On the overall excitement around the team entering the season…
We’re still in the middle of camp, we still have another segment left to go, but our kids have done a great job. They’re going through something that is pretty difficult. We just finished up summer school, some of our freshman were in six hours of summer school while going through their first collegiate practices and walkthroughs. Those guys handled it really, really well. Our team handled it well. As coaches, we all sit around and talk about our players all the time. ‘Is Stevie alright? He didn’t look so good today. What’s the matter with him? Let’s bring him in and talk to him.’
All of those things, we’re trying to analyze things and those sorts of stuff. What we’ve seen so far is that this group genuinely enjoys being around each other. They seem to be spending extra time together, quite honestly, through nothing that I’ve done. They just seem to genuinely enjoy each other. They’re challenging each other on each side of the ball every day in practice, which is what we want. We’re continuing to improve and get better.
On the way the team schedules practices…
Well the rules have changed so much over the last couple of years that we have had to adapt with it. Some of the rules I think are good, but there are others that I don’t particularly like. Personally, I wish we could give them a few more days off of practice. Still keep the number of practices the same, but give them a few more days off. That’s not the situation we’re on, so what we did is we cut the practices into segments followed by a day off. All of the segments end in a scrimmage.
The first segment was six practices long, the sixth practice was a scrimmage followed by a day off. We work towards base installation and then scrimmage it. The second block is five days long, four practices and a scrimmage. That’s more situational work. We get in the red zone, we start to work two-minute drill. The third one is shorter. It goes six, five, then four. That block ends in a scrimmage which we just had the other day. We start to incorporate all of the situational football. We start to get on the goal line a little bit. Then, we kind of throw all of that at them in one scrimmage in conjunction with special teams.
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I’ve always tried to have the last scrimmage about two weeks before we play. We were long by one day, thirteen days out this year. I like kind of tapering down as you go through it and continuing to get more specific in certain areas of the field and situational football.
On starting morning practices…
Yeah, I kind of had a little panic attack. I’m not one for changing things, my whole life we’ve practiced in the afternoon. It’s all I’ve ever known as a player and a coach. Just through class conflicts and all of that sort of stuff, I’m a firm believer that we can do both, we can go to class and we can be at practice.
The best way to get that done is to move practices into the morning. I’ve talked to some coaches that have done it and they all seem to like it. It’s going to take a little adjustment on our part. The other day, I’m sitting there thinking about it, and we’re still not in school, so we have afternoon practices scheduled. I really felt that it would be beneficial if we started working on that, so this week we’ve flipped the schedule. We’ll have morning practices through this week and our walkthroughs in the evening to get ready for game week next week.
On the third scrimmage…
I was happy with the effort. We have to continue to get better technically. When you have a little bit younger squad, sometimes you get too focused in on making sure they know what to do. We’ve got to get this refined from a technical standpoint at several positions. It’s going to be important for us as we move forward. We got a lot of good work. We did our live kicking stuff. It’s great teaching film for us to teach off of and put guys in situations that they’ve never been in before, and we saw how they reacted.
Some of them, we need to get coached up, and others really surprised us in a positive way. Our legs are pretty heavy right now, and we’re certainly going to continue to work, but maybe light and low just a little bit as we move through this week. We still need to focus and get technically better at a bunch of spots.
On the quarterback group…
We let Quincy [Patterson] go live a little bit yesterday, just to evaluate him as a runner and trying to figure out the runner that he may or may not play this season. I’ve been really pleased with all three of them. Braxton Burmeister was in the middle of having a really good camp, then we got the news from the NCAA on that and we’re still trying to work through that with him.
Hendon [Hooker] has put in a tremendous amount of work this summer and he continues to improve. I feel like I’ve said that several times throughout his career, but it’s true. He continues to get better and get more in-depth knowledge of what we’re trying to accomplish. Ryan [Willis] has done a good job as well. He was thrown into the fire a little bit last year. At times, he played pretty well, and at other times he could have been better. Continuing to become more consistent is going to be key for Ryan and for our football team as we move forward.
On Brock Hoffman’s eligibility this season…
I certainly expect a decision shortly. Obviously, I’m not in direct contact with the NCAA on those things, it runs through our compliance department. They’ve been doggedly trying to find a solution to this. My understanding is that the NCAA has a record number of appeals on their desk right now. You can read into that what you want. Hopefully, we’ll have a resolution soon.
