August 2, 2016
Array of topics addressed at preseason football news conference
Hokies begin fall practice this Thursday evening
Quotes from 2016 preseason football news conference Quotes from Coach Fuente, Coach Foster and Coach Cornelsen

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech football program held a preseason news conference on Tuesday, involving head coach Justin Fuente, coordinators Bud Foster and Brad Cornelsen, and players Chuck Clark, Augie Conte, Andrew Motuapuaka and Cam Phillips.

The news conference was two days before the Hokies begin August practices in preparation for the 2016 season. As expected, several topics were addressed at the news conference. Below are five of them:

* The second question of the news conference centered on the quarterbacks and the pending quarterback battle. The staff came out of spring practice unsettled on the candidate for the position, with Brenden Motley and Jérod Evans leading a contingent of five candidates.

Fuente didn’t sound like someone worried about settling the situation quickly or else it would become a distraction. Nor did he put a timetable on naming a starter.

“I look forward to seeing how it plays out, but I just don’t feel an imminent rush to judgment because of any external factors,” he said. “I just don’t think that’s the situation we’re in.

“I don’t have a date in mind. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not really trying to hide anything for the first game or anything like that. I believe that we’re going to go out and execute what we’re trying to do with both of those guys. Certainly there are small differences in them, but whenever that comes about, we’ll act on it and move forward. But I haven’t looked at the calendar and said, ‘We have to have something by this date or else.’”

* On several occasions over the past several months, Fuente has mentioned depth across the board as being an issue, and today, the first position that he cited was the receiver spot. A year ago, the Hokies went primarily with Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips as the two receivers, with both of them playing more than 800 snaps.

“Wide receiver would be the first one,” Fuente admitted when asked which positions worried him the most. “We’ve got some young guys in the two-deep that, in order for us to have a chance … As I’ve said before, I think we’re going to have to find some depth across the board to give ourselves a chance to have the success we want to have. So wide receiver would be the first one to come to mind and defensive back would be the second one that comes to mind. Then the linebacker position is a little thin.

“We have adequate depth or personnel at most of the other spots. The defensive line has some younger guys that we feel are a little further along than some of the younger guys at other positions and we have some depth on the offensive line.”

Cornelsen said six receivers would be nice to play at the pace that he and Fuente want to play.

“If you could go into the season with six or eight, that would be ideal,” he said.
“We’ve certainly made it with less and played games and up tempo with less than that. “You take as many as you can get, certainly, but I think six would be a fantastic number.”

* Fuente talked about Deon Newsome’s move to safety – a move that the staff made recently. Newsome saw little action at receiver the past two seasons and the Hokies need some depth at the safety spots.

“We felt like he had a skill set that fit over there,” Fuente said. “He is a physical player. He’s got a little bit of a defensive mentality. He can obviously run. We’ll take a look at that.”

Newsome played in six games last season and did not catch a pass.

• Heights and weights were updated recently, as the players wound down their summer work in the strength and conditioning area and many fans noticed the increase in the size of Tech’s defensive ends.

None of Tech’s defensive ends weigh less than 240 pounds. In fact, all but two of them – redshirt freshman Trevon Hill and true freshman Jimmie Taylor – weigh more than 245 pounds.

Foster hopes that helps against the run this season. Tech finished the 2015 season ranked 75th nationally against the run (180.7 ypg).

“Obviously Ken [Ekanem] is a big kid and is trying to play around 260,” Foster said. “At the other end position, right now, Vinny Mihota is in there [at 264 pounds], but I really like some of the younger guys. Trevon Hill and I’m anxious to see Seth Dooley [who weighs 252 pounds] get back. Those are all guys who are in that 250- or 255-pound range.

“We’re a little bigger than what we had last year with Dadi [Nicolas]. So I’m hoping that will make an impact on our ability to stop the run, which, for us, last year was disappointing, but at the same time, there were a lot of factors that went into that. I’m hoping up front that experience and having some size and athletic ability will help that.”

* Cornelsen came out of spring practice impressed with the versatility of fullback Sam Rogers and tight end/receiver Bucky Hodges. Both of them possess the ability to do many things, including run, catch and block – and they can do them from multiple places on the field. He spent a portion of the summer looking at ways to get even more out of those two this upcoming fall.

“I’m not sure we’ve had two guys like them,” he said. “We’ve had some hybrid-type guys before, but I think those two guys are unique in that sense. It’s fun and the beauty of it is that those are two guys who have played and played at a high level and been consistent. You want them on the field and you want to do as much as you can with them. It does create some problems for a defense, so it’s going to be fun moving those guys around and finding ways to use them and taking advantage of them.”

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter and on Instagram @vthokiefootball Instagram

HokieSports Shop