It’s Virginia Tech’s open week, which means the Hokies are reviewing film, adjusting and resting. Brock Hoffman and Braxton Burmeister discussed their takeaways from rewatching the first four games, while TyJuan Garbutt had a lot of praise for his co-defensive line coaches. Plus, Peter Moore might be Tech’s most consistent player so far this fall.
In all sports, time off gives you extra opportunities to roll the tape and take a look at positives and negatives from previous games or matches. That’s what Virginia Tech has done over the past few days of its open week ahead of next weekend’s clash with No. 9 Notre Dame.
It’s especially important for the Hokies’ coaches and players to figure out what went wrong for the offense that struggled mightily against Richmond and was just about average through four games. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister pointed to not finishing drives.
“I feel like we had a lot of drives where we started out well and then just got in the red zone and stalled out,” Burmeister said. “That’s going to be a big deal moving forward, figuring out how to finish those drives and put points on the board.”
Against West Virginia, the Hokies scored zero points from three trips inside the Mountaineers’ 10-yard line. They had no problem getting there, totaling 329 yards. The trouble came with converting when the time came, which they didn’t.
In the Richmond game, it was the opposite. The Hokies posted 318 yards, but only got to the red zone twice. When the offense got into those positions, which came on the first drive of each half, it scored a touchdown. Burmeister hit Tre Turner in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard strike in the first quarter, and Connor Blumrick powered his way in on a one-yard run. The Spiders out-rushed Virginia Tech, however, and forced six punts.
Burmeister has only turned the ball over twice, an interception against UNC and a fumble against WVU. He’s completed 61.4% (62-101) of his passes for 746 yards and five scores. But as Fuente and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said on Monday, he can be even more efficient. Burmeister agreed.
“I feel like I’ve done a really good job of taking care of the ball, and I think there’s definitely a step we can take in taking more risks, and that’s something I’m looking at in the bye week,” Burmeister said. “During Richmond, we took a few more shots downfield. It’s something we can grow on, but I feel like taking care of the ball should always be the main priority, but kind of sprinkling in those shots when we have the opportunity to.”
To take shots, Burmeister has to have time, and the running game has to help him out. He had both of those against North Carolina and Middle Tennessee, being sacked just once in each game. Tech ran for 127 yards against the Heels and 224 against the Blue Raiders.
When you break it down, though, Tech averaged 3.2 yards per carry or less in three of its four games. The outlier is a 5.7 average against MTSU. Burmeister was also sacked six times against WVU and twice against Richmond. Part of that falls on the running backs, and part on the offensive line.
Center Brock Hoffman, who played left guard last week, mentioned that on Wednesday. After watching film, he said his biggest takeaway is the offensive line’s footwork and hand placement needs to be cleaned up.
“We just need to clean up our technique and footwork,” Hoffman said. “I think we can work on getting our foot in the ground. That will help us when defenses try to do a lot of movement. Other than that, just getting back to the basics, that’s what we need to get back to.”
“We’re really talented,” Burmeister said. “We know we’re really talented. We’re still trying to find our identity and push forward, especially on the offensive side of the ball. We all know we have the guys in that room to go win games and put up big numbers. … It’s a process, but I think we’re a lot closer than people think.”
Co-defensive line coaches Bill Teerlinck and J.C. Price have their group playing well through four weeks of the season. TyJuan Garbutt, Jordan Williams, Norell Pollard and Amare Barno all have 10-plus tackles on the season. Barno and Garbutt each have 3.5 tackles for loss on the edge and have combined for 4.5 sacks.
There’s depth in Teerlinck and Price’s group, yes, especially at defensive tackle. Mario Kendricks and Josh Fuga, combined with Williams and Pollard, have formed a really solid unit that can constantly rotate.
Garbutt, though, said the best thing about Teerlinck and Price, who he referred to as Sully and Mike from Monster’s Inc. (the big guy and little guy), is that they’ve prepared the group to succeed in-game.
“They’re two great coaches,” Garbutt said. “We like to joke around and say Price is the muscle. Since he’s gotten here, he’s really coached us on our technique, letting us play the game before the game ever happens. With Teerlinck, we call him the brains. He tells us the run is going away from us or to us. Just simple, little key things that you might not think is big, but when you’re out there on the field and you’ve been practicing all week, you kind of almost know what play is happening before it happens.”
Garbutt said the group has good chemistry, too, which has translated to solid on-field performances. It’s a process that started back in the spring, and the older guys are bringing the younger players along. Having coaches that are good teachers really helps.
“One might break one play down one way, one might break it down another way,” Garbutt said. “They’re both saying the same thing, just different terminology. That’s great to have because you get to hear different perspectives on everything that you’re learning.
“That’s why a lot of the younger guys can go out there and make plays. We trust them as much as the coaches trust us, and we always preach there’s no drop-off, so for us, it’s more like we’re expecting them to go out there and make as many plays as they can.”
Through four games, freshman Peter Moore has punted 19 times. Eight have pinned opponents inside the 20, seven have gone for 50-plus yards, 12 have been fair caught and only one, against WVU, went for a touchback.
There were some questions about how Tech’s punting would fare without Oscar Bradburn. The Aussie punted for 9,796 yards on 225 attempts over his four years. 49 of those went for over 50 yards, and 81 landed inside the 20.
Moore, a Davidsonville, MD native, has filled those shoes in pretty well. Bradburn’s helped him adjust to punting in college and trained with him over the summer, which has meant a lot to Moore.
“I’ve improved a lot on my red zone punting,” Moore said. “When I got here, I really struggled with that and I worked with Oscar Bradburn on that stuff in the offseason.
“At practice one time when I first got here, I was struggling and I dropped a snap and I was down and I was sagging off the field. He came up to me and said, ‘dude, it’s okay, it happens to everybody, you’re going to be fine,’ and that was an important moment for me, him being an older brother and just making me feel a lot better about the situation.”
So far through four games, all but one opponent possession has started inside its own 45. A chart, which shows how each opponent possession has started, is below.
14 of Moore’s 19 punts have pinned opponents inside their own 30. Flipping field position is crucial, something Justin Hamilton pointed out on Monday, which he called “complementary football.” Moore’s been very instrumental in setting the defense up for success so far this season.
“I have a lot of confidence right now, just setting up the defense in a good position. It’s a good feeling just helping out the team in that way.”