Tech Talk Live Notes: Brent Pry, Nasir Peoples Have Pitt On Tap

Brent Pry and the Hokies are back in Blacksburg this weekend against Pitt. (Ivan Morozov)

On Thursday night, Virginia Tech football head coach Brent Pry and safety Nasir Peoples joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live at McClain’s at First & Main to preview Saturday’s game vs. Pitt in Lane Stadium (8 p.m. ET, ACC Network). They also touched on the defeat at Marshall, which dropped the Hokies to 1-3.

Brent Pry

Coach, how are you doing? How are things going?

I’m doing well. It’s been a good week. That’s the great thing about a season is you can have a tough loss and there’s just not much time to think about it. You make corrections, you watch the film. You go out on the practice field, you execute the corrections, you clean it up, and it’s on to the next opponent. There’s just not a lot of time not to do anything else.

What’s the injury update?

Nasir [Peoples], he’s out there practicing right now and he’s still kind of touch-and-go but he’s done a good job. Tough guy, old guy, it’d be good to get him back in the fold. Jaylen Jones is a little bit better than he was last week. I think he’s getting closer and closer. Cole Beck actually practiced yesterday and did a few things. I don’t know if he’s still questionable as well. Grant [Wells] is questionable. That’s gonna be a game time decision, if he can kind of be that guy.

If something happens with Kyron [Drones], can Grant go or not? He’s still touch-and-go, threw the ball well this week, just can he be mobile enough? But we’re coming around. A couple guys — Jaylen Jones and Braelin Moore — I don’t think we’ll see. Those guys didn’t play the second half at Marshall. They’re recovering but I don’t know if it’s quick enough to get them to play.

Let’s talk about that Marshall game. You scored on the first possession. What did you like about the opening drive?

We made a concerted effort as coaches and players, “How do we start better?” It started Saturday morning at the hotel. The pregame was better. More intense, a little bit more energy and the irony is you go out there and start the best you started all year and lose a football game. It’s just that’s kind of where we’re at this right over here. And then you don’t do this well enough. You do this right. You don’t do this. But I was very proud of the way the team started the game.

You get that six-play drive, you had two of the longest runs of the year. You score, you’re up seven. The defense goes out, gets a turnover, but those are the ones you’ve got to kind of go out and capitalize on.

Absolutely. That’s the difference, the takeaways are only going to mean something when you capitalize on it, and I think we’d like to have that play call back on fourth-and-3. Kyron took a shot to the end zone and we got more high percentage plays we can do there. But just the same, the progress that the defense garnered too, we’ve got to do that again this weekend. The goal’s three [turnovers] and we want to get close to that each week and that can make a difference in the game.

What did you think of your ground game last week?

I thought it had improved. I think that’s the best way to say it. It’s not anywhere near where we want it to be, but it’s better. There were some positive things, I thought Kaden Moore played better. I thought the plan was a little bit better. I thought Bhayshul [Tuten] broke some tackles and Malachi [Thomas] contributed, and of course Kyron [Drones] being able to loosen up that defense with the quarterback runs helps, so all of it goes into being a productive offense.

Tuten got more touches this past week. He’s a guy that kind of needs to get more touches, doesn’t he?

More touches, that’s the narrative this week. He has to be ready to go. He’s got to be healthy, he’s got to be focused, he’s got to be locked in and the touches need to come. He’s really good with that football, whether he’s catching it or running it.

Bhayshul Tuten had a solid day for the Hokies against Marshall, but he needs more touches. (Ivan Morozov)

On the offensive line, Braelin Moore had to go out and Brody Meadows came in. How was his performance?

That was one of those situations where Brody has been playing some. We’ve made a point to roll him in, get him reps. He’s the sixth guy right now. And you always know you’re one play away from being the next guy, one play away from being the starter. And so that’s the case right now and Brody, I don’t know if there’s anybody that’s worked harder in the program, to change his body to get stronger. He’s just a redshirt freshman. Big, old, long guy that’s pretty raw, but he’ll fight and give you everything he’s got.

