July 20, 2015
Hokies discuss Ohio State, many other topics at #ACCKickoff
ACC Commissioner John Swofford also talks about state of the league

PINEHURST, N.C. – The Virginia Tech football program stunned the college football world last September when the Hokies rolled into Columbus, Ohio, and stunned then-No. 8 Ohio State in front of the largest home crowd ever to witness a Buckeye football game.

As a result of the upset and because the Hokies open the season against the defending national champions in a Labor Day night game at Lane Stadium, Kendall Fuller and Michael Brewer fielded their share of questions on the Buckeyes at the #ACCKickoff being held at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Of course, today also saw news break from Blacksburg that the university planned on cancelling class on Labor Day to celebrate a national holiday. This gives students ample tailgating time in preparation for the game.

“I don’t think it would have mattered,” Fuller said. “I don’t think anyone is going to class anyway.”

“That’s probably true,” Brewer agreed. “Regardless, class or no class, it’s going to be a great environment. Fans are excited about it. We’re excited about it. It’s good for college football. You’ve got the defending national champions coming into a historically great place to play, ‘Enter Sandman,’ Frank Beamer, Urban Meyer … it’s awesome. I grew up watching stuff like this.”

The Hokies would like to see this year’s game go the way last year’s did. Tech jumped out to a lead in last year’s game and never trailed. Ohio State tied things at 21 in the fourth quarter, but Tech put together arguably its most impressive drive of the year after that OSU score.

The Hokies went 65 yards in six plays and finished it when Brewer threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bucky Hodges with 8:44 remaining.

“Things kind of clicked,” Brewer said. “We made plays when they presented themselves. I think it helped they didn’t have a lot of film of what we were doing. The year before Logan [Thomas], it was more power run game and running the quarterback a lot. We came in and were more spread attack. We were able to make enough plays to get it done.”

Tech then sealed the game in the waning moments when Donovan Riley returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown – one of three Hokie interceptions in the game.

Ohio State obviously bounced back from that loss rather nicely, running the table en route to the national championship. The Buckeyes return a lot of pieces from that team, including three good quarterbacks, a great running back and defensive end Joey Bosa, one of the best in the nation.

“We know what we’re up against,” Brewer said. “They’re a lot better than when we played them last year. But we’re a lot better than when we played them. We’re excited about it. We think we that we’ve got a defense that can keep us in the game against anyone. As long as we can protect the football and make plays when they present themselves, we think we’ve got a chance against anybody.”

More will be written about this game in the coming days, including Tuesday when media members get to interview Tech head coach Frank Beamer.

As for the rest of the news coming out of #ACCKickoff, here are a few notes from the day:

ACC Commissioner John Swofford gave his annual state of the league address – aka Commissioner’s Forum – and took questions related to a wide variety of topics. Most of this was covered in our #ACCKickoff blog at http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/20150719aaa.html.

But one thing not mentioned there were Swofford’s thoughts on the hugely successful College Football Playoff. There is a movement to get eight teams involved in that instead of four, but Swofford said that wasn’t on the horizon – at least for now.

“I’m thrilled at four, and I think it’s where we’ll be through the duration of this contract,” he said. “I think it’s where we should be because it fits the parameters that the presidents have given us for a playoff. There are two bookends – they [the presidents] don’t want the playoff during exams and they don’t want college football to become a two-semester sport. They don’t want to go any deeper into January. Let me emphasize that I like the four, and I think that’s where we’ll be in the next 11 years – and I think it’s great.

“In a perfect world, if you only want to talk about football and only about playoffs and what would be best, then eight would probably be better. In my mind, you’d have the five major conference champions and the three at-large. But right now, that’s not in the cards. You’d have to look at playing fewer games before then. You’d have to eliminate conference championship games or play 11 regular-season games instead of 12. It’s probably doable. You’d have to adjust some television contracts. Maybe down the road, maybe that’s something that this evolves into.”

• Swofford also talked about some of the off-the-field issues concerning certain schools within the league, particularly at Florida State. He said the league has taken the stance that those matters are left to be addressed by the individual institutions themselves and the league won’t necessarily get involved.

“Our approach, so far, and I don’t see this changing is that we have a lot of confidence in our institutions to handle their situations when they occur appropriately,” he said. “Nobody feels any more strongly than me and others in our league about how inappropriate domestic violence is and it needs to be addressed head on and strongly. But we as a conference are not trying to be ‘big brother’ in that respect. Our institutions, not just with athletes, have appropriate mechanisms on their campus to address situations. If I felt that weren’t the case, I’d pick up the phone and have a conversation, but those situations are the purview of the institutions.”

