Tech Talk Live Notes: Dissecting Miami And Looking Ahead To Pitt

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Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech will face tight coverage when they play Pitt this weekend. (Jon Fleming)

On Virginia Tech’s loss to Miami…

I feel the same way. I hurt for our players. Two weeks ago, they had a devastating deal. They played their hearts out and darn near pulled the game off.  A heartbreaking thing happened, and they pulled themselves off of the mat and had a really good week of practice. Then, we faced a top-ten team in Miami and were ahead for most of the game. We certainly had our chances to win the football game and played with great emotion and great pride.

At times, we executed at a really high level. We handled adjustments that we made on both sides of the ball at different times in the game. Certainly, I’m not accepting the result, but I can live with that effort and that attitude. I thought that said a lot about their character, how they feel about each other and how they feel about this program. Again, they’re all volunteers right now. There are a million different reasons to fold up shop and pack up your bags, but they refused to. They showed up and played as good and as tough and really as smart of a football game as you could ask.

On running scout team…

It’s an ever-evolving issue, and something that should be thought about. I think it should be evaluated on a weekly basis on what you need to do to help the football team win. Obviously, this is a year like none other, nothing is normal. I’m not taking credit for it, but I just really enjoyed working with the scout team, and I thought we gave them much better looks and had a much better tempo to practice over there. All of our defensive players had to practice much harder over there to keep up with the look that our guys were giving. Our guys took great pride in it.

Part of the message that we gave to our scouts was that we have to have a purpose, and there has to be some pride in what we’re doing. We laid these things out, this hasn’t been up to par which isn’t their fault, it’s my fault. I had a great time; I had my own meetings with them. We went out there and flew around. We’re fortunate that we had enough numbers that we could rotate some guys through and it wasn’t just guys taking reps until they dropped. We could rotate guys in there, and practice went much better. I’m going to continue to do it for now because I think that’s what I can do to best serve the team during the week. Obviously, I have responsibilities to all of it, but as of right now, I think that’s what we need to be doing.

On Khalil Herbert… 

I feel good about him. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow, and we’ll get him more work tomorrow than he had at any point last week, if all goes well. It also won’t be the full load. It’s kind of a weird deal because Khalil is such a positive kid. He’ll tell you everything is good, and he feels great. Two weeks ago, that’s what he said too, and he was only able to play one play.

I was pretty cautious heading in because he said he felt great and he was feeling better. We kind of eased into it and got him some. When he was in there, he was pretty productive. We’ll see how he does this week. Hopefully we can progress him through the week to do some more running and build up a little more stamina there to play a little more regularly on Saturday.

On the offensive line’s performance…

I would’ve liked to have seen us play better, quite honestly. We have a few guys who are banged up that are playing through it. The movement got to us a little bit early, but we made some adjustments and handled it. You started to see us do a couple things that really helped us out, in my opinion. We covered up a blitz on the side and handling the movement and spitting the ball out the frontside, that helped us get a handle on it. Once we got a handle on what they were doing, we were much better with it.

We kind of eliminated the movement and they packed the box, so we had a little trouble running the ball. When we got into an obvious passing situation, those guys have their ears pinned back, and they can really rush the passer. We struggled a couple times holding up in protection there. Those are tough situations to be in. We try to stay out of them as much as possible, but when we’re in them, we have to find a way to execute.

On James Mitchell…

It’s been really hard. Heading into the game, I didn’t know if we were going to have him. He played for about three plays. He’s probably our biggest mismatch. While he may not have 50 catches, he’s still our biggest mismatch. We really would like to be a 12 personnel team with two tight ends, one back and two wide receivers. That’s our best personnel group, but when you’re down tight ends, it’s hard to get into that.

We’ve started to get into 11 personnel a little bit more. We can still be efficient in that, but where we cause people the most problems is in 12 personnel because James and Nick [Gallo] are so versatile. James is a matchup nightmare at times, and they can also come back in the box and help us run the football. We’ve kind of been out of that for two weeks now, but what I will say is that Drake Deluliis came in and played really well. I’m really proud of Drake. He’s worked really hard to continue to improve. He’s been stuck in a room with some really exceptional guys with Dalton, James and Gallo. He kept plugging away and played really well for us in the game. He’ll be a guy that continues to get some playing time as the other guys work their way back.

