Tech Talk Live Notes: Replacing Divine Deablo, Slow Starts by the Offense and Clemson

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Virginia Tech Talk Live

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente made his weekly appearance on Tech Tech Live on Monday, addressing a variety of topics from Divine Deablo’s season-ending injury, slow starts from the Tech offense and how big of a weekend it will be for recruiting. Here are the highlights from Monday’s Tech Talk Live.

Justin Fuente

Replacing Divine Deablo with Khalil Ladler, Deon Newsome and others

“Deon and Khalil both. Deon has probably played a bit more than Ladler, but those guys have progressed. We’ve got to keep bringing Devon (Hunter) along. He didn’t dress last week, was a little banged up, he’ll be fine. He was good to go yesterday. So, there’s a couple of those younger guys and Newsome, who we’re going to need to continue to play well and play at a high level, and understand the checks and all the things that go into playing in the backend, because they’re going to get in there. We’re going to use them and they’re going to play, and we’re going to need them to play well.”

Adjusting to opposing defense the reason for slow starts offensively?

 “I think it would. I think in (the Old Dominion) game, it was. That’s not always the case. I think sometimes when offenses don’t start well, it could be a myriad of reasons and sometimes, the first one is always the hardest to get. Like, you just can’t — we drove down there and missed a field goal, drove the ball down there and made a field goal and kind of piddled around, and (Old Dominion) was playing us a little different than they played North Carolina, so we’re trying to adjust some of those things and quite honestly, where we’re at right now, things need to be perfect. We’re not good enough or old enough as an offense to just overcome things that aren’t perfect. So, we’ve got to get them set up just right to give ourselves a chance to execute, and then when they did the floodgates kind of opened.”

Having success on the field side instead of the boundary side vs. Old Dominion

“Well, I think that’s part of it. Just watching how (ODU) played North Carolina, with a lot of one-high, soft looks, comparing that to what we did the week before with East Carolina, which was a lot of soft looks, I think they felt like they were going to try and make things a little more difficult for us, because we proved, I think, that we would take the underneath stuff all day long and execute that at a high level. They tried to kind of roll the coverage into the boundary and crash the corner into the boundary, which kind of hurt us, particularly early, because we were kind of anticipating a slightly different look. Then, we thought we could handle it with some of the things we had in the gameplan, and it still kind of proved too much. We kind of had to just cut bait and say, ‘Let’s just go attack the field,’ and once we got that going, we kind of eliminated the first problem we had, we could kind of pick and choose if we wanted the field or the boundary.”

Virginia Tech football
Cam Phillips and the Virginia Tech offense got rolling in the second half. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Loss to Clemson in 2016 ACC Championship sticking with Fuente

“All losses bother me, but when you have an opportunity with a special group of young men like we had last year, and they really believed and worked hard, and were fighting some really tall odds in that ballgame last year, and to see them battle back all the way that they did, and really at the end of the game, I felt like we were rolling. We got down there fairly close with a chance to win it and we just didn’t quite finish it off. It hurt me. It hurt me because we didn’t finish it off, but it hurt me for those guys, just because they had worked so hard and were a part of something special. That was a special group. They had been through so much, I really wanted it for them. To get that close, it’s something I had thought about several times since then.”

What stands out about Clemson defense

“Well the first thing that you notice from Clemson’s defense is their defensive line. I mean, they are as good as — it’s probably the No. 1 unit in America, just in terms of size, speed, athleticism, aggressiveness, talent — I mean they’re just, they’re really dangerous. You can watch them completely dominate games. I watched them play Auburn, and I know that quarterback at Auburn is a good player. He threw for a bunch of yards at Baylor, they’ve got good football players and they scored six points. A large portion of that is because of the line of scrimmage. I mean, they just absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. That’s the first thing that sticks out.

“The second thing that sticks out about Clemson are their skill players. I think it’s been like that for some time, quite honestly, between quarterbacks and running backs and wide receivers that are big and pretty, and can stretch the field. It’s the reason they’ve won a whole bunch of games.”

Importance of staying on schedule offensively and avoiding third down and long situations

“Well, I think yards are going to be pretty hard to come by for everyone. I mean, it’s going to be a really difficult, tough ballgame and I think the team that does take care of the football — and I know everybody gets tired of me talking about this — but all it does is win. Teams that take care of the football, all they do is win games. The team that can take care of the ball, the team that can force the other team to no longer take care of the ball, stay in front of the chains, win the field position battle, make one or two big plays, I think is going to have a chance to pull this thing off because it’s going to be a tough, hard-nosed football game. Don’t forget, there’s two good defenses out there. Clemson has a very, very good defense but the Virginia Tech Hokies have a pretty darn good defense too. So, I’m looking forward to the game. I mean, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be hard and there will be no place to hide out there on the field.”

What Fuente wants his team to do during time leading up to kickoff vs. Clemson

“Oh, they’re going to watch Gameday, that I can promise you. They’re going to watch it in their hotel room. We’ll let them sleep in a little bit, but we’ll get them up and have a good breakfast, have a walkthrough, we’ll get them outside and get some fresh air. Then there will be a large chunk of time there in the afternoon when I want them to go relax. I like for them to watch football on TV. I think it’s good. I enjoy having those conversations with our team. We talked a little bit about this on Friday, I show them clips from games that happened in the previous week, whether it’s two-minute drives or crazy fumbles, or things that happen through college football that we can learn from. I like when those kids watch those games, and then we’ll get together in the late afternoon and really begin to get honed in on our walkthrough and our pregame meal, and all that sort of stuff. I want them to relax, but I do encourage them to watch other people play.”

Note: The College Gameday schedule has not been finalized yet, but Fuente has said he will make the trip from the hotel in Roanoke to Blacksburg for Gameday, if asked.

Effect of playing in prime time, at home, vs. a highly ranked team

“Our recruiting weekend will be unbelievable. I mean, we will not have an official visit this weekend, but we’ll have 100 unofficial visits. The 30th-best player that’s going to be on our campus will be a really, really good player. We couldn’t buy a junior day like this, if we had to. So, from a recruiting standpoint, from a chance to put on display Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, along with Virginia Tech football. The way I look at it is, Virginia Tech football is just a part of what we’re getting to put on display, with school pride, the passion and the community, which I think is the really neat part of having them here on our campus. Not to mention, people are going to see our fan support in the game at night.”

Joey Slye’s comfort level after missing short field goal attempt vs. Old Dominion

“Well, I thought we were kind of over it, quite honestly, after the East Carolina game. Again, I’m not a kicking coach, but it is my responsibility, and he just kind of mis-hit it. He’s been dynamic on kickoffs, just has not been consistent as we would like him to be. I feel good about our operation, from our snap and our holder, just trying to evaluate everything and figure it out. He has, in the past, got a huge leg but getting him dialed in has been a little bit of a thing, kind of through his last couple years. I’m hopeful that we can get him confident and get him settled down, and get him putting them through there on a bit more regular basis.”

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