Tech Talk Live Notes: Brent Pry And Mike Young Join The Show

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech will take on Louisville this weekend. (Jon Fleming)

On Thursday, Virginia Tech football head coach Brent Pry and Hokies men’s basketball head coach Mike Young joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live. Pry discussed the upcoming game at Louisville on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network) while Young previewed the team’s season opener on Monday.

Brent Pry

How are you doing?

Good. It’s been a good week and just the staff and the players and everybody trusting the process and we’re getting better, slowly but surely. And we’ve got a tall order on Saturday in Louisville, but we’ve had a good week so far.

It’s been a week since that win over Syracuse. When you look back at that game now, what did you think about how fast you guys started?

It was our best Friday practice. They were locked in. They were really in a good place Friday. I felt like we were going to come out fast and strong and they did that and I think at some point there in the first half, Syracuse just kind of came off the gas and we stepped on it and did a little bit harder. So credit to the guys, they were excited to play, great atmosphere, Thursday night, Lane Stadium. I mean, you can’t beat that.

You talked about the crowd. Syracuse had penalties from the get-go. Had an intentional grounding, then another penalty, and didn’t get a first down until the second quarter.

I think they had some confusion. And I think the crowd had a lot to do with that. I think they couldn’t get in a rhythm. They were having trouble getting adjustments made at the line of scrimmage. And again, that’s a credit to Hokie Nation.

What about John Love? He was 5-for-5 on field goals against the Orange.

I tell you what, he’s gotten better and better as the year has gone on. He’s splitting them right down the middle and the operation’s good, the snap, the hold and John’s just a redshirt freshman, but he’s done a heck of a job and I’m proud of him.

That safety at the start of the second half kind of set the tone for the rest of the game.

Yeah, that was the challenge, right? I took the first half stats into the locker room at halftime and just tore him up. I said, ‘They don’t mean anything right now. We’ve got to start fast again.’ And those guys certainly did that.

What do you think about the defensive line as a whole? That group is currently one of the best in the country and is at the top of the ACC in terms of sacks.

Fundamentally, and technique wise, they’ve just gotten better and better. Coach [J.C.] Price is doing a great job with them. They’re coachable, they’re making the corrections. We’re getting better each week. I think they have some confidence right now. And I really think our defense has gone the way they go. And as they’ve gotten better and gotten more confident and being more productive, the rest of the group follows.

You held them to zero rushing yards. The defense was dialed in from start to finish.

Yeah. People got tired of me saying that complementary ball, we rushed for 318 and didn’t give up much. But the special teams were clicking, Tucker Holloway and his returns, and it’s what you hope to see, the progress we’re making and go out and play a good game. But again, the challenge in the locker room was we’ve got to maximize these next 10 days to be good enough to go 1-0 again. We’ve got to get better each day. And I think they’ve done that.

After the game on Thursday, offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen told Mike Burnop that he was going to have to shave because the team rushed for 300 yards. I saw some photo evidence that he’s done that, right?

It’s a bad look. He didn’t shave. First, he left the Fu Manchu and got up in front of the team like that. So for about a minute, nobody could concentrate on anything because of laughter. But he owned up on his bet. I think it was if we rushed for more than 300 and we did that so it wasn’t a good look. He shaved it clean. I don’t think he wanted to go home to his wife with that look.

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How about the offensive line? How far has that group come? Bhayshul Tuten had over 100 yards rushing and Malachi Thomas was right near 100 himself.

Yeah, he sure was. In fact, those two guys came up to me with about six minutes left. They’re like, ‘Can Malachi [Thomas] go back in? He needs 13 yards.’ Both fronts, D-line and O-line, just the improvements that they’re making. We’re a group that’s going to go the way our line play goes and we’ve got to be physical. We’ve got to play with fundamentals. We’ve got to win one-on-one battles up front on both sides, and they’re doing that right now. Not across the board 100% — I don’t know if anybody does that — but they’re getting better each week. And it’s hard to start a play if your front doesn’t start to play the right way … and we’re doing that.

It seems like four weeks in a row now we’ve been talking about Kyron Drones’ improvement. Is that what you’re seeing too?

