Tech Talk Live Notes: Virginia Tech Preparing For Boston College

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Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente was Monday night’s guest. (Ivan Morozov)

Justin Fuente

On having to play Boston College this early in the year…

I think there is some benefit to having your team as close to full strength as you can be when you’re playing a team that is as big and as physical as Boston College is. We’re going to have to do a great job playing with numbers. We’re going to play a bunch of people and continue to run them in. It’s going to be warm up there, and we’re going to have to do a good job of being prepared and having depth ready to play.

Their identity doesn’t change. The reason they’ve had success is because they’re good at what they do. They have a clear identity. They have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, which I imagine will create some different wrinkles that we haven’t seen. You also know that somewhere in that general ballpark is where they’re going to lie in terms of what they want to get accomplished on both sides of the ball.

On the keys to the game this weekend… 

I think there are a lot of keys to the game. We’re going to have to do a good job tackling and keeping our eyes in the right place on play action. That’s how they’re going to stretch the defense. Offensively, we need to find a way to run the ball in an efficient manner and make big plays in the passing game.

For the first game of the year when we’re playing a quality opponent, can we mitigate big plays in special teams and find a way to gain momentum in special teams? That’s the key all of the time, it just seems to happen more often early in the season because you don’t get as many live reps. You’re training and sometimes you’re playing younger players in those positions. Can we play smart football, eliminate big plays from them in special teams, and create big plays for ourselves in special teams?

Playing smart football, it’s going to be an emotionally charged game. I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere; they’re going to be excited coming off of a good season and having a good team coming back. We have to stay focused, and it’ll be a great test for us.

On whether the team could learn from the Miami vs. Florida game this weekend…

Certainly. I haven’t shown anything to them yet, but there are several plays during that game, particularly at the end, that you can teach off of. We do that every week. When we have a staff meeting, I remind everybody that when they’re watching a game, if they see an odd situation or something come up to text me immediately. I’ll get our video coordinator Josh Bost and we’ll put it together and watch it as a football team.

We’ve done that for several years now, and I think that has reaped big benefits for us in terms of continuing to get more intelligent on the football field. It’s not just rules or wacky plays, but smart decisions in all of the situations you find yourself in.

On switching to the morning practice schedule…

It’s going to be interesting to see how it goes. I’m a little bit nervous about it, quite honestly. I’ve never done it in my entire career. We did it in the spring and it went really well, but that’s a different animal than the fall. Our kids are going to have to go to bed because we’re going to get up early. They can’t stay up all night playing Fortnite or giggling on the phone, they’re going to have to go to sleep to get up and get ready to go.

Our classes are in the afternoon now. We eased our way into it last week, but we didn’t have class. Now, we have to put it all together. Playing the first week of school is always a little bit nerve-wracking because the guys are getting into their schedule and have a lot of things going on. You always like playing that second week of school because you’re already in that routine, but on the other side we had an extra week of fall camp with walkthroughs and meetings and stuff like that.

It will pose a challenge. Bud [Foster] and Brad [Cornelsen] are going to have to have their game plan done a little bit earlier because practice is five or six hours earlier on Tuesday. That will be a challenge for them as the weeks go by, not as big of a challenge this week. We adjusted our practice schedule a little bit on Sunday to help with that.

On Ryan Willis’ improvement with ball control…

I would argue [the devil on his shoulder] is still there. He’s still got a little rebel in him, but that’s okay. It’s been a huge point of emphasis for him, and he’s continuing to become more consistent. It’s hard, the game is fast, and you’ve got to put your eyes in the right place and disseminate information very quickly. It has nothing to do with, ‘this guy is smart, and this guy is not smart.’ There’s just a lot of stuff going on, and it’s a noisy, hectic place to be. Making sure that we can slow down a little bit in a very fast game and think and execute at a high level on a consistent basis is what we try to focus on. I think he’s made strides in that area; I really do.

