Tech Talk Live Notes: Mike Young and Justin Fuente Talk About Recent Wins

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Mike Young, Virginia Tech
Mike Young is happy with his team’s 4-0 start, but he knows there is a long way to go. (Jon Fleming)

Virginia Tech head coaches Mike Young and Justin Fuente were Monday’s guests.

Mike Young

On the student section at Cassell Coliseum…

They’ve been incredible every game. I don’t know how the seating arrangement works, but I think it’s general admission, so for a 7:00 game, the doors open at 6:00 and here they come like a herd of cattle. Their participation and involvement are invaluable to us. I’ve said it many times that I think that it’s as good of a college environment as you’re going to find. We are certainly appreciative of what they’re doing for us. They’re awesome.

On Landers Nolley…

He’s going to continue to come along. It’s important to him. He’s a basketball player, and he wants to be a great player. He’s gotten better and better as a practice player. You carry things over from the practice floor to the game floor. The better we practice at game speed and live, the better we’re going to be. I think he’s recognized that. Everything matters; every rep, every practice, every shootaround.

Some scoff at the practice the day of the game. That’s a critical time because you’re locking things down. Landers has embraced the thought of those types of things, and he’s a good basketball player. He’s big and strong and can really shoot it. He’s far from a finished product though, he has to rebound and defend better. He’s going to command so much attention because of his ability to score, so he has to become a better facilitator in helping others get better shots. He’s going to do that as he goes along.

On Tyrece Radford…

Tyrece doesn’t care a lick how many he scores a night. He cares greatly about the energy that he brings to the floor and the matchup, and he’s just got a junkyard dog mentality. I mentioned after the game that on 50/50 balls, the defender has just as good of a shot as getting the ball as we do. He is the master of that ball. He gets that basketball, and we sell to our team daily that one possession may flip the outcome of the game.

We spend an inordinate amount of time on personnel of the opponent and who you’re guarding. His number, game, whether he likes to catch and shoot, drive it, drive it with his left hand and we mismatch some matchups. We put him on the point guard, and he guarded a position that is rather intricate, and he guarded it exactly the way that we wanted it guarded. He has brought a lot to our team, he’s a pleasure to coach, and boy, he’s doing a great job for us.

On P.J. Horne’s shooting…

I may take a step back from that comment [that he doesn’t want him to shoot as often]. He’s shooting 7-15 or 8-16 from three. He took a shot the other day where he stepped back, and you never want to step back to the arc. If you’ve got it from there, let it rip. He stepped back, let that thing go and he made it. I turned to our staff and rolled my eyes and said, ‘Let it rip, pal. Feel that leather and let it go.’

He is comfortable with that. He’s really Mr. Everything. He’s the best screener we have, and he really plays hard every time he’s in the game. We’d like to get him off of the floor a little bit more, but he makes it hard because he’s so valuable to our team. He can step out, reverse the ball and get into another action. The old ’88 Buick is running fine. We love him.

On lessening turnovers…

It’s gotten better. Don’t beat yourself. In any sport, don’t beat yourself. If you’re turning the ball over 16 or 17 times, you’re going to beat yourself or shoot yourself in the foot. Don’t do that. We’re fine if we keep it to ten turnovers, but I’d like to see that get down to eight or nine. With a really good point guard back there in Bede, we could and should achieve that at times.

I’m not being critical of Landers, he’s playing great basketball for us and I’m proud of his progress, but we had ten turnovers against Lehigh and he had five of them. He’s got the ball in his hands a lot, and I’ve made the comment that with the ball in his hands as much as we have it in his hands, even the great hitters strike out sometimes. He’s going to make a mistake or two simply because we’re giving it to him, but we’ve got to continue to harp on that part of it.

All in all, I think we’re at 11 on average through four games, but we haven’t seen anybody that’s jumped up in our face and really turned the screws up. We’ll see how we handle that, but so far, it’s been just fine.

