Tech Talk Live Notes: Virginia Tech Football Head Coach Brent Pry

On Thursday night, Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live at McClains at First & Main. The trio discussed the Hokies’ fall camp, development of individual players and other topics of Pry’s first year as a head coach.

This season, Tech Talk Live will air on Thursdays at 7 p.m. ET across the Virginia Tech Sports Network. On weeks with conflicts, such as the game vs. West Virginia on Sept. 22, the show will air on Wednesday.

Brent Pry Fan Day 2022
Brent Pry had a long line of Hokie fans waiting for him at Virginia Tech football’s fan day on Sunday. (Jon Fleming)

Brent Pry

On surprising the team and staff on Thursday:

Yeah, I tell you, the guys just been working their tails off, staff and the players. So we tried to keep a secret from everybody. Let the coordinators know, couple of administration guys, and we surprised them in a team meeting and canceled practice and took them to Claytor Lake.

What did you guys do there?

We had 10 or 11 boats, we had paddle boards, we had kayaks. At one point, there were 107 of the 110 players on the water. Yeah, we didn’t have enough lifeguards. But they had a great time and they cooked up a really good meal for us. You know, it was the players and the staff, just a little bit of R&R after, I don’t know, 13,14 pretty rugged days. It was much needed. We’re right back at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.

What did he learn from the previous scrimmage?

Well, obviously, we came out of there feeling like we needed to name a quarterback. And we did that, that was a big move. We’re starting to build that depth chart. Things are starting to take shape, they have to. We’re about two weeks out, but the guys are competing, which is a big piece of the development. They’re going after each other every day and wanting to win reps and wanting to win periods and are getting better, so they’ve been back and forth. We do a little thing where we keep track of the competitive periods in practice, we keep a running total, and then we give him the daily total in the next meeting. And so they’re always you know, it’s 20 to 19 defense, and then it’s 22 to 21 offense and going back and forth, and so they’re really trying to give it their all out there, which I love, and most of the schemes are in right now. We’re kind of at that point where the installation is almost over. Mid next week, we’ll flip the script and start working on Old Dominion.

You’ve spent so much time on the defensive side of the ball. Is it weird to be on the offensive side now?

I spent most of the spring forcing myself to go the offensive side of the field. I’m a little bit more comfortable now going over there. I still kind of got one ear on the defensive field, but it’s been good. We got a great group of coaches over there and I love going over and listening to them and learning from them and watching their teaching style. It’s a really good group and those guys got a great plan.

How different is it now wanting balance between offensive and defensive success?

Yeah, it can’t be a one way street. We went both sides doing well. And I mean, when I shut that door in the defensive staff room, sometimes the narrative’s a little different, but it’s been good. The guys are battling. I like what we’re doing on both sides of ball.

Grant Wells, his journey to Virginia Tech, and Jason Brown:

Yeah, we feel very fortunate. And, you know, Jason handled this really well. He was obviously disappointed. He’s a driven young man, he’s determined. He worked really hard in this quarterback competition. But those guys are pretty close. They both have a ton of respect from our team and our staff. So we feel fortunate. You’ve got a great trigger man in Grant and you have a guy right behind him that is ready to go and ready to help you win.

What have you seen from Grant Wells in fall camp?

He throws a really nice ball. That’s something that honestly, I think you probably don’t see enough of it. Just quarterbacks that can really throw an accurate ball day in and day out, and I think Grant does that. He’s composed, he can move around in the pocket. But I think Coach [Brad] Glenn mentioned he throws a nice deep ball. They’re challenging us each and every practice. Those guys have had more explosive plays against our defense than I’m used to seeing, and a lot of it is because they feel confident about Grant throwing the ball down the field. He’s a mature guy. He’s steady Eddie, he doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. And like I said, he can keep the play alive. He’s got nice feet and he scrambles, but he keeps that ball high and ready to throw it.

Not a lot of turnovers so far either:

I hope it continues. We’ve been pretty clean, to be honest, on both sides of the ball and on special teams. For year one and a new staff and new culture and new systems, new schemes, we’ve been playing pretty clean ball all the way back to mid-spring. Not a ton of penalties, not a ton of turnovers, not a ton of just, you know, blatant errors. So the guys are buying in and the coaches are doing a great job.

14 practices in, are things progressing at the rate you anticipated?

Yeah, like I said, I’m pleased with our development and where we’re at. I mean, we got a lot of work to do, you know, you want to feel good in all areas and with everything that we need to have to take on this season. I mean, I wish we had more depth, so we’re working on that every day. We’ve got young guys that are developing all the time, but how quickly do we have to play with them? And, you know, I wish we had more time to just continue to learn our systems and execute, but we’re checking a lot of boxes and I’m pleased with the progress. I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve taken for granted. They’re making the most of every day, and they’re paying attention to details and taking care of all the little things, so we’re giving ourselves the best chance.

