Tech Talk Live Notes: Brent Pry Talks NC State, Mike Young Recaps Campbell

Brent Pry, Pheldarius Payne and Virginia Tech are 5-5 with a chance to go bowling on Saturday vs. NC State. (Ivan Morozov)

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 win over Boston College and the upcoming game vs. NC State on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network) while Young recapped the team’s victory against Campbell and previewed Wofford (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra).

Brent Pry

How are you doing this week?

It’s been good. You get Saturday night, part of Sunday to kind of rejoice in the win and then on to the next one. You forget about it and get everybody focused on NC State. But the guys are getting pats on the back all week, which is awesome.

I know your big thing was starting fast. You did things a little bit different with the team last weekend, didn’t you?

Yeah, we did a few things starting Friday night and then also a couple things for breakfast. I mean, when you’re kicking off at noon, your pregame meal is at 7:30. It’s early, and those guys were coming out of the hotel rooms and so we did some things to make sure we’re getting them going and they had a good look in her eye. But just a couple of little things that helped us I think and I asked the guys, ‘Do you want to do it again this week?’ It’s a 3:30 kick and they’re like, ‘Yeah,’ so we will do it again.

What was everyone’s reaction with that?

Generally, it’s a wake-up call. Your phone rings and the hotel does it and if anybody doesn’t respond in the first five minutes, then the GA or one of those guys will go up and get them, but this time the position coaches woke everybody up.

Let’s go back to the opening possession. Dorian Strong had two interceptions and grabbed the first one on the first play of the game. It seemed like the tone of the game was set in the very beginning.

Yeah, Dorian has been kind of waiting to make a play like that. He’s played great coverage all year. They don’t throw at him very much, to be honest, when you look at the PFF numbers, but he’s done a great job. He’s been very consistent, that was a route that he had studied on film. He anticipated it was a condensed route, that the guy was going to run over towards our boundary and that’s exactly what he did. And Dorian’s fast enough, he cut in front of it and was able to make the play.

How much is that opening possession in the grand scheme of everything? How important can that set the tone for the game?

I think for us as a team right now, it’s very important. We’re just one of those teams. We’re still seeking true real confidence week-in and week-out. For us right now, when you start fast… I’ve been around teams that we’ve gone down 7-0 in the first series and won 42-7. Where we are right now, it is important for us.

Quarterback Kyron Drones ran for 135 yards, threw for 219, essentially in three quarters. What did you like about his play?

I couldn’t be more proud. He’s making great decisions which, for a young guy playing his first year as a starter and didn’t really work into the lineup until Week 3, but he makes good decisions. He doesn’t put the ball in jeopardy much. He throws it out of bounds when he needs to and he’s certainly a problem to tackle. I think we see that every head coach that I see before the game they’re like, ‘Man, I don’t know if we can tackle that guy.’ He looks like a DE out there playing quarterback, but I’m just very proud of the progress he’s making. I think Coach [Tyler] Bowen and Coach [Brian] Crist are doing a great job with him. He’s getting better each and every week which is what he did all spring and all offseason. I mean, he’s just one of those guys that he’s like a sponge right now. And he just keeps absorbing things and taking knowledge in and taking reps in and experience and putting it into practice being a better player.

Kyron Drones probably had his best game as a Hokie against Boston College. (Virginia Tech athletics)

How much can the offseason and being in camp improve him too?

I don’t want to look ahead but again, he’s a guy that the more experience he garners, the better he gets and I will say this, he and Grant [Wells] went kind of series for series with the ones in the offseason. So he had a good opportunity. But when you look at his body of work in high school, he was hurt for most of his senior year. He goes to Baylor and doesn’t play much at all. I mean, his best football is in front of him. And that’s natural for a lot of guys. There’s just not the reps there that say, ‘Man this guy, he is where he’s going to get.’

When evaluating Kyron, what made him so effective and so good?

The ability to run the ball as well as he does. And then when you meet him and you see him and you go, ‘Oh man, this guy’s gonna be a problem.’ Like, he’s not just a good runner, a gifted runner. He’s got elite size for quarterback play, long arms. And then when you get to know him, you realize he’s got an elite mentality. Like he’s very tough, he’s taking some shots, and you almost have to prod it out of him, he doesn’t want to tell you, he’s tough as nails. So there’s some intangibles there, coupled with his elite size and being a dual-threat guy that is pretty special.

