Tech Talk Live Notes: Off FSU Defeat, Brent Pry Previews Wake Forest

Brent Pry and the Hokies have their homecoming game on Saturday vs. Wake Forest, which he previewed on Tech Talk Live. (Virginia Tech athletics)

On Thursday night, Virginia Tech football head coach Brent Pry joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live at McClain’s at First & Main to preview Saturday’s homecoming game vs. Wake Forest, a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff from Lane Stadium on the ACC Network. They also discussed the 39-17 loss at then-No. 5 Florida State last weekend.

Brent Pry

How are things going?

Good week. Good practice, literally sprinted off the practice field on Thursday. Took a quick shower, there’s usually somebody waiting, walking me to my car with questions that need answered and to get down here. Excited about coming down, talking about the things, but it’s been a good week, man. The guys are so resilient. I love our team. I love their attitudes and character. It’s tough to lose and especially the way we did down there in Tallahassee and now these guys bounced back, man they are so hungry. They want to get things right. They want to be good, they want to win, they want to do it for everybody, for Hokie Nation. So it’s been a good week, a lot of energy. 

It’s so hard when you get yourself in that hole, down 22 in the first quarter at Florida State but you played well after that, and it was a five-point game after halftime.

The thing is, we’ve got to be a better team than that. And that’s part of winning, right? I mean, it’s not a recipe that people don’t understand. I mean, you got to play well for four quarters. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first quarter, fourth quarter, second, you’ve got to play well for four quarters. And we’re that kind of team right now. We’re not going to just go score 50 points and play crappy defense and win, we just can’t do that. We need to play complementary ball and that’s who we are. And honestly, I love that, we need to be that team that wins together and we make plays on teams, we make plays on defense, we make plays on offense. We need to be that team. And we’re getting closer every week.

What change did you see in that second quarter where you started to stop the ‘Noles?

We started to settle in and they had a couple of wrinkles. They had a play they brought into the game that they only showed a couple of times and we had to get that fit it up and make sure we’re square there, but they were well rested. They cleaned up some things that we thought we could take advantage of, they cleaned them up in the bye week. So there was some adjusting happening on the sideline. I talked to the guys, I said, ‘I don’t know if you were shell shocked a little bit being in Tallahassee, number five team.’ I mean, we want people to feel that way. We want to get to the point where they come to Lane Stadium and they’re kind of going, ‘Oh, man, OK.’

I love our crowds. I love our sellouts. But also we got to have a team out there that says, ‘Hey, we’re the top team in the country’ and because I think it took us a minute, we just had to feel like we could play with them. And I’ve been around teams like that before and I was proud of the way the guys battled back and got back in it, coaches and players did a lot of things that we can build on for three quarters against a good football team. I mean, those guys, they’re a couple years ahead of the sticks and doing a good job in recruiting and with a lot of things.

Florida State only had four offensive snaps in the second quarter. You get the field goal and then put together that 16-play drive, the longest of the year. You had all of the momentum going into the locker room.

Yeah, a lot of good things. There’s signs everywhere of the team that we can be, we’ve just got to keep working and improving in all those areas. And I know people, they’re impatient, right? Everybody wants to see it happen now. And it takes time. It takes work, it takes investment, it takes learning, all of it. And I think we’re doing that. When I lay my head down at night, I feel pretty good about the progress we’re making, and the improvement, the attitude. I mean, I think it’s there.

Pheldarius Payne, Wilfried Pene and the Hokies settled in after allowing 22 points in the first quarter at FSU. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Quarterback Kyron Drones had a season-high 80 rushing yards. What did you think of his performance down in Tallahassee?

Kyron’s always going to feel like we did, that there’s plays left on the field. I think he started out a little bit off, some errant throws, we didn’t catch the ball. He’s one of those guys as he gains experience and keeps playing, he’s only gonna get better and better.

How about Bhayshul Tuten bringing that kickoff back? He was named ACC Special teams Player of the Week on Monday.

