Tech Talk Live Notes: Mike Young On Penn State; Justin Fuente On UVA

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Virginia Tech
Mike Young’s Virginia Tech team has a big game on Tuesday night with Penn State. (Johnnie Izquierdo)

Mike Young

On finding a rhythm with the strange season… 

I talked to so many friends throughout the business, and Tennessee hasn’t played yet. They have their first game tonight against Colorado. There have been so many disruptions. I talked to Steve Forbes at Wake Forest about the issues going on in their program. It’s nothing that their kids have done wrong. Chris Mooney at Richmond has the same thing. I’m just apprehensive. I feel great because we haven’t had a disruption yet. We’ve practiced as many times as the NCAA allows us to practice.

We had the game postponed in Uncasville and were able to pick up Villanova, which we’ll look back on for some time. I’m thankful for that. It’s just day-by-day. We’re so happy and thankful and blessed to practice today and prepare for Penn State. Unless something comes up overnight, we test every day before a contest. I typically get that text from Hisham, our really good athletic trainer, at 4 or 4:30 in the morning. I hear that ding and I’m looking at my phone to see if we all tested negative. I hope to continue to see that text as we move along.

On the VMI game…

They made it tricky. I credit their kids because they came in here, as I knew they would, to fight and compete and hang in there. We don’t want it too fast, but we don’t want it that slow either. I didn’t beat our guys up. We looked at a few things and made a couple of corrections. We were pretty good again, we held them to 36% from the field and outrebounded them by 18, which we should because we’re bigger and stronger. We didn’t dwell on that a whole lot. We spent the two immediate days after on us and our team, then we turned our attention to Penn State yesterday and today in preparation for tomorrow night’s game.

On college basketball as a whole…

We feel to take into consideration that we are four games in, some are two or three games in. We’re all trying to figure some things out. None of us are where we expect to be a month from now. I haven’t seen Gonzaga yet, but I’ve seen very few teams that I thought were great. I’ve seen a lot of good teams that have the opportunity in time to be great teams, but as typical of any year, a lot of folks like us are trying to get a complete grasp of where we’re headed. I like where we’re headed. There are still a lot of things to be polished up as we go along here.

On 9 p.m. tipoffs…

My goodness, I’ll never forget walking off the floor after the nine o’clock tip against Miami with three overtimes. I saw a clock and it was 11:45, man, that’s a long day. That’s awful trying to manage that with your team. They have study hall at eight in the morning, then class, then shootaround at four o’clock, pregame at five o’clock; it’s just a long day. I dislike the start time so much.

I scrolled through our schedule, and unless something changes, this is our last nine o’clock [game]. I think we had two last year. I said something to Boeheim about the nine o’clock start and in his rough way of talking, he said, ‘Don’t try to fight it. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. TV dictates everything, and you’re not TV, so coach your team.’ That’s what I do.

On John Ojiako…

Big John had a little meniscus tear. He had it cleaned up last week, maybe the week before last. He’s upright and his treatment is going well. He’s in that training room all of the time. He was on the floor a little bit today. He’s not jumping, obviously, and he’s not moving a lot yet.

I think, realistically, we’re hopeful that we have him back for the Miami game. There has been a lot of conversation about whether we wait or do it now. I thought the best course of action was to have it taken care of and get him back up and running through the holidays. I think we can expect him to possibly practice with us on the 26th and hopefully, with a little luck and continued progress, have him ready at home against Miami on the 29th.

On Jalen Cone…

He was on the shelf for a while, for two months. There are fine motor skills necessary to play at this level. As good a player as he is, I don’t care who you are, if you miss that kind of time, those reps and preseason practices, I think rust is inevitable. I haven’t gotten many things right in my time here, but I thought it would be unfair to us and to Jalen; he could have gone in Uncasville, but I thought against Villanova and South Florida, we should hold him a little bit longer.

We got him some reps against VMI. He will get more tomorrow. He’s practiced well, and he’s in the gym all of the time, so he’s getting closer. It’s going to take a little bit more time, but we all know it’s not going to take him long.

On Penn State…

I went back today, just picking around at a couple of coaches I admire, Tom Izzo and Matt Painter at Purdue. I watched those two games from last year, and I know I’m thankful that Watkins and Stevens from last year’s team aren’t on this year’s team. They’re just big people. 21 [John Harrar] and 15 [Trent Buttrick] are 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11, but their guards are big and they can all shoot the ball. Myron Jones, I just watched the Michigan State game from last year, made six threes. He hasn’t played great yet, but he’s a senior and I know how capable he is. I recruited him, he’s a Georgia kid.

I could go on and on. Seth Lundy is playing great ball and is averaging a bunch of points. I saw him just light it up against VCU. He was really good last night against Seton Hall in a heck of a game that Penn State should have and could have one. It was an overtime game and Seton Hall led for two minutes in the entire game. They led at the final buzzer and that’s all that matters.
Defensively, they’ll get after you. I think they will foul 150 times tomorrow night, and we’ll have 20 of them get called. We’re going to have to be strong with the ball and hit people when they’re open. We have to take great shots and play through Keve [Aluma] and Mutts in the post, and we’re going to have to rebound again. We’ve outrebounded all four of our opponents, which is a step in a positive direction. They’re a lot like South Florida in that regard, they really go after it. We did a really good job with the Bulls in Uncasville, and we’ll need the same type of performance tomorrow night.

