Hokies focused heading into Coastal clash with Miami; Wiles: ‘We’re playing for something, you know?’
Not a ton of quotes from Sunday’s post-practice interviews with defensive players and coaches. I spent most of my time getting stuff for a Luther Maddy story this week. Nevertheless, here’s a little bit of what everyone had to say.
But first, a scheduling note: because of the Thursday night game, I’m moving the day of the live Virginia Tech chat. The press conference is still taking place Tuesday, so I’m going to try it Monday at 12:30 p.m. I’ll have a link up for it in the morning. I hope everyone can make it. If this time works, we’ll probably try it the following week too.
- Both defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles could sense a focused attitude out of the team coming off the bye. “We’re playing for something, you know?” Wiles said. “As up and down as it’s been, we have a chance to win our division.” Foster thinks despite Tech’s 4-4 record, the Miami matchup still has a big-game feel to it. “It’s as big as any of them as we’ve had when we were 11-1 or 10-2 or whatever,” he said. “Right now, we’re still in the same boat. We can control our own destiny. We’ve been in this game a lot of times, in this position a lot of times over the last several years. And it’s fun to be in this kind of game. That has an impact on our side, so it’s a good time for us.”
- Linebacker Bruce Taylor summed this week up like this: “It’s real now. It’s win or go home for the most part. If we win this game and two more ACC games, we’re at the ACC championship game and could go to the Orange Bowl. Or, we could lose this game and it could be completely out of our hands and it wouldn’t be good for us. So I think guys are starting to realize that and turning it up.” (He’s almost right. Duke, which is 3-2 in the ACC, would need to lose one more game for that scenario to be correct.)
- Foster thinks the defense is playing better but still isn’t where he’d like it to be, citing the big plays the Hokies have allowed. “You can’t be good eight out of 10 times on this level, because that 20 percent of the time is going to get you beat,” he said. “But yeah, I like how we’ve worked. These kids are not satisfied. They’ve know that they’ve got expectations here and they’ve got accountability. I think that’s one thing that I’m seeing more and more is they’re taking ownership. And that’s what needs to be done.”
- The pass rush has come around the last two weeks. The Hokies had 10 sacks against Duke and Clemson after getting only eight the first six games. Getting Maddy healthy at tackle has helped. He’s given them a push up the middle that was lacking. Maddy mentioned that Tech’s line is doing more work on pass-rushing moves at practice, even during scout-team drills that are usually at less than full speed. “I know we’re working hard at our accountability in practice, our effort at practice and our practice habits,” Wiles said. “And I think it’s carrying over to the game. We’re practicing like we’re trying to play.”
- I’ll have plenty more on Maddy in a story this week, but Taylor called him “a hell of a pass rusher. Probably, no lie, the best one we have.” It’s kind of surprising considering he was a two-star recruit coming out of Atlantic High in Delray Beach, Fla., the last player to commit in 2011. He ended up having the biggest impact of any freshman last year, though, starting seven games on Tech’s injury-ravaged line and finishing with 19 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and a sack.
- OK, one last thing on Maddy. He tried to be a tough guy last winter and not wear a jacket around campus. (It helped him that it was a mild winter.) This year, he’s not taking that route. “I have a varsity jacket now,” he said. “That’s all I’ve got right now. I’ve got to go order some stuff off the Internet.” He might want to overnight that order.
- Maddy was a high school teammate of defensive end Dadi Nicolas, who went by Wedley Estime back then. I requested an interview with him Sunday but Tech is still keeping him off-limits after he was arrested and charged with stealing a bike this summer. He got the case resolved and re-joined the team on the eve of the season. He’s come on lately despite scarce playing time, registering two tackles against North Carolina and getting a sack against Duke. Not bad for a guy with a limited football background, having only played one year in high school. “Every time he’s been in the game, he’s made plays,” Wiles said. “You see some of the things he does on video, especially here in the last couple weeks, the explosiveness, how fast he is. I think he is a tremendous talent. Now, is he as football smart as Luther? No. He’s not. He’s a learn-with-reps guy, but he’s probably got more ability.”
- Foster said cornerback Kyle Fuller has not only been dealing with a shoulder issue, but also a groin injury. He got injected with something and was held out of a few practices to get better. “He looks very good to me right now,” Foster said. “He looks healthier than he’s been.”
- Jeron Gouveia-Winslow continues to get work as a backup rover. Foster said Michael Cole has only been working on the nickel package so Tech doesn’t overload the redshirt freshman. “He’s a smart, heady kid that can do it,” Foster said of Gouveia-Winslow, a fifth-year senior. Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner are the starting safeties in the Hokies’ base package.
- I asked Foster about Jarrett’s role against Clemson, where he was up near the line, almost like a linebacker most of the game. He didn’t want to go too much into it. “I don’t want to talk over about it because I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s just a scheme thing we did for Clemson,” Foster said. Jarrett had a team-high nine tackles at Clemson, with one tackle for a loss.
- Gamblers take note: Virginia Tech opened as a 2-point favorite over Miami.