He’s wearing No. 25 this week. So yeah, I had to say to Tuten, you okay wearing 25? It’s a little different than 33. He said, ‘Coach, I’m a dawg if I’m 33 or 25.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna be the player I am in 33 or 25,’ and he said, ‘I’m honored to be 25, that number means a lot in our program.’ A lot of places can’t say that they can’t do that. And we can, and our guys that wear that number, we make sure they understand what that means and how proud they should be to be 25.

Did Tuten get dinged up a little bit in that game? Because Malachi Thomas had some really nice runs there in the second half.

He [Tuten] didn’t get dinged up, he cramped up. Yeah, that last little bit of that fifth gear he put in. I told him, ‘You’re not in the shape you need to be to make the plays that you can make.’ So we had a plan for him this week. And it was everything from his diet to hydration, everything was involved, his rest, to make sure that when he can make a play like that, that he can come back, bounce right back and keep going. But it was an opportunity for Malachi and he stepped up. I thought that one-two punch we talked about, that was there on Saturday.

You guys got to Jordan Travis twice when nobody’s been able to touch him all season. He even came off kind of limping that one time before the half.

Yeah, he wasn’t limping enough. I don’t wish ill on anybody, but if he had to miss a couple series or the rest of the game, I’d be good with that, you know, come back later next week and be healthy. But he’s a really good player. He’s experienced. He had opportunities to go to the league, but he stayed. He’s got good people around him. Coach [Mike] Norvell did a good job with that program building it. It was just a couple years ago they won five games. I mean, they’re just doing it the right way. And I think that quarterback, that’s an important piece and he’s a true vet. He manages the game. He tried to get a look at everything. They did a nice job and I think they made the most of their off week.

Going back to that kickoff return, Tuten really never got touched. That thing was schemed up nicely.

Yeah, Coach [Stu] Holt did a great job. We worked hard on that for a couple of weeks. And this was the right game to kind of do it. Those guys were screaming down the field and there were a couple key blocks there that weren’t easy, the kickoff returns were tough blocks. To get in position, guys running full speed, you’re never going to just lay somebody out but you gotta be able to get in the way, cause interference. And Stephen Gosnell, P.J. Prioleau, those guys laid two key blocks. [Alan] Tisdale led him up the way and then he did the rest.

He got it on the 1-yard line and went 99 yards. How do you make the determination when you want them to return it when you don’t want them to return? Is that the player’s choice?

Yeah, obviously with Tuten, we feel like we’re willing to field a few more than maybe some others would. We’re gonna deepen him up a little bit and it’s okay if you take one on the goal line, and I like our chances with him returning the kick.

Speaking of special teams, when Florida State scored early and went for two quickly, was that something you had seen on film?

Well, they lined up in kind of an unusual formation and they hadn’t shown that a whole lot. We had practiced it, but obviously not enough, and they took advantage, but honestly, we’ve got to trigger and come make the tackle right there. We’ve got people in position. Again, I think we were a little bit shell shocked and we didn’t look like ourselves out there.

Brent Pry and the Hokies return to Lane Stadium on Saturday vs. Wake Forest. (Ivan Morozov)

I know there’s a lot going on when Renegade, Florida State’s horse, comes out there, they do the spear and all that for the pregame. Do you get to see any of that? 

I mean, sometimes you’re coming out [onto the field at that time], but I’m not looking for it. I could care less about it. But I just wanted to make sure none of our players did anything to the horse or got fired up over it.

Jalen Stroman was having a great game with 10 tackles before the targeting call. He has to sit out for the first half vs. Wake Forest. What’s the plan there?

So Nasir [Peoples] is back. He can’t play a full game, but he’s in a pretty good place. And Jaylen Jones was back. So those guys would get the majority of the reps. Mose Phillips, who’s been nursing an ankle as a true freshman, he’s been hampered with that thing for a while. He finally looks about 90%. He’s kind of on the mend, pretty good.

Stroman, he’s a good player. I mean, he’s had big shoes to fill with Chamarri Conner leaving and he’s done a nice job. But he’s had some issues with targeting, we’ve got to clean them up and you don’t help us when you’re on the sidelines. So I think it’s important to him and he’s a great kid and he’s very valuable to us. I know he’ll be ready to go in the second half.

