The regular Virginia Tech Press/Media Corps is a pretty small group, and when it comes to a chance to get together to compare notes, say hello before the season starts, and then get some straight information from the coaches.
The morning started out with a very healthy early lunch in the Student-Athlete Performance Center. The view from the balcony is of the practice fields, and the back side of the North End Zone. So, it can be a little bit of an inspiration. It’s one of those personal things, there are several former Tech students in the group of reporters, writers, cameramen, and photographers. It’s a real Hokie Bucket List kind of item, but the big observation from those of us who cover the entire range of sports from football all the way to the end of baseball season, is that it’s really hard to believe we are already back at it, again.
Some folks were talking about vacations, and trips to relatives. Others were just comparing notes or sitting quietly alone eating healthy food. At any rate, it was a greatly appreciated hour with our collogues and the communications staff. We all really appreciate it greatly and can’t thank Travis Wells and the coaching staff for doing this and opening up the preseason to the media. It really hasn’t been a regular feature, recently, so it’s a nice change of pace.
Due to scheduling issues, we could only stay until the end of Coach Pry’s Q and A session, but we did get some pictures, and even got the final question in on the session, regarding the Cornerback situation. The funny thing is that nobody asked the proverbial $64,000 question with no answer about the Quarterback situation. That was actually welcomed because there are other things that we needed to hear from the coach about, and one more go-round on the situation behind center wasn’t going to get the situation clarified.
The New Standards for the Team This Season
Everyone who’s ever been on a team knows that the coaching staff always comes up with a motivational theme to keep the players concentrating on the job of coming together to form a cohesive group that does its absolute best. This year there is a sign, painted on either side of the Team room, that serves as a reminder of what the coaching staff expects the players (and the staff, too) to do to make the organization better.
Coach Brent Pry
Pry explains his fundamentals in the opening portion of his press conference. The general summary of which is that the big change for the practice schedules this season are a new-ish concept where the team practices where they work 3 days and then do classroom work: film study, technique reviews, critiques, honest conversations.
That goes as the #2 item in the Pry 2023 Fundamentals list which is communication. You’ll notice in Pry’s presser he put a special emphasis on “honest conversations”. That means, in plain English, that he isn’t sparing the horses and coddling the superstars. You get the feeling that with Pry, he is a nice guy, and when it comes to the “coaching thing”, he’s a straight up ramrod. There are lots of livelihoods and futures resting on the shoulders of not only the coaching staff, but the players, and Coach isn’t mincing words.
There is a certain amount of raw honesty when coaches use phases like “building the program from the ground up.” As you can see, he addresses some controversial topics like the NIL deals and recruiting head on. He’s justifiably proud of the success in getting back to recruiting in Virginia and is realistic about the competition for talent, here.
What struck me in his introduction was the phrase “...return to respectability...” That is an interesting primary takeaway from this entire preseason. Obviously (in my opinion for what it’s worth) this team had dropped far in that category, and it’s going to take patience and focus to get back to a level where opponents fear showing up at Lane Stadium, again. This staff is building a completely new program to answer that call.
OC Tyler Bowen
Bowen used the term “Power Spread” for the type of offense he’s planning on running. We’ll have to look at the design and theory of the concept so stay tuned. The primary concern that popped up right away a major concentration is Bowen’s notice that the offense was just not good in the red zone. Whether or not running the ball better inside the 20 is debatable but doing anything better instead of suddenly getting to the 20-15 and then tanking two runs up the middle and then throwing a screen short of the line to gain is not an effective offense.
The run game seemed to be the most asked about and Bowen did work to make sure that some of the onus was put on getting things to work with the offensive line’s capabilities. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be there, because that was my primary question for Coach Bowen. There were a couple of mentions of Kaden Moore at Center being a standout and a good move, but nobody pushed to find out how the coaches were feeling about the depth developing at the other positions. Kaden Moore is a good football player, but he’s not the only blocker on the field.
DC Chris Marve
Keyshawn Burgos being mentioned highly at a defensive end position is really an important note. DE has been a Defensive Line concern, and a note that someone who is young is also getting serious notice. When it comes to depth Burgos is a candidate for low numbers. The detail in Marve’s answers shows something very interesting, and something to take serious notice in. This man is detail oriented, and those details are a catalogue right at hand in his brain, and on demand. The defense wasn’t fundamentally a worry last season. Its weakness was in the time spent on the field. If Bowen can get the offense rolling and crossing the lines to gain and the goal line, it’s going to be tonic for the Tech defense.
No Hokie Football fan is going to have too much to worry about with Coach Marve running that side of the line of scrimmage.
STC Stu Holt
It’s Virginia Tech, and that means someone needs to take Special Teams seriously. Holt was pretty straight forward, the Specialist role is often a shared one in the line functions but the long snapper, punter, place kicker, and some returners are truly specialists. Cole Beck has attracted some serious attention as both a returner and a gunner on punts and kickoffs. There is a punter competition which is good, because Peter Moore needed some competition. The coach mentioned that he was a bit unhappy with his performance last season, and the competition of good 2s and 3s, can really make a difference in focus. The long snapping position was also an obvious factor in 2022. After four solid years of Oscar Shadley, it was necessary to train and transition in a long-snapper with precision in getting the ball to the punter or holder. Moving Coach Holt out of the running back room and into the TE and Special Teams roles will get a serious evaluation this season. It was good to see positive informational and structural momentum in a room that took a step back last season. Beamerball belongs in Blacksburg as a core value. Let’s hope Coach Holt can stir that desire up into reality.
There will be more opportunities to get over to the practice facility and interact with the program. As we get the chance to get some time arranged, we’ll be heading over there to get some pictures (limited because the team is still developing skills, learning plays, and working out details that no coach is going to want the opposition seeing.
It was a great afternoon, and many thanks go out to Travis Wells and staff for the opportunity.