Virginia Tech Football News and Notes: Grimsley Comfortable In The Slot

Hezekiah Grimsley is comfortable in the slot for Virginia Tech. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Head coach Justin Fuente was joined by punter Oscar Bradburn, wide receiver Hezekiah Grimsley, and center Kyle Chung today for the last preseason press conference before media day on Sunday. Here are some news and notes from the press conference.

Grimsley Comfortable in the Slot

During the only open practice of the preseason, we saw that Hezekiah Grimsley was working with the ones in the slot, with Damon Hazelton and Eric Kumah each split out wide. Last year, Grimsley was moved around between the slot and outside receiver spots. Heading into 2018, the sophomore is firmly planted in the slot.

“I think the biggest thing has been we’ve put him one place and left him there,” Fuente said. “We moved him all over creation as a necessity last year, which was probably a little unfair to his development. We’ve left him in the slot and that’s where he’s playing, that’s where he’s getting more comfortable, and he’s getting more efficient and more consistent there. He’s continued to improve.”

“I’m pleased with the decision to move me to slot,” Grimsley said. “I feel like it’s easier to make plays on the inside. Now that I’m in one spot, I can work on how to perfect it. Learning the slot to its fullest.”

Grimsley finished 2017 with 12 catches for 139 yards. Virginia Tech fans caught a glimpse of the player he can be over the final two games of the season. Against UVA, the Williamsburg native snatched five balls for 56 yards, including an acrobatic catch that set up the only touchdown of the game. In the Camping World Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Grimsley recorded five receptions for 63 yards.

“The last two games when I had to step up… I knew I had to focus in and get everything right,” Grimsley said. “With OSU and UVA, those two games really brought me out and it was the start of something that I could do. People were seeing what I could do this season.”

Bradburn’s Maturation

Last year at this time, Bradburn was still adjusting to American football and American slang. He was embarrassing himself in class, asking a female classmate for a “rubber,” what Australians call erasers. Now, he’s acclimated to Blacksburg and ready to take on a bigger role this year.

“I definitely needed that first season to become more comfortable with the way I play and stuff,” Bradburn said. “I’ve come leaps and bounds since I’ve come here. Going from one sport to another has been quite a journey. It’s working out for me so far.”

Coming off a year where he averaged 42.4 yards per punt as a freshman, Bradburn quickly learned the significance of special teams at Virginia Tech. It wasn’t just a part of practice that had a few minutes dedicated to it, but an area that the Hokies always emphasize.

“Ever since I’ve got here, it’s quite obvious the foundation that coach Beamer had set,” Bradburn said. “It’s really taken seriously between the coaches and the players with the No. 25 tradition. Older players want to be on special teams, which says something about Virginia Tech.”

Chung’s Experience

It seems like Kyle Chung has been around for an eternity. How long exactly?

“My freshman year, it was the last year they came out with the (NCAA Football video) game,” Chung said.

Now, as a sixth-year senior, Chung finally finished his final fall camp in Blacksburg. For a guy who’s overcome his fair share of adversity, Chung is just ready to get back out on the field for one final season.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Chung said. “Fall camp is a lot of hard work. Being out there with the guys and all that camaraderie that comes with it, I’m going to miss it. I’m starting to look forward to the games now instead of practicing against each other for three weeks straight.”

Fortnite: More than a Video Game

Fortnite, the popular battle royal video game that drew more than 125 million players in less than a year, has been a good tool of bonding between the players. Chung noted that he plays with quarterback Josh Jackson almost every night, which helps the communication between the two. He estimated that 90 percent of the team plays the video game.

“I’ve been playing the game since it first came out last year,” Chung said. “I like to call myself the OG of Fortnite. It’s just something to get your mind off of football and school for a little bit.”

While Chung claims to be the best player on the team, Bradburn pointed to a former player who’s now turned preseason star of the Redskins as the best. Bradburn doesn’t consider himself to be much of a player.

“It was Tim Settle,” Bradburn said. “He never shut up about it. That was last year.

“I try my best, but I’m not as good as my tech-savvy roommates Dalton Keene, Cole Blaker, and Coleman Fox. I’m nothing compared to them. We’ve had plenty of late nights in the summer just going at each other in Fortnite.”

Belief in the Sport

A report in the Roanoke Times pointed out that three VHSL varsity football teams would not field a team because of the declining popularity and safety concerns of the sport. VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun went as far to say that eight-man football may be the future of the sport.

“I do believe in this sport,” Fuente said. “I believe it can help teach and mold young people. Are there certain things we need to focus on to make the game safer to play? Absolutely… I’m open-minded enough to listen to the concerns out there and realize that we need to continue to evolve so we can play this game that teaches us so much.”

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  1. On the last note about three high schools not fielding football teams this year, some context is needed. Two of the schools are in NoVa where the community demographics have changed significantly over the last 20 years. These now largely recent immigrant communities are not as familiar with the American football tradition, in addition to other aspects of participating in football. Although there has been some reduction in football participation due to a new understanding of risk, I believe that this is a much smaller issue for these communities. Over time, the younger people in these communities that become adults, will be more likely to pass on this tradition. Additionally, especially in high population areas, communities ebb and flow and change one way and then change another way, where a more typical mix of backgrounds/experiences will be present in the community. So, in summary, there are a group of people that we need to turn into Hokies, so they understand what the lunchpail means.

  2. If Bradburn had been from Scotland, he might have asked that coed for a “wee rubber”. Would have loved to have been there to hear that question and the response. Might still be laughing.

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