I know Brody flipped where he was going when you came here and got the job and he loves Virginia Tech. He just couldn’t say enough good things about the program and where it’s heading on Tuesday.

Yeah, who he is and what he’s about fits our place and how we want to do this, and I think all the stars aligned and we got the job and coach [J.C.] Price did a nice job staying in touch with him and he ended up coming our way, which we’re thankful for.

How about this weekend? The White Effect, Military Appreciation Day, sold-out crowd, can’t beat it.

Yeah, the only thing you can ask for to make it better is a win. I know how hungry everybody is for one, trust me. We’re hungry in our building. So it’s great, it’s a testament to this place. And I say it all the time, a sellout game, everybody’s so excited. It’s military appreciation night. We’re gonna certainly do justice and honor our military and rightfully so. But the white effect is going to be an intimidating atmosphere. A tough place to play we need it to be loud, be proud. We’ve got a good Pitt team coming in here. It’s a good matchup. It’s certainly one we can win.

Kyron Drones started for you last week. What do you think of his play and with another game under his belt?

Yeah, again, I think he’s improving all the time. I feel like I do about his practices. He just seems to keep getting better. It’s really important to Kyron, everything that he does, he wants to be right. He wants to play well. He wants to do good. I mean, for me after that game, I walked up to him to console him because he played so hard and we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. And he grabbed me and said, “Coach, I’m so sorry.” That’s just the kind of kid he is and he’s only gonna get better.

Seemed like he started a little slow throwing the ball. The timing was a little bit off, but he kind of got in a little bit of a groove later on.

I think that’s something he knows he needs to work on. Some of it was a little late getting out of his hand, some of it was a little off, little low, little high. Got to be better there. But also, let me tell you now, we’ve got to make the catch. I mean, if it’s in a radius, let’s make the catch and do something with it.

I know one of your points of emphasis after the Marshall game was you wanted to be better at being able to stop the run defensively.

Let me tell you, I think you’ve got to dive into that a little bit, They ran about 44 times. They had three explosive runs. The two big ones right there were very hurtful, which we’ve obviously got to be a ton better, but you take those three runs out, 41 runs, 41 attempts, they averaged 1.8 yards a carry. So it’s a good sign that we’re getting close, right? We’re doing some good things for the majority of the day. But you can’t let those big ones get out like that.

You have to be able to keep it on the front man side. Get it on the ground for 15 and not let it go like it did. So we’ve worked really hard on that. You’re gonna have a misfit a time or two, but you gotta be able to get on the ground, keep it caged up. We didn’t do a good job of that.

Virginia Tech has been able to stop the run in spurts this season, but not consistently. (Ivan Morozov)

Defensively, that pass interference kept them on the field on third down and kept the drive alive that they scored on.

When you look at our penalties, they were very costly. And they were on third down, fourth down. Even one on special teams. We just can’t do those kinds of things. To win a game, you can’t do the things we’re doing, and we talked about it today. We had a really good practice yesterday, we did so many good things. But then there’s this play here and this play there, so we talked about it after practice. We can’t make those kinds of plays.

You had a number of explosive runs. It’s nice to be able to see some of those long runs come out too.

Yeah, you don’t want to get the cart in front of the horse, but I think we’re getting a little bit closer to finding an identity on offense, just kind of get this thing going a little bit and figuring out who we are and we got some guys that can do some things with the ball. We’ve got to feed them and to keep improving on the offensive line. You have to keep the plan mixed up, keep people off balance. And we’ve got to get more consistent on defense. We show flashes, we’ve got to get more consistent. Make people earn it all the time.

The Gosnell brothers had good games. Stephen had four catches, Benji had three, but how about that one-handed grab Stephen had to keep that drive alive in the first?

Not surprised. You get it near him, he’s gonna catch it. And that’s just who he is. Those guys, they have bright futures here.

