Tech Talk Live Notes: Hokies Ready For The Belk Bowl

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Virginia Tech, Justin Fuente
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente hopes the Hokies can close strong against Kentucky. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente, Bud Foster and Reggie Floyd were Monday’s guests on Tech Talk Live.

Justin Fuente

On the support from Hokie Nation in Charlotte…

We’ve got them hanging from the rafters up top and we’ve got Hokies invading Charlotte from everywhere. It’s just a fantastic display of school spirit and support for our players and our coaching staff that have worked so hard to continue the long tradition of bowls here at Virginia Tech.

On what he’s been doing since the Virginia game…

I don’t know where to start. As soon as the regular season was over, we were on the road recruiting. Over the last couple of years, we’ve had this midterm signing day. It’s debatable over whether it’s actually good or bad for the kids, but as coaches, we enjoy it because we get a large portion of that stuff knocked out and out of the way. We have a small class that we brought in that’s going to really help us. Some guys will make an immediate impact and some guys have bright futures down the road.

Our kids have been finishing up the semester, and we actually did really well in the classroom this semester. I was really pleased with how we performed, we had 38 guys with over a 3.0 this semester. The guys are really doing it well on the football field and in the classroom. Then, we turned our attention to bowl prep.

I also tried to sneak some Christmas shopping in there. We also took some time off over the Christmas holiday which was nice for everybody involved. We’ve been going at it pretty hard since August 1st and letting the players go home and see the families and celebrate the Christmas holiday was great. Now, we’ve met up here in Charlotte and are ready to go try to win a bowl game.

On finally getting back to practice after the UVA loss…

We had a group of guys that have a lot of mileage on them and have played a lot of snaps. We wanted to make sure we could keep them fresh and get them feeling well. Then, we had some young guys that we wanted to get some work, so they could possibly play in the bowl game. We also have some young coaches that have stepped in and done a great job in preparation.

On using the redshirt rule to play younger players in the bowl game…

We’ve got a few that will play on special teams primarily. JR Walker, Dean Ferguson are some guys that are still under the four, and Jaden Payoute is another one, he’ll see some time. Amare Barno has served that role, but he’s played his four games, so we’ll do everything in our power to make sure we don’t exceed that. There will definitely be some young guys out there that have been helping in the kicking game that will hopefully go out there and continue to be productive.

On driving a racecar…

I thought it was really cool that Jed Burton took time out of his schedule. He’s getting married in two weeks, and he took a day off to drive us on the track and hang out. I was really appreciative of that. What a great guy. He was just very down to earth and loves Virginia Tech. You get strapped into that thing, and I wouldn’t say it’s a really relaxing event. You’re moving around there at 170 miles per hour and white knuckling it. It is an amazing perspective on those guys, and I’m sure that’s just a sample of what it’s actually like.

I think they go 40 or 50 miles per hour faster than what we were doing and there’s other cars on the track. I just can’t imagine the stress. It’s hard enough to drive down Main Street in Blacksburg at 5 o’clock. For those guys to do that and do it safely is both remarkable and exhilarating. I can totally see how they get hooked with the adrenaline, the speed, and the power. It’s not some way that I would want to make a living, but I can see how those guys get hooked on it and absolutely love it.

On the feeling around Hokie Football…

Just incredible excitement. Our 2021 recruiting class is off to a great start. I think that’s the first step in this next wave because that will be a much bigger class for us. The staff we’re putting together is going to be second-to-none. We’re really excited about the additions that we’re going to make. That doesn’t mean anything about the guys that aren’t with us. It’s just we’re going to go in this direction, and we’ve got a chance to have something really special.

We’ve got a group of hungry football players that would like to be a part of something special and continue to improve. They care about each other and it’s cool to see them interact, hang out and compete, and watch the players we saw as younger players grow in a leadership standpoint.

On Hendon Hooker…

He’s done a great job. We’ve been incredibly pleased with him and Quincy. They’ve both focused on improvement and both have a lot invested in their improvement and this football program. The team voted Hendon the MVP of the team. I think that says a lot about our team and the job Hendon did, but also the way that he went about it. He continues to prepare, and when his time came he was ready to step up and play at a high level. He continues to improve and get better, and I enjoy standing behind him at practice and watching him continue to take those leaps forward in his ability to play the quarterback position.

On the Kentucky defense… 

The first thing that stands out to you is their sheer size. This is a group that has recruited to a system. We’re talking 6’9” and 315 pounds and 6’6” and 330 pounds. These guys are humongous. Nobody has been able to move the line of scrimmage. That has allowed them to play more two-high and bring an extra hat into the box. That’s caused people some trouble. You go through and look at the film and you see some good SEC teams barely getting across midfield sometimes. That combined with Lynn Bowden make them a pretty dynamic opponent.

On Bowden… 

I’ve never seen anything like that that has worked this well. I’ve seen people get into a situation where they don’t have a choice and they have to make a change and they’re so far down the depth chart that they’re grasping at straws. That’s not the case here. This has been incredibly effective for them. He’s doing a lot more than just running up the middle for them. He’s running the show out there. He’s a dynamic returner, was a very good wideout and now, the ball is in his hands every snap and his ability in the run game and in the read game causes lots of issues.