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s how he’s been all along. It’s a credit to him. He’s a coach’s son, and his granddaddy was a coach too. And now he’s very coachable. He’s a hard worker and he wants to be absolutely as good as he can be. He’s building confidence right now. I think the guys really are rallying behind him and trusting him and he’s doing a great job for us. But there’s still obviously room for improvement.

Syracuse scored in the third quarter and then you guys went right down the field, seven-and-a-half minutes. 12 plays, 68 yards, culminated in a field goal. You basically had the ball for half the quarter.

Yeah. When you can sustain drives like that, and that’s not the first time we’ve done it this year, that’s critical. It keeps an offense like that and Garrett Shrader off the field, that’s a real positive for us.

Early in the game, Kyron was a little banged up with his arm or shoulder, but he went back out there and he threw one down the field like 50 yards on the third play after he came back. What did you like about his toughness?

Yeah, what you missed before that was the trainer, Brett Griesemer, was trying to warm him up to see if he could throw it well and he knocked Brett’s head off. He said, ‘I think he’s good.’ He’s tough, man. I’m like, ‘Kyron, you don’t have to lower the shoulder on these guys all the time, you take the slide or get out of bounds when you need to,’ but he’s 6-3, 235 and he’s strong and he’s determined, he’s like a big old tailback back there.

Tuten is just so valuable, isn’t he?

Yeah, he’s a guy that when you get the ball to him, you feel like something good is going to happen. There are plays all over that film that can make the difference, the momentum we kept building, the positive plays that we were talking about together. Syracuse had a 3rd-and-8 situation and dumped one off and they get about seven and Pheldarius Payne traced off his rush and came back and knocked the heck out of the guy and kept him short and they had to punt. We were up two scores at that point, but there are so many plays where that could be the difference in the game, and we’re making more of those right now.

I also noticed Bhayshul was banged up after a play in that game and you had a conversion with him. What did you say to Bhayshul?

He said he was a dog like two weeks before that. I said, ‘You’re a dog, right? A dog is still gonna chase that car whether he’s got a hurt leg or not.’

How about those trick plays? Malachi Thomas had a great throw, but the other was covered up.

Yeah, you’re not gonna hit them all. Some of them they are gonna sniff out, but Coach Bowen stayed the course and didn’t lose confidence in calling them and certainly it paid off.

Seemed like just about every time Syracuse went to punt, everyone was holding their breath because of Tucker Holloway. It seemed like he could break one at any time.

He’s an impact guy at that position. He really is. We’ve got to do a little better job giving him a chance to get those returns started more often. But he’s done a great job and he is a weapon back there.

What about Da’Quan Felton? He had that 62-yard catch off a pass that was right over his shoulder into his hands.

Beautiful pass. You’re not going to connect on all of those, but you’ve gotta throw them often enough to give yourself a chance. I mean, Quan is a big target and he’s got great length and he can get down the field and eat that grass up and Kyron missed on one early but came right back and nailed that one.

You got to play a lot of younger guys in the game. Can you explain the redshirt rule to everyone and how you guys keep track of that?

First of all, guys get four games and you can still redshirt him, and then they can also play in any postseason game. So you could have a freshman that maybe isn’t ready in the first part of the year, but as the season progresses, you’re like, ‘Hey, let’s get this guy some opportunity if we can.’ We’re traveling with a couple of those guys this weekend. And they’re involved on special teams or have a role on offense or defense. But we’ve got staff members that keep up with all those numbers, how many plays they’ve played and who has one game, two games, three games, four games left, whatever the case may be. We want to get those guys experience where we can, but we also don’t want to put the game in jeopardy and put them out there at the wrong time.

Michael Vick was down on the sideline and you guys said hello before the Syracuse game. How cool was that?

Yeah, it was pretty cool to have him there for the Syracuse game. I certainly talked about that a lot with recruits this week. Mike was on the sideline and he’s been very supportive. So it was great to have him there.

Dax Hollifield was down there as well. He’s a pit crew guy now with Spire Motorsports in NASCAR. Did you get the chance to talk to him a little?