I can tell you this, Brock has made a tremendous positive impact on our team in a very short time. The guy has great grades, he is highly intelligent, and he’s tough and hard-working. He can kind of connect to all kinds of different guys from all kinds of different backgrounds. He’s the pied piper in that offensive line room, they just kind of follow him around wherever he goes.
I hope it’s all resolved in Brock’s favor. If not, I think Brock has done an unbelievable job handling this situation. You can imagine what it’s like for him to go through daily and not know what his status is. He’s done a great job, and whatever happens he’s going to be a huge part of our football team.
On the running back group…
The first thing I think about is that we have Deshawn [McClease] and Jalen [Holston] coming back. Jalen has had a fantastic offseason. He just continues to improve his body; he looks quicker than he’s ever looked since he’s been here. He’s been through a full offseason and has been healthy. His attitude is fantastic and he’s emerging as a leader on this football team.
Deshawn has worked hard as well coming off of last season where he had a little bit of the injury bug. Hopefully he can stay healthy. Keshawn [King] is the one that we’ll need to figure out what that role is going to be. It’s going to be something; I just don’t know exactly what. He certainly brings a level of quickness and speed and, for a smaller guy, physicality. He’s a hard, tough runner and he’s done a good job. We’ll see how these next two weeks go to determine what that looks like on gameday.
On newcomers who can have an immediate impact on the team…
It’s a little bit easier for the skill guys in terms of being able to walk in and have a chance to play. I’ve been really pleased with the entire class. I think we really did ourselves a solid in recruiting. There are some guys that may not play this year, but we’re really excited about, that are going to be really good down the line. There’s a few of them that are pretty far advanced.
The guys, off the top of my head, that I would say are certainly moving forward, Nick Gallo has been incredible. He knows everything we’re doing. This guy plays the second hardest position on offense next to quarterback. He can move around and split out. We had him in camp, and he runs so much better than he did in camp. It’s remarkable, the physical development that he has had. I think he’s going to have a chance to be on the field quite a bit.
Tayvion Robinson is another one that has stood out at wide receiver. I like all of those young wide receivers, but Tayvion has been the one that has had the smoothest transition into picking it up and playing at a fast pace. He has made some really big plays.
I really like the defensive tackles that we signed. We needed them to be mature guys that are ready to play at an early age. That’s the one spot that I knew going into the season that we would need help from guys who hadn’t played much. Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks, I think, are really on the verge of having an opportunity to have a nice career. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the same about [Josh] Fuga. I think Fuga has a chance, as he continues to get stronger, to develop into a guy that will help us down the road.
We’ve got a couple of guys that redshirted last year. Alan Tisdale has had a really good camp on the defensive side of the ball and special teams. JR Walker is a guy that I forget is a true freshman because he was here at [spring] semester. He continues to get better and I think is going to help us.
I’m pleased with Malik. I’m glad he’s having some success. He’s a great kid and he works really hard. He moved to tailback from the tight end or H-back spot. He needed to lose some weight for that and took that seriously in the offseason. He’s incredibly strong. He really puts up good numbers in the weight room and has gotten himself into tailback shape. He’s had a really productive camp for us.
On the punt and kick returner spots…
At punt returner, Hezekiah has done a good job of working himself, kind of like how he does everything. The guy is a great worker, an incredibly diligent and hard-working young man. He’s worked himself into having a chance to be the punt returner. Tayvion seems pretty natural back there. I think he’s going to have a chance to help us at punt returner.
At kick returner, we’ve put Keshawn back there some. We’ll see, I don’t want to put too much on guys too early. I want to make sure that we have a role for him and keep him into what’s going on, but also don’t want to overload him with too many responsibilities. We’ve got some good guys back there that were productive last year too. Terius [Wheatley] was pretty productive last year and Caleb [Farley] was productive at times. We put Nadir Thompson back there at times and he looks like a tailback, he’s got a really big upper body, he’s a big strong kid.
On the tight end group…
I’m really excited about that group. I haven’t even talked about Drake [Deluliis], who is the biggest one out of that group and continues to work and try and get better. We all know what Dalton [Keene] brings, and James [Mitchell] has worked incredibly hard. He’s ready to go be an every-down player for us alongside Dalton. Not instead of Dalton, but alongside Dalton. I think Nick is going to be in there challenging as well. It could be kind of fun to see what we can do with those guys.
On Bud Foster announcing this is his final season…
First of all, Bud has been clear that he wants this to be about the players and this season. We have adhered to that, there hasn’t been any talk about it among the players or the coaches. I know as the season goes along that there will be more opportunities to celebrate what Bud has accomplished in his career. The most important part is, to our guys, is that he isn’t going anywhere. He’s obviously still going to be around and welcome with us anytime. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to enjoying many more times with Bud. He’s a hall-of-fame coach and a coach that in a lot of ways has revolutionized parts of defensive football with some things that are a little bit unorthodox.