On slow starts…

I can’t [put my finger on why that is happening]. That bothers me. I didn’t think we came out of the break very well in two of those games. A point of emphasis in our practice, we’re getting them geared up in the first 15 minute segment, but we’ve kind of stepped on the gas a little bit more in the last week trying to impress upon them that a slow start can bite you and put you in a real bind in the long haul.

They get their motor revved up and they’re fine. We talk about the first four minutes and making a statement and putting our best foot forward on both sides of the court. We’ve got to do a better job of that, and I’ve got to do a better job of preparing them for that.

On the Hokies’ perimeter defense… 

We put such an emphasis on it every day. I think it’s probably 75-25 defense to offense. I thought when we got here that the best way we could be competitive, win and get this thing started was to be as good as we could possibly be defensively. We’re a little further along defensively than I thought we would be, and let’s be honest, that glass will continue to be a point of emphasis and a concern for us. We’re just not big enough.

Our cutouts and our technique as that shot goes up and having our guys pursue will be important. Tyrece had 11 against Lehigh, Wabissa had nine against Upstate, so we have to rebound with five. We don’t have a size rebounder in there that we know is going to come out with 12. We have to do it with the group, and so far, so good, but trouble lurks. We have some big ones coming up here.

On Chester Frazier’s impact on the defense…

Chester is an outstanding basketball coach. He comes from a defensive background at Illinois where he played for Bruce Weber, who I think the world of, and then followed Bruce to Kansas State. They’ve been among our country’s elite defensively. They just strangle people on that end.

We’re making strides. I’m proud of their effort, and they’re understanding that it doesn’t mean a whole lot if they don’t adhere to and accept and embrace what we’re trying to get across from them, it doesn’t matter. They’re making significant progress and they’re going to continue to make progress. They’ve got an understanding of it, and they’re playing really hard for one another. I’d like to see us take more charges and create more opportunities defensively, but we’re going to get there.

On Wabissa Bede…

Wabissa has that big, strong body. He’s a junior now and has played a lot of basketball around here. You’ll see him come off of a ball-screen and he does a really good job of getting the primary defender on his back and he holds him there. Then, he can get to the ‘ACC’ with it and that’s a really uncomfortable spot for the ball to be. Like our defense and any other facet of our game, that is going to continue to make strides as we move ahead and see more plays and see how people are going to guard some things. In due time, we’ll leave it at that.

On Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor…

I think first and foremost, Nahiem pressed a little bit Saturday. He was really good against Clemson, I think he had 14 against somebody else, but they have been really good defensively all four games. That will keep you on the floor. I tell them that regularly. We all know that you can score and shoot the basketball. Don’t turn down a good one and keep getting that thing up there, we’re going to be fine.

It was nice to see the hoop open up for Hunter. He got a couple down, and I think he got the one down that essentially ended it off a terrific pass from Tyrece right in front of our bench. Nahiem and Hunter are going to be very good players around here for a very long time. I look forward to seeing that progress through the years.

On keeping the team focused on Wednesday with Maui coming up…

I hadn’t really thought about that.  That hasn’t been a concern and hasn’t been on my radar. Our practice today was very good. We had a day off yesterday. We’ll have a prep day tomorrow. I think with a team as young as they are, they appreciate how critical every day is. That’s crucial in the development and growth of our team. The most important day is tomorrow. The biggest game on our schedule is Wednesday.

If you start looking too far ahead, you get a baseball bat across the kneecaps and that hurts. We’ll treat it as we have every other game. We’ll treat every game as a big deal. We want to play well and continue to get better. If we do that, it’s all good.

On preparing for a tournament like Maui…

It’s a one-game season. Once we get there, the next game is the only one that matters. It’s great prep for your league tournament. If you’re fortunate enough to advance, there’s quick turnarounds. Once you get there though, you’re pretty familiar with everyone in the league. You’ve seen everyone. Once you’re there, you hope your habits are such that you’re just tweaking some things and reviewing personnel.

Out there, we’ll have four days in preparation for Michigan State, and then a quick turnaround for a really good Dayton team or a very good Georgia team. That’s part of it, and a lot of fun. This team has done a very good job with that preparation.

