Tech Talk Live Notes: Recapping Notre Dame, and Looking Ahead to UNC

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Justin Fuente was Monday’s guest. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

On the loss against Notre Dame…

In regard to that game, first of all, I thought it was a fantastic atmosphere. The fans were active and involved. It was beautiful, and all of our players and coaching staff, myself included, are very thankful that we have the opportunity to play in an environment like that, and our kids get that support, because they do put a lot into this.  There are a lot of sacrifices that go into these kids and their social lives and all sorts of things that they have to do to play this game.  To see them rewarded with that kind of support was really special.  The game, I’m kind of split down the middle to be honest with you, maybe more than half and half, but there is definitely a part of me that is very upset because I felt like we really had a chance to do something special.  We had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, on both sides of the ball.  Then there’s another part of me that says, ‘Man, if those young kids that were out there playing with, if they can understand how encouraged we should be about their future and how good they can be.’  That was a great opportunity for them.  Where we’re striving to be as a program, that type of team, which I believe with all of my heart, I know we’re going to be that type of team in the future.  You’re kind of torn.  Part of you feels like you’ve been punched right in the gut and you feel miserable and awful about it, and the other part of you says, look at how some of these young guys played in that environment against that quality of competition, and it gets you pretty excited about what’s going on.

On Notre Dame’s playoff chances and how the Hokies can use them as a blueprint for the future…

I certainly think we have those opportunities, there’s just so many variables out there that can either speed up or pull back your progress that you just can’t define or give timetables to.  I certainly know that we will be in those positions again through the guys we have and the people we’re recruiting to be on our team and come to school at Virginia Tech.  I certainly don’t know what it holds for Notre Dame this season.  I know there’s a couple of pretty good teams out there and I think they have a good chance of winning the rest of their games, but I always am hesitant.  Everybody always puts the cart before the horse, particularly in college football, and says it’s a foregone conclusion that this, this, and this are going to happen, and those things never happen.   They never do, and we never learn our lesson, we always assume and try to pick it to early.  We’ll see how it goes, but this season they’re one of the better teams in America.

On the momentum shifts throughout the game, particularly after halftime…

There were certainly interesting lessons learned out there.  Ryan, we’re moving the ball pretty well and having some success, and Ryan just tried to do a little too much.  He got caught in between trying to throw the ball away and trying to make a play.  They picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown, and we’re sitting there with a little over a minute left on the clock.  You’ve got a quarterback making his second start, I know he started at Kansas, but really his second start on national television in front of a sold out crowd.  He just fumbled, and it’s been returned for a touchdown, and there’s a little bit of weighing what to do there, how do you approach this?  This kid has just been part of a fairly negative play, how can we get him back to playing well and what do we need to do to finish out this half?  I really felt the urge to go back at them.  I felt like we had some things there, we were matching up in some spots really well, but I wanted to feel good about Ryan.  He kind of collected himself and I just tried to explain to him quickly, ‘Ryan, you don’t have to put a cape on your back and fly around the stadium and make three guys miss and throw a Dan Marino post route over the middle of the field. Play within the system, relax a little bit, and if it’s there, it’s there, take it.’  We went out that next drive, and just pecked away at it a little bit, and then got going pretty well.  He was just on the money and drove down there to score, and that’s been a little bit of his story.  He’s either looked like that or made a mistake or two.  Going into half we got those seven points back, and it felt really good, but we knew it was going to be a heck of a battle.  We had them pinned down there deep, and our backside linebacker was a little slow getting over the top, and he got to the safety.  Then the cornerback didn’t fold in to make the tackle, and he got into the open field.  I thought Ladler did a heck of a job trying to catch him because he could run, House Gaines was trying to get him too.  We had them backed up and it was a pretty big play.

On whether Ryan Willis’ great arm strength makes it harder to reign him in…

He does have a little bit of the Will Rogers ‘I Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like,’ Ryan has never had a throw he couldn’t make.  He has so much God-given ability throwing the football, that there are some plays he makes that you’re like, ‘Holy Cow!’ and then there are some where you’re like, ‘Woah, wait a minute there.’  That’s part of it, but that’s playing that position and that’s true for the guys that are making $20 million a year, they have to walk that tight rope of making plays and not hurting the football team.  Invariably, there are going to be plays that hurt the football team, you just hope that you make enough along the way that it balances out.