On how big of a factor points in the paint will be tomorrow…

I think it’ll be an interesting statistic to track as we go along. I do think that we can get the thing in there. We’ve put a big emphasis on dribble penetration and touching the paint and getting our feet in the ACC logo in the middle of the paint. As I mentioned earlier though, you better be tough with it because they are whacking you to try and get that ball loose. It’ll be a good test for us. It’s Big Ten basketball, which is physical and rugged. I look forward to seeing our team get after it.

On rotating guards with all of them available…

I’m going to feel my way through it. I’ll take any suggestions, just throw them at me. It’s a good problem to have, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about it at night. Getting that thing smoothed out and figuring all of that out is important. I’ve always thought that those minutes play themselves out and make it easier for you as you go down the line, but those are three good players that can help us win games. I don’t have any more answers right now as I did a couple of weeks ago, but we’ll figure it out and be alright.

On trying to manage big runs against you…

It’s just a feel. Penn State can come in here tomorrow and pop us in the mouth with a 10-0 run. You have to read the body language and how your team is behaving when there is an ebb and a flow to a particular game. They were up 20 last night to Seton Hall. Seton Hall came back and won that game. It’s one of those things, don’t get too high and don’t get too low. If you find yourself down by ten, hang in there because we’ll be right back. If you find yourself up by ten, be even keeled and hang in there because they can really shoot and score in bunches. You have to just play the game and hang in there.

On the bench’s energy without fans in the stands…

I don’t know if we talked about it last week, it is a concern. It bothers me, and I’ve come to appreciate the Cassell and the Cassell Guard when that place is rolling after a big shot or big defensive stop. After a media timeout, when you’re coming out of the break and, so help me God, it’s like being in there in mid-July just watching kids play. There’s no competitive advantage or disadvantage, it’s just a different atmosphere. You have to bring your own energy and your own pop.

I thought we were better in that regard. The Radford game scared me to death. We had nothing, so we talked about it at length. I thought it was better last week, and hopefully it’ll continue to improve tomorrow against Penn State.

On his popcorn…

They said they are trying to iron some things out, I don’t know what happened. As long as the Hokies keep on winning games, I couldn’t care less, but I do miss my pregame popcorn. We’ll see what tomorrow night brings.

On how his staff has handled everything…

It’s Groundhog Day. Every day, you walk into that office and it’s the same folks. We talked about it a couple of weeks ago, and we just have a great staff of hard-working folks that get along. They’re about those players and taking care of them and making sure that we’re doing everything necessary to stay healthy and keep them healthy day-by-day. So far so good.

Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech will try to regain the Commonwealth Cup this Saturday. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Fuente

On the quarterback situation…

It was the most bizarre thing that I’ve ever been a part of. We’ll see how everything goes as we go through the week and what the issues really are. Braxton was playing well when he was in there, I thought he did a really good job. We made a switch after the first series because we dropped a snap and broke the huddle with 25 seconds left on the play clock, which was the exact opposite of what our plan was going into the game. We thought we’d just pull Hendon out for a series and let Braxton go to try and let Hendon try to calm down for a little bit.

Braxton took us down there and scored a touchdown, so we rode with that for a while. Braxton went out, and Hendon went in there and couldn’t go and fumbled a snap again. Then, we went to Knox, who went out there and competed his tail off. I was really proud of him. Hopefully as this week goes, we’ll have a better handle of what’s going on.

On the success of the pass defense…

Part of it was that we played nine straight games, and I was stuck there trying to practice and continue to try to get guys better. I knew we needed to practice, but we were also a drained team. The week off helped everything because we played much faster on both sides of the ball. The second thing is that they only had to defend 52 snaps. The first part of that is we played faster and played better defense, but the other part of that is that we didn’t have to take the field as much.

That was the plan going in to try and go win the game, and you saw it executed pretty well in the first half. We had to hold onto the ball, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw it. That helped them in the back end, but getting charged up also helped.

On whether rotations will look different in the last game of the season…

I don’t know if it will change too much. We’re basically down to, everybody that is a viable option is doing something to help this football team. We don’t have a lot of spare parts for changing guys in and out right now. Between guys that we have lost along the way, we are pretty much all hands on deck right now, whether that’s covering kicks, or returning kicks or playing on offense or defense.

Hopefully we can get through this week without losing anybody. We have two more rounds of testing, and we tested again today. Hopefully we can continue to move in a positive manner in that way and be fresh and know what to do and be ready to play on Saturday night.

On the wide receiver group…

I hope that they can be ready so we can rotate guys in there and keep guys fresh. We just haven’t been able to do that much. Changa [Hodge] and Raheem [Blackshear] have been hurt the most by the COVID situation. Changa was here for two weeks before we could even be around him, and we were in the middle of fall camp.

