It’s kind of a slow time around the football offices at Virginia Tech. While the coaches hit the recruiting trail before bowl preparation, the Hokies have found themselves with a lot of down time this week. Tech doesn’t yet know what bowl game they’ll be in, so they’re spending their time lifting, running, and if you’re Ricky Walker and Tim Settle, playing the new Call of Duty video game.
“It’s a blessing,” Walker said. “It’s more sleep time, more nap time. It’s so much free time, I don’t know what to do. I’ve gotten to play Call of Duty a little bit more.”
“Better ask Ricky who’s at the top of the leaderboard,” Settle said. “I’m the best one on the team. You can ask anybody, I’m telling you.”
On a serious note, Virginia Tech is taking full advantage of the off week. The Hokies were a M*A*S*H unit heading into their in-state rivalry game vs. Virginia on Nov. 24, and could seriously use the extra time. Defensive ends Trevon Hill and Vinny Mihota, whip/nickelback Mook Reynolds, defensive tackle Jarrod Hewitt, left tackle Yosuah Nijman and kicker Joey Slye have all been banged up in recent weeks, and most of them missed Tech’s game vs. Virginia.
This week, Virginia Tech has taken the week off, outside of regular weight training and conditioning drills.
“It’s definitely taken stress of our bodies,” Settle said. “It’s letting us really like heal, and just get back healthy, for all the people who do have bumps and bruises and stuff like that. So it definitely takes stress off our bodies, not practicing as much and not as much contact.”
“We had a lot of guys on the team playing a lot of snaps last year, especially defensively. Had a lot of new guys in this year, so we needed the rest,” Gallo said. “Just physically for our bodies. But I think we finished the season pretty strong with those final two wins, and I think our bodies are pretty strong going into the end of the season. I think we just need to build up for the bowl game right now, and try to get back as strong as possible before then.”
The Hokies should learn their bowl game opponent late this weekend, likely on Sunday afternoon. Once they learn their opponent, bowl preparation will begin. And the Hokies aren’t worried about getting back into the swing of things.
“I don’t think it’s that hard,” senior mike linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka said. “I’m pretty sure guys are looking forward to the bowl game, and just all that it brings. Just having fun with each other and enjoying that last time that we have together to play in a football game. But I’m sure once we find out who we’re playing, that’ll help drive guys.”
“I think the plan that Coach (Fuente) has is a great plan,” senior cornerback Greg Stroman said. “I think that as long as we follow that, we’ll be fine. I just feel like right now, we’re doing a lot in the weight room, conditioning, staying up on our conditioning. I just think that’s just the right way to go.”
Until then, Tech is waiting in the wings. Some players have tried to predict their bowl destination, while others haven’t thought about it at all.
“I just want to play an SEC team,” Motuapuaka said. “Kind of show those guys that the ACC is tough too, and that we can play with those guys as well. So yeah, any SEC team is a team I want to play.”
“I actually don’t look at the bowl scenarios,” Gallo said. “It’s out of our hands at this point. Obviously, we control where we go, based on our play. But at this point, there’s nothing we can do that can change it. So I just patiently wait and see what happens.”
Virginia Tech underclassmen focusing on NFL Draft decisions after bowl season
Once bowl season is over, multiple Virginia Tech players face a decision. Return for their final year of eligibility, or declare for the NFL Draft?
Among those players is linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who is one of the most highly-regarded underclassmen eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft. The junior linebacker has made 28 career starts in his career, registering 10 sacks and 35 tackles for loss.
Edmunds is aware of his potential attractiveness to NFL teams, but is doing his best to put the NFL talk behind him.
“Just kind of blocking it out right now, trying to finish up the season,” Edmunds said. “I got my mind on the bowl game right now, so we still have another game left. Just kind of blocking it out, and just trying to finish the season.”
That doesn’t mean Edmunds won’t attempt to submit paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which aims to further educate pro prospects on their projected draft range.
“That’ll be up to the coaches. I’ll let them decide that, and we’ll go from there,” Edmunds said.
Edmunds said that his older brother, free safety Terrell, will also have a decision to make. Tremaine said playing with his brother is enticing, and that it’ll be part of his decision.
“Definitely. I’d like to play however long I can with my brothers,” Edmunds said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be his decision, it’ll be both of our decisions.”
Tim Settle hopes to submit paperwork to the advisory board, and will take that feedback into account when he makes his decision.
“I’m not really worried about it right now,” Settle said. “Just trying to focus on this last game, and see how that goes. This is the seniors’ last game. We sent them out good at home, we sent them out good against UVA, we want to send them out good with a bowl game.”
Settle could be an attractive option to NFL teams. The redshirt sophomore started all 12 games this season, and finished with 12.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Settle took great strides in 2017, evolving from an off-the-bench pass rusher into a stalwart on Virginia Tech’s defensive line. However, Settle only has one year of starter-level production, and has two more years of eligibility in Blacksburg.
Ricky Walker echoed both Edmunds’ and Settle’s sentiments regarding the NFL Draft. The redshirt junior has 16 career starts, with 18 career tackles for loss and five sacks. Walker started four games in 2016, and turned into the “bell cow” this season for the Virginia Tech defense, which is currently 13th in the nation in total defense, 16th in rush defense, and 17th in pass efficiency defense.
“Not right now. I’m worried about the bowl game,” Walker said. “But the NFL is always an option. I’ll worry about that more after the bowl game.”