On Willis’ improved preparation…

The first thing is that he had a little success. Not great success, not unbelievable success, but more success than he had had previously. I kind of know what it’s like. He was on a not very good football team, probably playing before he was ready. I’m talking about his time at Kansas. He was forced into action before he was ready or trained to prepare and probably didn’t have guys around him to give him a chance. For him to leave that situation and essentially walk on and sit out a year and then finally get an opportunity to get on the field and have some level of success has brightened his day a little bit, to say the least.

That’s a struggle for a young person. For him to keep plugging away has given him a new sense of hope that he can be a good player if he continues to toe the line and focus on improvement.

On young guys who have come in and immediately made an impact…

Tayvion Robinson is the first one you think of offensively that has really been impressive in practice and is certainly going to play in the first game. He’ll hopefully improve as he goes along. Everybody has their own developmental curve, and some guys can pick it up quicker and play fast at a young age. Some guys struggle with that, and it takes them years to pick it up. Tayvion has been able to go out there and play fast and pick it up very quickly.

Keshawn King has been another one. He’s had a little bit of a dental issue the last few days, but I think that’s cleared up. When he’s been out there, the speed of the game hasn’t seemed to overwhelm him. He’s been on par or faster than the game at an early age, which is sometimes rare.

On Andrew Luck retiring…

I was shocked, just like everybody else. I don’t follow the NFL all that much because of the nature of my job, but you certainly feel for the guy. I can certainly understand it. I have never lived a day of my life in pain, but I can see where it can happen playing that position. I don’t know the man, but he strikes me as a highly intelligent person that in whatever he does, he’s going to do it as hard as he can do it.

I think it’s a shame because for all of us, we enjoyed him and thought he was a good player. I also feel like, ‘good for him.’ He’s put himself in a position that if he wants to walk away from this and do something else, he has a chance to go be happy. That’s what we all want, is our children to grow up and have a chance to live happy, productive lives.

On awarding scholarships to some of the walk-ons…

I’m not one to publicize all of that sort of stuff. Some people do, and more power to them. I think that’s more of a private situation. This situation, we announced in front of the team. It was pretty cool, the genuine care the team has for these guys. They’ve been working their tails off and are very popular on the team. I didn’t give it to them because they were popular, they earned it and are contributing members to our football team, they deserve it. It was cool for them, I think not just to receive the scholarship, but to see the way their friends responded is pretty rewarding.

[Editor’s note: the players awarded scholarships are redshirt senior defensive back Ishmiel Seisay, redshirt junior offensive guard Austin Cannon, and redshirt freshman wide receiver Kaleb Smith.]

On Director of Football Operations Danielle Bartelstein leaving to work for the College Football Playoff…

She’s incredibly popular on our football team, I can tell you that much. Our parents and our players absolutely love her. She’s put out a lot of fires and helped a lot of people through hard times and the rigors of adjusting to college. She’s kept me straight and organized too. I’m really happy for her. She’s worked really hard. This opportunity came about, and we encouraged her that if this was something she was interested in to go full force. She did and they offered her the job, but it was really hard for her to leave our players.

She told them this weekend, I was surprised it didn’t get out, there were some human resources things, so we had to keep it to ourselves. I wanted to tell the kids before this week what was going on, so Danielle went up there and did a great job. She’s going to stay with us through this game to make sure we get to Boston and home and then she’ll be off to Dallas.

On the team’s mindset four days away from the season opener…

We still have plenty of work to do, but we’ve hit a tremendous amount of details and we continue to do that as we lead up to the first game. We’ve done this before; that doesn’t mean we’ll have success. It just means that the preparation model has given us the opportunity to have success if we stick to it. Just because you’ve done something before doesn’t mean anything in terms of your ability to have success again. But, in talking to the kids, they have to realize that this model has produced results, we need to stick to it and do all the work to dot all of our I’s and cross our T’s to have success on Saturday.

On the message he gave the team this week…

The first week, you’ve got plenty of time to think about it. We have an unbelievable opportunity to say something about ourselves. To put on paper, to put on film, to put on TV who we really are. At some point all of the talking, I’m not talking about Boston College, I’m talking about us, all of the talking comes to an end and we put the ball down and go play. We need to go back and get the respect that we want when the ball is in play.