With Raheem, between going back and forth trying to learn too much, and then he missed a couple of weeks, and then he was a little banged up. Then, we’re in the middle of the season and there’s no time to develop anybody. I was pleased with those guys and how they came along and kept sticking to it. These guys were really good players at their previous schools, but they were just a victim of circumstance. There was nothing they could do because it was like a big snowball running downhill. We couldn’t pause the snowball to get them acclimated to what was going on. The games just kept on coming and those guys got a little frustrated, but stuck to it and continued to work hard. They played huge roles last week, and I think they’ll continue to do that as we move forward.

On Senior Day…

It’s the weirdest deal. We have a bunch of seniors, who wants to go through Senior Day? Who’s coming back and who’s not? I would say this, we’re in talks with all of those guys. I do know some of them who are not coming back, and I know some of them that are coming back. I will say this, the list of guys going through Senior Day is not indicative of guys who are or aren’t coming back. I didn’t put the deadline on them so that if they are coming back, they shouldn’t go through senior day. I just said that they could do it if they want and make up their mind later.

However we want to handle this, I’m totally good with. It’s been a totally messed up year, so if you end up doing two, that’s awesome. It’s just a function of where we’re at. I tried to do the numbers and now everybody has another year of eligibility, so what is Dorian Strong next year? He’s a true freshman. He’s actually the same class as the guys we’re going to sign on Wednesday (December 16), even though he’s played in every game this year. It’s the craziest deal that I’ve ever been a part of.

On Brock Hoffman…

I’m not picking on Brock. I’m doing it because I care, and he cares about this football team. There is nobody who works harder during the week to get ready to play than Brock Hoffman. I’ll tell you what makes him special is that he brings other people with him. He has other linemen in there watching film late at night. He’s bringing other people on the team along, and he practices his tail off.

He just can’t hurt the football team. You’re going to get a holding call or a pass interference call every once in a while, I understand those things. When we commit foolish or selfish penalties, now we’re hurting everybody. Occasionally, on defense, it’s so hard to play defense and you may get called for a penalty while you’re making a tackle. Those things happen, but we cannot commit unforced errors. We’re in scoring position against the No. 3 team in the country in a great game in the first half. We just can’t hand them those types of things. I pulled him out and put somebody else in. I talked to him after the game, and he’s seething mad because we lost and because he wasn’t in there to help the football team. I said, ‘Brock, do you understand? I’m not asking if you like it, but do you understand?’ He said, ‘Yes sir, I do understand.’

On Virginia…

I think we have a better handle on what their offense is going to look like, and they’ve been incredibly efficient. They’re doing a great job. We’ve played some of the same teams here lately in terms of the teams that we played early are the teams that they’re playing late. They played Clemson early, and just played Boston College and Louisville a few weeks ago. We have some common opponents and can match those things up.

They’re playing at a high level and always play hard. They were dealing with some COVID issues last week that have kind of come around on them. They were missing six guys last week, so I have no clue what that will look like into this week. We couldn’t play the game to start the season, and wouldn’t have had anybody to play. I’m glad that it’s happening now, and I’m looking forward to it.

On Brennan Armstrong…

I’ve heard some people stay Steve Young, and I think they just say that because he’s left-handed. I think he’s more like Taysom Hill who played at BYU and is now with the Saints. Brennan played special teams last year, so he’s a versatile, hard-nosed player, but he can throw the ball. This is not a kid that can’t throw the football. He does it all for them; he runs the ball and makes plays on the move and standing in the pocket. He’s playing at a really high level and has been very effective.

On getting the Commonwealth Cup back…

They know that this is the most important thing that they can do all year. They’re excited and amped for it. There have been no shortages of reminders, and those will be continued throughout the week of what we need to do and how we need to play. That was a really tough, high-scoring football game last year that went down to the wire.

We took some penalties that I thought were ill-advised, and had a few turnovers, but really in the second half it turned into a shootout. Neither side could stop each other and ultimately, they kicked a field goal, and we got the ball back with a minute and thirty left. They sky-kicked it and we caught it and slipped and didn’t have very good field position and didn’t get much going. It was a tightly contested ball game, and it’s going to be again. Our guys know that it could go into the wee hours of the morning to decide a winner in this one, and we need to be prepared to go the distance.

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8 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Both of these coaches really care about their kids. You can hear it in their voices. Mike Young has done a great job in a short time. Football is a much more complicated sport. This year 2020 has been hell for a lot of people on this team due to no fault of their own. No spring and then no time to install a defence. So many new coaches and new players. Never knowing who would suit up. IT WAS A PERFECT STORM. Let’s all get behind these teams and coaching staffs. We all want the same thing. GO HOKIES.
    I look forward to what these coaches will do in a normal year.

  2. whats MY mean by this comment in the Cone section “I haven’t gotten many things right in my time here, but I thought it would be unfair to us and to Jalen”….?

    seems to me hes doing very well

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