Are there some times that you on the sideline hold your breath or say, ‘Why do you have to put your shoulder down into a guy like that?’

I think I did initially and now it usually comes out on top of itself.

How about the other quarterback who saw time? Grant Wells played some in the fourth quarter. What did you think of his performance?

He did a nice job on the long run play and I think he showed his speed. He accelerated. It was a good hole but he found it and he hit it. The ball just got away from him at the end. And for most guys, you’re gonna walk through the endzone and score. But the kid from Boston College made a heck of an effort to play, which I give him a lot of credit for. The game is out of hand, right, game’s over. And this kid is still playing with tremendous effort and comes across the field and makes a play like that. But Grant was disappointed. I don’t think it takes away from the fact that he found the hole. He got the opening. He hit it. I mean, fortunately for us, it wasn’t a factor in the game, which we show guys all the time on Sundays. We show them clips of other people making mistakes in situational football, and there’s guys dropping a ball before they hit that goal line, there’s guys not going down when they should to end the game and win the game, they tried to score and things happen. So that’s one of those plays, you’ve just got to secure the ball high and tight, chin it all the way across the goal line.

Grant was out with that ankle injury. Do you feel like he’s 100 percent?

I haven’t talked to him about that. But I mentioned it earlier, I think he started getting fatigued at the end [of that run] and the ball kind of started floating on him a little bit, just moving it, which made it easier for the guy, but still a good play by BC.

You all held Thomas Castellanos to 48 yards rushing. Were you pleased with the way your defense played against their quarterback?

I thought coach Chris Marve and the staff put together a great plan. It’s not easy to bottle those guys up. They got a big front, big O-line, they’re physical and we were able to kind of get through gaps and hold the edges and make it hard on that quarterback who’s a good player, he’s like a nickelback back there trying to run the ball. He’s not very big but he’s tough and he could put his foot in the ground and get north and I was proud of the way the kids played.

Kyron Drones and Da’Quan Felton connected for a 70-yard play against Boston College. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Da’Quan Felton had another really nice catch, another in the breadbasket was right over the shoulder from Kyron Drones.

He’s a big target, his ball skills are getting better and better. He’s figuring out how to get open and create separation. And once he gets going down the field, I mean, the way he eats up the grass, it’s hard to cover.

What about that play? It was off a free play because the defense jumped offsides. What do you coach the center to look for? How do you do that to be able to still get that snap off?

Well, once the defensive line crosses the neutral zone, you can snap that ball. Once he’s in the neutral zone, snap it. You get a free play. There’s been a time or two in my career where the officials don’t call it and you think you’ve got a free play but it’s not. But we’ve also learned the hard way because it’s happened to us. So now you’ve got to keep playing, defensive backs, you’ve got to keep rushing, you’ve got to treat it like a real play even though it’s a freebie.

You talked about Dorian Strong. What about the safeties? How are those injuries coming along?

Yeah, we feel good because Jaylen Jones’ left shoulder is good, Jalen Stroman’s right shoulder is good. So between those two, we just kind of put them on the right side of the play to hit with their good shoulder we’re gonna be alright.

John Love had a 27-yard field goal. He’s been phenomenal on that special teams.

Doctor Love. I’m gonna tell you, I’m very proud of him. He’s just a redshirt freshman. I joked with him all preseason that he was too young to be our starter and couldn’t handle it. He’s really stepped up. He started off a little bit shaky and man, right now, we’re very confident in the way John is kicking the ball.

What about Kyle Lowe? I know a couple of those kicks looked like they went off the leg and a little bit kind of went funny on some of those kickoffs.

Yeah, that’s a good question. We were trying to kick it right, which isn’t really Kyle’s field. But they had a good returner, we were trying to play smart football there and I don’t know that we gave Kyle a fair shot to be efficient at that kick. It’s one of those deals we probably outsmarted ourselves.