Is lack of depth your biggest concern?

I think we can put a first group out there in all three phases that will be competitive and give us a chance, but you lose a guy in the wrong spot and you’re forced to play a guy that maybe just didn’t quite ready yet. It’s just the fact of it, everybody’s got some issues and I think we always look at it and talk about it that, you know, if something like that happens and we lose a guy, it’s somebody else’s opportunity. Everybody’s played with freshmen or guys that aren’t ready and all of a sudden they surprise you and they do really well and we got some guys surprising us now that have come on in his camp and make you feel better and better about him playing.

We’re still two weeks out and the thing about development is that goes all season long. You don’t just go to game one and say okay, ‘you stopped developing.’ Those guys are working all the time to get ready. If you’re number three, you’re one play away from being number two. If you’re number two, you’re one play away from being number one. We all know unfortunately how injuries go so we got to keep working on these guys. We’ll do young guy scrimmages every Sunday night, Full Tilt Boogie, working on those guys getting ready so that when their number’s called, they can they can give us best chance.

Dae’Quan Wright is a young player that Brent Pry said has impressed through fall camp so far. (Jon Fleming)

Who are some young guys who have had a nice fall camp?

It happens all the time, and the more of it that does occur, the better. Christian Moss is one of those guys. Had a nice camp. Kept waiting for it to happen in the spring and it never really did, but now here, just this last five, six practices, he’s made big plays each practice that all of a sudden you start feeling like this guy could help us. Dae’Quan Wright at tight end, a young guy that’s really starting to show up. He’s a matchup problem for linebackers. As I mentioned, I’ve been very pleased with Keonta Jenkins at the outside linebacker spot, he’s kind of a a developing guy.

Another guy that has kind of has come onto the scene, and he’s still not even full contact, is a young DB, Mansoor Delane. He’s still out there in a blue jersey but he’s about to go full, and he’s looked really good, made some nice plays. With each practice, there’s somebody that you’re coming off the field talking about. I said, ‘Man, did you see that play he made? Holy cow.’ So that’s one of the great things about it, you get to watch these guys develop right before your nose.

Keshawn King and elevating his game:

I think Keshawn is our most explosive player, maybe on the entire football team. He’s fast. He’s explosive, he’s fast, he’s quick, he’s a competitor. You know, he’s continuing to work on his hands, his ball skills, where we can line him up a tailback, line him up at slot, motion him out motion, motion him in. Coach [Tyler] Bowen has done a great job utilizing Keshawn right now, and he needs to be a big part. He needs to have a good year for us.

How deep could the running back room go?

We feel good about it, all the way down to Bryce Duke, who’s a true freshman. It’s a talented group, they’re good workers, Coach Holt is doing a great job with them. I’m looking forward to that, to seeing what that group can do for us. I mean, we need to run the football and I’ve said that before. I think that this group will give us a good chance to do that.

Depth in the defensive backfield:

Right now, I couldn’t be more excited about two guys. Dorian Strong has had an outstanding camp, makes plays every day. He’s one of those guys, you’re gonna match him up on folks’ best receiver. He could go in the boundary, he could go the field, he could line on the slot. He’s a talented guy, a lot of maturity, understands the scheme, can play man, can play zone. And then Chamarri Conner. He can play either safety spot, he can play nickel. Those two guys are invaluable back there right now. You know, they’re really playing at a high level.

And then with the Nasir Peoples, Ny’Quee Hawkins, we’ve got some guys that are backing up and playing that boundary safety spot. And then of course Brion Murray at the corner spot, kind of battling with Armani [Chatman], we’ll see what happens there. And then as I mentioned, Mansoor, he’s kind of putting himself in the mix for some playing time. So it’s good. Elijah Howard, DJ Harvey. We’ve got some guys out there that have to continue to get better each and every day. We’ll see where we’re at two weeks, but we’ve got a chance there.

P.J. Prioleau had a good catch in the end zone the other day:

He did [in] the two-minute situation. P.J. went out. I think he’s got better ball skills than his dad does. I don’t know if he’s as fast as Pierson [Prioleau], but he’s got better ball skills. And the other No. 20, DJ Harvey, made a really nice play in the two-minute situation also that ended the series so some good stuff. It was a two-minute situation, which you want to go down after that pick, and he was smart enough, he went down immediately and ended the game. A lot of those young guys you know, they’ll try and take it back and showboat it, he did a nice job.

