The Virginia Tech coach was busy having all of his receivers catch balls on a JUGS machine, hoping to erase any lingering effects from Saturday’s drop-filled 35-10 loss to Alabama.
“No, it was not optional,” Moorehead said.
The Hokies’ receiving corps had a forgettable opener, saddled with six dropped passes as a final tally, although a few more makeable plays were on the borderline.
Hence the extra catching practice. Moorehead fed ball after ball to a line of receivers at a distance of about 5 to 10 yards. He set the speed at 40 mph.
“Prelim today,” he said, saying they’d do it the rest of the year. “It’s the joy of the JUGS machine.”
The receivers were a big part of quarterback Logan Thomas’ 5-for-26, 59-yard day. In addition to the drops, there were a few poorly run routes. D.J. Coles ran a one-step route instead of three that led to the interception returned for a touchdown by Alabama’s Vinnie Sunseri.
“I thought he played like a guy who hadn’t played football in a year,” Moorehead said.
Demitri Knowles, making his fourth career start, had at least four of Tech’s drops. Moorehead, who felt bad because Knowles had a strong camp, held him out of interviews Tuesday.
“He needs to move forward. Period, end. I didn’t need this for him,” he said, pointing to a gaggle of reporters. “Let me do this. And let a guy, D.J. who has been around here do that. A kid in his first start that didn’t have a good game, I didn’t want that for him. I wanted him to move on and get ready for the next game.”
In his first game as a full-time assistant, Moorehead needed to clear his mind too. He couldn’t believe what was going on as it happened in the Georgia Dome.
“Really, you’re just going, ‘It’s going to stop. It’s going to stop. It’s going to stop. We’re going to get one,’” he said.
But they didn’t get many. Moorehead was so upset that he re-watched the game on the flight home from Atlanta, then tossed and turned that night, unable to sleep.
The first step for Tech’s receivers is rebounding is maintaining Thomas’ trust.
“You tell him, ‘Look, we’re going to make that play next time. Don’t lose faith in us. Continue to come to us, throw the ball to us. We’re going to make that play for you.’” Coles said.
The Hokies get some help this week. Reserve Charley Meyer, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury, is expected to play.
Moorehead didn’t mince words, though. He said everyone, even a veteran like Coles, needs to make plays when the ball is in the air.
“To be honest, if he’s not, we’ll find someone that will,” Moorehead said. “And he’s knows that.”
– When injured cornerback Antone Exum went on the Tech Talk Live radio show Monday night and said he hoped to be back some for the Hokies’ game against Marshall on Sept. 21 and for sure by the Georgia Tech ACC opener Sept. 26, it caught a few people off guard.
“That was news to me,” head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said. “That’s wishful thinking and I applaud his determination, but I don’t think I could quite say that yet.”
Goforth said nothing has changed with Exum’s timetable to return from offseason ACL and microfracture surgery in his knee. The senior will undergo functional tests Wednesday and Goforth will record some of his work on the field and send it to Exum’s surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, who will make a determination about his future.
Exum has a return appointment with Andrews somewhere from Oct. 5 to 13, but Goforth said if he does well enough in Wednesday’s tests, they could move that up.
– In other injury news, reserve offensive lineman Mark Shuman, who had his knee scoped 2½ weeks ago, should be ready to play this week. Tech could have used him in an emergency last week.
Running back J.C. Coleman, who missed the opener with a high left ankle sprain, is dealing with some plantar fasciitis in his right foot, but Goforth was optimistic he’ll play Saturday against Western Carolina.
Tight end Ryan Malleck, meanwhile, is seeking a second opinion on his injured shoulder. He’s still out for the year, but he’s still not sure what route he’ll take with regards to surgery.
– Meyer has now had issues with both hamstrings in the last month. The latest one kept him out of action Saturday, even though he traveled. He practiced full Tuesday, though.
“It’s very unusual,” said Meyer, whose only real sports injury was a fractured elbow in high school. “I’ve never had to deal with any of this in my life. I’ve had to deal with little strains and stuff before, things I can play through. But this was totally different. It was definitely frustrating.”
