball and you’re trying to go home with a win. The bottom line is just trying to win the game, so I have never really gotten caught up in that. I know obviously, the number of plays are going up in college football because people are operating at a faster tempo.”

Goals for next few days before Liberty

“I would like for us to get to the point where we know the intricacies of the gameplan in our two-deep, not just our starters. I already know Sam Rogers knows it. What I’m worried about is the next guy. I already know that Ken Ekanem knows what we’re doing, I want to make sure the next guy knows it as well as Ken. We talk about this in the offseason all the time. In the offseason, you go out there and the best guys jump to the front of the line in the drill, and you think, ‘Man, we’re going to be good this year.’ Then the other guys go and you think, ‘Wait a minute, that wasn’t as good as the first guys.’ The challenge in the offseason is the same during the season, is to get the second line looking like the first line. That’s easier said than done, but that’s what I’d like for us to do headed into the first game. I’d like for us to accomplish and master the gameplan, the techniques of what we’re going to ask them to do on Saturday in a two-deep setting in all three phases of the game.”

Comfort level with the offensive line

“I feel like we’re making good progress. I go back to this, I really like their mindset. I like the way they show up to work every day. I like their passion and their enthusiasm for doing hard things and tough things. There’s not a bunch of egos in there. From that perspective, I really like it. I’ve seen those guys go compete their tails off to get on the field and there will be more than five guys playing on Saturday. I can promise you that. It’s going to be a 12:30 kickoff. It may be warm, we may have to shuffle some guys in and out. We’re continuing to evolve there, but I like their mindset.”

Thoughts on Turner Gill

“I’ve followed Coach Gill’s career, going back to when I was a kid at Oklahoma, he was playing quarterback for Nebraska and obviously there was a big rivalry there, he’s gone on to have a fine coaching career, he did a great job at Buffalo and got that thing up and running, and now he’s done a great job at Liberty. They’re a dangerous football team, you look at their skill kids, they’ve got a quarterback who’s athletic, mobile and can cause you problems, you’ve got a very accomplished tailback and wide receiver. Defensively, they’re a four-down defense, they do a good job of keeping the ball in front of them. When they get mad, they bring the house. They’ve done a really good job of it. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us.”

Biggest concern for Saturday

“It’s our first game. We have gone to the ‘nth’ degree to paint those pictures of playing smart football in the first game. We’ve done more situational work than I’ve ever done in my entire career, in terms of handling in-game situations, handling special teams situations and all of the things that can come up, and those are the things that usually rear their head in the season. Ball security is always one of the first things that comes to your mind. It’s one thing to have the first game of the year, it’s another thing to have the first game of the year with a new staff, coaching and that sort of thing. There’s a lot of variables in play, but I’m confident that we’ve got a great group of kids that will be ready to play the game the right way come Saturday.”

Potential interest in playing overseas

“I’d prefer to stay in the United States. I just think it’s a long ways away for the fans to go, that would be my first concern. It’s one thing to drive 100 miles down the road to see us play Tennessee, it’s another thing to be on another continent. I’m not saying those games are bad, I’d just prefer to play in the United States if I’ve given a choice.”

“I was watching the game in Australia, and I was thinking I was glad that Whit (Babcock) didn’t have us making our debut in Australia.”

Thoughts on starting season at home

“If you look at our schedule, we’ve got four games, then we have an off week. Obviously, with Liberty on Saturday, we’ve got the Battle at Bristol. The thing we’re going to point towards, the next week is our first conference game vs. Boston College. My message to the team after we finish this Saturday is that no matter what happens in Bristol, we have to be ready for this Saturday for our first conference game. I’ll paint all the scenarios and all that sort of stuff. When you have bad results, it’s a lot harder to turn the page and I’ve experienced that first-hand. We’re laying the groundwork one week at a time, one step at a time, one practice at a time in order to find a way to go 1-0 and it’s the hardest thing to do in sports, to take the emotion out of it, good or bad, turn the page, and prepare for the next game, and that’s what young teams struggle with and hopefully with our leadership and continuing to do a good job coaching our guys we can do that.”

Greg Stroman and the punt return game

“For the punt return team, goal No. 1 is for us to have possession at the end of the play, then we can move forward from there. It takes some real nerve, some real bravery to return punts in college or in the pros. It’s so comforting to actually have somebody that’s done it in games, and obviously Greg has added to the return game not just fielding punts, he’s a skilled returner. We have to make good decisions back there, that’s the thing that Greg is continuing to learn and I’m continuing to harp on, ‘I know you want to be aggressive, I know you want to make plays, we do too, but we’ve got to pick and choose our opportunities. On kickoff return, if the ball is eight yards deep, statistics say, take a knee. I know you want to make a play, but you’ll get your opportunity, it’s just not right then. The same with fielding punts, there are times when you have to fair catch the punt. I know you want to score, you don’t have to prove that to me, we know you want to do it and we know you’re a team player, be a team player by making these good decisions. It’s a double-edged sword sometimes.”

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. So the team spends Friday night in Roanoke for home games. Is that new, or am I just picking up on it for the first time?

    1. No, they’ve been staying at Hotel Roanoke for quite some time. I’m not sure when it started, but it hasn’t been recently.

  2. So if Stroman catches the ball 8 yards deep in the end zone on KO’s, he should down it.

    What if he catches it 1 yard deep and runs backwards 7 yards? Still down it.

    1. “We’ve done more situational work than I’ve ever done in my entire career” – CJF

      I think Coach will have him straight this year…

  3. I would feel better right now if he had 5 instead of 8. Ha. I like preparing for situations. Go Hokies!

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