Virginia Tech’s game against Old Dominion last weekend didn’t go quite as the Hokies had planned, but the team is ready to move on and face the new challenge that lies ahead in the Duke Blue Devils. Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster took to the podium on Tuesday along with other coaches and players to talk about the week of practice they’re having leading up to the Duke game. Here are some notes from that press conference.
Disciplined defense is a must
The Virginia Tech defense struggled mightily in the 49-35 loss to ODU on Saturday. The Hokies gave up 631 yards of offense to the Monarchs and their backup quarterback. Foster spoke on the way the defense played, saying that they made some mental mistakes throughout the game.
“Instead of pulling together sometimes, we became undisciplined,” Foster said. “That’s not who we are and who we’ve been over the years.”
While the defensive performance was uncharacteristic of the Hokies, Foster is using it as a learning experience and a way to improve things going forward.
“We can move forward. We can learn from it. That’s what we’re going to do hopefully,” Foster said.
The Hokies’ long-time defensive coordinator said that his group has already started to turn things around since the weekend. When asked how the defense had responded, he said he would be able to see more during practice on Tuesday.
“I thought we had a good meeting on Sunday. Obviously there was disappointment. Obviously there was a lesson learned with a lot of young guys that you don’t take things for granted,” Foster said.
Duke is a respected opponent
The Hokies’ opponent this week is No. 22 Duke, who is currently 4-0 on the season. Virginia Tech has won the last two meetings against the Blue Devils, but as Foster says, head coach David Cutcliffe does a good job of preparing his team.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for David Cutcliffe and whenever we play I think they’re the best-coached team that we play,” Foster said.
Foster spoke on Duke’s talent level this year, heaping praise on their quarterback and the RPO offense that they run, adding that they have some dynamic players at the wide receiver position as well.
“They’ve beaten some really good teams and they’re extremely talented,” Foster said.
Duke is currently averaging 37.5 points per game and its offense has garnered 427 yards per game on its way to an undefeated start.
“I think this is really one of the better Duke teams we’ve seen and I think it’s a really, really good football team,” Foster said.
Willis excited for start despite circumstances
With Josh Jackson out indefinitely with a broken fibula, backup Ryan Willis will be the starter for the foreseeable future. Willis has experience, starting eight games during his freshman year at Kansas. As he gets ready for his first start in a Hokies uniform, he’s ready to see more playing time.
“I’m really excited. Kind of stinks how it happened. Prayers up for Josh, speedy recovery. Great guy, very unfortunate incident,” Willis said. “As the next man up, got to be ready to go. Gotta get prepared for Duke and go 1-0 this week.”
Willis thinks having that experience at Kansas will help him as he takes over the Hokies’ offense this season. In his time with the Jayhawks he set a freshman record with 1,719 yards and threw for nine touchdowns.
“Having game experience gets me a little more excited to get back on the field,” Willis said. “I’m confident in going out there. Coach is going to have us prepared and I think we’re going to have a good game plan going into it.”
Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen praised Willis ahead of his first start with the team, saying that he’s not all that different from Jackson.
“He’s not much different in the skill set than Josh is. Those guys have been taking the majority of the reps with the 1s and the 2s for a while,” Cornelsen said. “We’ve got confidence in him to come in and continue to do what we’re doing on offense.”
Cornelsen wasn’t alone in his praise of Willis. Running back Steven People seemed confident in Willis, saying that he’s not worried about having the backup take the reins for the offense.
“We’re all disappointed about Josh, but we’re excited to see what Ryan can do. He’s made some plays in practice so I’m ready to see what he can do when he steps up to the challenge.”
Peoples went on to agree with Cornelsen that Willis and Jackson are similar quarterbacks, saying that they can both run and throw the ball well
Emmanuel Belmar embraces bigger role with team
With the dismissal of defensive lineman Trevon Hill, some players will have to step up and fill that role on the defense. One of those players is redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Belmar, who has seen action in all three games this season and made two tackles on Saturday against ODU.
“It really is exciting. It’s unfortunate how Trevon had to go. It’s kind of just a big step for me, to step up as a starter, and prove what I can do, show them what I can do,” Belmar said.
As he prepares to step up for the Hokies, he reflected on how he’s improved his game over the summer since playing in the spring game.
“I’d say knowledge and the scheme, just learning the backfield sets, looking at certain stances, just putting everything together, down and distance, just everything just starts clicking at the same time,” Belmar said.
Belmar is not worried about his ability either as he begins to see more playing time. He said he takes every practice as a chance to get better and work harder, and as a result of that he feels good going into this weekend’s game.
“I don’t feel no pressure at all. I’m confident in what I do,” Belmar said.
- Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, who currently stays in the press box during games and communicates to players via phone, said he is contemplating a move to the sidelines. Mitchell talked about the lack of communication on Saturday and said that being up in the box makes it tough to improve on that aspect.
- Foster said that he expects defensive back Divine Deablo to return for this weekend’s game. Deablo played in the first two games of the season but did not travel with the team for the Old Dominion game.
- Ryan Willis has been family friends with special teams coach James Shibest for some time now. Willis said that he went to a Kansas City Royals game with the coach when he was younger, and that Shibest and his dad are good friends.
- Willis spoke a bit on other schools that he could have played at after leaving Kansas, but ultimately said, “I’m here now and that’s all that matters.”
- Steven Peoples, who had a career game on Saturday, said that he was disappointed in the loss even though he played so well. Peoples ran the ball 20 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
- Virginia Tech will kick off against Duke at 7 p.m. this Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.