You take that running game and combine that with their punter and his ability to control field position. He’ll do some things that you’ve never seen before in the game. His ability to control field position and their defense’s ability to stop other team’s from running the ball and they’re a good team.

On Bud Foster’s last game… 

It’s two-pronged. One, it’s obviously the last time and our players understand that. I don’t want them to be burdened by that and I don’t think they are. I think they’re excited to put their best foot forward and try to finish this thing off the right way for our seniors and for Bud and what he’s meant for Virginia Tech. What we can do is worry about what we can control; our enthusiasm level, our toughness, how we go about preparing and playing the game in order to send Coach Foster out the right way.

On Reggie Floyd… 

He has been a good player for a long time. We do this deal when we talk about our seniors at the end of the season. I remember we were playing at Pittsburgh in Reggie’s freshman year and we ended up winning that game by three. It was the year we won the Coastal division. There’s four minutes left to go in the game, and we have to punt, but somebody is down. We have to put true freshman Reggie Floyd in there. He executes correctly and we get the punt off, it’s not a disaster. That lets you know that he’s going to be a special player. He was ready and he was prepared.

He had been repping with the twos and threes his whole freshman season, and then he’s thrown in there at one of the biggest points in the season. He’s dependable and he’s hard-working and Reggie loves football. He loves the work that goes with it, he loves the physicality that goes with playing that position and he’s been a pleasure to coach.

Virginia Tech, Bud Foster
Bud Foster wants one last great defensive performance. (Jon Fleming)

Bud Foster

On what this season has been like for him…

To be honest with you, I’ve really focused on this season and the guys. When we were sitting at 2-2, I knew we were a much better football team. It took great leadership from Coach Fuente, the guys on our staff and the leaders on our football team to turn this thing around. That was really the focus. We got the chance to be in the chase for the Coastal and really, I was just focusing on the next game and the game within the game.

I think this thing will probably hit me more tomorrow when I’m hanging up my whistle, so to speak, for the last time. I’m looking forward to hanging out with these guys [Hokie fans]. I think that’s a lot less stressful seat than this one. It’s been a great run and I can’t thank you guys enough for all of the love and support over the years. It’s been a great ride and it’s not over. We’ve got one more tomorrow and we need everybody out there tomorrow. I think tomorrow, or maybe even as I’m cleaning out my office next week, that will be when it hits me the most.

On Charley Wiles…

This is a tough business and Charley was a big, big part of this program. I’ve known him since he was in high school. This is a business, and tough decisions have to be made. You don’t always agree with them. You also as a leader, want to try to make the best decision possible for your program. I feel for Charley and I wish that he was here with us to finish this game. He’s been with me for so long, starting at Murray State and then here.

He was a big part of this thing and I thought that he deserved to be recognized. I talked to the defensive staff and I talked to the players who mean the most to me from that standpoint. There was no hesitation when asked if they wanted to dedicate this game to Charley. I’ve only given out one lunch pail, and that was to Daryll Tapp, and he wasn’t going to give that one up. We brought him in, and a lot of the guys didn’t get to say their goodbyes that they would’ve liked to. Everybody got to say goodbye and we got to let Charley know that we’re giving him the lunch pail. It was a pretty special time. He deserves that and I’m honored to pass it along to him.

On the changes to the defensive staff coming from in-house… 

I’m excited and I can’t thank Coach Fuente enough for giving me the opportunity to be the transition part from Coach Beamer to his regime. The program is in great hands, Justin is a great football coach. You’ve seen what we’re capable of doing when we have our personnel in place, and we’ve won a heck of a lot more here than we’ve lost. We’re going in the right direction, but then to have particularly Justin Hamilton, Daryll Tapp, Pierson Prioleau and Jack Tyler, those guys will continue to stay on the defensive side of the ball, and they understand the tradition here.

I think it’s time for some young blood, but they also understand the history, the expectations and what it takes to win. Great hires and I’m excited for the future. That’s the one thing about stepping away, I knew that we had a good group here for the next couple of years. We said the best teacher is experience, and that’s what this group is getting. It’s an amazing thing when you get a little bit of self-confidence. All of the sudden, their level of play and trust in each other improves. Unfortunately, we got bit in the tail by Duke, but it was an awakening for us, and we never looked back.

On Reggie Floyd… 

Tonight, since I’ve been the coordinator, I’ve always liked to do a little senior send off and give them a chance to speak. The floor is theirs. We’ve watched the videos and we’ve done our pre-game prep. The floor is theirs, and they can say whatever they want. It’s usually pretty emotional. They thank their coaches and their teammates and tell the younger guys how fast it goes by. It’s really a neat time. I wish you could bottle that and sell that. I wouldn’t be sitting here; I would be somewhere with a drink with an umbrella in it. We’d own an island. It’s really a great time. I wish the whole team could set into that.