That’s the challenge, to do it against a really good opponent. It’s a beautiful opportunity for our guys, an awesome time for our guys, and there are a lot of nuances that will go into this game in terms of things that we need to do. It’s going to be a heck of a battle. We’re going to have to do a really good job to have a chance. It’s our opportunity now to start describing who the 2019 Virginia Tech Hokies are.

On the offensive line…

I think it’s the biggest and most athletic group since I’ve been here. It’s not the most experienced, but it’s the biggest and most athletic. We have more guys that can fit in that role than we’ve had before. They’re continuing to work to gel and figure everything out, but there are still some guys that are going to play that haven’t played a tremendous amount. They’ve played just one year or half a year. It’s riddled with potential, which won’t get you very far. We need to do a great job of homing in our techniques and our details to give those guys the best chance to play well this year.

On how fluid the offensive line group could be…

You’re always looking for the best guys.  Coaches play the guys they trust, that’s the deal. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like the other guys. It just means that they haven’t earned that level of trust yet because they’re not strong enough, they’re not big enough, or they don’t know what to do. On the offensive line, there are five positions out there. You have to mix and match those guys to create artificial depth. You don’t just have fifteen guys from day one that you trust and you’re three-deep, you don’t have to worry about it anymore and you just put those guys together.

Maybe you have eight. So now you have one guy that is the starting left guard but is also the backup right tackle. That doesn’t mean that you’re mixing and matching on every single snap, that’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is that as you work through practice, trying to find out who your best eight guys, nine guys, ten guys, can you get to eleven? Is there one guy that needs a bunch of reps for a chance to earn his opportunity to get into that upper group?

On the depth of the defensive backs…

I always get tickled about the depth chart. I don’t mean this bad to anybody, I just get tickled because coaches, not all of them, we don’t really mess with that all that much. We have our guys, and we know the guys that are going to rotate in and the guys that are going to play. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one or a two, if you’re a trustable guy then you’re probably going to play a lot. You’re going to play in the kicking game and you’re going to play on offense or defense.

Sometimes we list guys as ‘OR.’ Jovonn Quillen and Jermaine Waller both had great camps and worked their tails off. I don’t know who’s going to go out there first, but I know they’re both going to play, and I know we’re really happy with them. That doesn’t mean if they’re not there that we’re not happy with them. Some guys are further along than others. We have three starters, but we can only start two, so we’ll rotate them around to see how it all works out. That’s a good thing. Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston, I feel great about both of those guys. Each certainly has a different skillset, but both of those guys are starters. I don’t know who is going to trot out there first, but they’re both going to play.

On the development of the offensive scheme with improved depth…

[The offense] changes all the time with your personnel. I keep going back to where are your versatile players? Where are your players that can do more than one thing? Where are your receivers that can block or your receivers that can carry the ball? Where are your tight ends that can block or are actually a weapon? They can all play outside, but who can actually win a one-on-one battle out there?

That’s what changes what your team looks like. Certainly, there’s a level of overall talent, but who are your best 11? Who is the 12th best player and what position does he play? That determines what you should look like. I’m excited to see where this goes as we progress throughout the season. I have a good feeling for who is going to be out there this season and how often. I’m not going to tell you, but I have a feeling of where that’s all headed.

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7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. It is my understanding that ‘Cox is still negotiating with the ACC. I was told that the ACC has “demanded an outlandish price”. We should know by Friday whether ‘Cox will carry the ACC channel.

  2. It is my understanding Cox has not yet signed with the ACC Channel. If that is true, how do those in the 757 see the game?

      1. Or get a free trial to a streaming service that carries it: PlayStation Vue (does not require a PlayStation console), YouTube TV, and Hulu Live all carry it and all offer a free trial period.

    1. free trial a streaming service that carries ACCN – YouTube TV, Hulu TV or PS Vue are a couple options. maybe replace cox with one if you like it…

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