I know you guys show films on Sunday with the good plays, some of the good stuff. What were some of the top plays that you showed the team that you were most proud of?

Well, obviously we showed that bunt on kickoff, which could have been on the bad plays if we didn’t get it, but we want to be aggressive there. We talk about being aggressive and having a mindset to win the game. You go up, you can play it safe. Coach [Stu] Holt does a great job of being aggressive with me, encouraging me to say yes, and that was the right time, but that was one of the plays we showed the guys, great job by Kyle, great job by Jaylen Jones. And then the play you mentioned with Kyron, that was a play we showed the kids and honestly the interceptions by Dorian, but there were several plays where defensively, we fit downhill hard and fast where we needed to, which is the way you’ve gotta play it, especially against a group like that. They led the ACC in rushing. There were a couple of clips like that I was very proud of.

That onside call came at a great time, no one was expecting it. How does that call come about? Was that something you knew going in or was it a call made on the field?

Well, we talked about it all week. If it looks good or not, not everybody gives you the opportunity to call it, to run it. And then most of those you got a chance to check out of it. We practiced it a lot and just like I said, Stu’s [Holt] was very good with me about instilling confidence in it, repping it to just where I feel good about it. And I forget what the score was at the time and I felt like, ‘OK, we’re in a pretty good place here. If we don’t get it, the defense can go out and make a stand.’ So I jumped on the headset with Chris [Marve] right away and I said, ‘Chris, we’re going to bunt this thing, get the defense ready.’ It’s a key play in the game because it gives us, it adds to momentum we already had. You want to call those when they don’t expect them. If they expect it, there’s not much chance it’s going to work.

Jaylen Jones recovered an onside kick in the first half on Saturday at Boston College, which swung momentum. (Virginia Tech athletics)

I thought it was funny. A couple of weeks back, when you called the fake punt, Coach Marve said during the postgame radio that he didn’t even know it was coming. No one on the headset knew.

Yeah, that’s me as a young head coach. I guess I failed to prepare Chris because you want the defense to get ready and to have a chance. ‘OK, it’s gonna be a sudden change of situation if we don’t get it, get the group ready.’ But you also don’t want to tell him so early that the other sideline thinks, ‘Hey, something’s going on over there. They’re getting the defense ready.’ So it’s a little bit of a chess match.

Saturday is Senior Day. You’ve got a whole boatload, 21 seniors that are going to be out there and getting recognized. I’m sure that will be an emotional moment for you and those guys.

Yeah, these guys have been through a lot. I think every senior class you’re gonna say that about, doesn’t matter where you are, a bunch of wins, a bunch of losses, mixed bag, whatever it is. And we got guys who’ve been through five and six years, been through COVID, been through a coaching change. My hat’s off to them, the guys that have hung in there and stuck with us and Nasir [Peoples] and Norell [Pollard] and those guys, Mario [Kendricks], real accomplishment for them. And I think one day when they look back, they’re gonna feel really good and proud about what they did.

It’s a weird time with the COVID year and the transfer portal, all of that. There are 10 guys who are going to walk that could potentially still come back next year.

That’s right. We had that conversation. I don’t like distractions, but you have to decide, ‘OK, who wants to walk?’ And there’s guys that have options. Some of them are going to be cornered by the NFL. Some of them are cornered by other schools. And I just told them, I said, ‘If you’re eligible to walk, if you have your degree, then why not do it? That way, no matter what happens, you get to celebrate that moment with your family, in front of our fans. You deserve it.’ We had a young man at Penn State that walked, he didn’t get the draft grade he was hoping for in January and came back for his senior year and ended up doing awesome and walked again.

So I tell them it’s not the big decision right now. If you’re not sure, let’s have you walk and be celebrated by our fanbase, which is unbelievable, and then we’ll have the good conversations after the Virginia game or some time there to talk through some of the scenarios and options that guys have. We try to give them as much information as we can, we collect a lot of data. We’re working on that now so that they can make the most informed decision. It’s best for them and their family.

There are so many options for those guys. What are those conversations like?