On Ryan Willis’ assumption of a leadership role…

He’s done a good job of that. I think the fact that he has a year and a half of being here, and the kids seeing him work, he’s earned his stripes.  He’s got toughness, he’s shown up every single day, even when he’s not the starter, and competed.  I think he’s earned some respect from those guys.  They also know he can get them the ball, it’s not like we’re out there playing with a guy who can’t get them the ball, so they understand that.  He’s done a pretty good job, but there is quite a bit that comes with that.  He loves getting in the weight room and all that.  We go and max out as a team and he’s the first one in there in the front row, yelling and screaming.  He might as well have paint on his face.

On the difference in Ryan Willis and Josh Jackson personally…

Obviously, all the kids are different, but quarterbacks are different too.  It’s so interesting to be around them.  I think back on my career with certain guys and what their personalities were like and what they needed from you to help them play well.  Ryan is an excitable kid, he gets really excited to go play.  Josh is competitive and loves to go play as well, he’ll show some emotion, but he’s a little calmer. 

On Josh Jackson helping Ryan Willis develop…

The problem is Josh is on crutches, so I wouldn’t let him on the sideline.  I’m afraid he’s going to get rolled up, he can’t get out of the way, there’s nowhere to go on the sideline.  The other thing is he can’t use the scooter deal because of where the break was, so he’s getting big triceps now, crutching himself around campus.  When he gets back to walking around a little bit more, we’ll get him more involved.

On the ‘Virginia Tech can’t win big games’ talk…

I addressed that in the press conference.  First of all, let’s talk about since we’ve been here.  The question was home games against ranked teams.  I said, ‘What teams have we played since I’ve been here?’  They said Clemson and Notre Dame, that’s it.  Somebody else said Ohio State and I said, ‘Woah woah woah, I’m not taking that one. I don’t claim all of them wins either.’  Here’s my problem with that talk, first of all we have played well in big games.  Everybody told me before last year that we were playing for the Black Diamond Trophy, that we were playing West Virginia, that it was a big game, and we won.  Then after we won, it was no longer a big game.  Everybody told me all summer that we were opening up at Florida State on national television, same stage, and that it was a big game, then we won and it wasn’t a big game anymore.  So, that’s my problem.  What we have not done is knock off a top five team, we had Clemson in here last year and Notre Dame this year.  You’re right, we’re not there yet.  Our first year, we played Clemson on a neutral sight and they went on to win the national championship, and we lost by seven points in the ACC Championship Game, which is not a moral victory, but I don’t think anybody is saying we didn’t play well.  We laid it on the line and played pretty well.  We’ve had two games at home in the last three years where we’ve played a top five team in America and we have not beat them because we’re not there yet.  That’s the facts.  Will we be? Absolutely, 100%, but we’re not there yet.  I don’t want to hear it’s the stage, and we don’t play well in big games because that’s not true.  We haven’t beaten a top five team, but when we played on a big stage against other people we have performed well, not every single time, but certainly it’s not we can’t or don’t. I’m not complaining, I just felt like we’re going to at least get this out on the table.  Let’s really analyze what we’re talking about.  It’s kind of like a little bit like when you’re standing at a crosswalk and it says don’t walk, and there’s 25 people there.  One person decides to walk, and what do the other 24 people do? Walk right across with them.  It’s the same thing. ‘They can’t win big games.’ Everybody follows.

On the recruits that were in town for the game…

We had a great evening, we had a wonderful time.  Our staff did a great job with them, and we solicited a lot of help because the numbers were humongous.  Trying to get the kids a glimpse of Virginia Tech, and they got to see a fantastic example of a young team out there fighting, scratching, and clawing to try and beat a really good, top five or six team, in front of an unbelievable crowd that showed fantastic support and couldn’t be anything but positive.

On what happens Sunday after the game with the recruits…

Some of them stay the night, so we’ll have meetings with them the next day.  As soon as we get off the bus for Hokie Walk, we walk in, boom, it’s an hour and fifteen minutes of recruiting.  Sometimes the players will go start warming up, and as the coaches’ players enter the field they are excused from recruiting to go handle their players, but as soon as they walk in the door you change your clothes as fast as you can and it’s an hour and fifteen minutes of recruiting.  We have a staff that handles them when we’re not there that helps us, and many of them stay the night and come back up.  Some of them stay the night and come watch practice Sunday, so they get a chance to see us work out and us actually coach.