On the punt return unit…

We’ve been terrible all year, and I really felt like we were going to get over the hump a few weeks ago. I can’t explain it. I wish I could, but Tayvion [Robinson] does not have confidence back there right now. I thought he was over the hump, and he was just unconscious back there as a freshman. When he took that first return, he made an immediate impact. It’s a part of the game that I thought we were going to be really good at.

I still think that we can as the season winds down. We put Raheem [Blackshear] back there, and did not field the ball very well. We gave up a lot of roll yardage. We’ll work a few guys in back there this week. Khalil has done it some, Tre [Turner] has done it some for us in practice, James has done it some. We’ll continue to work on that and figure it out as the week goes on.

On Jalen Holston…

I felt good about him when he was in there. He was running angry. He’s been really productive on special teams. I know he does kind of the jobs that don’t garner a lot of attention, but we almost blocked their last punt, and it was because of Jalen. He jumped in the other gap, took up a blocker and turned Kakavitsas totally free. He’s just done so many things like that. He’s been great as the off returner on kickoff return. He’s really been helping this football team. He got a chance to run the ball a little bit, and he ran the ball in the manner that he needs to run the ball to be effective, and that’s physical and tough. I think he definitely deserves more chances to get out there and carry the ball.

On Devin Taylor…

I was really proud of the job he did tackling in space. He’s played corner, some nickel and now he’s the boundary safety for us. The thing that’s great about Devin is that he’s played a lot of football and he’s got some football savvy and intelligence. JHam can pull him over and explain things to him and he picks it up really quickly. He’s a competitor. He played at Illinois State, and he’s really excited to be here, playing at this level and playing against the teams that we go play against. He’s here, and he’s been incredibly productive.

On the cornerbacks…

We really did defend the deep ball well in terms of our positioning. We widened the receiver several times and the ball landed out of bounds, which is exactly what you love to have. We didn’t turn guys loose or get beat on double moves. Dorian [Strong] came in there as a true freshman after being sick all week, non-COVID, but sick. There are other things that are happening besides COVID. Strep throat seems to be a big one around here right now. He came in and played well. You saw a glimpse of what can happen on their go-ahead touchdown. You have one false step or a little bit of poor technique, that speed shows up and that Miami receiver could really run. He made us pay on that one, but overall, I felt like we played really well.

On Christian Darrisaw…

He wasn’t at 100% and probably won’t be next week. He’s so tough, most people don’t know this, but he played a whole season on one foot. Not right now, but either his freshman or sophomore year. He’s really tough, and he’s a competitor. He loves getting out there and competing.

On Rayshard Ashby…

He’s just a throwback football player. He doesn’t look very good in his uniform; he’s got his pants all split and a knee brace on. He’d be the last guy picked in a pick-up game, but his team usually wins. These kids care about each other. I know that my ability to describe it falls short with how difficult everything has been. I’m not talking about the games. They’re the best part, but I’m talking about everything that these young people have gone through with the uncertainty from week-to-week, losing teammates for two weeks. These guys disappear now, they’re just gone. For them to continue to work hard is really remarkable.

On COVID issues across college football…

One of my least favorite sayings on earth is, ‘It is what it is.’ I can’t stand that, but it is what it is. We have become experts at dealing with uncertainty. I took my 30th COVID test today. Think about our players, forget the coaches, let’s talk about the players. They’ve probably taken more COVID tests because they were around during the summer, let’s say 40. So, 40 times, they’ve waited 24 hours to hear whether they had to go home and stay home, even though they felt fine. Sometimes, that’s in the middle of the season, or summer, or fall camp.

Everybody around you has to do it, too. We don’t know from day-to-day what it’s going to look like. We’ve tried to master the art of just making it to breakfast and taking it one day at a time. I’m not worried, I talked to our guys, and I think we’re going to play. I don’t know much about the Pitt situation, but they’re doing everything they can to play. I feel like there’s a really good chance that’s going to happen.

Things can obviously change. I tried to make a big deal about it to the team that people are going to ask about the uncertainty of the game, and we can’t think about that. We can always adjust if there’s no game, but we can’t adjust if there is a game. We have to be prepared. There were a bunch of guys around the office today on their day off, and I anticipate we’ll have a good day of practice tomorrow.