I did. I told him I want some tickets to the next NASCAR race in Martinsville.

As soon as Thursday ended, you guys were on the tarmac and went all over the place recruiting on Friday.

Yeah, we flew out at 7 a.m., much to Amy [Pry]’s disliking, but we got home late, got a few hours of shut eye and flew out. You want to capitalize on the win, like we would have gone out either way, that’s who we are, but it’s nice to go out on the win and get those high schools and I was in the state of Virginia and certainly worth our time and our effort. 

How was the helicopter? How much time and effort did that save?

Oh, it was awesome. We were in Northern Virginia and that traffic is tough and being able to chopper in and chopper out makes it nice and the kids get a big kick out of it. The families are off filming us coming in and this one was quite the size. The last one I got in, I could see through the floorboard and see the ground below me. I said, ‘Mike Hazel, we’ve got to stop making cuts in the budget, man, can’t be making cuts on the helicopter.’ It was like one of those choppers you see at the beach, you get 20 bucks for five minutes. 

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s run defense will have to play well again. (Jon Fleming)

What stands out about this Louisville team to you and the staff?

It’s a good football team, all three phases, they’ve got a really nice D-line. They’ve got that fella, number nine [Ashton Gillotte]. He’s hard to block now, and they’re big up front on the O-line. Got a really nice tailback [Jawhar Jordan]. He’s only 5-10, 185 but you watch him run and he’s strong, he’s tough, he’s quick. And then they’ve got a good scheme. They have a good plan offensively. Coach [Jeff] Brohm, one of the best in the business, squared off against him a couple of times while I was at Penn State, but in fact, his quarterback, we squared off against him. He was the quarterback for Purdue a couple years back. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what they do and how they do it. Louisville has always had good personnel and that’s not any different this year.

The quarterback, Jack Plummer, was at Purdue and Cal, but he’s thrown eight interceptions. He really relies on the running game, doesn’t he?

Yeah, that’s where they’re at. I mean, they get the running game going and then all the play-action and the waggles come off of it. They take their shots, they have a nice receiver corps, they’re just gonna step back and cut it deep a couple of times in the game. So I think it’s a pretty well rounded group but they certainly rely on the running game and 25 [Jordan] is a great back but they’ve got a couple other ones that can certainly do damage. I think they’ve got a nice one-two, even three, punch.

Jawhar Jordan is averaging over 100 yards per game right now and has 824 yards on the season so far. You’ve been so good at being able to stop the run the last couple of weeks now. What’s it going to take to do that again?

Yeah, we’ve got to be better than we were against Syracuse. We’ve got to fit hard and fast. We’ve got to tackle well. This guy keeps his feet running and keeps trying to get north and south. The O-line gets behind him and pushes and they’re gonna commit to it. They ran the ball 49 times against Duke. I mean, they’re gonna commit to the run and make us prove that we can stop it.

When you look at wide receiver Jamari Thrash, the numbers are just staggering. He’s caught 46 passes. The next closest guy has 17. Clearly he is the go-to guy.

He is a super talented guy with great ball skills. He’s quick, slippery, good routes, he can get open. I think the quarterback really likes him. Then they’ve got this guy, number three [Kevin Coleman], who plays slot and is their gadget guy. Jet sweep, reverses, all kinds of stuff. Tunnel screens. Really, really good screen team. One of the best that I’ve seen in a couple of years.

Plummer is more of a pocket-type guy. Do you coach the defensive line differently depending on if the quarterbacks are mobile or not each week?

Yeah, there’s certain techniques that you employ against a running quarterback that you put on the shelf for a guy that is pass-heavy, and Plummer’s athletic enough to pick up a first down and make you defend him, but you’re not going to put your gameplan around that.

That linebacker TJ Quinn is pretty good too.

Oh, he sure is. He’s an active guy. They’ve got a defense that plays fast and plays hard, they’ve got a good scheme. Ron English, the defensive coordinator, has been doing it a long time. He’s very good at what he does. Good staff, good personnel, they’ve got a great environment over there.

Have you been to Louisville before?

