At Virginia Tech’s weekly press conference on Monday, Head Coach Justin Fuente said that he noticed that his Hokies didn’t have a great week of practice heading into their primetime matchup against Tennessee last Saturday.
“Yeah, absolutely I noticed it and I pointed it out to them,” Fuente said. “There’s a lot that goes into that and that’s up to us to get fixed. The leadership on the team, the coaching staff, we have to have better preparation. I wasn’t happy with it during the week and I told our kids that.”
Fuente wasn’t the only one to notice that things seemed off at practices and team activities.
“I don’t know exactly what happened for Tennessee,” said Jerod Evans. “We all came out flat. I can’t really put my finger on it, it was just flat. We didn’t have the same urgency that we should have came out with that Tuesday and Wednesday of Tennessee week.”
“I definitely felt that throughout the week. It just felt like practice was dead, like we were all just going through the motions,” said Andrew Motuapuaka. “From the leaders down. We’re trying to do a better job this week of just leading by example.”
After an embarrassing defeat last Saturday, Virginia Tech must now right the ship for their first ACC game of the season vs. Boston College on Saturday. Senior Jonathan McLaughlin said that he and the other leaders on the team must help get guys headed in the right direction.
“At this point, we don’t have a choice,” McLaughlin said. “They need to know that it’s time to go.”
Most certainly, one of the points of emphasis this week will be taking care of the football. Virginia Tech has lost nine fumbles in the first two games of the season, including five vs. Tennessee last Saturday.
“We’re fumbling the ball too much. That’s a fact,” Fuente said. “We must, it’s not an option, get that fixed. That is a result of several things. One, we have to do a better job technically. Looking at the last two games, we talked to the team about it Wednesday, there’s some technical things there we have to get figured out, some emphasis. There’s a little bit of toughness and selflessness that goes into holding onto the football that we haven’t had.”
Evans, who’s been credited with three fumbles this season, said that Fuente and the coaching staff have made it known that ball security needs to be valued above all else on offense.
“You do have, every once in a while, those occasions where you hold onto the ball and no matter what, the defensive player puts his head in the right place and the ball comes out. Then you have those occasions, the ones we’ve been having, that we’re not thinking about it and we’re thinking about making extra effort plays, but we’re not actually thinking about protecting that ball,” Evans said. “We just have to make a conscious effort to protect the ball instead of getting those extra two or three yards, if that’s the case. If that’s not the case, then we want the extra yards, but we got to make a better effort, consciously, to protect the ball.”
Penalties Remain an Issue For Virginia Tech
Fumbles won’t be the only point of emphasis this week. Virginia Tech committed eight penalties for 101 yards, including two unsportsmanlike penalties on Mook Reynolds and Steven Peoples.
“Maybe the most disappointing thing over the last two weeks is our lack of discipline,” Fuente said. “It’s something we pride ourselves on and I’ve always tried to have our teams pride ourselves on. That’s not to say there won’t ever be penalties, but we have been inadequate, to say the least, there.”
“It’s more of an understanding that, that’s not the way we play football,” Evans said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen on the team that gets it and I think that’s going to be easy to fix.”
Fuente also said that guys who played without discipline might not be playing much at all if they can’t change their mindset.
“There’s several ways to address those things. One of those is playing time,” Fuente said. “Ultimately, that’s the biggest card that coaches have. Sometimes, coaches’ hands are a little bit tied with that, in terms of depth chart and that sort of stuff. We continue to teach off of those things and understand why those things happen.”
Hokies Still Looking for Starters on Offensive Line
Virginia Tech has made several personnel changes to the offensive line in the beginning part of the season. Colt Pettit has started at left guard over Wyatt Teller in both games, while Kyle Chung started at center over Eric Gallo vs. Tennessee. Braxton Pfaff has also seen plenty of playing time for Augie Conte at right guard.
Chung seemed to struggle with the center-quarterback exchange on Saturday night with a couple of poor snaps, including one that went over Evans’ head for a turnover.
Despite the switching in and out of guys on the line and at center, Fuente isn’t worried about a lack of chemistry there.
“We have the exact same amount of reps for the ones as the twos, in everything we do,” Fuente said. “As you go through the season, those twos become your ones. It’s just how it goes.”
For Evans, he said that working with both Gallo and Chung in practice has helped him grow more comfortable with both centers.
“It’s kind of difficult, but at the same time, I get a lot of reps with them,” Evans said. “It gets easier once I start getting a feel for both of them, once I get a couple reps with (Kyle) Chung and once I get some reps with Eric (Gallo). I get a feel for both of them and how they snap the ball, under center and in the shotgun.”
News and Notes
- Virginia Tech announced on Monday that linebacker Trent Young had season-ending knee surgery. Young, a redshirt-sophomore, has yet to play this season. Young appeared in six games in 2015, all on special teams.
- The ACC announced that Hokies’ game vs. East Carolina is slated for a 12:30 p.m. start. This week’s game vs. Boston College is set for 3:30 p.m.