On handling emotions after the big 97-yard run early in the second half…

The notion of having a brief team meeting is out the window, you don’t have a chance.  You have to have trained them for those moments beforehand because you don’t get a chance to sit everybody down on a knee and have them take their helmet off and give them a talk.  Kickoff return unit is on, the offense is back on, you’ve got to try and get that momentum back.  We simulate certain things with sudden changes and momentum swings and situational work.  We try to simulate those things in our offseason program in terms of, we think we’re doing well, but now this has changed, and you’ve got to do it this way.  Whatever it is, just to keep them on their toes.  We’ve been a good responding team and I anticipate that will continue because we do train them like that.

On little mistakes that made big differences like Ryan Willis running into his tailback on third and goal and the penalty that called back the trick play touchdown…

Ryan was under center and he over rotated his step and it was just bad, it’s pretty simple.  The penalty is a penalty, but it’s a hard one to swallow, the guy isn’t even at the point of attack, he’s not even doing anything.  We’re on these guys so much about chasing the ball, and when you chase the ball, good things will happen.  If the ball ends up on the ground, you can recover it, so we’re on them about it so hard.  I’ve watched the film a hundred times and I believe, he turns to look and sees that people are starting to go that way, and he does what we told him to do, chase the ball.  He was probably a yard too far downfield and it was unfortunate, you hate for it to get called that way.  I understand the whole run-pass option conflict deal where lineman are down the field and you’re throwing the ball, that wasn’t this case, this is just a guy sauntering.  When the ball is released, he can’t be over three yards downfield.  Usually because of the run-pass deal, it is a rule that should be enforced.  They’ve talked about moving it to one yard, my deal is, it’s hard enough to enforce anyway, it’s not going to get any easier to enforce at one yard over three yards.  A guy is looking at the line of scrimmage, he’s not watching when the ball is released.  There has been a point of emphasis, rightfully so, because some offensive guys have been getting away with murder in terms of linemen getting downfield and throwing the ball.  I get the call, you can’t complain about it, it’s the rule, it was just an unfortunate deal.  I’m not upset with the guy who had the penalty either, he was doing what we asked him to do. It was well-executed.  The kids did a good job with it and they know we’re not afraid to pull the trigger on some of those, and some look better than others, but that sure was pretty until we saw the penalty flag. 

On Terius Wheatley’s kick returns…

Terrius is really carving out a role on this team.  I just think he’s going to continue to get better, we felt like he was a developmental guy since the very beginning.  I think he’s going to continue as he goes through his time here, he’s only a freshman, to get stronger and bigger and play a bigger role.  He’s got good vision out there and has a little bit of strength, and as his career goes on, he’s going to continue to get more.

On CJ Carroll as the punt returner…

It was good to see CJ get back there and get north and south on a good return.  Our kids have really battled on that punt return unit, there are several freshmen, true freshmen on that unit that are doing a really good job.  It was nice to see CJ get in a nice return.

On Devon Hunter redshirting…

We just feel like there’s some growth there to be made, he’s obviously got talent, and just continuing to get him comfortable with the speed of the game and what we’re asking him to do on the defensive side of the ball is important.  We felt like, if we can, it would be prudent to go ahead and go that direction.

On how the new redshirt rule has worked…

It’s been weird, there’s just a lot of different scenarios, it’s not just the true freshmen, I guess that’s the deal. The true freshmen you go in thinking about, but there’s some things like Devon’s deal where you think about what you should or shouldn’t do.  It’s an interesting study, I’m looking forward to at the end of the year, in our conference meetings talking about what everybody thought about it.

On how Divine Deablo’s absence affects the secondary…

First off, Divine, we’re hopeful will be back this week.  I can’t say enough good things about him, I want him to have success because of the type of person he is, obviously he’s a fantastic athlete, but he’s such a great kid.  We have this overwhelming feel of wanting him to have success because he’s been through so much and he is such a good person.  I just hope he’s able to peck away at this thing and stay healthy enough not just because of our team, but because of Divine and how he’s done.  We’ve got some guys out there playing for the first time, if you just look at the depth chart at corner and at safety, it’s littered with freshman.  They’re going to get better and we’re going to create the most important thing over the next two years, we’re going to create something really important and that’s competition.  Even when we were really good back there, there wasn’t a lot of competition for playing time, now what you’re going to see this year into next year and the year after that is there is going to be numbers and we can continue to create some competition to get out there on the field.

On Damon Hazelton’s development…

One of the couple reasons he transferred was because he wanted the chance to play at a little bit higher level with a group of people who are hungry to be good. He’s found that, he made good use of his year off in terms of improving his strength.  He had a little setback with hip surgery that cost him the spring, but he made big physical strides, and now he’s reaping some of the benefits for that.  He’s a really sharp kid that has some talent that needs to keep his focus on improvement, he can’t get lost in the praise and all those sorts of things because he has large strides that he can still yet make to become a really good player.

