After Saturday night’s loss to Clemson, Virginia Tech is moving on to another Saturday night game, this time on the road at Boston College. Justin Fuente spoke to the media today after what he said was a “good workout” for the Hokies yesterday.
Here’s a look at some notes from today’s press conference.
Fuente “Absolutely Concerned” About Joey Slye’s Field Goal Kicking
Joey Slye has not looked like himself during Virginia Tech’s first four games and that continued Saturday night as he went 1-for-2 on his field goal attempts, missing a 45-yard field goal and making a 43-yard field goal. Now Slye hasn’t always been known for great long-range accuracy, but when Justin Fuente was asked about whether he was concerned about Slye’s field goal kicking, this is what he had to say.
Fuente: "Absolutely concerned about it" on Joey Slye's kicking struggles #Hokies
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) October 2, 2017
There’s definitely plenty of reason for concern as Slye has had six field goals either blocked or simply missed including 3 inside 40 yards. If there is one special teams unit that has been struggling, it’s the field goal kicking unit that also failed to execute their fake field goal attempt that never had a chance.
Slye’s struggles would have been unimaginable just a couple of months ago, but the Hokies’ senior kicker is off to the worst start of his career. Right now, the Hokies need to find ways to rebuild Slye’s confidence and get his head right as it’s clear that Slye’s confidence has been shaken by his early struggles.
Fuente isn’t the first to mention his concern for Slye as James Shibest mentioned it a couple weeks ago as well. Right now, the concern for Slye and the field goal unit as a whole is definitely valid.
Greg Stroman Impresses Fuente as a Punt Returner
Justin Fuente said that the Hokies were “very average” overall on Saturday night, but there was one player that stood out with what he did on special teams.
“Greg Stroman at punt returner was probably as good as you’re going to get,” Fuente said.
Stroman consistently made great decisions to either take a fair catch or make a return. Stroman never tried to run backwards while his aggression on his big 43-yard punt return gave the Hokies a momentum boost and brought some hope into Lane Stadium.
Through five weeks, Stroman is ranked seventh in the nation in punt return yards and is averaging 12.2 yards per punt return, a career high and 16th in the nation among qualified punt returners. Stroman has grown leaps and bounds, especially over the past two years, and developed into one of the ACC’s best punt returners.
Greg Stroman has developed into a returner who everyone knows has the skills to break one for a momentum-flipping gain or a touchdown. Stroman has developed into a dynamic weapon like the Hokies are used to having on special teams, and will be an x-factor throughout the rest of the season.
Bryce Watts Leads the Way Among the Younger Cornerbacks
Virginia Tech had to move some guys around in the second half of Saturday’s game as Adonis Alexander deal with cramps and Brandon Facyson dealt with a minor ankle injury. While both cornerbacks are fine, it’s clear that the Hokies need to build some more “true” cornerback depth among their young guys.
The good news is that an answer may be on the way including from a true freshman in particular.
“I think developing our younger guys at every spot is important. I think (Bryce) Watts is the closest one that’s ready to contribute,” Fuente said. “Continuing to bring Bryce and some of those young guys along is going to be important because you just never know what’s going to happen, it’s a long season.”
Bryce Watts has been consistently mentioned as a young cornerback that is coming along and has maintained his spot as the Hokies’ fourth cornerback on the depth chart over Tyree Rodgers and Jovonn Quillen through the first five weeks. Watts was a late flip from Rutgers in the 2017 recruiting class and a lowly-rated three-star, but it’s looking like the Hokies may have found a gem who has been consistently used on kick coverage.
Bryce Watts has a bright future ahead of him as a speedy cornerback with good size that can be productive in the future in Blacksburg. Watts has also shown that he has the work ethic to start at CB in the not too distant future as proven by how he has come in and earned playing time on special teams as a true freshman
Brandon Facyson is Fine
After Saturday’s game, Bud Foster mentioned that Brandon Facyson had suffered a minor ankle injury against Clemson. Based on Justin Fuente’s comments today, it’s clear that this injury wasn’t much more than a tweak.
“I didn’t know that Brandon (Facyson) was injured, ” Justin Fuente said. “He was at practice yesterday practicing. I anticipate that everything will be fine.”
Facyson is listed as the starting cornerback over Adonis Alexander and there’s no reason to think that Facyson won’t start against Boston College with the senior being healthy and Alexander struggling in his return against Clemson.
Facyson was the Hokies’ second-best cornerback against Clemson and having him fully healthy after his very minor ankle injury is good news. Of course, Bud Foster likely will have that in the back of his head just to be a little careful against a BC team that has the 115th ranked passing offense in America.
While Facyson is definitely healthy, don’t be surprised if the Hokies limit his reps some with the bye week looming unless this game is closer than most expect.