Editor’s Note: This story was written before the decision was made to cancel the game between Virginia Tech and East Carolina. For more on the cancellation, see our story here.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente held his weekly Monday press conference yesterday, and there were some pressing questions from the media following the Hokies’ 62-17 victory over William and Mary. Perhaps the biggest question was the status of offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw and defensive lineman Ricky Walker.
“We’ll know more as the week goes on,” Fuente said. “Am I concerned about him (Ricky)? Yeah, sure. Absolutely. We want him to be healthy, he’s a really good player for us, so yes, absolutely.”
Walker left Saturday’s game early with a foot injury and was seen wearing a boot. Not much is known about his injury at this time, but losing Walker would be a big blow to Tech’s defense.
Fuente praised Walker for his toughness and said that he will be back on the field whenever he is physically ready.
“I’m not being a smart aleck, I mean we want him to be ready to go, he’s awfully tough and he’s a guy who has always fought through things and we know if he’s able to go he’ll be out there and if he’s not, he won’t,” Fuente said.
Walker has been one of the Hokies’ biggest contributors on the defensive side in recent seasons. So far in 2018, he has two total tackles, including one sack.
Here are some other press conference notes from Justin Fuente yesterday.
Hurricane Threatens Virginia Tech’s Game vs. ECU
Virginia Tech’s game against East Carolina this weekend could be impacted by Hurricane Florence, which is currently projected to hit the Blacksburg area either Thursday or Friday. Fuente said the team is not focusing too much on the weather, but is shifting their attention to the things they can handle.
“Well, we will, first of all, we need to get the notion across to the team that we can’t worry or assume anything,” Fuente said. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen and we have no control over that. We’ve got to worry about the things we can control.”
Should the game go on as scheduled, one aspect of the game that the Hokies will try to improve upon from previous weeks is ball control. Virginia Tech had four fumbles in Week 1 against Florida State and three against William and Mary.
“Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is we have to take care of the football in wet conditions, or handling the football in wet conditions,” Fuente said. “Every Thursday we do, whether it’s supposed to rain or not, wet ball drills at the end of practice in the quarterback exchange, play a little catch, snap and kick a little bit. I think there is a key move in effect to that.”
Regarding the potential impacts the storm may have on the game, athletic director Whit Babcock tweeted on Monday afternoon that an official statement will come by Wednesday.
Our staff & (obviously) many experts are monitoring weather situation in coordination w/ ACC, ECU & others. We may change this plan, but as of now, we will have an update re: game on Wednesday. Most likely nothing today or tomorrow. #staytuned. Thank you 👍🏽🦃
— Whit Babcock (@WhitBabcock) September 10, 2018
Looking Ahead to ECU
Speaking of East Carolina, the Pirates have started their season 1-1 after losing to NC A&T and defeating North Carolina. Fuente spoke about his Week 3 opponent and what he expects from them in this weekend’s game.
“They put it all together in the North Carolina game in all three phases,” Fuente said. “They were ready to play with emotion and intensity, you could see it on their sidelines. They responded to adversity and played really well in the North Carolina game.”
He went on to praise ECU for the way they can be a challenging team to play. The Pirates scored 20 unanswered points in their victory over UNC last week.
“They’ve always been a dangerous offensive team, even through their struggles last year,” Fuente said. “They have guys on the outside, with all the plays they made one-on-one against North Carolina on the outside, it’s pretty impressive. They’ve always had a fairly clear identity in what they’re trying to accomplish on the offensive side of the ball, with them being very dangerous.”
Terius Wheatley Makes Impact in Week 2
One of the biggest areas the Hokies had to improve going into the season was the running game. Over the first two games, they’ve mostly accomplished that, rushing for 112 yards against FSU and 305 against William and Mary.
One of the biggest performers in Saturday’s game was redshirt freshman Terius Wheatley, who ran the ball seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown.
“Certainly, he’s been productive in the first two weeks,” Fuente said about the young running back. “We redshirted him last year, but felt like there was something there. He continued to work on his body and gain some strength. He was a slender guy, he’s improving his overall strength level, which I think has helped him be a more productive player.”
Fuente said that he expects Wheatley to continue to see snaps in games if he continues working hard and handling the way the offensive staff is changing things up every week.
“If he continues to be productive and do those things and handle those changes from week to week, then I would anticipate he continues,” Fuente said.