On the benefit of taking a shotgun snap on second and goal from the one-yard line…

Well, did you see us take the snap from under center and see what happened? Did you see us run into the tailback?  That’ll lead to you not doing that very much more.  The advantage is you are thinning the box.  Quarterback sneak aside, you still take the ball away from the line of scrimmage to hand it to the tailback.  You don’t snap the ball and stand there and hand it to the tailback, unless you run the triple option, then maybe.  You are actually getting the ball to the running back at the same spot as you are in the shotgun.  When you’re in the gun, you’re thinning the box because you can read a person.  That’s one less person you have to block. When the ball is on the two-yard line basically everybody is in the box, there’s more people in there than you can block.  You have to either run over one of them, or read one of them, or make one of them miss, or get one of them caught up in the trash in order to score. When you’re in the shotgun, you have a chance to read one of them, or hold one of them, so you have a chance to get in the end zone.  

On the offensive line versus Notre Dame…

I really wanted to get Lecitus Smith in the game some, I think he’s been coming along, and he’s got a bright future as a freshman.  He didn’t play perfect, but he played better, he’s got a real physical presence out there.  We had three issues there, our defense stems and moves and draws other people offsides, and we fell victim to that twice where a guy was barking a signal and caused us to flinch a little, there’s no excuse, we see it every single day.  It shouldn’t happen, but I think they’re continuing to improve.  Christian Darrisaw is getting healthy and becoming a really good player for us, and those other guys have been solid.  It was good to get Lecitus in there, not just for Lecitus, but to get another one of the inside guys out so they can take a break for a minute.  That’s a physical position and it was good to get a little rotation in there.

On recruiting in North Carolina…

When we got here, if I’m not mistaken, they were the reigning Coastal Division champions, so that’s where we started.  They’re the reigning Coastal Division champions, that’s where we want to be, so let’s aim for that.   Recruiting the state of North Carolina has very little to do with the University of North Carolina, it has everything to do with its proximity to Blacksburg.  It just makes sense to me that we should do a good job there.  There are some big population centers in North Carolina that are closer to Blacksburg than some of the big population centers in Virginia.  That doesn’t mean we’re not going to recruit Virginia, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to recruit the 757, it doesn’t mean any of that.  I think we should do well in those areas as well, we should recruit our region, and we’ve had success down there and hopefully will continue to.

On his good record after a loss…

We’ve had good teams, to be honest with you, we’ve won 19 games the last two years, we’ve had good football teams.  We’ve won a lot more than we’ve lostm and they’ve seemed to rebound pretty well and play well the next week.  I know the one that’s the one in that 9-1, and that was a tough one.  Every year is different, just because we’re 9-1 after a loss doesn’t mean that that will continue. We’ve got to go out and get prepared and get ready to win the game.

On what stands out about North Carolina…

The first thing that stands out is No. 17 (Anthony Ratliff-Williams), their wide receiver.  He’s a big-time playmaker.  He can catch it, he can throw it, he can return it, he can do it all.  He’s really a good player, their running game has continued to get better.  When they take care of the ball, they have been the traditional North Carolina offense that you would think of, since Larry Fedora has been there, they’ve been pretty good on offense.  When they’ve taken care of the ball, they’ve been pretty good.  On the defensive side of the ball, their defensive line has always been big and physical and hard to move.  It’s the same here, they’ve fallen victim to some turnover issues in the games they’ve lost.  The games they’ve won, they’ve taken care of the ball and put some points on the board.

On North Carolina’s improvements against Pittsburgh…

They took care of the football, they made some plays in the passing game, and got stops when they needed to.  Last year was an odd year for them, their injury report was the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen last year, and he has done a good job of keeping those guys playing hard and physical and tough.  I can promise you, they were off last week, they remember the last two times we’ve played, I can promise you they’ll be ready to play, and that’s our message to our team.  This team we’re getting ready to play has a lot of pride, they’re well coached, they’ve got toughness and we’ve got to have, in a short time compared to the time that they have, we’ve got to be ready to match that intensity because they’re going to be ready to go. 

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9 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Like the fact that there’s some OLine rotation during the game,a lot of coaches prefer continuity,but disciplined OLineman can handle that.

  2. Reminded me of Super Bowl between Pats and Seahawks. “Brilliant” offensive minds overthinking something that is SO simple. They went under center earlier in the game on 3rd and short and made it with no problem. Frustrating to say the least.

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