Tech Talk Live Notes: Duke and David Cutcliffe

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Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente talked about Duke, David Cutcliffe, and his own team. (Jon Fleming)

On his level of satisfaction with the work over the bye week…

I think we’ll see in the long run how much we got out of it. I feel good about the work that our kids put in. We worked on some third down stuff on both sides of the ball, some run game stuff on both sides of the ball, and our kids really went out there and competed. They got some good workouts in. We weren’t on the field for an incredibly long time, but we weren’t out there for an hour either.

I thought we got really good fundamental work. We’re playing a lot of young guys, and their heads get spinning a little bit with scheme. We wanted to make sure we went back to fundamentals in a lot of areas. Then, we got a lot of good special teams crossover work in. We worked on coverage units versus blocking units. We really had a good, productive week.

On injuries… 

We gave some of the guys that have a little tread on their tires some time off. The Dalton Keenes, the guys that are getting beat up every single week like Jarrod Hewitt and some of those guys. They got a little bit of a break to try and get their bodies feeling better, but our team is relatively inexperienced so there weren’t a lot of those guys.

I hope that we start getting people back. It’s always ironic with minor injuries. It’s minor because it’s not yours; it’s like minor surgery. Guys who have had issues that are not long-lasting things, I hope we can get some of them back. There are a handful of guys who I talked about at the press conference today, like five guys that I think are day-to-day. We’ll see if they’re ready to go against Duke. I don’t want to put them out there if they’re not ready. It’s not just being healthy. I don’t want to put them out there if they’re not prepared to play.

On how he is trying to get the team ready for Duke… 

We better understand that, first of all, [playing like we did last year against Duke] is what it’s going to take to have a chance to win this game. Our kids are intelligent. They’ve watched the film and they understand that a very talented, not just well-coached team, is coming in here. We can’t just say Duke is well-coached anymore, they’re talented too. That gets our guys’ attention. Duke is going to come in here with that level of intensity and we’re going to have to match or exceed that. We’ve touched on this. That’s awesome last year, but that doesn’t guarantee or carry over anything. We have to find a way to get to that level again on our own.

On Jerry Kill… 

It’s been great. He’s still trying to figure out who everybody is and what they do. He’s learning about the players and who they are. He’s getting settled in, there are a lot of things that come with taking a new job. We’re going to benefit from years and years of experience, honesty and a guy who does things the right way. It’s going to end up being a really good situation.

On how talented Duke is… 

We’ve seen this coming for some time. Each year, they’re just more and more talented. They had a first-round draft pick at quarterback last year. They’ve got some NFL-caliber defensive players. They have continually, slowly built that thing up. I really thought last year was their year after watching the film. They had so many injuries they had to get over; they still had a good season though. Coach Cutcilffe probably feels like they’re ready for a good run here because they’ve got talent and experience. We know they’ll be sound in their schemes.

On Ryan Willis’s development since his first start against Duke last year… 

He’s just continuing to evolve and try and progress. I think that’s the key, just taking another step forward in understanding what we’re trying to get done and having the discipline to put your eyes in the right spot each time. It sounds simple, but it’s really much more difficult than it sounds. Ryan continues to work at that, I really admire him for that. He comes in to work and improve his craft. He has improved, and hopefully as he continues to work, he’ll be able to reap those benefits.

On Willis being able to face Duke for the second time… 

I hope it helps. You should have something there in the old memory bank of what they like to do and some reference point of what it looked like. You can also watch an entire game of you playing against those looks. You can learn from that. Then, spend some time saying, ‘These couple things are different from what they were last year.’ I think it’s a good resource to see yourself up there playing against the same team you’re about to play.

On preparing for Duke’s offense… 

What does help is seeing what they’re trying to do now. They’ve got some triple option that they’ve started to put in there. You darn sure better be prepared for that. Cutcliffe is wise. He puts out there that they’ve only scratched the surface of what they’re trying to do with this. That leads you to think about what else they’ve got going on. We’ll have to be prepared for it and be sound. Quentin Harris has proven to be a capable player both running and throwing the football, so we’ll have to be ready for it.

On recruiting in North Carolina… 

I really didn’t know how much or how little recruiting that we had or hadn’t done in North Carolina before. This is oversimplifying things, but I just looked at map and asked, ‘What’s close?’ That’s where we went. We seemed to be a very attractive destination for kids out of there that want to go to a place where you can get a great public-school education and play in a place where football is really important.