How tough are those targeting calls? As a defensive coach, you want to go, go, go and fill the gaps, and obviously nothing malicious, but how tough is that to be able to teach players to be so conscious of it? 

You have to coach it, and what we tell them is don’t put it in the hands of the official. Make it where they don’t have a call to make. They’re going to protect the quarterback, and I want him to protect ours. But the deal is, I mean, it’s hard when you put the film on Sunday and you don’t know what to tell the kid. He did everything right. And he gets a penalty and you don’t know what to tell him. I mean, he’s going full speed so it’s challenging, but I tell him, we can’t make excuses for it.

We’ve got to coach through it and we got to be better and you don’t want to be tossed out of the game for a targeting call. You don’t want that 15-yard penalty. We don’t need it. We’ve got to be better than that. Stroman had a couple of them where it’s like you’ve got to see what you hit. And when it comes to the quarterback, be an actor and do everything you can act like you’re trying to protect him, help him, butter his bread, do whatever you’ve got to do. 

How about Keli Lawson? He had a near interception.

He’s doing some good things. He’s got a cast on his hand up to about halfway up his arm, but I think that had something to do with that first one when I look at it, the ball hit the cast. Yeah, he’s doing some good things. We’ve got to fit the run better, obviously, and Keli knows that, he’s part of that along with some other guys. But we’ve got to keep getting better there. We’ve got to fit the run. We’ve got trust keys. And Coach Chris [Marve] is doing a good job with those guys. I expect to see a big step forward on Saturday. 

You showed the whole team the first three series on both sides of the ball from FSU, something you don’t normally do. Why?

Yeah, the idea was, you usually split up and go by position and you watch and you make your corrections. But I wanted everybody to see both sides of the ball. If we do this, what were coached to do, look at the outcome, right? They wouldn’t have a play. If we do this on this play, look at the outcome. They wouldn’t have made a play, like it’s right there for us and later in the game, we do those things. So there’s no reason we can’t stop this run or make this play or make this throw. It’s all over the film. And I wanted to make sure they saw it. That’s the encouraging piece. Make the corrections and look at what can happen for us. 

And that’s a part of your positive Sunday that you try to do every week, right?

The positive Sunday is at the end of the team meeting. Team positive is three plays from special teams, three plays from offense, three plays from defense that are good places to highlight the positives because Sunday’s usually all about corrections everywhere I’ve been for 32 years. It’s to clean up what you didn’t do right, and we want to make sure we highlight what we did well. The three series on each side of the ball, that was more about what we’re capable of. And if we just do what all 11 are supposed to do, look what we can accomplish, look where we’d be with this play.

Antwaun Powell-Ryland and Brent Pry are hoping for more smiles after Saturday’s game vs. Wake Forest. (Ivan Morozov)

You only had six penalties in the game, but a couple of those were just crucial, like the holding penalty on Stephen Gosnell’s great catch.

Yeah, that was a tough one, man. I love how physical Brody [Meadows] was there but you just can’t do it. You sling a guy down, they’re gonna call you and I love how physical he was, but you can’t do it right there and you might be throwing the guy into the quarterback. It’s not a smart play. 

What about that fourth down on that same series that had to be redone a number of times due to different penalties?

Yeah, it was. We worked so hard to get down there. I mean, you end up on the 15-yard line and you’re half a yard short which obviously we turned that in for review and they said they went to the TV trucks and all that and Kyron goes out to about the 15, his foot hits the line, but he’s leaning forward and I’m thinking he’s 6-3 and he’s got the ball out here. And that ball is not a yard down the field when he steps on that line. But there wasn’t a good angle. It’s kind of like you’re looking at it you’re saying, ‘How’s it not?’ But it is what it is. The credit is the guys battling back because you convert right there and you score and it’s a one-possession game after the way things started.

Can you call for a measurement? How does that work?

So I went into the media timeout and I just said, ‘Are we looking at this?’ And he said, ‘Coach, we’re looking at it, we’re going to trucks, we’re going to everything to look at it.’ I said, ‘OK,’ maybe somebody at home has got an angle.