Yeah, I’ve been there. Was there when I was coaching at the University of Memphis.

Louisville’s only outlier this year was that Pitt game a few weeks ago. I’m sure you’ve watched the tape. What was Pitt able to do to that Louisville team?

Yeah, it was bad weather. Louisville had 11 balls on the ground. They ended up losing five of them. It’s hard to win a game if you turn it over five times and the running back, Jordan, didn’t play. But Pitt did a good job and was disruptive up front, but I think the weather and being at Pitt and just losing that running back, I think you’ve got to protect your football and Pitt’s a good enough team that they didn’t do that that day and it cost them.

That’s something you guys have been able to do, protect the football here.

Knock on wood. That’s such a big star and yeah, we’ve got to do that. It’s gonna be really important in this game.

For a young quarterback like Kyron, what he been able to do in terms of not trying to force too much?

I think it goes back to two things. It’s the way that Tyler Bowen and Brian Crist are tutoring him throughout the week, throughout the season, throughout the offseason. But also, he’s not a guy that panics. If you notice that about Kyron, he keeps his poise. He’s pretty steady. He doesn’t get flustered and that allows him to be in the right frame of mind to make good decisions. Don’t take the sack and don’t throw the bad ball, and he’s been really good.

Cole Nelson wore the No. 25 jersey last week and had a big game. Who’s got it this week?

Doctor John Love. Doctor John.

You’ve had a great run your last couple of games here at home, been able to get the things rolling. The Hokies are 3-1 in the ACC. How difficult is it to take that on the road?

The challenge is just to be 1-0 this week, right? Ignore the noise. There was a lot of bad noise early, there’s good noise now. None of it matters. We’ve got our group in that team room and on that practice field, we’ve got to do what we can do each and every day to give us the best chance to win on Saturday, whether we’re in Lane Stadium or we’re over there in Louisville. The guys are excited, they’re in a good frame of mind. There’s some of them that have played over there, they’ve experienced that. But when you play in Lane Stadium, you get the best atmosphere in the country, so our guys would be ready for that part of it.

They’ve got a couple of really good defensive backs, one of which has a little bit of history. Quincy Riley and Jaylin Lane played on the same team at Middle Tennessee.

Nowadays with this transfer portal, there’s guys and coaches and there’s a lot of crossover, a lot of parity, a lot of familiarity. So we’re running into guys every week. The quarterback, Plummer, he’s at Purdue for four years and he’s at Cal for a year, then he’s at Louisville. I mean, it’s just the day and age we’re living in.

What about the lunch pail? Has Antwaun Powell-Ryland been able to get his hands on it? Norell Pollard had it last.

Yeah, he’s trying, man. Let me tell you, the guys all fight for that and when they get it, they don’t want to give it up. So we’ll see where it lands tomorrow.

How about giving us a recap of Halloween? I saw Amy went all out decorating the house and getting in the spirit?

Yeah, all I know is we’ve got problems when neighborhood children leave our house crying in tears. I’m getting phone calls at the office. They’re just trying to go out and trick or treat and Amy’s got them scared to death coming down the driveway, but yeah, she went all out and the kids enjoyed it. Some of the neighbors enjoyed it. I think the adults enjoyed it more. We’ve got a two-car garage and you could not fit any cars in there right now. It’s just skeleton bones and ghouls and goblins all through the garage.

You had the staff’s kids come through the office to trick or treat.

Yeah, it’s awesome. Each coach, they come down to practice. They’re in their costumes, all the staff’s kids and then we do the trick or treat out of each office. And the support staff, Carrie Lynne [Wolford] and her crew decorate the hallways and make it scary and we have a good time. Then we do a big family dinner upstairs, themed for Halloween, the players, the coaches, the families. So it’s a good time. It’s great to do that for the families and for the kids. 

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech and Mike Young will start the season on Monday. (Nell Redmond/ACC)

Mike Young

Can you believe it’s already Year Five for you in Blacksburg?

No, I can’t believe it. I’m the luckiest son of the gun alive. Thrilled to be back in Blacksburg.

Is everyone ready just to get it going on Monday night?

