With just days before the Battle at Bristol, Virginia Tech is in full preparation mode for Tennessee.
Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster has been watching film for a while now on the Volunteers’ offense, and said that what they showed last week vs. Appalachian State was nowhere near the best they have to offer.
“I think so, but you have to give (Appalachian State) some credit too,” Foster said. “They played really, really well. I also thought, compared to what I saw last year, Tennessee was very vanilla and we’re expecting to see a little more of what they did last year in this ballgame. Usually teams will improve the most from week one to week two and I think we’ll see a much more improved football team.”
Foster complimented Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs and even compared him to former UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who currently plays for the Green Bay Packers.
“He might even throw it a little bit better,” Foster said. “We played those guys in the Sun Bowl. I think very similar in regards to their ability to run and create with the ball in his hands. I’ve been very impressed, poised in the pocket, his ability to escape when things aren’t there and he’s got a live arm down the field.”
Brandon Facyson will be one of the cornerbacks tasked with slowing Dobbs down. Facyson said that he knows Dobbs a little bit off the field, as both players are from the Greater Atlanta area.
“He’s a mobile quarterback. He can also stand in the pocket and deliver some strikes,” Facyson said. “When you’re playing against a team like this, you just have to really focus on what you need to do and read your keys, and do what you practiced throughout the week.”
Virginia Tech knows that Dobbs isn’t Tennessee’s only weapon. Facyson mentioned receivers Josh Malone, Preston Williams and Josh Smith, all of whom are 6-foot-1 or taller.
“Big guys who can go up and get the ball,” Facyson said. “No. 3, 7 and 25 all have the capabilities of making plays and that’s what really stands out about them.”
“(Dobbs) doesn’t have to do it himself,” Foster said. “He’s got a couple running backs, he’s got dynamic receivers, the tight end will be one of the better players that we face.”
It does help Virginia Tech that Adonis Alexander returns this week from a one game suspension stemming from a marijuana arrest in the spring. Even if Alexander doesn’t start vs. Tennessee, he will play a major role in the secondary.
“We’re going to see how these guys practice this week,” Foster said. “I think what it allows us to do is it gives us three quality players at that spot. As games go along, we’ve got three dynamic guys that are really good players, and I think we can rotate those guys through like we do at defensive line, keeping people fresh.”
Virginia Tech Looking for Extra Gear on Offense
Offensively, Virginia Tech is hoping to improve off of their performance vs. Liberty last Saturday. Even though the offense wasn’t perfect, the Hokies did run 89 plays on offense. Jerod Evans believes the Hokies can operate at an even quicker tempo.
“I think there’s definitely another gear to this offense,” Evans said. “We were just trying to figure out where we were at and make sure we were executing right. I kind of slowed down myself to make sure I was executing and that I’m doing my job right.”
Just because Virginia Tech can operate quicker on offense doesn’t mean they will.
“We pretty much kind of scratch where it itches,” said Wide Receivers Coach Holmon Wiggins. “Sometimes you get in the flow of the game, you’ll kind of get an idea of what you want to do, whether that’s mashing the gas a little bit and push the tempo, or slowing it down and kind of sitting there and being a little more methodical.”
Wiggins mentioned Tuesday night that the blocking by his wide receivers wasn’t good enough and that the group will need to improve vs. Tennessee.
“In my opinion, horrible,” Wiggins said. “We need to get better and we’re working on that this week. We’re going to have to finish and strain a whole lot harder this week to get things done.
“We ask those guys to do a little bit of everything,” Wiggins said. “Those guys have to be complete receivers. They’re going to have to run the ball, they’re going to have to block on the perimeter, catch the ball. We ask them to do it all.”
Wiggins said that Tennessee’s secondary doesn’t really have a weak spot and that the Hokies have their work cut out for them on Saturday night.
“They’re good all around,” Wiggins said. “Those guys do an awesome job, playing their coverages and some of the man stuff they do. They have some unbelievable talent and some unbelievable players back there, so it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for our guys, but they’re up for it.”
Evans, who will be making just his second career start at the FBS level, said that he just started diving into Tennessee’s film on Monday.
“To be honest, I haven’t watched a lot of film,” Evans said. “I watched a lot on my day off yesterday. I wouldn’t consider it a lot, I’m just diving in. They’re very, very talented. They’ve got a great front seven, great DBs. I don’t know exactly how much of a threat they pose, but they have great talent. I’m still watching film, I just started yesterday.”
Murphy Hoping to Break Through on Offense With Speed
One player to watch out for on offense this season is wide receiver Henri Murphy.
Murphy, who enrolled for the 2016 spring semester, is widely regarded as one of the fastest players on the team and got a carry on a jet sweep vs. Liberty.
“Henri is definitely a blazer and a great player,” Facyson said. “He’s going to be a great player for us. I think he’s definitely one of the fastest players on our team, without a doubt.”
The junior college transfer from Pine Bluff, AR. Was recruited by Wiggins and Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest at Memphis while he was coming out of high school. The Memphis coaching staff kept in touch with Murphy throughout his time at East Central Community College. When a majority of the staff up and moved to Virginia Tech, Murphy felt comfortable following them to Blacksburg.
“From day one, they’ve always been the same,” Murphy said. “They showed that they cared about me. They were loyal to me and during college, they still stuck with me. This place was the best fit for me to be. I’m just here to help win games and be a part of a great group of guys.”
Murphy’s speed is his best attribute at this point in his career. Evans, who threw with Murphy this summer as the two tried to get acclimated, was surprised by Murphy’s speed. Murphy asked Evans to throw him a deep post route, which Murphy was able to run down.
“I just wanted to see how his arm was,” Murphy said. “I told him to throw me a post and he threw it, he kind of put all his effort into throwing the ball, and I went under and got it and he looked at me shocked like, ‘I didn’t know you were going to catch it.’”
In fact, Murphy might just well be the fastest guy on the team.
“I raced Greg Stroman a couple of weeks after I got here,” Murphy said. “The few weeks before I got here, they were saying how fast he was and how it was going to be a good race between me and him. I just wanted to see it, because growing up I never lost a race. I didn’t have any pressure on me at all… We raced out there in the indoor facility and I beat him.”
Even though Murphy raced Stroman and won, he declined to race Terrell Edmunds, who is also regarded by players as one of the fastest guys on the team.
“(Terrell) wanted to race me too, but I said, ‘No, I’m good,’” Murphy said.
Murphy is well known for his speed, but also his joyful, playful attitude, as well as his southern accent and mannerisms.
“He’s a little bit of a country bumpkin,” Wiggins joked. “Henri has a great personality. There’s no doubt, when you watch him run, you can tell he was born to do that.”
“He’s definitely a goofball,” Evans said. “I like it, personally… He’s a good guy to be around. He keeps the spirit up around the team. He knows how to have a good time.”
“I think they’re just not used to my talking and stuff like that,” Murphy said. “I feel that I talk the same as everybody else. I talk different I guess.”
Murphy said that he just likes to keep it loose with his teammates and enjoy playing football.
“I like just making jokes,” Murphy said. “I’m always making little jokes. On the field, it’s all about having fun, so I just have everybody laughing every day. Sometimes they have me laughing, or sometimes we just don’t laugh at all.”