I mean, it’s either you’re ready to end your career and get into the business world and go get a job and some guys think that way. Some guys are wondering if the grass is greener and ‘should I go somewhere else?’ For some guys, the dream is to go the NFL and they’re wondering, ‘What’s the prospect, can I be drafted in a third round, fourth round, fifth round?’ We try and help them with all that. The conversation is, ‘Hey, listen, we embrace hard conversations in our program,’ and that’s kind of one of them. They don’t want to walk in and say, ‘Coach, I’m thinking about maybe going somewhere else.’ Well, if you are coming to talk about it, let’s get the information. Let’s help you make a great decision.

We had Michael Hazel on the podcast today. He was talking a lot about you and the culture. Do you feel like now as you’re more than halfway through that second season that you’ve got a pretty good baseline of the culture and where you want to go?

Yeah, I mean, I want to say yes. I think you always have to work at it though. If you ever become complacent with your culture, I think that’s when it gets you. It’s the most important thing we do. The relationships and the attitude and mentality is the most important thing we do so it’s something we work out all the time, we talk about it. It goes back to our fundamentals — accountability, communication, competition, details and mentality. We got to be really good in all of those areas as players and coaches. And if we do, we’ve got a chance to have a great culture which is really impactful, and that’s been successful.

Virginia Tech is going to have to play stingy defense against NC State on Saturday. (Ivan Morozov)

As you first turn on the film of NC State coach, what stands out to you about the Wolfpack?

Very tough defense. Stingy with yards, stingy with points, sound. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way they play defense and I think everybody’s familiar with the quarterback, Brennan Armstrong. He’s a tough kid who can run. I mean, he had one of the best years for a quarterback in the league three, four years ago, it was unbelievable the season he had. So he’s certainly capable. He’s been in big games and he’s not gonna be intimidated. But I hope our crowd tries to intimidate him. The big thing offensively for this NC State team is they’ve really struggled to be able to establish the run.

Brennan Armstrong is the leading rusher on that team, so yet again, you face another team where their quarterback is the biggest piece.

Yeah, which is good, right? You’ve got a good plan for it. You like what our kids can do and the difference is the kid from BC was, I don’t know, 5-10, 185 and Armstrong is 6-2, 215, He’s a bigger body. You watch the film, there’s DBs bouncing off each and every game.

What have you seen up front from NC State?

They played the same five guys every snap last week, which was big for them. Coach Ron [Crook] would tell you the continuity, the communication, consistency, all of that was big. So I think they took a big step forward last weekend against Wake Forest.

You said they’ve got one of the best defenses in the country. What do you think of linebacker Payton Wilson?

Yeah, I love him, I recruited him at Penn State. He’s a blue-collar, long guy. He runs. He’s tough, he’s smart. I don’t know what weakness he has.

He’s got 112 tackles, 12 tackles for losses, four sacks, two interceptions. There’s a little bit of everything. You coached linebackers for a long time at a really high level. When you’re looking at really good ones, what do they do well?

They have great instincts. You don’t have to coach them how to track the ball. And then when they declare, they go get it. And then when they’ve got a skill set that can allow them to run and win, then you’ve got it all, and he’s a good one.

Tyler Bowen was named the Power Five Coordinator of the Week across all of college football after the Boston College game.

Yeah, he’s done a great job, I think evolving and proving. But that was last week. Let’s win it again this week.

What about the NC State kicker, Brayden Narveson. They’re not afraid to throw him out there, he’s got a leg on him.

Yeah, he sure does. I mean, you’ve gotta factor that in, right? They get to a certain field position and they’re going to try a field goal with this guy. We’ve got to plan on trying to block one. The mindset is, ‘Let’s go get it, it’s gonna come out low. Let’s see if we can’t get Keli Lawson or somebody get high and go get it.’

Who’s wearing the number 25 this week?

Matt Johnson. He’s certainly deserving. One of those guys who’s an unsung hero, busted every day, scout team, special teams, whatever you ask of him. Community-minded, great football IQ, just embraces his role. Can’t say enough good things about Matt. And so I was happy, it’s always up to Coach Holt and the special teams group who’s gonna be 25 and when they asked me if I was good with Matt, I said, ‘Absolutely.’