I have to share something with you. I woke up last night in cold sweats. I just want you to know that we have a very strict dress code while we’re out there. I woke up in a cold sweat thinking that Mr. Burnop might be walking down to the beach in a skimpy bathing suit with his shirt out. Mikey, don’t do that to us.

Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente is happy with his team’s progress. (Ivan Morozov)

Justin Fuente

On the game against Georgia Tech… 

Obviously, we played really well on defense, but offensively, we could do a little bit of everything. I thought hitting the reverse early in the game slowed them down a little bit. They’re a pressure defense that likes to play a lot of people in the box. Schematically, they’re similar, not the same, but similar to what we like to do defensively. I thought that slowed them down, and then hitting the long pass to Tre Turner early in the game was really big.

The screen game came along and the perimeter run game really balanced everything out. That combined with spectacular defense helped us get that out of hand quickly and allowed us to relax a little bit and put some other guys in the game.

On clinching bowl eligibility…

It’s very nice to get that behind us and move on to the next objective. Our kids know that, and they may not say it, but they feel that pressure to keep that thing going. It was nice for our kids. They’ve been through so much and they deserve opportunities to get rewarded and it was nice to get that for them.

On the shutout…

We were bringing people all over the place, but we did still get to sub and let other guys get quality minutes and get a feel for the game and run our defense. We got to do that on both sides of the ball. We got guys in with enough time in the game to operate and get in the flow of making calls and being in situations. I thought it was great for our team on both sides, but certainly there was that underlying thing of trying to get a shutout and trying to get another one there for Bud.

On how the team has played A.D. (After Duke)… 

I think you just put your head down and go to work. You just bury yourself in what you’re trying to get accomplished and try to block out the other stuff. We just try to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, one team meeting at a time, one message we’re trying to get across, one motivational point that you want to get to our guys.

I think our guys deserve credit for that too. They took the coaching and the shift there, and understanding that we’re not going back. We’re not doing things this way; we’re going to do them that way. It’s been good to see them have some success.

On whether the game Saturday was the most complete all season…

I would say up to this point. With all due respect to the team we played last week, we still have teams that are further along in their development this week and next week. Those will be bigger challenges, but I certainly like the way they’re starting to get a little bit of confidence in themselves and in each other.

In my opinion, you get that through doing things correctly time and time again. They have a little success and are starting to feel that and have confidence in each other. You can start to feel that on the sideline, and you can feel that in the preparation as we lead up to the game, which has been the biggest thing. The guys have done a good job of focusing in. You see less mistakes than earlier in the year on both sides of the ball. We made way too many unforced errors that hurt us on both sides of the ball. We’ve seen those numbers diminish, and it’s been able to build.

On Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller…

They will be tested this week on the outside. I go back to this because I am fortunate enough to see both of those guys every day, and that’s where they’re making those strides. Everybody sees them once a week, and people are starting to recognize the improvement that they’re making, but they are focused in on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday leading up to the game and getting good, quality reps. That’s leading them to having a chance to have success on Saturdays. That’s what experience will do. There’s no substitute for game reps, and those guys have had more and more of those and are feeling themselves out there.

On the team’s discipline…

If you look at us throughout the years, we’ve done a pretty good job. You’re going to get some aggressive penalties. We’re going to play tight coverage, and those things are going to happen in the defensive backfield. I think we’ve done a good job with pre-snap penalties and the holding penalties. We can always do better, but we’re executing proper technique and confidence in what we’re doing.

You don’t ever want to give people anything. That’s what we’re trying to show them. They often happen when you’re lazy and you don’t do things the right way. You’re just handing them things, whether it’s the ball or yardage. We don’t want to hand them anything, and the team has embraced that they’re going to earn anything they get.

On special teams…

Well, think about Jovonn Quillen’s play to down the punt on the two-yard line. On the very next play, we get an interception and return it for a touchdown. If that ball goes into the end zone, that’s 20 yards difference and the menu of plays you can use on offense on your 2 versus the 20-yard line is vastly different.