– Quote of the day was from Moorehead about fullback Sam Rogers, who, despite not being a receiver, stayed after practice with them catching balls on the JUGS machine.
“Sam Rogers will be anywhere where there’s work to be done, I can promise you,” Moorehead said. “I hope that everybody on our team notices that. And for a guy who is a freshman, a walk-on, he’s a heck of an example for the rest of the guys on the team about work ethic and dedication.
“You’ve got to love what that kid has brought to our team. He’s going to be a great football player for us this year and he’s going to be a heck of a player moving on in the future. I’m glad he was out there, because it shows the receivers that it doesn’t matter what’s going on. As long as you’re working, good things are going to happen.”
– Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes came away pleased with how his team played in the opener. The line paved the way for 153 rushing yards and kept Thomas upright for most of the game, even though Alabama put on some pressure.
“To be honest with you, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Grimes said. “I thought they would compete. We had a couple guys in there that hadn’t played a whole lot, had a couple guys at positions for the first time. Then on top of that, we had to use our silent cadence, which can be very unnerving.
“But I thought they handled it pretty well, for the most part,” he said, adding that communication could have been better.
– Right tackle Laurence Gibson said he went into “survival mode” and got away from his technique Saturday.
“Like, I’m not going to take the right footwork,” Gibson explained. “I’m just going to go hit that guy. I don’t want him to beat me, so I’m just going to get to him as fast as I can versus taking the right footwork, even though it might be slower.”
Grimes agreed, thinking some first-start jitters might have gotten to Gibson.
“He’s a guy who has been around for a while but hasn’t played a lot of football,” Grimes said. “So for him, it’s not any different from a freshman playing. I think he’ll learn from it and get better because of it.”
– Grimes didn’t see any nervousness in left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin, a true freshman starting in his first college game.
“I thought Jon did a good job in terms of being competitive, being confident,” Grimes said. “I grabbed him before he left the hotel and I said, ‘Hey, how are you doing, buddy? Are you nervous?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m really not.’ … I don’t think he ever showed any signs of that. He just has a natural competitive fire in him and he’s the kind of guy who is going to play at his best when the pressure is on.”
– Defensive line coach Charley Wiles intended on putting his inexperienced backup tackles in the game in pieces, pairing them with at least one veteran. But he changed his plan when Tech’s defense had been on the field for eight plays of an 11-play drive and substituted in the second group wholesale.
“The situation that it was, they were tired, and [Alabama] ultimately got it in the end zone on that drive,” Wiles said. “But other than that, the substitution was pretty good. We were getting off the field. That was a good thing.”
– Cornerback Kyle Fuller said he was a little woozy after making a tackle of an Alabama player in the second quarter, when his head hit the ballcarrier’s thigh. The trainers treated him for a concussion on the sideline. He was a little blurry at first and was held out one drive but checked out.
“Eventually, I kind of got my bearings back and was good,” said Fuller, who went on to finish with four tackles, two pass breakups and an interception.
– Tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring finally got on Twitter last weekend (@BryanStiney). He said the other assistants had been “killing” him about not being on there. The 49-year-old assistant cops to not being the most technologically advanced guy.
“It took me forever to get on Facebook,” he said. “Social media isn’t one of the things that I wake up and have a burning desire to get involved in.”
But the recruiting value of Twitter is too much these days not to be on there. To wit: one of Stinespring’s first follows was Ocean Lakes defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, a top Tech target.
Someone joked that he’s not following any of us Virginia Tech beat hacks.
“Listen, I’m a novice at the deal,” Stinespring said, drawing some laughs. “You better at least send me something so I know you’re out there, because I don’t know this ‘discover’ and ‘recommendation of friends’ and all that. Look it, I’m scared to death. I’ve tweeted three times.”
Daily Press reporter Norm Wood made the comment that it’s probably safer to get on Twitter now that he’s no longer the offensive coordinator.
“That’s your statement,” Stinespring said as a good-natured response. “No, I’m just teasing. Thank you, Sherlock Holmes.”