He’s done things that you don’t see every day, particularly in the back end. He’s a great teacher, a great motivator, and somebody that will obviously be remembered for a long time. I think our guys have gone from a little bit shocked to a little bit honored to get a chance to be part of the last one. I tried to phrase it as, ‘It’s not very often that you know the ending, it’s like reading the last chapter of the book. Now we get to go write the book. We get to go fill in those pages. We know this is Coach’s last go around as coordinator, so we get a chance to fill in the final chapters of the story.’
Usually, it doesn’t work like that. Usually, you’re writing it and you don’t know you’re writing it. The guys have kind of taken to that and I think they’re looking forward to playing for him.
On new additions to the staff…
We have really added some quality human beings to our staff. Justin [Hamilton] coming on full-time as the safeties coach, I think he has an incredibly bright future. He’s a great teacher and I think he’s a star in the making. We brought Pierson Prioleau on board, who has been fantastic to get around our players and our staff. He’s fit right in and didn’t miss a beat.
Getting Jafar Williams on board has been great too. I’ve known Holman Wiggins for a long time, and Jafar is obviously different from Holman, but they have some similar qualities. He’s done a great job reaching his players, a great communicator. I think he has a bright future in whatever way that he wants to go, whichever way he wants to pursue his career. The people that aren’t with us, I thought were really good coaches, but I couldn’t be more impressed with the people that are with us now.
On the interaction between Jafar Williams and the wide receivers…
The first thing is that the kids have quickly realized that “this guy can help me play better.” He played the position and was a good player, unlike most of us, we were not good enough. He was a good player and a student of the game. You could tell really quickly that the kids were drawn to him because they knew he could help them.
The relationships have come about. We actually sent him on the road as soon as we got here, not to recruit, but to go meet the families of our current players, to give him the chance to build that relationship, and it has built and grown very quickly. The guys really enjoy playing for him.
On how challenging it would be to have a ‘Week 0’ game, starting the season this weekend…
I wouldn’t seek out another week to the season. Playing a good game to start and playing a quality opponent like Boston College, I’m fine with all of that. I wouldn’t be vehemently opposed to it, but I wouldn’t seek it out. If we have to play Week 0, we have to back camp all the way up. Especially the way summer school is, with our kids in summer school, we wouldn’t be out of that and it would be game week. It would be a little bit odd.
I’m glad somebody else is doing it because I’m looking forward to seeing it. We take all of those early games and go watch them. You know what happens in the first few weeks of the season? People do silly things and they either don’t know the rules and all of these crazy things happen on special teams. We cut them all up and show them to the team and say, ‘This is why we talk about these things. Look at what happened here just last night because they didn’t pay attention to these details.’ We use them as a teaching point, so I am glad there are those games because we get a chance to use them with our guys before we play our first one.
On the success of the ACC ahead of the launch of the ACC Network…
I do think it’s a testament to the schools in the ACC to have been as competitive as they or we have been considering the financials. If you take a look at the financials and where it’s at, we’re certainly nowhere near the top three leagues in America. The ACC Network, certainly there is a financial aspect that is good for everybody, but there is also an exposure part of it that is really unique. I’m looking forward to seeing the content.
Not even to mention the great football players and great basketball players that have played in this league, but if you take all of the other sports, the Olympic sports and think about the Olympians and the gold medals that have been won, the great women’s soccer dynasties; I’m anxious to hear those stories too.
That’s the additional neat part about having this channel. Obviously, distribution is important and those sorts of things. I’m not even going to begin to get into the math of that. We need to make sure as Virginia Tech fans of pounding the drum to our carriers to carry the ACC Network. It’s going to be good for everybody. Our game is strategically placed for part of that reason, which I think is great. I don’t know the things that went into finally getting this thing done, but I’m glad that it’s getting done.
On the way the team has practiced throughout camp…
If you compare it to the way we looked last year, so many guys are back that have had another year. We forced so many guys into action last year that had their minds still swimming about what they needed to do last year. Now, they’ve had another year, not just of physical development, but mental and emotional development to handle camp and the rigors of all of that sort of stuff. It’s definitely been sharper, and we’ve had more quality opportunities for us to practice. We can string them together now, we have strung a few together now to continue to fight through the grind of camp. In turn, the practices have been sharper.
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