Having fun:

Yeah, as hard as we’re working and as much as we’re going to demand from these guys, part of the reason they play is because it’s fun, and if we take that away, we got problem. We’ve done a good job, we’ve got a fun staff. We’ve got fun people in the building and and, you know, when they see us having fun as a staff together and able to work and grind and have fun over here, and then work and have fun over here. So that was part of today just to reward for all the hard work. ‘Hey, let’s go have some fun and have some R&R with one another. So I think the guys are enjoying it. I want them to want to come in the building. I want them to look forward to coming in, even though it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be a lot of work, I want them to look forward to it and want to come do it. So we got to keep that going.

Jayden and Jorden McDonald kayaking:

You guys know the McDonald twins from Salem. Those guys were hesitant, but they got in a kayak together, two-person kayak. The first thing that happened was they were afraid to bend their knees. They were straight-legged as they were rolling out from the marina. It was amazing, though, they were they were rowing in sync, just like you’d think identical twins would. And then, lo and behold, they tipped over in sync, just like you thought identical twins would. They had life jackets on, of course, but they had a good time. At one point, there was 107 guys out on the water, which was awesome. They all came back just talking about how much they enjoyed it. And a lot of them had never done that, so it was great experience.

What other fun things have you guys done?

Last night, the staff up at the training table and our nutrition staff put together, we did a family dinner that had a theme and it was a southern boil. Crawfish, lobster tails, sausage, boiled shrimp laid out on the table. We invited all of the families of the staff, their wives and children. It was a big deal. We had about 200 people up there eating and enjoying themselves. And when we do a family dinner, I’ve explained it to guys, that means there are no AirPods, no to-go boxes. You’re going to sit down, you’re gonna break bread, you’re going to talk. We don’t do that all the time, but about once a week, we’re going to have that family dinner that, you know, the wives and children are welcome to come and those guys, rather than hustle in and grab a to-go box and hustle out, they’re gonna have to sit down and hang out with one another.

Did Amy, Brent Pry’s wife who is a Cajun, get consulted on the menu?

No, she wasn’t consulted, but let me tell you, she embarrassed to family last night? Because there was a pile of crawfish shells in front of her that was equal to everybody else in the entire cafeteria. Yeah, she enjoyed that thoroughly. She may have had something to do with making sure it was a southern boil. But it was good. I think staff did a great job. You know, it just takes everybody, it really does, and what the effort that the the staff up in the in the performance center, the effort they put into that meal last night, the guys just really appreciated it and so did I. So it’s been good.

What are the assistant coaches like?

Probably the biggest thing is trust. You hire a bunch of folks that you trust that you know already and are right for Virginia Tech. You’re not trying to figure out, are they doing it the way you want them to do it? Are they saying the things you need them to say? Is the narrative what it needs to be? Is the language right? Are they treating the guys right? How are they handling the adversity? Are they working hard? I mean, I know that already about all these guys. So there’s a great comfort in that. More than anything, they know the expectations and how we want to do this because that’s how they would want to do it. So the alignment there is really important, and we have that.

Fan day on Sunday, how was that experience?

I love that. Fan day to me is, it’s what it’s all about. If we can’t be there for the fans and get them excited and have them get to know our players, what are we doing? Those guys are important to what we do. They’re the ones who are going to pack that stadium and be cheering and hopefully through thick and thin. So it was good, and our players loved it too. They get they love getting those pats on the back and everybody wanting their autograph. I mean, Mike [Burnop] still likes it when you get your autograph.

Dax Hollifield Fan Day 2022
Dax Hollifield and other players had a lot of fun at Virginia Tech’s fan day on Sunday. (Jon Fleming)

How has the new residence hall been received?

Yeah, it’s a great facility as well. Big-time commitment from the university. We’re proud to show that facility to recruits and their families, our freshmen and sophomores that are in there now. Well-accommodated, great facility, close to our facility, to our building, so that’s a win-win there.

Utilizing the Beamer-Lawson Indoor Practice Facility:

Yeah, it’s a great setup. We normally split practice where offense or defense is doing the majority of their work inside or out, we kind of share it. And then when we do our team work, we all come together, generally outside, but it’s a great setup. We’ve got the ability when weather gets bad to quickly get inside and continue our practice without much of a hiccup so it’s good that way.

Cole Beck is back. What does he bring to the table?

Yeah, he can really run and and he’s got great work ethic. He’s given himself a chance to help us, which we need him to, whether it’s covering kicks, returning kicks or running deep balls. He’s working on his ball skills, he’s working on coverage, tackling all those things that will be necessary. It’s not enough just to be fast. He’s got to bring some other things to the table and that’s what we’re working on now.