Virginia Tech linebacker Matt Johnson will wear No. 25 vs. NC State. (Ivan Morozov)

What about the flag bearers this weekend?

Norell Pollard [is one of them]. I remember [him] sitting in my office in December last year and he’s trying to decide if he’s going to come back or not. And I said, ‘Well, listen, don’t come back if you’re gonna be the same guy. If you come back, you’ve gotta make some changes. It’s got to be better. That’s what you want for yourself. That’s what we need,’ and he’s done that, he has had a really solid campaign for us. Very few mistakes. He’s an unsung hero because he’s one of those guys that’s where it needs to be, that allows somebody else to make a play.

You’re gonna be back inside Lane Stadium for the final time this season against NC State. How nice is it to be back?

It’s great. I’m so excited about it. Our players are excited about it. We finished practice tonight and kind of looked out there and said, ‘Here we go.’ Because it was about the time we’d be heading into the fourth quarter. And I reminded them of that, but it’s also bittersweet, man. It’s sad to think that we won’t be back there for quite a while. So I encourage everybody to come out, cheer loudly, and be proud. Students get there. The turkey can wait. You have plenty of time, come pack that endzone. Make it hard on the Wolfpack.

Mike Young

You guys are 2-1 after your victory over Campbell. What were your thoughts after you watched the film?

We defended very well. They adhered to what we had given them in our scouting report and what they run. What Campbell employs is hard. Referenced or referred to as a Princeton-style offense, originated from a gentleman at Princeton, Pete Carril, and there’s a number of people out there that run it — Richmond, Chris Mooney, Joe Scott at the Air Force Academy. Campbell runs it as well as anyone. Now they don’t shoot a great, which is a big deal. But we had very few mistakes in our coverages and got our hands on a lot of balls. We had 35 deflections, which is outstanding, and there’s gonna be nights where you don’t shoot well. We didn’t shoot well last night, but if you guard, you give yourself a chance every night, we guarded very well. They were 27% from the field, 17% I think from three. We turned them over quite a bit. So all in all a good night.

Campbell’s Anthony Dell’Orso is a high-major player, last year’s Big South Freshman of the Year. You held him to just six points.

I didn’t hold anybody to anything. I couldn’t guard Brent Pry’s mother-in-law. Our team did a great job with Dell’Orso, he is really good. I saw him score 35 against East Carolina last week in Greenville, and score in bunches, was 4-8 from three, Hunter Cattoor did a masterful job. You don’t guard a player like him with one, that’s a unit, that’s a group and our team did a really, really nice job with that coverage and to limit him to six points is significant. It’s like every night somebody’s got one, we’ll have one on Sunday and certainly heading into our tournament in Orlando.

You put up 100 points against Coppin State. You said you weren’t shooting quite as well last night, you put up 60 points and scored in different ways.

It’s a long and winding road. Different things you’re faced with every night, fouls, somebody’s down. We had Tyler Nickel down last night, which limits our depth in the backcourt, we needed and could have used Tyler’s perimeter shooting. Tyler’s getting better and better defensively. We’ll have him back full blast on Sunday. There are a lot of twists and turns and that. The season is long and different scenarios and you’re dealing with stuff night-in and night-out, you adjust and adapt and we didn’t shoot it well.

We were taking good shots, we were getting shots from guys that I want shooting the ball. We just struggled there. Tell you where we didn’t struggle was on the interior. Lynn Kidd with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Mylyjael Poteat chipped in, I think eight and four. We had 32 points and 20 rebounds from that spot. They’ve been very consistent through three games. Those two guys both give us presents down there and a luxury to be able to pitch it in there. With our perimeter shooting, that makes you hard to guard.

Mylyjael Poteat and Lynn Kidd played well down low for the Hokies against Campbell. (Jon Fleming)

Coming into the season you mentioned that you were a little bit nervous about the rebounding after those exhibition games. Lynn Kidd grabbed 15. That’s the most in the last five seasons by a Hokie player in a game.

We’re still working at it. We’re not a finished product in that area. And we better get it shored up in a hurry because that can really bite you. That second shot typically finds the bottom of the basket, that carom to the opponent typically finds the hands of their best shooter, one of their best shooters, for a made three. We are getting better. We are making progress. It is becoming more of a habit to escape the lanes, sustain your box out and pursue the ball. But it’s a big part of our film study with our team after every game and tomorrow will be no exception.

