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Stu Holt Shares Insights on Where Things Stand on Special Teams for Virginia Tech

Tucker Holloway 1 Spring 2023 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

There's no doubt that special teams has always been valued highly by fans of Virginia Tech fan given the legend of Beamer Ball that helped the Hokies become a national power. With fall camp in full steam, special teams coordinator Stu Holt shared his insights on where things stand for Virginia Tech on special teams at VT's 2023 Media Day.

The conversation starts with punt return where Tucker Holloway took over midseason and impressed with a massive game at Georgia Tech and steady play elsewhere helping him earn All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. Tech added Jaylin Lane to upgrade the WR corps this offseason, but the MTSU transfer is also a prolific punt returner who adds more competition to the room to push Holloway further.

Overall though, Holt feels much better about what he has at punt returner than he did at this time last year given what Holloway and Lane have proven in their careers to date.

“We love what Tucker did. Tucker had a great second half of the season. That says a lot to be a true freshman to come in, take on that role. It’s a big responsibility so we’re certainly looking at him to play a pivotal role there. The addition of Jaylin Lane who’s been a nationally ranked punt returner certainly puts us in a good spot, lot better spot than we were this time last year," Holt said.

On the other end of things, Peter Moore is working to improve after an up-and-down 2022 season with Stu Holt pleased by Moore's growth and work this offseason. Even with Moore comfortably in the lead, Tech has two other punters on the roster who are showing tons of potential even if they are certain to be battling for the backup job.

“What I love about Peter is what I love about most of our guys, they want to be better. I think Peter felt like he could’ve been better last year in terms of giving us location and hang time, and he’s really worked hard on that. I feel like Justin Pollock feels like he could have been more accurate with his snaps, and thus could have helped Peter, and Justin’s had a great camp so far. And we’ve got a great competition at punter right now. Nick Veltsistas is extremely talented, so is Bryce LaFollette. We got three guys who are really battling right now and Peter’s leading the way and has the upper hand as far as experience. I like his (Peter Moore’s) approach every day, he’s very mature and really is working to get back to where he knows he can be," Holt said.

One of the more important roles on special teams for punt and kick coverage are the gunner responsibilities with Cole Beck set to be one of Tech's potential gunners this season. Stu Holt loves the potential that he sees in Beck as a gunner given his speed.

“I envision him running down the football field like the 100 meters. I envision him playing as fast as he possibly can which will make him the fastest guy on the field, I believe, every time he’s out there. We’re working with Cole on teaching him the techniques to get in the open field so he can use his speed, being really good at releases, really good with his hands, understanding pad level, understanding footwork, really trying to hone in on the little things that can help him get to where we want him to be a little bit quicker. And he’s been great, he’s working really hard,” Holt said.

Holt also feels good about the options they do have to fill the gunner roles on special teams with a few other players on both sides of the ball sticking out including Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw.

"He’s done really well. That guy’s quick, he’s got hard to get a handle on, he’s hard to get your hands on. And then the guy that just shows up, and he did last year in games and he showed up this year so far in camp, is Jaylen Jones. JJ is very talented in space, really plays reckless which is what you want at that position. In truth, we got Nasir Peoples who’s done it a bunch. (Jalen) Stroman’s really good at it. And what we’re looking to do is have about eight guys that are really hard to handle in the open field, and we feel like we’re well on our way there," Holt said.

Holt mentioned that punt returns have been getting the primary focus early in fall camp with an increase coming on the kick return front. When that time comes, Cole Beck is set to be a player in that competition.

"Yeah, he’ll get an opportunity at kickoff return. He’s been working that quite a bit in this camp. He returned for us last year in the last game against Liberty. He was back there returning some for us, so he’ll certainly get an opportunity back there as well," Holt said.

Tech has an interesting kicker room with Will Ross gone clearing the way for redshirt freshman John Love to take over. Stu Holt has been pleased with what he's seen from Love adding this on the accuracy that Love offers.

“We love John’s approach, his mental approach, he’s very even-keel, his approach physically, the way that he attacks the ball is extremely consistent. You know, John hits a straight ball. I don’t know how much you play golf, but if you’re going off the tee, if you can hit it straight off the tee, you got a chance. And John doesn’t spray the ball very much, he’s very consistent. Hitting the ball straight down the field, it gives us an opportunity, and he’s got the right mental approach that we need," Holt said.

Holt also had praise for Kyle Lowe both for the weapon he is as a kickoff specialist and the upside he has as a placekicker.

As fall camp rolls along, Tech has plenty of fascinating competitions at special teams from the most highlighted roles among the return men and kickers to the under-the-radar important players including gunners.

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