Same thing defensively, it’s much easier to go attack. That was a big play that led to points. That’s part of the phases feeding off of each other. A good job recovering the onside kick. We talked about that. This team is down and has very little to lose. They’re going to try something like this to regain momentum and confidence. It was nice that we were equal to the task.

On Oscar Bradburn…

We ask him to get the ball off in a timely manner, especially when you’re playing a predominantly block team. It’s not just kick it far, it’s kick it fast, kick it high, and please try and make it go a little bit to the left. There’s a lot to that. He’s able to execute, and the guys around him have confidence.

He hits some in practice that are just remarkable. I think that’s a tribute to his work ethic. Those of you that have seen him through the years, there’s no question that his leg strength has improved. It’s obvious. A good portion of that is his work in the weight room. Coach Hilgart deserves credit for that, but Oscar deserves credit too. Sometimes you find guys, whether they’re specialists or not, that don’t embrace that part of it. He’s embraced that because he knows that will help him become a better player, and now he’s reaping the benefits of it.

On players that have affected him… 

It’s our job, and sometimes this gets lost in all of the things that come with college football, but we got into coaching because we love football. It didn’t take me long to realize that I got into it for the wrong reason. The first time that I ever helped somebody take a three-step drop or read curl-flat or do better in the classroom or become a little more accountable. The first time that I helped somebody do something that they couldn’t do before, or didn’t believe that they could do, the feeling I got inside, I was hooked immediately on that feeling.

Not the X’s and O’s and how to beat Cover 2 coverage and that stuff. It was helping people. When you get to be a part of this profession for a long time, those numbers and those people and those kids pile up. There are a few that have a positive effect on you as an adult. Those are the kids that you admire and see every day and admire their work ethic and their ability to fight through adversity.

Some of these young people are dealing with adult issues that are not their fault and no young person should be dealing with. They’re dealing with those things plus sports and academics, so that’s a long way for me to say that there have been numerous guys that I have admired as the years go by and how they work and how they care for each other.

Brenden Motley is one of the best teammates I’ve ever seen in my life. The ultimate team-first guy. Jerod Evans came in and played the entire season. When Brenden’s number was called in the Pitt game, he was ready to go play. I admire that man for what he did and how he handled those things in his senior year, and I think everyone around him did too.

On Pittsburgh…

The first thing you notice is that they throw the ball about 40 times a game, which is unique or different from what Pitt historically does on offense. They lead the nation in sacks. They’re really good on the defensive line. I think they’re 1st or 2nd in the conference in rushing yards allowed. They’re very good on the defensive side of the ball. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge. We’re going to have to have a home-field advantage. We’re going to have to have a tremendous week of practice and play really, really well.

On the challenge Pitt presents for the offense on third down…

Staying out of third down is a good deal, especially against those guys. They take a lot of pride on their third-down package. They line a lot of people up and essentially bring people from all sorts of directions and sometimes bail them out. It’s a really good scheme and they do a really good job. They seem to understand it and do a good job with it. Staying out of those third-down situations would be nice. The problem with that is that they’re so good against the run, they can force those situations and then pin their ears back and attack.

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I like the way Mike Young explains things. To be honest in assessment, but do it in an uplifting forward thinking way.

    That Burnop thing, though. I hope I don’t have nightmares.

    1. I really agree. He isn’t sugar coating and is admitting reality but doing it in an encouraging way. Good leadership.

    2. Something else that I have seen a lot of so far with Mike at the bench during games is how he seemingly goes out of his way to avoid making a conversation end negatively. Wabissa could have just tried to force a pass into a crowded lane, and Mike will yell at him, telling him to move the ball around the perimeter…don’t force it in the lane. But as soon as he finishes that negative statement, he’ll quickly say something like “But great job…you’re doing a great job handling the ball for us.” And all of that, so far, has seemed very genuine from him…not just patronizing like some coaches appear to be.

  2. Love Coach Young’s comments. Except he will cause me a sleepless night with the image of “Burnop in a bathing suit”!!

  3. Burnop in a bathing suit. Must get that visual out of my head!

    Coach Young is fun to listen to. Sounds like a good teacher of the game.

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