Tech Talk Live Notes: Hokies Talk Belk Bowl Preparation, Babcock Comments on Future Plans

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Tech Talk Live

Tech Talk Live took Monday off but came right back on Tuesday with a full lineup of guests. Virginia Tech’s Augie Conte, Nigel Williams and Justin Fuente all talked about their preparation for Thursday’s Belk Bowl vs. Arkansas, while Director of Athletics Whit Babcock commented on facility improvements and the search for a volleyball coach.

Here are the highlights.

Augie Conte

Importance of finishing with a 10-win season after rough stretch

“It’s not only important for this year, it’s also important for next year. Winning a bowl game, going out with a 10-win season, not many people can say that they’ve been a part of a 10-win season, but winning your bowl game kind of springboards you into next season. It kind of sets the foundation for offseason training. It’s not only important for this season, but it’s important for getting the next season started. That’s something I think would be very appropriate for our senior class, to kind of go out with setting the foundation for next year’s team.”

Reflecting on coaching transition

“I think when Coach Fuente first came in, he pretty much said if we want this thing to work, we’re going to have to get the seniors and eventually the entire team to buy in. For me, if I like what a coach is saying, I’m pretty easy to get to buy in. I think all the seniors bought in and made it a mission to get others to buy in and bring everybody else along with what Coach Fuente was saying. Obviously his philosophy works. It was easy for me to buy into his program because his system has proven to be successful wherever he’s gone. It was easy for me to buy into his program, but that was kind of the mission of the seniors when Coach Fuente came in, just bring everyone else along and get them to buy in and accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Nigel Williams

Tutoring Tim Settle, Ricky Walker at defensive tackle

“I remember last year after leaving Shreveport with Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall, they were talking about how it was my time to step up. I definitely learned a lot from those guys like (Derrick Hopkins), Luther and Corey for my last few years here. I just knew we had a lot of young guys coming in and stepping into big roles this year. I just did my part to help push them along in the spring and the summer. We would spend a lot of downtime on the weekends just learning from each other and teach each other a lot of new things to prepare for the season. When (Settle and Walker) got called up to perform, they did a good job throughout the year.”

How Vinny Mihota has dealt with injury

“He had a tough year. I live with him, Woody (Baron) and Wyatt (Teller). We come home and talk about how banged up we are and everything. Vinny has been playing through a lot of bangs and bruises throughout the season. Just seeing the way he’s toughed it out through the year and still was able to lead this team and make plays with that injury, it was really a testament to how strong and tough he was. We all fed off of that and we’re playing for him somewhat in this game as well.”

Challenge posed by Arkansas offensive line

“I think they show a very consistent and hardworking team. They rally around their running back, an all-SEC guy. They definitely work the run behind the offensive line. I think it’ll be a good test for the defensive line and all of the defensive guys as well.”

Nigel Williams (8) was having a breakout season for the Hokies before suffering an injury that slowed him later in the year.

Whit Babcock

Son on Blacksburg High School football team winning a state championship

“When Justin (Fuente) is coaching and we’re playing games at Tech and we win, it’s a relief. When I’m watching my son play, it’s joy. My wife is freaking out, yelling, I’m like, ‘This is a piece of cake.’ To watch him and to watch that, we always preach in athletics team, chemistry and it comes together. They did a wonderful, amazing thing. I talked to Drew, I said ‘Hey, there’s a lot more beyond that.’ The fact that they’ll be able to remember that, that’s a good life lesson. We love Blacksburg. It was great to watch them play and win the state championship.”

Ticket sales for Belk Bowl

“We’re very pleased with it, thanks to the fans that are here and will be coming in. We sold out of our allotment, which is outstanding. The Belk Bowl people told me just a few minutes ago that yesterday was their second-biggest sales day since the game was announced. I guess people got through Christmas and a little bit of last-minute travel and the energy and excitement is building. We ought to have a heck of a crowd. I have no idea what it will be but we’ll have a lot more than them and it’s nice to have a bowl game where people can drive and get to it.”

Importance of 10-win season

“As an athletic director, the momentum for our whole department, but just to watch these seniors and the transition and the things they’ve had to go through… we also talk about this, the life lessons of change, adapting and doing all of that, to watch the senior class have a chance to go out and leave it in better hands than they found it, that’s probably the most rewarding.”

Thoughts on men’s basketball team

“When you get to conference play in any sport, the ACC really lets you know where you’re at. To be ranked, I believe I read that today, the momentum there, the players and their grades, it’s great. We’ll find out what we’re made of and we’ve got a sellout against Duke and that would be a great way to start.”

Comments on search for volleyball coach

“First, we have to start with Chris Riley who is an outstanding and incredibly good guy. Our young ladies playing volleyball are outstanding. Chris needed to take care of some things but everything is fine. There comes a time where you’ve got to do some things and we have a good job. We’re working on it. Desiree (Reed-Francois) is leading the search and I help, screen and do all that but hopefully we can get a good one that fits Virginia Tech. But Chris was outstanding. Every hire we make, we talk about this often, right now we’re not in a position to outspend everybody so we have to out-hire and out-train and out-recruit and all of those things. Every sport, all 22, we want to be great and Chris certainly left it better than he found it. Hopefully we can find the right one, but we don’t have it yet. It’s a little different search process. You can take a little more time, you can bring people to campus, whereas with the football coach search with Justin (Fuente), it was phone calls and speed dating and you always meet off-campus. This one is a little different and you can move at your own pace so we’re excited about it.”

Possible updates to tennis facilities and Bowman Room

“We would like to do that, and we’re working on it, it just takes money. The tennis facility we’d like to work on and for those of you that visit the Bowman Room, it’s wonderful real estate so to speak. We want to modernize it, expand it, make it a team dining hall, training table and also something very nice for our donors and fans, where it’s used 300 times a year instead of 50 or 60. There’s an old saying, even if you’re on the right track, if you sit still eventually you’ll get run over and we don’t want to sit still.”

Justin Fuente

Keeping kids focused during bowl week with preparation and outside activities

“I’ve been pleased with the way our guys have handled it. We just kind of approach it like this, ‘Guys, you’re right, it is a reward… but we still have a job to do. When it’s time for us to work, then we need to be clearly focused on the task at hand.’ The reason we’re here is because of the way we have worked and ultimately prepared and have given ourselves a chance to win on Saturdays. We need to continue that part of it, but when it is time for us to relax and have a good time and fellowship, I want us to do that. I don’t want you to be on edge because I’m around or the coaches are around when we’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves. When it is time to have a meeting or it is time to go to practice, we need to carve that time out and focus on the task at hand and get ready to win a ballgame.”

Talks of Arkansas thinking about playing a different defense

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about it. If they were trying to get our attention, they certainly did. They have been incredibly efficient offensively. In their mind, they haven’t been as good defensively as they wanted. He’s made no bones about it that he’s talked openly about the possibility of switching to a 3-4 defense next year, which obviously leaves you to wonder if they’ll experiment with some of that in the bowl game. That’s obviously something we’ve prepared for and talked about, without trying to chase ghosts. If you’re not careful, you’re out there trying to block everything known to man and you don’t get anything done. We’ve tried to balance that out. There is an interesting element on both sides of the ball when you head into a game where both teams have had a long time to prepare. You’ve got extra film time, extra time to break down tendencies and it can work either way in the middle of a game.”

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2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I keep on saying it – and it keeps on getting reinforced. Hiring Whit Babcock was the best move we could have made. It keeps on paying dividends over and over again.

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