We didn’t specifically target North Carolina, but I felt like doing a good job in our region is really important, and that includes the state of Virginia, but we’re not very far from Charlotte. It makes sense for us to target the places that have populations that are close to Blacksburg.

On the development of talent in North Carolina… 

I think the banking industry has taken off in Charlotte. I’m no expert in that, but I do know that as populations increase, the number of good football players usually increases to. You usually have more of those kids and those families in the cities that participate in sports. It probably has evolved in the last couple of years.

The other thing is that you get kids and they have buddies that they played AAU basketball together. All of these kids know each other so much better now than we ever used to growing up. They’re just so connected through all-star teams or basketball. Now, they’ve got 7-on-7. These kids like to hang out with each other and stuff. Tre Turner is a popular kid that other kids like being around. You get one of those guys and they kind of feed that pipeline a little bit.

On Dax Hollifield… 

To say he has high expectations for his performance is an understatement; in everything he does too. That’s what makes him great. There are a lot of people that focus on one thing and really want to be good at one thing. Dax is incredibly unique in that whatever endeavor he takes on; he wants to be the best at it. In school, welding, math or football, he just really is a driven young man. He’s coming to the realization that football isn’t a perfect sport either. There will be sometimes that you don’t do as well and make all of the plays that you want to make. Learning from that and getting better is what’s important.

On seeing new offensive wrinkles with Duke also coming off a bye… 

We talk about that. We try to do both things. We try to address what we have seen and figure out how we’re going to attack what we have seen. Then, we also try to project a little bit. What could happen? You can’t spend too much time on either one. If you spend too much time projecting, you’ll find yourself chasing ghosts.

It is wise to have those conversations about what we think they think of us.  What may happen here? So that you can have these conversations at 6 o’clock on Wednesday instead of in the middle of the second quarter when the game is going on. Trying to play the game ahead of time and cover your bases in terms of what may or may not happen while practicing and continuing to work on things you have seen is the best way to do it.

On Divine Deablo… 

He’s such a great person, we’ve talked about that. He’s another one of our many guys that we root for to have success. He’s been through so much and continued to battle through with such a great attitude.

The thing that he’s been able to do is practice. Even when he played last year, he didn’t really practice. He didn’t get many live reps and it hurt him, but I was so scared of him continuing to reinjure things. He practiced, but he didn’t practice against live looks. That probably hurt him, but for now, it’s been really good. It’s been really fun to have him back there. He’s a great communicator, he gets people lined up and in the right defense. He’s a great player as well.

On Rayshard Ashby… 

He just does so many things that you can’t coach. His vision to make other people right in the gaps that we’re filling is great. He made a play in the first game where we were blitzing and the end didn’t come underneath and he was coming off the edge outside, so we were going to be in trouble. We had two in the same gap and he folded right underneath it. It looked like a stunt. It looked like it was on purpose.

I told the defense that offenses are going to be drawing that up because they think that you did that on purpose. You didn’t, that’s just Rayshard’s vision to fall underneath and make a tackle. He has some unique skillsets. He’s not that tall and he’s not that fast, but he’s strong and he’s tough and he is one of the most instinctual players I’ve ever been around.

On Emmanuel Belmar… 

Emmanuel is a perfect example, in my opinion, of a guy that we’ve got who is a workman-like football player. Emmanuel was initially a linebacker and moved to end. Honestly, that’s what college football used to be like in terms of guys redshirting and developing and working their way into being productive football players. There have been a lot of hours behind the scenes of Emmanuel working to become a productive football player. You get excited when you get to see him have some success out there. I’m looking forward to him playing the rest of the year.

On Jaylen Griffin… 

He has really emerged. That’s exactly the same thing. He trusted us when we suggested that he move. He embraced it. He got to eat cheeseburgers again and was happy. He got to move down to end, and I think his best football is ahead of him. He’s a physical player. He’s still working on the nuances of playing end. He’s still a little bit new at it, but you see him do some things that we’re really impressed with.

On other players that have impressed him… 

I keep being impressed with Jermaine Waller and the work that he puts in. He always seems to be in good position and never loses his head out there when the ball is in the air. I think he’s going to continue to improve and he’s really been a solid player for us. Nick Gallo is a young tight that I think has his best ball in front of him, but not way in front of him. It’s coming up fast. He’s so smart and really talented. He’s going to be really good for us.

