Virginia Tech Football Update: Trevon Hill, Faking Injuries, and a Short Week

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Justin Fuente Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente and the Hokies dispatched of Florida State on Labor Day night, 24-3, and will face William & Mary just five days later. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech leaped all the way to No. 12 in the AP Top 25 Poll following their 24-3 beatdown of Florida State in Tallahassee. Now, the Hokies prepare for William & Mary on Saturday in the home opener, which has already been announced as a sellout.

Head coach Justin Fuente answered questions on the ACC teleconference and press conference in Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon in the lead up to Saturday’s game.

Facing William & Mary on a Short Week

Following Monday night’s win against Florida State, Virginia Tech only has five days before its next game vs. William & Mary. Yes, William & Mary is an FCS opponent, but Virginia Tech fans will always remember the letdown against JMU in 2010. In what was a similar scenario, the Hokies fell to Boise State on a Monday before returning home to face the Dukes on Saturday.

The 2012 season can also be used as a data point where Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech at home on a Monday, then took care of business the following Saturday, handily defeating Austin Peay 42-7. Fuente will rely on the model he learned from Gary Patterson at TCU for the preparation during this short week.

“It’s tough,” Fuente said. “The underlying theme is to get our guys feeling good and knowing what to do over the next couple days in our condensed version of game prep.

“It’s the same model when you have a Saturday game, then a Thursday game. There’s not nearly as much physical work. When I was with Coach Patterson at first, we really got after it hard in pads in a short week and weren’t having a lot of success. After a couple years, he switched it up to the model we’re using now. We take the pads off, and that makes you a little bit nervous as a coach, but we’ve had pretty good success with that model. Quite a bit of the contact is cut out. We do a little more closer to the game than we would normally do, out of time necessity.”

William & Mary enters Saturday with a record of 1-0 following a 14-7 win at Bucknell. The Tribe secondary limited Bucknell quarterback John Chiarolanzio to just 143 yards through the air. Just like the Hokies, William & Mary controlled the time of possession in its week one matchup.

“When you look at their game last week, they held the ball for 37 minutes,” Fuente said. “Held Bucknell to 11 first downs. It was a low scoring game, but it seemed like they had the ball the whole game. They are sound in their assignments and their techniques. You can tell that they’re a well-coached and disciplined football team that can cause you problems if you don’t execute yourself. It’s going to make for a really good challenge for us. I know those guys will be excited to play, as will we.”

Jimmye Laycock’s Legacy

Fuente and Co. will face William & Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock on Saturday in what is his final season in Williamsburg. Laycock has been at the helm since 1980, amassing a record of 245-189-2 in 38 seasons thus far.

Laycock played his college ball at William & Mary, where he learned the finer points of football under two iconic coaches. Marv Levy, best known for coaching the Buffalo Bills to four straight AFC Championships from 1990-1993, was the head man at William & Mary for the first three years of Laycock’s playing career. In Laycock’s final year, Lou Holtz earned his first head coaching job before eventually leading Notre Dame to a National Championship in 1988.

“Well, it’s an honor to play them, and to play them in his last year,” Fuente said. “I know those kids think the world of him and are going to do everything they can to send him out in the right way throughout the season, not just our game, but I know they would love to get a win here for him. Just his level of continuity and consistency that they’ve had there I think is extremely rare in today’s day and age, and it speaks volumes to the foundation of his program that it can last year after year.”

Trevon Hill Virginia Tech
Trevon Hill (94) missed almost all of the first quarter, but had a two-sack performance once he came in. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Trevon Hill’s Standout Performance

Virginia Tech fans were holding their breath in the days before Monday’s opener, awaiting word if defensive end Trevon Hill would be eligible to play. No news on Hill’s status circulated, and Hill played Monday night, despite sitting out the first two series. According to Fuente, that was just a typical coaching decision. The ESPN duo of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit reported that Hill had been cleared academically preceding the game, without providing any other details.

“They didn’t get that from me,” Fuente said. “T Hill was completely eligible to play. The other guys had practiced a little bit more, or a little bit better. We felt good about playing him, we started the other guys and rotated him in. We knew we were going to play a bunch of people.”