How do you prepare for a Wake Forest team defensively throughout this week?

Yeah, again, it’s about the scout team doing a great job. Those guys, they don’t get talked about enough. Some of them are redshirting, some of them are walk-ons that probably won’t ever play. But these guys do an unbelievable job preparing the team and simulating that slow mesh and the great job that Coach [Dave] Clawson and those guys have done. That’s a pretty important part of our preparation.

Tell us about Coach Clawson and the relationship you have. You played for him when you were at Buffalo.

Yeah, again, ton of respect for Dave [Clawson] and the job he’s done at Wake Forest. He coached me for a year at University of Buffalo. I was a bad player and wouldn’t listen. I was a second-year college guy. I’m sure I helped him get some gray hair early in his career. But he’s one of the good guys and he’s done a nice job at Wake. He did a nice job in Richmond. We’ve been friends a long time. He does a great job in the league, representing the head coaches with everything that’s going on with the portal and NIL and the calendar and all these things that are changing in college football. Dave has really been an ambassador. I mean, I want to kick his butt on Saturday, don’t get me wrong, but a ton of respect for Coach.

Could you tell that he had the potential to be a head coach when you played for him?

He’s a bright guy. I mean, it was obvious he was bright and it was important to him. There were some guys on the staff, Jeff Monken and some other guys, just tons of respect for. We were trying to do it the right way and we weren’t a very good program. Those guys, they try their best to impact us the right way and teach us the right things. 

Tell us about their quarterback, Mitch Griffis. He’s a Virginia kid. Not quite as active as a thrower as Sam Hartman, obviously, but he can run the ball.

Yeah, first of all, he had a great high school career in the state [at Broad Run in Ashburn, Va.]. He had I think 45 wins and seven or eight losses. I mean, a good player that was recruited out of the state before we got here. He’s scrappy, he’s feisty. If you’re rushing the quarterback, you’ve talked about having to finish on a guy. You think you’ve got him down and he all of a sudden comes out of it. He loves to throw shots, throw deep balls. He’s a tough kid. I think Dave does a good job recruiting to his system. He did that with Hartman. I think you did that with this guy. Guys that fit what they do and what they need.

Mario Kendricks and the Hokies will have a good opportunity to get after the quarterback on Saturday. (Jon Fleming)

What about the 22 sacks they’ve allowed so far this season? What’s your approach of being able to get to the quarterback?

I think that’s been a weakness that they’re obviously working on and trying to improve on. Georgia Tech got after him, Clemson got after them, of course Clemson’s gotten after a lot of people defensively, but when you look at where we have to win in the ballgame to come out on top, that’s an area that needs to be a checkmark for the Hokies. We’ve got to be able to pressure the quarterback and not just pressure him, get him down. We’ve got to be able to get to him. He keeps getting away from people. That sack number could be much bigger if he wasn’t the athlete and had that fight he has in him.

They’ve got a couple of good receivers, too, a few Virginia kids.

Yeah. Coach Clawson has done a good job again. I think you look back and people were coming into our state and getting some good players. They were coming in here and recruiting things and just did a good job in the state of Virginia. I don’t know what to tell you. There’s a lot of good players out there playing in other places that you would like to have here at Virginia Tech.

It’s homecoming, another sellout. You’ve got to be happy with that.

Yeah, man, I love it. Not many people in the country can say that, another sellout. So thank you. Unbelievable. Everybody do a little rain dance to keep that rain out of there. Now they’re telling me it’s coming in and gonna be out before we kick off so hopefully that’s the case, but maroon effect, homecoming, sell out, what more can you ask for? Except a win. Let’s go.

Do you have any good old homecoming stories from back in the day?

Not anything I want to share on the radio. I love it because everybody comes back. That’s the game that you look at. You say it’s homecoming and every place I’ve been, homecoming has been that game where the alumni, the community, everybody comes down. I mean, there’s a parade and it’s just good to have everybody back and pulling in the same direction and enjoying Virginia Tech.