Have you had the depth so far this year to be able to move guys around on the offensive line?

I don’t know if we have so many guys who can go out there and play winning football in all those spots. We got developmental young guys. We keep bringing along. You’ve got Johnny Garrett and Johnny Dickson and all these guys who are gonna be good players down the road. That’s the toughest spot and coach [Ron] Crook would tell you, it’s hard to play early on the offensive line. There are so many things that go into it but Brody [Meadows], honestly he has been a utility guy. He’s learned tackle, he’s learned guard. I mean, I’m surprised if I don’t look out there and Ron’s got him snapping the football. He’s done a lot of all of it.

When you go back and look at the third-down film, what do you see?

The first thing that jumps out is you’ve got a third-and-long. It can’t be that way. We had a seven-plus eight times. You’ve gotta get on schedule. We weren’t good enough on first down and that goes back to being able to run the ball consistently, play action, work the alleys. Your percentage on third-and-seven-plus isn’t gonna be near as good. And we got to have more than our third-and-short, third-and-medium.

Marshall was five-of-six on third down on drives it scored on but just zero-for-eight on the other drives.

We gave them, I don’t want to say gave, but five penalties earned them an opportunity for first down, five penalties. So we have to be more disciplined. We put that up in the team meeting on Sunday. Every penalty, what was down in distance, what was the score, what was the situation in the game, put them all up. Talked about it, showed them we gotta be more disciplined and that these were costly penalties. There wasn’t one that was on first or second down. They were all in critical situations and everybody out there wants to do well, they’re trying their best, right? They’re busting their tails. But we’ve got to be smarter. We’ve got to be more locked in, we’ve got to be more disciplined, and that’s something that was a big focus this week.

The one on Alan Tisdale seemed like it wasn’t a lot of contact. Did you see that in the replay?

This is what I would say. We made a point going into the game. This quarterback loves to run, he loves to slide, don’t make it a judgment call. Don’t put it in the hands of the officials. If you do, it’s a chance to go against you. From the angle he threw it at, it that looked like a penalty. From where we were, he missed it, he didn’t touch you. But they felt like he came in with a forearm and they called it. Again, very costly. Extended the drive.

I’d tell you this, there’s always issues with officials, but that touchdown pass down in the red zone, Marshall had an illegal guy downfield, tight end’s covered up, it’s an unbalanced formation. He releases, goes 10 yards, runs a route and uses up the safety. I mean, it’s a blown call that puts it in third-and-long instead of a touchdown, but the officials, you can’t count on that. You have to win the game in other ways. You don’t know how that’s going to go, but what we tell them is don’t make it a judgment call. Don’t put it in their hands to make it clear. With Tisdale’s play, do everything you can, all the dramatics you can like you’re not trying to hit that guy because they’re looking for it.

Alan Tisdale got called for a late hit on Marshall quarterback Cam Fancher, one of a few penalties that helped the Herd. (Ivan Morozov)

Tucker Holloway had that nice punt return, he got outside, got a little yardage out of it.

I think he’s back. He may be 100 percent, but if he’s not, he’s close. I think we’ve got two really good punt returners and we’ve got to do better there. That can be a game changer. We’ve got to block guys, we’ve got to hold them up, got to slow them down and get those guys going.

You talked about Cole Beck earlier about being banged up and he had an opportunity to go run in the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile. He turned it down for football. How about that?

Yeah, I tell you what, he gave his team a share the other night. We go through our seniors, our guys that were there last year and they get up in front of the team and kind of tell their personal story and track is a big part of his life. And he’s got a ton of goals in track, but football is where his heart is. And I think he knows his future in track, but football, he’s got a passion for it, he loves this team. He could ride off into the sunset right now. He’s got an injury, he doesn’t want surgery. He wants to rehab and play, and that’s a testament to who he is, and he’s gonna help us down the stretch.