Are you guys leaving fall camp healthy?

It’s not too bad. I mean, you never want to lose anybody. We’ve had a couple of guys that have gone down for either the season or multiple weeks. But that’s part of it, especially if you’re if you’re competing hard, you’re practicing hard, things happen. But you never want to see that, obviously for your team, but for the individual, you know, when they’re so invested in they’re working so hard, and they have a setback like that. I just continue to tell them, it’s that piece of adversity that there’ll be better for it when they come out the other side and keep their chin up, stay positive, and we support you, but injuries are tough. You hate to see them for anybody to be honest. I’ve always felt that way. As much as you want to beat your opponent, you want to see them at full strength, you want those guys to have a chance to compete. But I’d say we’re faring pretty well.

NCAA rules when it comes to lack of practicing, tackling; is that a concern?

Yeah, always. For years now as a defensive coordinator, you never feel like you tackle enough. You want to go out there with your starting 11 and feel like they’ve all had ample opportunities to tackle, to fine tune their craft, and you never feel that way anymore. It’s a lost art. So we encourage our guys we have tag off, we have thud periods, you got to show us you’re in position to truly make the tackle. It’s not one hand, it’s not being high, you got to sink your hips and bend your knees and two-hand tag off or two-hand thud and show us that you’re really making that tackle, that you’re in position, as if we were live, you’d get him on the ground. So we’re constantly talking about it and working on it, but I consider last art, to be honest.

How do you prepare your players for adversity?

I think it’s two things. It’s the situations that come up during camp. You want to make camp, I want to make practices harder than what Saturdays are going to be. You get beaten practice in a highly competitive team period, how do you respond? You got another rep in that period or you got another team period, what are you going to do? Everybody’s looking to you for a response. I hope that practice is tougher, that they’ve been through the majority of things that they would face on a Saturday. But also, the second piece is it comes down to leadership, guys that have been in those situations, and you know what I’m talking about. The guys that are battle tested and know that you could have a couple of bad series, but that don’t mean nothing really in the big scope. Let’s go, we got a lot of football left. The vets, that’s what they bring to the table. The leaders, the guys that have been in the wars, that experience is invaluable.

It seems invaluable to have the ACC officials at practice, too, right?

Yeah, and honestly, I don’t want to [talk to them], but now as the head coach, I guess I have to because I’ve told the assistants into players that they can’t talk to him. So if I don’t talk to them, they’re not talking to nobody but themselves all game long. That’s new turf for me. I never messed with them for 31 years. And now, you know, I’m trying to be as nice as I can to him right now. I’ve given them T-shirts and hats. The six of them were up at that southern boil last night having a good old meal.

How are you going to handle your new role as a game manager now? Can you prepare for it?

Yeah, that’s a great question. Because it’s not a whole, I’ve only dealt with it from one perspective defensively. And you know, James Franklin and I would talk a lot, a lot of times, he’d pop on the headset and say, ‘Hey, you feel good about me going forward on fourth down right here?’ And, ‘we got a minute left and this is what I want to do.’ So he bounces a lot of things off of me, he did, but we’ve got a good formula of guys that will be on in certain areas on certain headsets, particularly calling a defense. If I’m back there with a defense and there’s things going on, there’s got to be a line of communication that makes sense and some guys that are there schooled up ready to go so between Coach Holt, Brian Crist, and the coordinators, I think we got pretty good plan for that.

How’s special teams looking? Seems like Beamerball is going to be back:

I’m gonna tell you now that right now, knock on wood, those guys are kicking the ball well, and you know we got to protect, we got to cover, all those things, but to snaps and the holds have been pretty consistent. Stu Holt’s a veteran special teams coordinator and he’s got a great analyst quality control coach with him in Kerry Webb and those two guys have really worked at putting together a good plan and those kids have bought in and Peter [Moore]’s a great leader over there. You talk about a guy, even though he’s young, he’s battle tested and confident. And with the infusion of the young talent, John Love has done a great job at placekicking. so I think we’re in pretty good shape right now. We’ve got to test those guys a little more, we got to put them under the fire so we’ll do that here in the next week.

6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. David C. What can you say, from your point of view, about the energy and the feel of Tech Talk Live? Thanks. Thanks for the great transcript.

    1. Glad to see Keshawn having a good camp. I always liked him . I loved the post at the beginning of last year “Can’t wait to see King rip off a few runs, fumble, and sit for 4 games.” I hope they stick with him and put him in the right game situations. He is not Bo Campbell, but he is quick and fast, and that can be very helpful on the football field.

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