Oh, I know the head coach isn’t. We’ve still got some things to iron out. We’ll take tomorrow off, which we have to do, and then two days of preparation. I don’t know how Coach Pry does it without a scrimmage without an exhibition. I don’t know how he does it, that would scare me to death. We’ve had two scrimmages against Liberty and Richmond, which are helpful, and gives you an idea to see some areas of need, but now you’re playing your first games, you have no film, you’re playing a first game against Coppin State with a new coach. So you don’t know what you’re looking at defensively, offensively. You’re a bit blind. So you’re going over a number of things. ‘If they employ this, we do this.’ But we’ll have them ready to go and look forward to a really fun Monday night in Cassell Coliseum with the women’s team before us, but we’re on for eight.

Were you pleased with the way the scrimmages went?

I was. I was not as happy with the Liberty scrimmage now, they’re pretty good. Coach Ritchie McKay does a job with them. I thought we made vast improvements. The two weeks after Liberty and then going into Richmond last weekend, we went down there. I think it’s important to take them on the road for a road trip. We were better. We were a lot better. So there comes a time where the ball goes in the air and you get to see where you are and continue to build as the season wears on.

You guys went overseas and got an extra 10 practices in. Do you feel like you’re further along because you got those?

I don’t know. The way the rules are now, there are more limitations during the summer than you have when you begin practice, but we can practice throughout the summer. So we did treat the 10 practices leading into Europe as though they were regular season practices. We were able to install a number of things. But they’re not nearly as long. We might go an hour and 15, an hour and a half in those practices trying to keep them healthy. You’ve got so many new faces, but it was good. It was very helpful, as you might imagine.

You’ve got a new assistant coach on the staff: J.D. Byers. What’s he been like to work with so far?

I’ve known him a long time. He was a really good player at Lebanon Valley. Kind of has the same track record that I had, started as a Division III assistant in a couple places. Randolph Macon then went to Radford University with Mike Jones, a friend of mine. Then Rice with Mike Rhoades, went with Mike to VCU for six years. They had really good teams there. He’s a good coach. He can really teach and he’s a worker, he’s been a great addition and I am tickled to death that he’s with us at Virginia Tech.

Another one of those new faces that Hokie fans will see is Robbie Beran, the transfer from Northwestern. What have you seen out of him so far?

Well-coached at Northwestern, knows how to play long. Gotta be more physical, need Robbie to rebound better, but he helps our offense, he helps our defense with his communication. He sees things and he helps others recognize and get to places quicker. He’s a good basketball player and I’m glad we’ve got him. He’s a good addition.

Another guy that you got out of the portal, Mekhi Long, a kid who played at Old Dominion. He had 11 double-doubles last year and played against you guys in the Charleston Classic.

He did, I mentioned that to him earlier this week. He made a three, he had 11 rebounds. He’s got an active body, not as big as we’re accustomed to, at 6-6, 6-7, but man, he flies. He’s got great hands, he’s active on the glass, keeping balls alive. He can guard, we can switch some things with him and his ability to keep a guard in front of him. Long arms and contests shots. He’s a good basketball player. And he’s going to play a lot for us.

How do you prepare for a non-conference game like Coppin State?

Well, it’s nothing like the Michigan football program, but there’s some stuff going on behind the scenes, trying to get scrimmage film, exhibition film. You are luckier with that with some teams than you are with others. You do the best you can, you’re talking to friends that may have seen them, staff that are back year-after-year. You go back and see films from the previous year. Personnel, who can guard, who cannot guard this guy, that guy, what do we have to do to succeed? Those first couple are tough. Those first couple were tricky because of the portal. You never know who they have.

What’s Tyler Nickel from North Carolina been like for you guys?

He’s a net stripper. Every time he puts it in the air, I think it’s going in the hole. A conscientious, hard worker, wants to be a really good player. Student. He is intentional with things he does, how he plays. He’s got to get better defensively. The style that he’s accustomed to, they are employed in North Carolina. I think how we play is better suited to him. But I really like him. He’s a really, really fun young man. And good size at a small forward spot. He’s 6-6, 6-7, good frame at 215, 220. Good one, gonna play a lot, gonna help us.