Reggie and Jovonn Quillen were scholarship guys that have hung in there with this group. When Justin came in, they were the first group from Coach Beamer’s staff to this one that really have hung in there with the transition and are a big part of setting the standard with their loyalty, accountability and commitment. They’ve grown so much from young people to young men. They represent this program and their families. I’m really proud of them. They set a standard, we only have four seniors, but they’ve done a great job.

On Kentucky’s offense…

They’ve done a great job. They lost their top couple of quarterbacks who were pro-style guys. They could run a little bit, but not like this guy. Now, it’s almost like a wildcat offense. It’s a combination of Georgia Tech this year and Virginia this year, but the quarterback is a tremendous athlete. He’s first-team All-American and I think he won the most versatile athlete award. He’s a tremendous football player and a tremendous skill player.

They’re averaging about seven passes a game, but I’m hoping we can make that happen a little bit more. I do think we could see maybe two quarterbacks with him shifting out, but you know who’s getting the ball. We have to do a great job. They do a great job of trying to manipulate and block your alley hitters. It’ll be important for us trying to get our defensive scheme set up where we can get into our best situation to get a free hitter.

They do have three tailbacks that average about 160 yards per game, and then you throw him in there, and he averages 130 per game. They’ve been rushing for about 300 and controlling the clock. It’s going to turn into a 60-minute middle drill, and whoever has the most discipline is going to win. We have to be physical up front, and do it play after play after play.

On the focus during bowl week…

We’ve always used the bowls as a jumpstart for the year ahead. This one in particular, I really like the way we finished. We finished going uphill except for the Virginia game, I’d like to have that one back. The way our kids finished over the last month and a half, the way we played, it just shows the direction that our team is going. This game is a big part of that. We’re playing a good team that is in the same boat as we are as far as an up-and-coming program. Mark Stoops and his staff are doing a great job. They’re really competitive in that league and it’s a great matchup.

I think it’s two teams that are ascending and want to make a statement for the year to come. We’re not waiting until the middle of January when they report back for spring semester to start next season, we’re starting tomorrow. That’s been our mindset and approach. The bowl games are fun, but there’s a time when you have to get that edge back. The best bowl games are the ones that you win, and you have a good taste in your mouth when you leave it.

On his retirement…

I’ve got a lovely wife and great kids and a granddaughter over there sleeping. I was going home from work and at this point in the year, you might grab a bite or have a few home visits, or you’re game planning. I’ve spent the last 39 years of my life doing that. Either recruiting or preparing for games. It felt weird, I was supposed to be going back to work, but I got to go home and I’m hoping Jessie wants me to stay around. I was waiting for the comment like, ‘Don’t you have something to do?’ I was happy to be spending time with my family. They sacrifice a lot in this profession, and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them.

On the most special players he’s coached…

I’ve had a lot of great players. Each of them at different positions made their mark. I don’t want to get a ton of texts. You feel like you live in a bubble because you’re always onto the next game or the next season. We have been able to coach some of the greatest players to ever play college football and some went onto be great in the NFL. Not just in the state of Virginia or on the eastern seaboard, you’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever play the game. When I get a chance to reflect, that’s what’s really rewarding.

Reggie Floyd

On being the veteran on defense…

It means a lot. From my freshman year, having Terrell [Edmunds] and Chuck Clark in front of me to help me develop, that showed me how to lead. I roomed with Chuck my freshman year, and we went to bed right after we got out of meetings. No TV, if anything was on it was film. Having that mindset and then being able to play relaxed and fast, that really helped me. I wanted to put that into the young guys like Rook [Rayshard Ashby] and Dax [Hollifield] who have had to play earlier in their career. We didn’t have the year that we wanted, but they weren’t taking any steps backwards. That was my main influence that I wanted to impress on them every day.

On speaking tonight as a senior…

It’s going to be really hard. I’ve never been one to hide my emotions. If I do cry, it’s nothing but love for my brothers and especially Coach Foster. He’s done a lot for me, but not just football-wise. I appreciate him a lot and I appreciate my brothers.

On being a part of Foster’s final year…

He’s done so much for me, so to represent him on that field, I love him to death. We’re doing this for him and for Coach Wiles.

On facing Kentucky…

It’s the same as any game. We want to go out there and play blue-collar football. We want to be tough. We’re not going to shy away or back down from any opponent.

On representing Hokie Nation…

It’s great. Anyone who asks me what it’s like to come out of the tunnel, I always say it’s like a video game. You change the setting to Super Bowl mode, and you see the cameras flashing and the crowd roaring. That’s what it’s like. For them to travel and do that everywhere we go, it’s been the best decision I ever made. I love my choice and for anyone else that’s looking, this is the place to be.

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7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. God bless Bud Foster, his family and all the Hokie Nation! Let’s go out with a blue collar victory. HAPPY NEW YEAR AND GO HOKIES!

  2. Thanks Bud and Reggie for all the memories. Love you guys and thanks so much from everyone in the Hokie Nation. Let’s finish this off the right way – beat the Wildcats!!! Go Hokies!!!!!

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