Keli Lawson was battling with an injury last week but fought through it and posted 12 something tackles and had an interception.

Yeah, he’s an interesting guy right now. I mean, Keli throws his body around. He’s 217, 218, he’s got to get bigger, but man he plays fast, he plays hard, but he’s still figuring it out. He plays through injury, and when you are a little bit light, you are going to get banged up, especially the way he plays, but my hat’s off for him, he leaves it on the field each and every week.

How about Pheldarius Payne, what have you seen out of him?

I’m so happy for him. This is a guy that I have a long history with and we brought him in, we were excited about him. He tears his Achilles in winter conditioning and misses the whole season, big setback. And to see him go out there and play healthy, explosive, he’s so quick and he’s got a good instinct and good knack for it. We need those productive minus yard plays from him, sacks, TFLs. I mean, he’s a little light right now, but he’s a guy that can help us at defensive tackle.

Where was the mindset of the team on Sunday?

I’ll tell you, they are very resilient, I think we have good leadership, the captains, the culture, they come out there, we make the corrections and we actually have Jake Shell, one of our operations guys, hops on the PA, the loudspeaker. After period five when we make those corrections, and he’s like, “OK, the heck with Marshall, we’re on to Pitt, let’s go.” Let’s make the transition and put that one away and focus on the next.

How do you get more explosive plays out of your defensive ends?

You’ve got to win one-on-ones, that’s the bottom line. Whether you’re going inside, outside, you’ve got to beat the guy across from you. We’ve got to make sure as coaches that we’re creating the one-on-ones, giving them the opportunity, and then they’ve got to take advantage of it.

It’s ACC play now. Both teams trying to get a win here in the ACC to get it started. Does it feel like a clean slate?

I think so. But honestly, right now we’re 1-0 each week, right? We really have to just focus on what we’re doing and getting better and minimizing weaknesses and improving on weaknesses and capitalizing on strengths. I mean, that’s where we’re at. And it doesn’t really matter who we play. There’s too many things that we have to fix and do better and improve on, I think everything else takes care of itself.

Looks like Pitt has some quarterback issues. Phil Jurkovec is banged up a little bit, and you know the other guy, Christian Veilleux.

What I understand, I think Jurkovec is gonna play. That’s everything we’re hearing. He’s a tough guy. We saw him last year with Boston College, which is crazy, right? I mean, he comes in there he’s a quarterback for one team in the league one year and the next year he’s somewhere else. That’s just the age we’re living in, but he’s a good quarterback. He’s tough, he runs it, he’s big. Highly-touted guy, I’m familiar with him from my last stop. We messed with him during the recruiting process. But Veilleux’s an athlete, strong arm. He was on our list when we were recruiting Kyron. Either way, I think either one of those quarterbacks, their offense kind of stays the same. Both of them are pretty mobile. 

Marshall quarterback Cam Fancher and the Thundering Herd had some success offensively against the Hokies. Can Phil Jurkovec and Pitt do the same? (Ivan Morozov)

You’ve faced a few mobile quarterbacks over the past few weeks. Does it change when you’re going against a pocket passer or a guy that moves out of the pocket defensively? 

Yeah, I think it has to. I mean, you’re either gonna account for that guy or you’re not when you study the film by the end of Sunday night, maybe Monday morning, you go, “OK, this guy is gonna pull it and run it. He’s going to scramble and run it, we have to account for him, he’s a factor in the game as a runner.” Some guys aren’t, a lot of guys in today’s times are. 

What do you see out of the Pitt special teams?

They had a freshman block two punts and then they returned them. Their special teams coordinator has done a nice job. He’s been doing it a long time and we’ve got a lot of respect for him. But they fake punts, they do a lot. I mean, they make you defend special teams, which is what we’re trying to be. It’s gotta be a factor in the game. 

They’re trying to get their running back, Rodney Hammond, going a little bit more. What do you see out of their him? 