Even with all the rumors flying around, Hill played Monday night with a chip on his shoulder, putting in one of his best performances in a Virginia Tech uniform. The redshirt junior tallied two sacks and three tackles for loss. Hill seems poised for a big year, after leading the Hokies with 5.5 sacks in 2017.

“He’s improved in the weight room,” Fuente said. “Looking at him he looks different. He’s improved his strength. The one sack that he had, I thought it was a pretty athletic play to run the hoop like that. His shoulders looked like they were about six inches off the ground when he was doing that. It was pretty impressive. He’s continued to work hard, and I think it showed certainly flashes of that in the game. Continuing to be a disciplined player is something we’re staying after him on, in terms of not trying to do too much or do your own thing. Occasionally, he’ll do something and you’ll say ‘Man, that’s pretty darn good.’”

Virginia Tech Faking Injuries?

The main storyline coming out of Wednesday’s ACC teleconference was whether Virginia Tech was faking injuries at times to stunt Florida State’s up-tempo offense. Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart wasn’t one to mince words.

“I mean, it is what it is,” Taggart said. “It happened too often, so it’s hard not to (think it was intentional) … I guess it’s part of football now. That’s all I can say.”

Florida State fans booed anytime a Virginia Tech player went down with an injury, even when Ricky Walker and Reggie Floyd both couldn’t get up following a head-to-head collision between the two players. The Seminoles faithful will also look at the time when defensive tackle Xavier Burke went down after an FSU first down, but the Athletic’s Andy Bitter offers a plausible explanation in this tweet below.

“Well, I don’t know if it’s a problem or not,” Fuente said. “I know this: Going into the game, we were severely concerned about our ability to handle the humidity and the weather, just coming from our climate down there. We certainly had some issues with it throughout the game. At halftime numerous guys were in there getting IVs and getting treatment so they could finish out the game.

“My answer is that we had numerous issues with cramping and guys battling through bumps and bruises and nicks and things that they were fighting through.”

Ultimately, it’s your call on whether you think the Hokies were faking injuries.

Deshawn McClease Virginia Tech
Christian Darrisaw (77) helped open up big holes like this for Deshawn McClease (33) (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Christian Darrisaw Starting at Left Tackle

One of the biggest surprises from Monday night in Tallahassee was true freshman Christian Darrisaw starting at left tackle. All camp long, it appeared redshirt freshman Silas Dzansi was the man for the job. When the depth chart for the Florida State game was released, Dzansi was listed at first string left tackle. On Wednesday, Fuente offered an explanation for Darrisaw taking over the starting spot.

“Christian has done really well first of all, as has Silas,” Fuente said. “They’re competing for playing time at that left tackle spot. I’ve been really pleased with both of them. Silas in the weeks leading up to the game was dealing with some cramping issues in practice. As a result of that, he missed a little bit of time. We were trying to get a handle on that. In that time, Christian filled his role pretty well. Going forward those guys will still continue to compete. I would anticipate that they would both play.”

Darrisaw filled in admirably at left tackle against a challenging Florida State front four. The Fork Union Military Academy product played composed during his first collegiate start in a hostile environment.

“Candidly, the fact that we played a true freshman at left tackle and we’re not answering questions about why we gave up 25 sacks, I think he did a pretty darn good job against that defensive line,” said Fuente with a smirk. “Are there things for him to improve on? Absolutely, but he didn’t look out of place. The moment wasn’t too big for him and he went out and competed, as he’s done ever since he’s been here.”

Khalil Ladler Virginia Tech
Khalil Ladler was all over the field, including making this early fumble recovery. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Notes

While Virginia Tech excelled on special teams against Florida State, a couple roughing/running into the punter calls on Jovonn Quillen could have changed that sentiment. Twice, Quillen came rushing around the edge and clipped the punter, garnering no call either time. Fuente made sure that it will be addressed throughout the week.

“We had the blocked punt, if we had not blocked it, that would have been a 15-yard penalty because he hit his plant leg,” Fuente said. “That would have been a major mistake. We’ll certainly get that highlighted in special teams meetings. I couldn’t tell on the other one. It wasn’t his plant leg, so normally it’s just a five yard penalty if they call it. On the field I thought he ran into him, and on film it’s kind of hard to see. Those are the types of mistakes that did not hurt us in the game but will hurt us if we don’t correct them moving forward.”