How many ex-players have you heard from that may be coming back and how many recruits do you have coming in?

Well, we’ve got a ton of recruits coming. I think we’ll probably match the Pitt game. But the alumni, we have a meeting every Friday morning before every home game and we talk about all the guys that are coming back and we give as many sideline passes as we can and take care of those guys and talk about it and make sure if I got a chance to meet him, I can meet them and do all those things. Every Friday morning, we spent 30-45 minutes doing that.

Who has the lunch pail currently?

Dorian Strong still does have it. He’s done a great job. I think the thing that we missed out on, we didn’t defend the run well enough at Florida State, but, man, I tell you, Mansoor Delane and Dorian really did a nice job and I’d like to see a few more balls down the field and just see what those guys are capable of.

That double reverse play that you had, man, that thing was wide, wide open.

Yep. Maybe a couple of weeks from now we’ll see it again. You can’t come straight back to the same gimmick. You gotta give it a little time, but it’s one of those things, Kyron’s learning, right? He doesn’t have a ton of experience and each week he’s getting better and he’s one of those guys to be honest. He learns from his mistakes, which that’s all you can ask for. I mean, guys that don’t make the same mistake twice.

How do you prepare during the week when there might be rain?

We do wet ball work starting on Tuesday. You get the hose out, you wet the balls down for the running backs to take handoffs, wideouts gotta catch them, quarterbacks got to throw them. I’m not saying they like it, but we do it. You have to be ready for it.

Everyone is hoping the rain stays away. The last time it rained during a Virginia Tech football game, it resulted in the longest delay in college football history. (Jon Fleming)

What kind of conversations happen at halftime of a game?

We’ve made an adjustment, we’re trying to do things as efficiently as we can. So we take the guys to the weight room and it’s all set up with chairs, offense, defense and everybody that really doesn’t play, their chairs are down the middle. It’s a closer walk than the locker room and it’s actually a good open area. So the offensive staff goes in one place and the defensive staff goes the other. I’ve bounced back and forth and just kind of listen in and give my thoughts on what I think about the first half. And then the staff will come out and visit each side of the ball and then we’ll get everybody together in the middle. I’ll speak a little bit about what I think needs to happen coming out the gate and we’ll head back down the tunnel. 

What can you say of Kelly Woolwine, Triumph NIL and how that organization is changing this program at Virginia Tech?

When people think about Kelly [Woolwine], right now, everything’s about Triumph and NIL. I mean, this guy is a diehard Hokie. He has given his time and effort, over and over again, to benefit our football program. You can like NIL, you can hate it, but you better love Kelly Woolwine because what he’s doing, we couldn’t have a chance without his efforts, he puts his blood sweat and tears into what we’re doing. It’s critical.

I’m gonna throw this out there and I don’t know how true it is, but we’re out there in meetings on Friday and pretty good source says to us, ‘Yeah, man, Florida State’s quarterback, they paid him 1.7 million to come back.’ That’s the kind of the world we’re living in. And so NIL is important. You look at the guys that are doing good things out there for us right now. Bhayshul and Kyron, and when you go to the transfer portal, name, image and likeness is part of it. Like they want to know the opportunities and the monies that can be made. It’s like NFL free agency. That’s where we’re at. Only there’s no salary cap, which is really scary.

But Kelly’s done a terrific job. Our business model is one of the better ones out there. And it’s not just somebody that was out there trying to work this collective out here on its own, man. He is embedded with us. He is a diehard Hokie. We couldn’t be in better hands. Kevin Jones is a great sidekick and helps out wherever he can and it’s a good staff and I don’t know where we’d be without him. You don’t have to like NIL, but I’m telling you, it’s here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. It’s very important to what we’re doing. I encourage you to open your mind and look at it and say, ‘OK, how can we be involved? How can we support the Hokies?’ And Kelly’s a great resource. Anybody has questions about NIL, Kelly’s a great ambassador for our program and he’s doing a great job.

3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Coach, how do you feel getting B-slapped by the other team going for 2 in the first quarter, like they have nothing to lose? They might as well ask him about Allman songs and ice cream flavors.

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