I know you put it in the rearview mirror now and moving forward but do you have any comment on that game in Charlotte and how that went when you looked at the film?

Disappointed. A game we’re supposed to win. Take nothing away from South Carolina; their guard play is good. And the big kid in the post is a good basketball player and gave us some problems. Mishandled a couple of things down the stretch. Sean Pedulla was terrific. We weren’t our best, but proud of how they stuck it up in there and played hard and we did some very nice things, not enough good things.

I know at the end you had some things drawn up for Sean. Can you talk us through what you had drawn up there at the end?

What happened was not what I had drawn up, I can tell you that. You can try to simulate situations in your practices, there’s nothing like that live stuff. And people are going to guard things differently. We botched it. We’ll get it right next time.

You mentioned it a little bit — Tyler Nickel was out with an illness. Is he on the way to be able to be ready?

He’s perfectly healthy. He was in Hahn Hurst today, earlier and he had a great workout, looked good, shot the ball very well. He had a little setback, a little illness and he’s 100% and it’ll be good to have him back in the lineup on Sunday.

You obviously spent a lot of time at Wofford. You’re the winningest head coach in Wofford history. What’s this one gonna be like on Sunday?

It’s gonna be tough. They’re tough. They were tough kids. We’d always had tough kids, they played hard. They play the right way. Shoot a bunch of threes, which give you heartburn, long shots, long rebounds. They grab it, that thing goes spraying around the perimeter for another three. You’ve got to be on point with your coverages. You’ve got to grab that miss, move it in transition.

They’ve got Corey Tripp, a guard that had 19 two nights ago at Tennessee against a really good Tennessee team. They’ve got some other kids that can shoot the ball. Just took our first look at them today. We’ll see a lot more and we’ll really get into it tomorrow. We’ve got their South Carolina scrimmage, we’ve got their High Point game so we’ve got not enough film but enough to formulate a scouting report and begin getting that to our team tomorrow afternoon.

Wofford beat High Point 99-98. The Terriers can put up points in a hurry. But you mentioned the exhibition — how do you get film for something like that?

I guess you spend 30 years somewhere. I’ve got a former player on their staff. I’ve got a former assistant coach on their staff. And that’s a couple of good ol’ boys taking care of the old coach. They were kind enough to send us that film, so that’s how that came about. Things like that happened.

Mike Young faces his old school, Wofford, on Sunday. (Jon Fleming)

You mentioned one of those guards, Corey Tripp. Jackson Sivills and Kyler Filewich, along with Tripp, all appeared in 33 games last year. They’ve got a veteran group.

They do, they’ve been around and he was able to keep those guys intact. A lot of times when there’s a coaching change, there was a mid-year coaching change, things get a little squirrely and guys run out the door, but he was able to retain those guys and you can tell they’ve been together, they enjoy playing with one another and they play the game the right way.

Should be a packed house on Sunday in Cassell Coliseum.

It’s a little different this time of the year. We’ve got work to do. I think we’ve got a lot of people coming in. I’ll kind of stay out of that mess until after the game and hope that we play well and find a way to win. I do know that my son is coming into town tomorrow and he’ll be here through Thanksgiving. He’s going to be with us in Orlando and our daughter’s coming down from New York. She’ll be here Saturday for the football game, so it’ll be a lot of fun to have the gang all together.

Brandon Rechsteiner and Jaydon Young, two of the young freshmen. I know that Campbell team put some pressure on the ballhandler so Rechsteiner had to kind of work around that pressure a little bit. What did you think?

Yeah, I thought it did a really good job. But he kept it simple. He did not turn the ball over. He played very well. Jaydon Young is a very good player, had a couple of shots last night he typically gets down, but didn’t make those last night. He will have a couple of mistakes defensively. But those freshmen, it’s just a matter of seeing more plays. It’s a matter of getting a little more experience under their belt and gotta have them ready for league play. Get to league play and those two kids are helping us. That’s going to be a big, big deal. We need that.