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Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente met with the media Wednesday afternoon. Here's what the head Hokie had to say.
"For those of you who weren’t on the conference call this morning, I do want to just take a minute and thank everyone that has reached out with support and condolences to Sean [Savoy] and his family. Obviously, he lost his brother [Omar Rogers] this week. It’s tough when young people have to deal with very adult situations.
"It’s really nice to know that there is a lot of people that aren’t in our football building, either players or coaches that are also there for Sean. I think his teammates have been fantastic for him so far, the coaching staff is there for him. I’m in constant communication with Sean and his family and encouraging him to be strong for his family and take care of all the things that he needs to take care of, obviously football is way down the list. I’m confident that Sean will take care of his responsibilities and then return back to his teammates, back to school and be ready to move forward.”
It sounds like you gave the veteran guys a break on the bye week, is that something that you typically do?
"I usually try to evaluate it each season and try to make the best plan. I probably have leaned towards putting everybody out there and practicing with an emphasis on young guys. I just felt like with the extended camp this year with some of our veterans who have been multi-year starters, I just felt like giving them a day off, really focusing purely on everybody else that is either redshirting or playing limited snaps. I thought they needed a full day all to themselves.
"It was fun to see them practicing without their normal leaders, without the [linebacker Andrew] Motuapuakas and the [offensive lineman Eric] Gallos and the guys that have played a lot of snaps and they responded and had a good day’s work."
Do you throw the same things at the young guys as you would the older just to see how they would handle it?
"Yeah, it’s the same. Obviously the package, both offensively and defensively was not as expansive as it would be with the older players in there but we ran some base stuff. We ran some base coverages and some base offensive plays and we expect them to execute it at a high level. We put our third and fourth group of punt guys out there and went and repped those guys because some of those guys are playing. Dylan Rivers played last week on the punt unit in crucial situations."
What did you see from those guys in that practice?
"They got tired quickly. It was warm out there and it was a few more reps than they are used to getting. That was for them to be kind of snapped into reality a little about what it takes to play multiple snaps. The thing I liked the most is that they go out there and compete. They didn’t view it as a punishment, they very easily could have viewed it as punishment. ‘Oh coach, is being harsh on the young guys, or the new guys.’ I didn’t want them to approach it that way, I wanted them to embrace the challenge of going out there and having their own practice, their own individual attention.
"I kind of likened it to back when I was playing, we had freshman two-a-days. When you go to freshman two-a-days you’re the only one that gets the reps. You’re the only quarterback or you’re the only two receivers and you just do reps until you can’t throw the ball any more. Then when the varsity shows up, you don’t get any reps. You always wonder, I complained about getting all these reps and then the varsity shows up and I don’t get any. It was kind of their freshman two-a-days so to speak. It was their chance to get a bunch of reps and kind of get back in the flow."
What do you see from Ricky Walker off the field that makes him so unique or so special?
"First of all his work ethic is unmatched on the team. He loves football, or at least that’s what we all perceive based on how he works. Whether its in the offseason in the weight room or at practice, he goes 100 percent every single day. He sets a good example from that standpoint. He is assignment sound and physically tough. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s a heady, smart football player.
"He knows when other people are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and he’s embraced the roles as a leader. Sometimes opportunities come about and people struggle taking hold of it because they can’t do it within their own personalities. Ricky has seized the opportunity, seemingly to me as if it’s very natural to him. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I know when presented with the challenge of leadership, and taking control, based on the conversation we had right before the last game of last year, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a conversation and seen a person take it to heart the way that Ricky has. Immediately from the first day that we reported back, if you were to watch our very first workout, you would’ve said ‘Ricky Walker’ from the very first day and I think that’s very special."
Why did you single out Walker as the guy to be a leader on this team?
"I’m not going to take credit for Ricky, this is Ricky: he’s doing it. I just felt like he was the type of guy, I don’t know. I identified him as being that type of person. Sometimes we identify those people and we find out that it was another guy that we would’ve never guessed. I think he displayed some of those attributes, you know the season prior.”
How does his work ethic manifest itself?
"Yeah I think there’s an element of that, there’s also an element of being able to tell when guys are just trying to finish. There’s an element of, one of the things that we talk about in the offseason particularly is as much as we talk about a workman like team and that sort of stuff, we don’t want to just punch in and punch out. We’ve got to be where our feet are. We’ve got to go try and dominate the current rep, not save ourselves for the next rep or worry about what’s going to happen in 30 minutes, do the best that we can in the current rep that we are taking. Again, it goes back to part of our 1-0 deal, but Ricky has the discipline to do that. To do whatever he is currently doing at the moment as hard as he absolutely can. Then, when he is asked to do the next thing, do that as hard as he absolutely can."
With Cam Philips and C.J. Carroll injured, how comfortable are you with those backup receivers at this point?
"Well when you think about an already thin position group that has been down Caleb Farley from the very start, Phil Patterson and now dealing with Cam and C.J. and James [Clark] is in and out dealing with his deal. It puts some strain on some young players and they’ve got to feel the urgency, not the pressure but the urgency to go out there and perform. Everybody is dealing with those situations, I’m certainly not complaining about them, I’m absolutely not. There’s a lot of people a lot worse off, but that’s the challenge for us. We want it be as efficient as possible with the guys we’ve got left in there and get them to play well and try to play to their strengths with still a young quarterback in there. How comfortable do I feel? It’s an ongoing process. I don’t know if I can give you a number but I like the way the kids are approaching it, going about their work but it certainly presents some challenges."