Jackson calmly looking forward to season opener versus West Virginia

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson met with media members at Tuesday’s news conference for the final time before he’ll head out onto the field with his teammates to take on West Virginia on Sunday night at FedExField.

That game will mark Jackson’s collegiate debut. With four days remaining before game day, the redshirt freshman from Ann Arbor, Michigan isn’t showing any signs of anxiety.

“Yeah, I’ll definitely be excited,” he said. “You know, running out of the tunnel and everything like that, but then once that’s done, it’s 11 on 11, and I’ve got to play ball. I’m just going to focus in, do the best I can not to let the environment have any type of effect on me, positive or negative, you know. So just kind of tune into football and just focus on that.”

As for what to expect from the Hokies and Jackson on Sunday night, no one particularly knows. But Jackson exudes a quiet confidence, and his teammates express confidence in him as a leader.

In certain situations with a new quarterback seeing his first game action, an offensive coordinator will play it safe with his play calling. Jackson hopes that isn’t the case Sunday night. He feels confident in running whatever coordinator Brad Cornelsen calls.

“I’m very comfortable with the offense,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to dial anything back.”

Jackson figures to draw inspiration from his father, with whom he maintains a close relationship. Fred Jackson played college football at Jackson State and coached at Michigan from 1992-2014. He now coaches at a high school in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan.

The elder Jackson will coach in a game Friday night and then drive to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to attend the Tech-WVU game. He and Josh’s mom plan to attend every game despite Fred Jackson’s responsibilities as a high school coach.

When asked the keys to winning Sunday night, Josh Jackson sounded like a coach.

“I think the biggest key in the first couple games is obviously just ball security and penalties,” he said. “Making sure we don’t turn the ball over a ton and just staying away from dumb penalties on offense and defense, obviously. So I think that’s two big keys and just taking care of the ball and staying away from penalties, and I think you’ll have a chance.”

Here are some more tidbits from Tuesday:

• Four Virginia Tech players were named to the 2018 Senior Bowl Watch List. CB Brandon Facyson, WR Cam Phillips, CB Greg Stroman and G Wyatt Teller are among players seeking to fill the 55 spots on the South roster for the nation’s premier all-star game. The 2018 Senior Bowl will be played January 27, 2018 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

• Virginia Tech’s coaches and players have spent a lot of time being asked about the rivalry between the Hokies and West Virginia over the past two weeks, but not a lot of time thinking about it. The two schools play in different conferences now and haven’t met since 2005. Only Bud Foster and Charley Wiles on the Hokies’ staff have coached against the Mountaineers and none of Tech’s players obviously have played against WVU. They respect the Mountaineers, but lack any sort of perspective on the history of the rivalry.

“I think this rivalry is different from UVA,” receiver Cam Phillips said. “This one is more for the fans since we haven’t played in it. We haven’t really paid much attention to it since they [Virginia Tech and West Virginia] haven’t played for 12 or 13 years.”

“Like Coach Fuente said, ‘Let’s just do whatever it takes to get out of there with a 1-0 record, and that’s good enough,’” cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell said. “I don’t think our kids are too into the rivalry other than they’re next on the schedule. It’s just let’s go 1-0 this week.”

• Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster recently raved about cornerback Adonis Alexander, who goes into this season opener as a starter. Though extremely talented, Alexander has been a little inconsistent during his first two years, but many expect him to enjoy a big junior season.

“More maturity,” Mitchell said when asked the difference between this fall and last year. “His body has developed to the point where he’s almost 210 pounds, so he’s gotten stronger. Mentally, he’s focused in on playing on corner. He was a kid who had never played corner up until last year. He played more the safety/rover spot the year before I got here. It’s just a matter of repetition and doing the same thing over and over again, and trying to become a master at your position. That’s what he’s trying to do.”

• Virginia Tech’s football staff added James Clark to the program in the offseason, as Clark graduated from Ohio State and decided to spend his final year of eligibility in Blacksburg. Clark enjoyed some success on the football field, but probably drew more raves for his performances as a sprinter on the Buckeyes’ track and field team. He certainly brings an element of speed to the team, but Greg Stroman was rather confident when addressing the question as to who were the fastest players in the program.

“Yes, I’m the fastest guy on the team,” he said nearly before the reporter asked the question, drawing laughter.

Clark figures to getting a lot of time at receiver and also work in as a kick returner. He and Stroman make for a dangerous combination

“He wants to make plays,” Stroman said of Clark. “You can tell when he gets the ball, he’s hitting those seams, and he’s ready to go the distance.”

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