He breaks a lot of tackles. I think he is tough. He’s got good balance and vision. Their power, their counter, their gap scheme. They run some zone and split zone, but these guys are power running games. And now he fits that.

Last year with Israel Abanikanda, just thinking about a defensive guy like you, what goes through your mind when you’re watching that dude?

I tell you, I’m glad you asked because obviously, we watched last year’s game. Players do, we do, we’re so much better as a football team right now. There’s things on that film that we go, “Oh lord, how do we do that? How did we look like that?” We’re much improved. And so I think we’re in a better place to give these guys a better game.

That Pitt offensive line is big.

Yeah, they do a nice job recruiting to the offensive line. And Coach Ron [Crook] and I were talking today. I mean, we were committed there. We’ve got to be great there. We’ve got to get bigger, we’ve got to be stronger. I mean, we’ve got to keep recruiting and adding depth on the offensive line, and Pitt’s done that and it’s made a difference in who they are and what they want to be.

When you think about last week, Marshall was kind of directionally kicking some of the kickoffs down there. Who are your guys who’ve got the green light to return and who has to tell him to fair catch? 

Yeah, I mean, we know who we want the ball in their hands to return kickoff. Matt Johnson faded back for one which he shouldn’t have done. I mean, we don’t want those guys to retrieve the ball, let the guy behind you, and if it’s close, the guy in the back end is gonna make the call. That wasn’t good enough. I didn’t like that. We came out of it okay, but it certainly could have gone the other way.

Speaking of Matt Johnson, he got named to the ACC Student Athlete Advisory Committee Executive Board.

That’s who he is. Let me tell you, that guy is super smart. Very mature. He’s involved in all of it, NIL, administrative conversations. So that group is the liaison between the student-athlete and the administrative branch. Not just at Virginia Tech, but in the ACC. And then that whole organization that committee he’s on represents 10,000 student athletes. I think there’s six teams in the league that a football player representing, you have three or four that represent your school, and he was one of ours, and only six other schools had a football player, but that’s the kind of guy Matt is. He’s a real asset to our program, to our team, brings a ton of value. Tough as nails, double ACL surgery and he’s still out there doing it. So I’ve got a ton of respect for Matt.

Matt Johnson is on the ACC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. (Ivan Morozov)

Sold-out crowd on Saturday in primetime:

I’m gonna tell you, it’s just again a testament to this place and the sellout crowd, an eight o’clock kick, ACC Network, nationwide. We’ve got a ton of recruits coming in. We went through the list today, bunch of good quality guys. We need to go out here and play well, win this football game and get everybody excited and believing and the support has been awesome. I mean, I’m so proud of our fans and so proud of our coaches and players and you know, it’s been really good. So everybody’s hungry and wants to go get this W, and certainly that’s what we’re gonna do.

How about the No. 25 jersey and the lunch pail?

Yeah, 25 is Peter Moore this week. I think y’all know he was here last week. Pete’s a captain for the second year in a row. Super mature, really steady, really consistent. has a great feel for this football team. Really confident. He’s just a stalwart for us. So excited to put him in 25. Dorian Strong still has the pail. He’s done a great job out there locking guys down and we’ve got to do a better job against the run and really test him more, but I think he’s ready for it.

Nasir Peoples

How are things going this week?

Everything’s good. I got back into the swing of things, being with the team. Just happy to be back. I’m excited for what we got going on. And I’m excited for this game Saturday.

You started every game the last two seasons. What’s it been like this year having to sit and watch?

It’s hard, brings me back to like the COVID year when I hurt my ACL, having to sit back and watch the team, but I’m encouraged. I get to see everybody around me working and I know they respect me so just trying to be the best I can for the guys at this point.

Are you back feeling better then where you were obviously with that injury?

Yes, sir. I’m back feeling good. I got reps in practice. I feel really well. I’m excited for the game.

You’re born in Philadelphia. You were this prolific running back in high school. 1,800 yards, 30 touchdowns. How do you end up on defense?