What have you seen from Brandon Rechsteiner’s development?

Both those young kids [Rechsteiner and Jaydon Young] are going to play. Freshmen, so many times they think to make an impression, they’ve got to score, and you’re trying to impress upon them from day one to be really good at the things that are required. Not a lot of skill. Don’t turn the ball over. Defend. Play the spot, all right. I don’t really care if you score 10 or zero, just move the ball along, pass, cut, do your job. Those guys that adhere to that embrace that, find a way to play a little bit more. 

Rechsteiner will play behind Sean Pedulla. I’ve got to get Pedulla off the floor more. I hurt Sean, in turn hurting our team, playing him 36,37, 38 minutes out of necessity. I didn’t have a choice. And then Jaydon Young from Greensboro Day. Big, good-looking young man that can really shoot the ball is playing behind Hunter [Cattoor] right now. And he’s doing very well, he’s had two really good scrimmages in that Liberty and Richmond matchups.

What kind of progress have Lynn Kidd and John Camden made?

Both a year older and more experienced. Lynn, if I had to play tonight, would start. John took off like a house on fire and had a really good early season. Not as good, but still good against Richmond. He’s gonna give you everything he’s got, good shooter when he’s balanced, when he’s got 10 toes to the rim, shoulders to the rim. His shot preparation is good. He can really bang shots and has made vast improvements on the defensive end. Lynn, Mylyjael [Poteat], Patrick Wessler I think give us a three-headed monster, if you will, at the five spot. We need those guys to help.

I know a lot of people want to hear about a seven-footer in Patrick Wessler. How is he coming around after redshirting last year?

He has come a long way. His court read is better, he’s rebounding out of his area, which is a big deal for big people. It’s not the shot blocker that you would hope you would be, but that’s OK. He can step away from the basket and stretch a defense. He can do all the things that are important to us, dribble, handoff, ball screen, pop out of it, make the next play. He is putting himself in position to help our team win games. Want to see a little bit more from him. He’s come lightyears from where he was when he came in a year ago. He’s doing good.

It’s nice to have a game in the Queen City down in Charlotte. Is that something you’d like to do every year? And what do you know about South Carolina?

I would do it every year if I had the opportunity. I love that city. We have so many Hokies in Mecklenburg County. I can’t begin to tell you the number of Hokie fans that I’ve come in contact with that are going down there from the New River Valley to see the game. I don’t know a lot about the Gamecocks. I will know more, we’ll have a couple of looks at them before we play. Lamont Paris, their head coach, was at Chattanooga for the last three years. I was at Wofford. So familiarity there. We played them twice a year. I know him, I really like him.

I think it’s a great matchup for our team in the Spectrum Center, which I’ve coached teams there a number of times, and I love that building. That’ll be a lot of fun. I wish we weren’t playing at 9:30, which is going to end up being 9:45-10 o’clock when that thing goes in the air because UVa and Florida are on at seven o’clock before us, so I just know how that thing’s going to play out.

First game of the season, first time to be able to get everyone together. What’s the biggest thing maybe you can learn from that first game?

We’re going to be a work in progress here for a bit. Rotations, who plays best with who, you’re trying to incorporate new bodies, two of those are freshmen. How much are they going to play? Don’t know the answer to that. Who are they best paired with? I’ve got an idea but I’m still working through that. What does the rotation look like up front with Mylyjael Poteat? Those guys at the four spots may move Tyler Nickel down as we go along.

I’ve had teams that what we look like and how we play a personnel is far different a month into the season than it is November 6. People emerge and people present themselves; they really help you win. And I think this is going to be one of those years. I’ve got an idea. But we are a long way from being a finished product, and that’s typical. I’ve had a number of teams like that.

The Orlando tournament is going to be fun, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’ll be a lot of work and a lot of really good teams, but I look forward to getting down there and getting Hunter [Cattoor] back to his hometown and we’ll have a bunch of Hokies there, great tournament, great facility. And a good test for us really early in the season.

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  1. Thx much for the transcripts ; Thrilled with these two quality coaches & even better quality folks !

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