• The student-athletes got several questions related to cost of attendance, a new measure implemented by the NCAA that allows schools to hand out money to scholarship athletes to cover miscellaneous expenses. The student-athletes obviously like the idea of having more money in their pockets, but they also like the idea because they’ve seen some of their teammates struggling.

“I think there will be a comfort level for some guys,” Fuller said. “A lot of guys may be struggling. I think 99.9 percent of those guys will spend it on food.

“I think they’re [the NCAA] making big steps to help athletes. A lot of guys are excited to be having money on their pocket. You pay your rent, your utilities, your gas, and a lot of guys, after that, they’ve really got to watch how they spend their money. Some guys are fortunate that they can call their parents or family members and get extra money, but a lot of guys aren’t in that situation. So to be able to have that [the money] and not have that stress will help them out.”

Coaches, though, do not like the concept because the amounts differ for each school, and they fear a bidding war for recruits. They think this will influence recruits’ decisions.

“In the corrupt world we live in, it probably does,” Fuller admitted. “Should it? No. But at the end of the day, that’s just the world we live in and a lot of guys are going to chase the money.”

• The players probably did more than 100 interviews throughout the day, but the best one came when they interviewed themselves during a session with newspaper reporters. It was a rather impromptu interview.

“Do you like going up against Kendall Fuller every day in practice?” Fuller asked Brewer.

“I’ve answered that, like, five times today,” Brewer said.

“They didn’t hear,” Fuller said.

“I said, ‘No, but it does make us better,’” Brewer said.

“If Kendall Fuller played quarterback, could you pick him off?” Fuller asked.

“And I played DB? Yes. 100 percent,” Brewer answered. “You couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.”

“I’m going to have to show you my Pop Warner film,” Fuller said.

“This is how it goes all day long,” Brewer told reporters.

• One area of concern with the Hokies is depth at wide receiver, where the only proven entities are Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. Brewer told reporters that he hoped to see at least two more receivers emerge once August practices begin. He spoke highly of Demitri Knowles’ chances at becoming more of a threat this season. After catching 45 passes as a redshirt sophomore, Knowles caught just three last season.

“We need at least two more guys to step up, and hopefully he’s one of them,” Brewer said. “He’s got the most experienced of those guys playing backup roles, and we feel he can help us out a lot. He’s a down-the-field threat with his speed. He’s just got to go out and perform in camp, and I’m sure he will. We’ll see how it goes.”

• Brewer told reporters that he was impressed with quarterback Dwayne Lawson, the talented freshman from Tampa, Florida. Lawson, a 6-foot-6, 207-pound dual-threat QB, threw for 2,444 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 867 yards and 17 scores as a senior. Many recruiting services ranked him among the top-10 dual-threat quarterback recruits in the country.

“The kid’s got a lot of talent,” Brewer said. “He’s got a good arm. He’s athletic. He’s just like any freshman. He’s got to learn it. It’s not easy to learn. It wasn’t easy for me to learn coming from three years of playing. It’s got to be consistent with it and not get frustrated. It takes time and it takes repetition. He’ll be all right.”

• Brewer has spent this summer doing everything he can to prepare himself for the upcoming season. In fact, he only took a few days off over the July 4th holiday to do some fishing. Other than that, he spent his time in Blacksburg working out, watching film, and throwing to his receivers.

The fishing trip turned out to be fruitful – he caught a 150-pound tarpon while fishing in the Florida Keys with his dad.

“I went to Islamorada,” Brewer said. “My dad and I always wanted to catch a tarpon. We went down there, and on July 4, I caught a 150-pound tarpon. It was awesome. It took an hour and a half to get it to the boat. It’s illegal to bring it into the boat. It’s such a trophy fish. I held it by the mouth and took a picture. It was pretty cool.”

Brewer said he had no problem being in town this summer as opposed to taking several vacations with his family.

“I’m fine with that,” he said. “This is the last go-round, and I think we’ve got a chance to have a good football team. I want to maximize the possibilities.”

• Speaking of summer hobbies, Fuller has used this summer to lube up his bowling game. Many of Tech’s players bowl as a hobby, and Fuller talked about his game.

“I’ve got to hit 250 soon,” Fuller said. “I’m at 224. I’ve got my own ball and my own shoes. I don’t do the glove. That’s not my swag.”

Several members of the team went the other day, and Fuller said he came out on top.

Matt Hill was pretty good,” he said. “Out of two games, we tied, and then we played a third game for the tiebreaker. I had to show him who the champ was.”

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