Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente spoke with the media on Monday morning. Here are some takeaways, including depth chart notes and Middle Tennessee info.
Depth Chart Adjustments
One of the two minor changes on the depth chart is at boundary safety.
Last week, Devon Hunter was listed ahead of Nasir Peoples there. This week, the two are listed with an “or” separating them, indicating that they’re even on the depth chart. However, Peoples played 61 snaps at that spot on Friday night. Hunter played just two. It isn’t surprising to see Peoples receiving recognition on the depth chart there after a strong performance. He finished with six total tackles, tied for third on the team with Amare Barno.
The other slight adjustment to the depth chart is the addition of quarterback Connor Blumrick at holder as the backup behind punter Peter Moore. It’s a minor detail, but it might be important somewhere down the road. Moore held for John Parker Romo on the two field goal attempts on Friday night. Blumrick, the third string QB behind Knox Kadum and Braxton Burmeister, did not see any time.
The Challenge of Turning It Around
After spending the entire summer focusing on North Carolina and Mack Brown, the Hokies have to turn the page to Middle Tennessee and have six days (including Sunday, 9/5) to prep for the Blue Raiders.
“You think about the first game of the year when it’s a conference game and it’s somebody you’ve got regional connections with and basically you’ve been thinking about that game for six months, and then the game’s over and you’ve got six days to get ready to play the next one,” Fuente said. “That’s a huge challenge for us right now. We’ve got four non-conference games in the next five weeks. We’ll just take the last week and put it in the bank, put it to the side and go focus on our non-conference schedule.
“The bottom line is that we’ve got six days and we have to turn it around.”
The Middle Tennessee Scout
“Coach Stockstill has been at Middle Tennesseee for 16 years, he’s done a fantastic job there for some time,” Fuente said. “They can run. You look at their overall team speed on both sides of the ball, they’ve always been fast and can really run. They scored 50 points last week.”
Fuente noted that quarterback Bailey Hockman had a great game in the Blue Raiders’ 50-15 win over Monmouth. The former NC State quarterback, who played at Virginia Tech in the 2020 season opener, completed 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday.
Blocking Punts And Special Teams Praise
The Hokies forced North Carolina to punt four times on Friday night, starting with the Tar Heels’ first three possessions of the game. Two of those drives were three-and-outs. Tech almost got to the first punt.
“The first punt is the one with Jalen [Stroman]… I still can’t figure out how he didn’t get it,” Fuente said. “On film, it looks like it went underneath him. Somebody showed me a picture and it looked like it went through his hands. … I wish we would’ve gotten the first one, but the difference between blocking one and not blocking one is sometimes really small. It was just good to see us put some pressure on him [UNC punter Ben Kiernan] and have Tayvion [Robinson] field the ball with some confidence.”
Keshawn King – “I’m not down on you”
After playing in 11 games as a freshman and tallying 340 yards and two touchdowns, sophomore running back Keshawn King did not see time in the backfield last season. He’s been in Tech’s RB rotation all summer, however, and had a few carries on Friday.
Unfortunately for him, King fumbled on his third carry of the game and North Carolina recovered. He didn’t touch the ball throughout the rest of the game, but Fuente spoke with him and let him know that “he wasn’t done for the day.”
“I told him that he was going to go back in, that he wasn’t done for the day and that he needed to stay ready,” Fuente said. “Obviously, he’s going to have to hold onto the ball, but he knows that. We didn’t deliberately not have him carry the ball because of that, we did rotate him in a little bit, and it’s something he knows and understands and he’s perfectly capable of doing it. He’s plenty strong enough and plenty tough enough to do that and I feel good that he will.
“What I told him was, ‘I don’t like what happened, but I’m not down on you. You’ve got to keep your head up and get ready to go back in the game.”
Using Amare Barno In Coverage
Defensive end Amare Barno was electric for the Hokies on Friday, finishing with six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Virginia Tech used him in other ways, though.
Defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton had Barno spy on UNC QB Sam Howell and even dropped him into coverage on 13 plays, per PFF.
“We’re doing a couple of different things with him and some of that requires him to drop, he does have some coverage skills,” Fuente said. “Some of it is spying on the quarterback, some of it is getting down there and playing. He’s got a versatile skill set. He seems to be adapting to the different things we’re asking him to do pretty well.”
Last season, Barno made the transition from linebacker to defensive end. He didn’t get much practice time, however, due to COVID-19. Fuente said he’s really benefitted from Tech and Hamilton having time to install and tinker with the defensive scheme.