Since we media types get to talk to both defensive coordinator Bud Foster and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler each week at this time, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to get the information out there to you, the readers.
Instead of just going with a strict practice report blog post like I’ve been doing, and because both coordinators usually cover quite a bit of ground in this set of interviews, I think I’m going to try something different this week and we’ll see how it works.
I’ll pick out five takeaways from talking to each coordinator and elaborate a little bit. If you like it, leave a comment. If you don’t, also leave a comment. We’ll see if this sticks.
1. Foster doesn’t want his defense being too satisfied with itself. He’s acutely aware of what happened last year, when the Hokies looked every bit the part of an elite defense against Georgia Tech in the opener, only to, as Foster put it, “fall off the face of the planet.”
“I don’t know if we thought we arrived and could just go out and do it again,” Foster said. “But I see a different leadership. I see a different mentality. Now I’ve got to go see that on game day. But I’ve seen it in practice. …
“I told them today, our motto defensively is punch the clock and go start to finish. We just started. Are we going to play that way every week? I mean, no. We’re going to play good people. But I expect that same effort. I expect that same motor. All those things. And if we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
2. He’s all on board with using veterans on special teams. A couple defensive players said it was Foster’s speech after the game that convinced them to go to Frank Beamer to volunteer to be on more special teams units after last Saturday’s ugliness.
Foster said all sorts of other teams do it, so it shouldn’t be unusual for Virginia Tech.
“A lot of those guys have played teams before,” Foster said. “I know this. When I played, it goes by fast. And if you got an opportunity to do special things, why not be a part of that and make it happen? That’s kind of where I just talked to coach about it. I think we as a staff talked about that and mentioned that to our players. And I think they bought into it.”
3. Linebacker Tariq Edwards answered some questions Foster had. Foster wondered what the senior would look like after returning from a lost year because of knee/leg injuries. Foster said he had to “knock the rust off” early and missed a tackle on a spin move, but otherwise acquitted himself well, finishing with six tackles, 1.5 TFLs and two pass breakups.
“It was good to have him back out there and having some production and making some plays,” Foster said.
Foster told Beamer’s website that Edwards and Jack Tyler (8 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1 sack) had the two highest point totals when the Hokies graded the game.
4. Foster thinks cornerback Kyle Fuller is playing with a chip on his shoulder. Save for the long touchdown pass, Foster was very complimentary of all of his defensive backs Saturday, singling out Fuller and safety Detrick Bonner for their coverage.
It’s Fuller that was more visible, though, finishing with four tackles, two pass breakups and an interception. It comes on the heels of an injury-riddled 2012.
“That was what hurt him: he was banged up so much that he didn’t practice enough to develop his consistency and the skill set that he needed to play at corner,” Foster said. “Playing that nickel, you don’t have to be as sharp, per se. You’ve got to be on as a corner. Any little mistake will get you beat.”
5. The backup tackles held their own. Foster called that his biggest concern heading into Saturday, how the backups to Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy would fare. But Nigel Williams (3 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1 sack) and Woody Baron (1 tackle) held their own.
“They’re going to get better hopefully as the more reps they get,” Foster said. “Experience is the best teacher. So we’re hoping they’ll continue to grow and get better.”
Foster thinks this defense has a good mix of older guys with experience and young guys that are “hungry and want to be a part of it and pushing guys.”
1. Like he said on Tech Talk Live, he didn’t think quarterback Logan Thomas played terrible. Loeffler framed his remarks about Thomas by saying that the passing game is a combination of a lot of things (protection, routes, throws), so he’s not putting all of that 5-for-26 on his quarterback’s shoulders.
He did say Tech has put a “major emphasis” on checkdowns this week, adding that Thomas had four easy checkdowns that he missed against Alabama that could have gone for some good yardage.
“It’s his job to run the team,” Loeffler said. “And things go bad, things go good, he’s got to be consistent. And I want a high-energy guy, regardless of the outcome. And if he was 18 of 21, he better come out here with a ton of juice, a ton of energy to improve. Obviously with the situation that we had, he better come out and motivate and run the team like a senior should run the team.”
2. Tight end Ryan Malleck was a big loss. Loeffler said the Hokies “had a great game plan” to throw the ball to Malleck, who was ruled out for the year last Thursday with a shoulder injury. He went as far as to call Malleck one of the team’s best players.
Now, Duan Perez-Means and Darius Redman sound like the next two in line for playing time, at least from what tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring said Tuesday, with Zack McCray behind them. None are as versatile as Malleck, though.
“Obviously we’ve got to find some other ways to do things,” Loeffler said.
3. He picked up the triple option Tech used Saturday during his time at Florida. It’s certainly not a Michigan thing. Loeffler likes the multiplicity the play gives the Hokies, with the quarterback having a read key and a pitch key.
He was bound and determined to show it early, which is why Tech ran it on 3rd-and-12 on the first drive, trying to keep Alabama’s blitz scheme at bay.
“The multiplicity of their blitz package was off the charts,” Loeffler said. “They are a blitz organization, and any time you run triple option when blitzes are occurring, they have to make a decision. So we were trying to set a tone to the defense to get them out of certain blitzes early in the game.”
It opened up the run game. Trey Edmunds‘ 77-yard touchdown run came from that play. Tech made it look like it would run outside, then handed it to Edmunds, who ran virtually untouched up the middle.
4. Charley Meyer should be back to provide some help at receiver. Loeffler didn’t know for sure if the redshirt freshman would be over his hamstring issues, but he thinks he’ll be ready. Meyer has a reputation for behind a guy with goods hands, something Tech could use right now.
“He’s a very disciplined guy who gets to his spot and catches the ball,” Loeffler said.
5. He can at least exhale now that he’s got some running backs to work with. Redshirt freshman Joel Caleb is back from a one-game suspension and sophomore J.C. Coleman should be back from an ankle injury, giving Tech options. Is there a role for everybody?
“Absolutely,” Loeffler said. “I want them back as fast as we can get them back.”
Loeffler said 20 carries is ideal for Edmunds, who ran for 132 yards in his debut. But he think the Hokies can work in Caleb, Coleman and Chris Mangus, particularly when the passing game is involved.
Loeffler sounds eager to see what Caleb can do. He said moving him from receiver to running back “was one of the smartest things we’ve done. I think that’s his position, in every sense of the word.”