I played defense all my years in high school as well. But I came from a running back family, all my brothers, my cousins. They were big time running backs in the city. So when I had to make the switch, my dad always said defense is where you’re gonna get paid. So that’s why I came over.

Did you always want to play football?

I had two older brothers. They played football. My dad played football, and my uncles did. It’s like I’ve been around the game for so long, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

What went into your decision to come to Virginia Tech?

Growing up, I’ve always been a Virginia Tech fan. My cousin who went to Rutgers, he was thinking about coming to Virginia Tech when he was going through the whole process. So just seeing the defense and how they moved around. I loved the uniforms when they had sleeves and everything. I went into my process and just knowing about the defense was a big thing for me. And when I got to come down here and see Enter Sandman, I was sold after that.

Nasir Peoples said the decision to choose Virginia Tech came easy for him. (Jon Fleming)

One of your high school teammates was Raheem Blackshear, right? 

Yes, I keep in touch with him all the time. I talked to him. I was just in Charlotte during the summer so I got to talk to him and he showed me around the facility a little bit. He’s doing well.

How about the Old Dominion game? You wore the number 25 jersey. What was that like?

It was an honor to wear it, that was my second time wearing it. So it was a big thing for me that I got the respect for my teammates and coaches to allow me to wear that jersey. Just wearing that jersey, it feels different, special powers. I made some plays in it. It’s a big thing.

You’ve had some good games against Pitt in the past.

Yes, sir. I’ve played all right, could have played better. They had a good matchup last year, so it’ll be different this year.

Have you had the lunch pail at all this season?

I haven’t had it yet. I will one day.

Do you guys kind of approach this thing like you’re 0-0? Starting fresh in ACC play?

Yes, sir. Definitely. Every week is about a chance to go 1-0, that’s what our goal is to go 1-0 right now. Especially starting ACC play. We have a lot of games left. We’ve gotta approach every game like it’s our last.

You hear so much about targeting and I know you got called for that last year against Miami. How hard is it as a player when you’re going to make a play and it’s a bang-bang play and you’re going 100 miles an hour? How hard is it to just try to pull up?

It’s really hard. I mean, I don’t really have an answer because it is hard. It’s super hard. All you can do is try to keep your head out of things and be safe and I guess make it safe for other guys around you. That’s all I can say.

You are the quarterback of the defense a little bit. How different is it when you’re back there and you can kind of see the whole field?

It’s definitely different. You get to see everything, you get to see the alignment of the formations and everything. You can kind of help out the linebackers out a little bit, they’re closer up, so it’s kind of hard for them to see the whole picture sometimes. So it’s definitely a big role. Happy to be in that position.

You were roommates with Chamarri Conner, how’s he doing?

Oh, he’s doing really well. That was my roommate for five years the whole time I’ve been here. He pushed me to be where I’m at and I tried to push him as best as I can and be where he’s at. Right now, he’s on the Chiefs. He’s having a good time over there, he’s got his little three-bedroom apartment. He’s living nicely right now.

What’s it like to be back home playing in front of another sold-out crowd under the lights?

Oh, it is great to be back home. It’s a sold-out crowd. It can’t get much better than that. Enter Sandman. Like I said before, like that’s the biggest thing. I’m excited for that. I get excited for that every game. So we should do our job this week.

You live by yourself. Do you like to cook? If so, what’s your go-to meal?

Well, during the season, you don’t have a lot of time. I cook spaghetti for at least two days, maybe. When I’m not in-season, though, I’ll cook a little steak, asparagus, mashed potatoes.

4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Enjoyed hearing from Nasir Peoples, glad he’s feeling better and look forward to him getting bringing home the lunch pail soon!

  2. So much “coach speak.” You would never know that Tech is one of the worst (if not THE worst) Power 5 football program in the country.

    Very sad….

      1. There have never been hard questions on Tech Talk Live. Not under Pry, not under Fuente, and not under Beamer.

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