On Duke’s defensive line… 

They’ve got several guys with a bunch of experience that are playing at a high level. That’s afforded them the ability to run some two-high stuff. Alabama didn’t run the ball well against them. They made some plays in the passing game that were just crazy, but they didn’t line up and out-muscle them all over the field. That didn’t happen. Just guys with experience that have played quite a bit that know exactly what they’re doing in how they fit in the run game and how to defeat blocks. They’ve made improvements on both sides of the line.

On playing better situational football… 

It’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on, being really efficient at. It doesn’t mean that you’re always going to score a touchdown in two-minute drives. When it comes to situational football in terms of clock management, or trying to run the clock out in four-minute offense, or playing prevent defense, or finding a way to pin the ball deep on a punt, we’ve been pretty decent.

We’ve fumbled the ball twice in essentially four-minute offense, and that’s just not good ball. That’s something that we need to continue to improve, not just the turnovers, but what we’re trying to accomplish and what our points of emphasis are at that point in the game. We’ve got to make a conscientious effort to do a better job. There are 10,000 scenarios out there, but we really do pride ourselves on both sides of the ball and special teams of being good on. We just weren’t.

On whether the offense can bounce back after a tough start to the season… 

I’ve been doing this for a while and I’ve never had four true freshmen start on one side of the ball. Now, that being said, I really like where our guys are headed and what we’re doing. We have to improve in some of the mundane things in order to move forward. I know we can throw a post route. I know we can do some things on the outside, but we have to get better at some of the base fundamentals that will give us a chance to have more success.

Part of that is taking care of the football, part of it is blocking and running the football, part of it is on the outside, but there’s a neat and talented core group of guys that are hungry to do well. They just need to keep coming along. We can’t use the freshman deal, we’re going now. They’re showing up every day to continue to work to improve which is a good thing.

On playing the first night game of the season… 

It’s awesome! It should be great. That’s what I told our guys today. What an unbelievable opportunity we have to go play on television in front of some of the best fans in the world at night. It’s going to be great. Now, let’s go to work to make sure we’re prepared and earn that atmosphere. The stage shouldn’t determine how we prepare, and the opponent shouldn’t determine how hard we work. That’s not what this is about.

What it is, is a fantastic chance for us to go play the way that I would like for us to play at home. The last couple of home games, there has been a level of timidness that we need to get over. Cutting it loose and going to play, whatever you want to call it, we haven’t matched. That’s the challenge for us, is to embrace it and go cut it loose in our home stadium.

On trying to tune the team’s energy up for Friday night… 

I’m having trouble remembering what day it is and what day we’re playing. I’m all messed up, but we’ve been slowly delivering the message throughout the week. We’re working towards trying to play a complete game in all three phases of the game. We’re working towards ultimately perfecting everything we’re doing. We give them enough new stuff every day so that it piques their interest a little bit; just so it doesn’t get mundane and old. They still have to focus on what we’re installing and what we’re doing that’s different than the day before.

On players having some dangerous habits like Keshawn King riding dirt bikes… 

I’ve never been on a motorcycle, and if I live the rest of my life without getting on one, that’d be fine with me. When I went to his home, they had a couple of dirt bikes in there. He just lit up talking about dirt bikes. You could tell this was something that interested him. I’ve talked to you guys about when Dax showed me his welding. It was the same thing; just this joy and excitement of what he was showing me.

I know nothing about either of these subjects, but it was really cool because they were the teachers and I was the player. They educated me about it and were saying, ‘Oh, Coach, you’ve got to come out with me.’ I do worry about them though, because I want them to be safe. 

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7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. “We didn’t specifically target North Carolina”

    So the NC2VT campaign was all about making Virginia recruits jealous it wasn’t all about them, starving them of attention, and making them want to come to VT even more?

    But I kid…

  2. Hokie Nation let’s support our team as the 12th man/woman. These guys are young and trying hard so let’s give them our love!!!

    1. He’s day to day. But even if healthy, he might not be ready to play. I would not expect to see him play this week.

  3. I liked Fu’s comment about needing to get over being timid. These guys need to become the aggressors on both sides of the ball.

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