Much like we expected Dzansi to start the first game the entirety of fall camp, nearly everyone expected Devon Hunter to be the starting whip linebacker until the depth chart named redshirt sophomore Khalil Ladler as the starter. Ladler collected two tackles, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery against the Seminoles.

“We’ve obviously moved his position,” Fuente said. “He’s lined up in several different spots, but he was really active. I thought he played the perimeter screens really well. There was one early in the game where they were in quads, they had four guys out there, and he just wanted to make the tackle worse than they wanted to block him, is what I felt like on the field. Blew the perimeter screen up, and it seemed like he was all over the field, so I was pleased with him.”

 

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20 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I, for one, do not believe that the injuries were fake. The fall down of Kevin Burke had been coming for two plays and the collision between Reggie and Ricky was evident. However, quite frankly, i really don’t care!!! If it is within the rules and a team is executing quickly, it is not a bad strategy and certainly not bad sportsmanship. I see nothing to apologize for either way. I guess with all the hype, Willie had to make some excuse for their lack of execution.

  2. I just loved it at the end when the Criminole fans had already left, and our players were doing that obnoxious chop. OK, so do that stupid chant when you score, but all college football fans find it really annoying, and generally]\y root against them!
    Want to go Hokies!

  3. Interesting point of VT / W&M history…

    Coach Jim Cavanaugh (VT linebackers and safety) played with Laycock on the same W&M team. Cav was a wide receiver. Caught a bunch of Laycock’s passes.

    Back then (late 60s), VT and W&M played every year. VT won all four games 1966 thru 1969.

  4. The announcers were such FSU advocates that they forgot VT even showed up. Maybe they got a chance to look at the scoreboard at the end. Go HOKIES!

  5. Years ago, it was called “the Bobby Bowden Flop” , Fla. State perfected that move. The Fla. State fans should know …

  6. Wanted to make the tackle more than they wanted to block him. Great Fuente line!!!

    Awesome Hokie Win!!!

    Now onto the Tribe!!

    Let’s Go…Hokies!!!
    Beat W&M

  7. Maybe Taggart was completely right about flopping, but it’s not a good look to whine about it after the game, was that the reason you lost?

    Is “he just wanted to make the tackle worse than they wanted to block him” quotable? or is that one of those lines you see get used over and over by dffferent coaches?

    1. It looks bad because the first thing he said when he got the Oregon job was, “No excuses”. Every talk radio guy was killing Taggert for this post gm excuse. Guys were like, “Slowed you down? You had -5 yds second half if you take one play away…so they slowed you on one play?” and “So what you are saying is that you didn’t have a plan B if you couldn’t go fast? That is bad coaching.”

  8. Trust me, visiting teams playing fsu this early ALWAYS have cramping issues. It’s a matter of not be acclimated to the heat index and humidity. Even with the air temp around 80 at kickoff it felt like a freaking sauna. I was relieved to feel the drizzle on my head.

    1. thanks for the info on the Tucker civic center parking and shuttle. We arrived at 5pm, parked in the deck 10 bucks, ate early supper, took the 5 buck round trip shuttle , got into stadium a hour early. Saw the Hokies stomp the Noles, got back on the shuttle to Tucker. We got out of the deck in 5 minutes. Got on 27 to l-10 and back to Quincy Holiday inn at 2340 hours and North Alabama at 1400. All because of You!!!!

      Thank you again

      Bill Anderson
      Athens,Alabama

  9. Ladler looked great while tackling in space and that is what a Spread run forces a defense to all tackle well one on one. Exposes the guys that can’t do it when tired….since everyone can do it while fresh.

    1. His name is Vince Houston. He has been with VTPD for a long time. I did some ride-alongs with him when I was an intern with the PD. Great great guy!

  10. Thanks for the great read. I’m glad the you included Andy Bitters’ tweet. I believe if the announcers had been more interested in the humidity less would have been said about faking.

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