In his weekly appearance on the ACC Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday, Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente fielded questions about a variety of topics, mainly centered on East Carolina. Here are the highlights of what Fuente said during the call.
On open field tackling ability of Hokies
“In the first and third game, I would say it was pretty good. The second game against Tennessee, they tend to spread you out and put you in a little bit more space, which is what we’re going to be dealing with this week. It’s a little hard to give a blanket statement, just because of the different styles of offenses that we’ve played against, but usually your tackling is a function of being in good position. When you get out of position, in bad body position, or you’re half a step late, you’re having to lay out to try and make a tackle and you tend to miss them. At times, I like the way we’ve tackled in the open field and in space and at times it’s needed a little work.”
Challenges presented by East Carolina’s defense
“They’re very athletic, that’s the first thing that jumps off the film at you. They can really run at all of their spots. They like to move up front. They give you a few different looks. They’re not your “screw your cleats into the ground” type of defense. They’re much more of a movement-oriented, speed defense.”
How having a specific coordinator for special teams helps preparation
“Well, it’s been my experience that that’s the best way to do it. There’s a lot of nuances and skill development that goes into special teams. Obviously we all know it’s more than just a kicker and a punter, but there are a lot of fundamentals that have to be taught. James (Shibest) is an expert in those fundamentals. He does a great job gameplanning it and getting it taught to our kids. It’s kind of how it’s been everywhere I’ve been, in terms of having somebody be in charge of it. I’ve chosen to keep it that way.”
Thoughts on East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones (39 receptions, 443 yards, one touchdown in three games)
“Obviously, he’s a gifted athlete, has great savvy, in terms of being able to settle in zone coverage and also defeat man coverage, in terms of attacking leverage and doing the little things that create separation. He’s also sure handed, but he’s not the only guy they have over there. They’ve got plenty of good weapons that I think, looking at the film, they have confidence in all of their guys. It’s quite a task to take those guys on.
Level of talent in American Athletic Conference (AAC)
“In my opinion, it’s underrated on a national level, in terms of quality of play. The last couple years, I think you’ve seen it get even better. I think part of that is that they have really good quarterback play. Not just East Carolina, but everybody in that league. You think about Houston obviously, Temple last year knocking off Penn State and took Notre Dame to the wire with PJ Walker. They’ve got really good quarterback play. Memphis last year had good quarterback play. It kind of gives them, I don’t want to say a leg up, but it allows them to compete at a high level and when you look at what they’ve done non-conference-wise the last couple years, it speaks volumes about the quality of play in that league, at least among the top handful of teams. East Carolina is certainly in that group.”
How far along Virginia Tech is offensively through first three games
“We’re still a work in progress. Each week is so different, when you talk about the type of teams you’re going to play against, what other teams’ defensive strengths and weaknesses are. It causes you to change a little bit from week to week. We’re still figuring out how to adapt our personnel to those changes that need to be made on a week to week basis, who can handle those changes, who can’t handle those changes. We’re still learning each other, in terms of that mindset. I’m optimistic we’re getting better, we’re continuing to figure out those skillsets and see what guys can handle.”
Plan concerning possible redshirt for true-freshman quarterback Josh Jackson
“We are still trying to wait and see what happens, in terms of how the season is going to play out. He’s continuing to get reps with the first team or with the varsity group, I should say. He’s not been moved to scout team, he’s still one of three guys getting the reps. We just don’t want to burn his redshirt in those types of situations. I would hate to look back at the end of the year and make it all the way through healthy, but have burned his redshirt in those types of deals. We’re trying to manage it. Eventually, we’ll get to the point in the year where we feel like there’s no way we should play him unless something crazy happens, but right now we’re just trying to manage it week to week.”