Before reading today’s content, let’s hit on some housekeeping items.
TSL’s game preview, courtesy of Chris Coleman, is also live. Be sure to read that before Saturday.
Also, former football head coach Frank Beamer and former baseball coach Chuck Hartman will both be inducted into the 2018 Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Class. While Beamer’s accomplishments are well-documented, Hartman is the winningest coach in Virginia Tech baseball history, going 961-591-8 in his 28 seasons in Blacksburg. The two will be inducted on April 7, 2018.
Now, let’s dive into the notebook.
Virginia Tech’s options to replace Terrell Edmunds
Virginia Tech football announced on Tuesday after their normal press availability that safety Terrell Edmunds will miss the rest of the season with a left shoulder injury. Edmunds, a redshirt-junior who has made 31 career starts, has been a leader for the Hokies’ secondary all season.
The media did conduct a couple of interviews after the news was announced, and senior receiver Cam Phillips said that while Edmunds’ injury in a huge loss, Tech has to replace him the best they can.
“I mean it sucks, but it’s next guy up. There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Phillips said. “So the guys that are behind him are going to have to do a good job taking reps and watching film, doing the things that he did that made him a good player, and an asset out there for us on defense.”
“(Edmunds) is a leader for us,” said Travon McMillian. “He’s a playmaker. What Coach said was that we’re a team, and the next guy has to be ready to play. So, whoever that next guy is, I’m sure he’ll be ready.”
With Edmunds out of the lineup, Virginia Tech must find a new free safety. Fortunately for the Hokies, they have a couple of options. Whip/nickelback Mook Reynolds has experience playing the position, and could give Tech a veteran presence at the position. If Reynolds were to move to free safety, redshirt-senior Deon Newsome would likely take over at whip/nickelback. Redshirt-freshman Khalil Ladler could also play the free safety, and has looked good in limited time this season.
Fuente and Co. determined to get offense clicking
The Virginia Tech offense is in a bit of a slump. Virginia Tech hasn’t scored more than 24 points since their 59-7 drubbing of North Carolina on Oct. 21, and is averaging just 278.5 yards of offense in their last two games. The Hokies scored 22 points last Saturday vs. Georgia Tech, but six of those came on an interception return for a touchdown.
On Monday, head coach Justin Fuente said that while he may not be “frustrated” with the team’s offensive performance in recent weeks, he understand things have to improve, and quickly.
“I’ve been through tough times, but I always stop short of that word, quite honestly,” Fuente said. “Like, I just don’t think it’s our job to be frustrated. It’s our job to try and create solutions, and our job to teach and our job to try and get our guys to play to the best of their ability, and put them in as many good situations as we possibly can. It’s just different, when you’ve got different people who have different strengths and weaknesses, and trying to capitalize on those vs. what you’re seeing week in and week out. I would not use the word frustrated. A point of emphasis? Yes.”
Virginia Tech’s struggles on offense can be traced to several factors. For one, quarterback Josh Jackson is pretty banged up at this point in the season. Jackson has been dealing with a left foot and right shoulder injury, and entered the week of preparation for Georgia Tech feeling pretty sore. However, on Tuesday, Jackson said he’s been able to heal up a bit.
“I feel good. I feel a lot better this week,” Jackson said. “Didn’t have to run the ball as much, so that felt good, and yeah, I feel a lot better.”
Jackson’s lingering injuries led the Hokies to use backup quarterback AJ Bush a few times vs. the Yellow Jackets last weekend. Bush did not attempt a pass, but did carry the ball four times for 11 yards. It was the first action Bush has seen all season in a non-garbage time situation.
“We made the decision going into last week to let AJ get in there and carry the ball a couple times. That wasn’t an indictment on Josh’s performance. I think it was just more of how he felt through the week, and trying to lighten the load on him a little bit,” Fuente said.
Is there a chance Virginia Tech could employ Bush more frequently down the stretch? Possibly.
“Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see,” Fuente said of Bush. “I would certainly say it’s a possibility. I would stop short of saying — first, I would say we haven’t had that conversation yet, just in the week. But, I just don’t know if that’s something we’ll do moving forward or not.”
The offense has also struggled because of the receivers. Virginia Tech has been unable to win many one-on-one matchups in recent weeks, making it extremely difficult for Jackson and Co. to move the ball through the air.
“There’s a lot of plays to be made on my part,” said senior receiver Cam Phillips. “Really, that’s it. I mean, just a lot of plays to be made. Attention to detail needs to be a lot better. Then really, just focusing on making those plays whenever we get the chance, whether that’s ball in the air, making a guy miss, getting the right leverage on a block, just certain things like that.
“The plays are out there. On my end, the ball is up there, it doesn’t matter who it is in the one-on-one matchup. I’m supposed to make those plays, regardless if it’s Clemson or it’s ECU, or Georgia Tech. It doesn’t matter. The coaches call the plays because they have the confidence, solely speaking on me and my part, because they have trust in me that I can go out and make those plays, and I haven’t been doing that the last few weeks.”
Jackson shouldered some of the blame as well, saying he needs to be more accurate with his throws and give his receivers more opportunities.
“I’ve got to give the guys a chance, and they’ve got to go make plays,” Jackson said. “There’s a couple of times I didn’t give (Eric) Kumah really a chance to catch it in bounds, and there was an out-route I threw to Cam that was a little wide. That’s just on me.”