After a bye week where Virginia Tech climbed in the polls, Justin Fuente spoke with the media yesterday about the Hokies’ preparations for Saturday’s game against North Carolina. Here are some of the highlights from yesterday’s press conference.
Travon McMillian’s Larger Role Could Be Permanent
Against Boston College, the Hokies abandoned a by-committee running back system for the first time this season. Travon McMillian took advantage with 88 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. His 17 carries were the most that any Virginia Tech running back has had this season. What was more notable was the fact that no other VT running back had more than 5 carries.
When asked about whether McMillian is gaining a larger role on offense, this is what Justin Fuente had to say.
“We’ll see. Part of that was because Steven (Peoples) wasn’t able to play a couple of weeks ago. Part of that was Travon (McMillian) was playing well, taking care of the football,” Fuente said. “I certainly anticipate that he’ll be the guy that runs out there this week. If he continues to play well, then he’ll continue to stay in there.”
“That doesn’t mean that if he makes one mistake, he’s never going to play again, that’s not what I’m saying. Some of it is where we’re at in the season, and who’s available. Some of it is playing well is really important to Travon, and we appreciate his work ethic and how he’s tried to approach things.”
There have been questions about McMillian’s work ethic in the past, but he is answering those questions this season. McMillian still isn’t a great pass blocker, but he’s running with more confidence and toughness now than he did at any point last season. Because of that, McMillian has been much more consistent averaging at least 4.8 yards per carry in each of his past four games.
Travon McMillian has been Virginia Tech’s best running back this season and as long as McMillian keeps playing well, he should continue to receive the majority of the carries even when Steven Peoples returns.
Phil Patterson Working to Return Soon
Phil Patterson has been hurt for most of the season, preventing him from even pushing for playing time. Now, Patterson appears close to a return, and Justin Fuente knows that Patterson is desperate to play on a Saturday.
“He (Phil Patterson) is (practicing) and I’d put him in that group of (day-to-day) guys. In my opinion, it’s important for Phil, it’s important to Phil for him to make it back. He wants to go play and play at a high level, and wants to do it as quickly as possible. So we’ve been pleased with him and his progress or his urgency to get back. Most of it is beyond his control, how his body feels, moving forward.”
A summer arrival and veteran receiving corps prevented Patterson from breaking into the WR rotation last year and injuries have prevented him from breaking in this season. However, Patterson may finally have his chance to prove himself and fight for playing time that many thought Patterson would start receiving as a backup last season.
The challenge Patterson will face is a depth chart that has looked much deeper lately. Sean Savoy has been one of the biggest surprises in the ACC while Eric Kumah and Henri Murphy are both starting to find their rhythms and play well, especially Kumah.
Patterson is close to being able to make a full return, but it remains to be seen how long it may take him to breakthrough and start earning some consistent first-team reps.
Drake Deiuliis Set To Play After Burning Redshirt
Drake Deiuliis was well on his way towards redshirting before the Boston College. However, that changed when the Hokies started losing multiple receivers due to minor injuries.
“First of all, we were in the situation in the game two weeks ago where we didn’t have a choice, but we had been preparing him for that. He has been working on the outside. Long term, I think he’s going to be a tight end, but he has a unique skill set,” Fuente said.
Justin Fuente sees Deiuliis as a tight end in the long-term, but knows that he has the skill set to be used as a receiver on the outside in the short-term. Now that Deiuliis isn’t redshirt, Justin Fuente plans to use him as more than just a part-time blocker.
“Sometimes it’s beyond our control, but I would prefer, obviously the later you get in the season, to not burn those guys, but our plan for him when we did decide to play him was that he would continue to play a role. It wasn’t just throwing him in there to go block a couple of guys. We feel good about him and his development,” Fuente said.
Drake Deiuliis gives the Hokies another big receiver on the outside to help out Eric Kumah. With Deiuliis receiving some late-game reps against Boston College with Sean Savoy opposite of him, it’s clear the Hokies are comfortable with him being the big receiver at times. While Eric Kumah still remains the Hokies’ top big receiver, Deiuliis is poised for an expanded role as a secondary big receiver.
Sean Savoy Returns to VT Football Team
Sean Savoy has returned to the Virginia Tech football ahead of this Saturday’s game against North Carolina. This is what Fuente had to say on how Savoy is doing.
“Yes, he’s back. I would say as well as can be expected. I don’t want to put words in Sean’s mouth, but I do think it’s somewhat therapeutic to get back around his friends, his teammates. Those of us that have been through things like that or can only imagine what it’s like to go through things like that, it’s going to take time. Sean knows that we’re here for him, and whatever he needs, and that we genuinely love and care about him, and want to help him do the best in everything he does, but also know that he’s going through a lot of emotions,” Fuente said.
We encourage you to continue to pray for Sean and his family along with donating to his brother’s family here (donations must be made my midnight).