On the effects on the support staff…

These are the people with the tentacles that touch all of our players. We’re talking about hundreds of people. Things change all of the time. Kids’ classes are changing from in-person to online to a mix to only online. You can imagine if that’s your responsibility as an academic advisor to make sure that guys are getting everything done, the stress that puts on them. It’s the same with our medical people and our protocols to how we’re allowed to eat together and what we’re supposed to be doing.

The list is just infinite, and it’s the people on the ground floor fighting the battle that are getting worn out because it never goes away. They’ve done an incredible job to let us play a game. I personally think it’s a miracle. I just can’t give them enough credit for all that they’ve gone through. I know that they’re anxious to hopefully at some point sit back and take a deep breath, because that pressure never leaves them. It never leaves any of us. I’m not talking about winning a ballgame, I’m talking about getting to it.

On Pittsburgh…

It’s going to be cover zero. There’s nobody in America that puts more people in the box than Pat Narduzzi. He makes no bones about it; he wants you to run for zero yards and throw the ball on every down. If you have to throw it down the field every time, he’ll live with a pass interference call every now and again. That’s the way that they go about it, and they’ve been really successful doing it, to their credit.

They do pressure stuff, but they’re going to be down there tight playing press. Their safeties are going to play man on the slot receiver, and it’s going to be really tough to run the football. It’s tough for everybody. Four yards is a victory when there are that many people in there. You have to find a way to make some plays in the passing game. You have to find a way to hold onto the ball long enough to get the guys down the field because that is an issue with their defensive line.

You should’ve seen some of the defensive plays they made against Miami. They turned them over, intercepted them and ran it back to the five-yard line. They handed the ball to their offense inside the ten-yard line twice. They can get after it on the defensive side and then offensively, they’ve fallen in love with throwing the football. That’s what they did last year, and they’re doing it again this year. Their quarterback is really good. He’s a big-time guy, and a great passer. It’ll be a good battle up there.

On Pitt’s tendency to throw it…

They will run the ball, but they’re centered around throwing it. that’s what they’re trying to do. They can still hurt you running the ball, without a doubt. It’s just not what they looked like two or three years ago. The last two years, they’ve looked dramatically different on the offensive side of the ball. It’s not that they can’t run the ball, I just think they’ve made a concerted effort to try to throw the football down the field, pass protecting and trying to win games that way. They’ve been pretty efficient at it.

On Kenny Pickett…

The first thing is that I do think he has the talent required to go to the NFL. You just watch the guy, and quarterbacks now come in all different shapes and sizes. Kyler Murray is just about the most amazing guy that I’ve seen in a while, and he’s not very big. This guy has that talent. I have seen him continue to improve. I don’t know the young man, but I do believe he has a future in the National Football League. I believe his coach believes that too. I’ve heard Pat say that before, that he’s proud of him, and he has a big-time future. I can certainly see that. From a tools perspective, I think he has everything you need to play at that level.

On Pitt’s special teams…

It’s a vintage Pitt special teams unit. I’m pretty proud of what we do schematically and how we try to attack people on the special teams side, and they do the same thing. They did mix up their punt unit from what we call an NFL punt. It’s kind of like a pocket punt with two gunners. That’s the way Coach Beamer punted when he was here. We are a shield punt with three big guys back there. They’ve gone away from the NFL style and do a little bit of a spread philosophy to way they punt, which is unique.

Their return game is dangerous. Their returner is a strong, 200-pound guy that can break tackles, which always scares you. They’ll scheme you up, now. They’re going to try to come after you when you’re punting or kicking. Their kickoff team, if there is wind, we may have a chance to return one. If there’s no wind, he’s going to kick it out of the end zone every single time.

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4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Not using Holston and Herbert more effectively in the 4th quarter is still the major head scratcher for me- especially after Fu’s praise of Holston and his statement, “he got a chance to run the ball a little bit…” Personally, I believe we as fans deserve better than this from a coach making $4.25 million/year.

  2. No mention that Miami was without 13 players and we still lost to them.

    BTW, they aren’t a top 10 team anymore coach, if they ever really were.

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