Virginia Tech Notebook: Unforced Errors, Defensive Tackle Depth and Injury Updates

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Virginia Tech football
Virginia Tech is counting on Bryce Watts (28), Tyree Rodgers (2) and Jarrod Hewitt (55) to take a major step forward for the rest of the season. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente told the media on Monday that his Hokies committed too many unforced errors vs. Clemson on Saturday. On Saturday, his quarterback Josh Jackson reiterated that stance.

“I think we were beating ourselves, more than anything,” Jackson said. “There were some plays, like for example, a play we ran a thousand times, I messed the read up, or something like that. Just little things that Clemson had no effect on, it was just us beating ourselves.”

Those unforced errors weren’t the only reason the Hokies fell to Clemson on Saturday, but it was a big reason. Virginia Tech turned the ball over three times, two of which were interceptions from Jackson. 

Jackson and the Hokies have gone back and reviewed the film, and believe they’ll get everything under control.

“I saw the errors that we made as an offense,” Jackson said. “Looked at them, and hopefully corrected them this week.”

This week, Virginia Tech faces another stingy defense in Boston College, particularly against the pass. The Eagles rank fourth in the country in pass defense efficiency, 12th in passing yards allowed and have recorded seven interceptions already.

Boston College’s key is their man-to-man coverage in the secondary. The Eagles start four upperclassmen in their secondary, and safety Denis Lukas has five interceptions and four pass breakups. In order to beat Boston College’s man-to-man defense, the Hokies will rely on their receiving corps to generate separation.

“Yeah, they run a lot of man. They’ve got a lot of trust in their players,” Jackson said. “We just have to win one-on-one matchups, that’s what I’ve seen so far. There will be some other zone-type defenses, but man is what they like to run.”

Foster searching for fourth reliable defensive tackle

Virginia Tech’s struggle to develop depth on the defensive line has not only hindered the defense overall, but has forced defensive coordinator Bud Foster to get creative. The Hokies have been forced to slide defensive end Vinny Mihota inside more often, instead of his natural defensive end spot.

Things don’t appear to be improving. The Hokies have found one reliable backup at defensive tackle in Jarrod Hewitt, but are still looking for the fourth.

“Xavier Burke has done some good things, Jimmie Taylor has done some good things at times,” Bud Foster said. “Those guys are very similar in a lot of ways. Xavier is a little bigger, we just need some guys to be a little twitchier and make more of a dent in the line of scrimmage and those types of things.”

To be fair, neither Burke or Taylor are natural tackles either. Burke, who is 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds, is a converted tight end while Taylor, 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds, is a converted defensive end. Both have seen limited playing time this season, each registering half of a tackle for loss against East Carolina.

Hewitt has carried his weight so far. After a less than impressive spring, Virginia Tech has seen Hewitt begin taking huge strides.

“He’s playing more like the guy that we recruited, and I see him getting better each and every week,” Foster said. “I like his approach to work every day and working to improve, and its showing on the field. I’m really excited about where he’s going. We need another guy or two to step up, and that’s the disappointing thing because we haven’t had that yet, in my opinion.”

Virginia Tech football
James Clark (89) has missed Virginia Tech’s last two games. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Injury updates

On the injury front, Virginia Tech is dealing with a few players being nicked up. Among those is graduate transfer receiver James Clark. After earning playing time for the Hokies at receiver and kick returner, Clark has sat out Virginia Tech’s last two games. In his place, Henri Murphy has caught six passes for 89 yards and averaged 22.6 yards per kick return.

“James has been dealing with a few things, and Henri has done a good job,” Fuente said. “Henri was a little banged up for a little while, so James kind of came into that role. James gets a little banged up, so Henri is kind of back healthy and he kind of slides in.”

Virginia Tech could use both of those guys healthy at wide receiver.  The Hokies are thin at that position right now, and receivers not named Cam Phillips, Sean Savoy or CJ Carroll have combined for just 14 receptions in four games.

Brandon Facyson was also injured during Virginia Tech’s loss to Clemson, but seems fine now. Foster said after the game that Facyson had sprained his ankle, but Fuente told the media on Monday that Facyson was practicing with the team on Sunday.

Still, Virginia Tech is searching for depth at cornerback. Behind Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander, Tech has a bunch of younger players with limited playing experience. Freshman Bryce Watts has played in garbage time this season, alongside redshirt-freshman Tyree Rodgers.

“I think (Bryce) Watts is the closest one that’s ready to contribute,” Fuente said. “I didn’t know that Brandon was injured, he was at practice yesterday, practicing, so I anticipate everything will be fine. So, continuing to bring Bryce and some of those young guys along is going to be important, because you just never know what’s going to happen. It’s a long season.”

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

    1. He had a great freshman year when he was on the side that allowed him to play mainly zone coverage. Got lots of pass breakups and multiple INTs. I think we as fans have extrapolated that success into a broader vision of him as a lock-down corner, when in reality he is very good with his eyes on the QB/ball (zone) but has shown deficiencies in playing man coverage.

  1. Kumah has quietly had a couple of catches now and showed toughness against some tackling against Clemson. Not saying he is “ready’ but he isn’t without catches anymore.

  2. Glad there is a bye week after the BC game. Half way through the season, some R&R and soaking in the whirlpool will be good for the 2-Deep. Stretch, hit the weight room and study some film. Then onwards and upwards to run the rest of the slate.


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