Tech Tidbits: After a Tumultuous Year, Where Does Adonis Alexander Stand with the Hokies?

Justin Fuente discusses the state of his defensive backfield, and the ongoing shuffle at right tackle and running back.

[Michael Shroyer]

Coming into spring ball, I had every expectation that this batch of practices would be an eventful one for Justin Fuente's bunch — instead, we've gotten mostly radio silence.

Of course, the potential for a QB controversy is the thing everyone's wondering about. I hardly expect Fuente to go blabbing about Josh Jackson getting benched right off the bat or anything, but I would've expected something, anything to come out about the most closely watched position battle (or lack thereof?) on the roster.

But outside of a few quotes here and there from Jackson and Hendon Hooker, we've gotten pretty much nothing. And for the other big position battles, particularly when it comes to replacing the bevy of NFL soon-to-be draftees on defense, we've heard similarly little.

Some of that I chalk up to Fuente's naturally guarded nature around the press. Even more, I suspect, is due to the press conference format where players and coaches trudge up to the podium to answer questions one at a time.

I know, it may be hard for you to shed a tear for the poor sports reporters, but take this seriously. Putting young athletes without much experience talking to the press at the front of a room so reporters (most of whom they've never met) can hurl questions at them is not a format for generating insightful answers.

It creates a ton of pressure on each guy who walks up there not to cause a scene or say something notable, rather than helping them feel comfortable and build a rapport with the people they're talking to.

I understand, of course, why the team does this: it's in their interest for people outside the program to know something as consequential as, say, who the starting quarterback will be only when they're ready to reveal it. Exerting more control over the media's access to the team reduces the chance that somebody says something they shouldn't, but also restricts just how freely coaches and players share the small stories that give people real insight into the locker room or a look at how the squad is coming together.

So should you feel as I do, that we know precious little about this team with the spring game just 11 days away, consider this factor when mulling why this spring has been so quiet.

Now that I've fully dismounted my high horse, on to what we do know from Tuesday's presser.

Admonishment for Adonis?

When Fuente opened the spring by expressing his concern about the team's young DBs, one of the the first things I remember thinking is: I wonder how Adonis Alexander factors into this?

Alexander has long drawn the eye of NFL scouts thanks to his lanky frame, but his trouble...well, staying out of trouble is likely a big reason he's back for his senior season. Maybe he didn't stand out last year the way he did his freshman and sophomore campaigns, but his status as the lone experienced cornerback on the roster has to give Fuente, Bud Foster and company some confidence.

And yet, that is not exactly the vibe Fuente has given off thus far.

When you mention that you're not singling out a certain player, I'm not sure if that's more or less meaningful than simply not mentioning him at all. But then, Fuente went on to say the following, when asked what he needs to see from Alexander this year:

I love Adonis. I love all our kids. But they all have their own things they've got to overcome and handle. Each guy is different. He's not the only one, by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not going to get into a public admonishment of each player that we're working through things, but he has a lot of great qualities, he enjoys being a part of this football team, as do some of those other guys I'm referring to, and hopefully they'll continue to do right in all areas of their lives so they can be a part of this part.

Plainly, if Fuente had full confidence in Alexander for the coming season, he would not have delivered that kind of quote. That's no guarantee that anything is amiss, mind you, but it is a useful insight into where Alexander stands in the coaches' minds these days.

Fortunately for Fuente, he says Jovonn Quillen has started to show some promise at corner, as has Bryce Watts. CBs coach Brian Mitchell even said Tuesday he hopes that JUCO CB Jeremy Webb will be able to compete for a starting spot at corner as soon as he gets to campus this summer.

But all that progress and potential still leaves an awful lot of youth and inexperience at the position, and the Hokies will need Alexander to stabilize things. Here's hoping he comes through on that front.

Right Tackle Remains a Mystery

I wish I could tell you that the coaches shed a bunch of light onto who might earning the starting sport at right tackle Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I confess I am more confused than ever.

OL coach Vance Vice and Fuente both had plenty of nice things to say about Silas Dzansi, after Fuente mentioned earlier in the spring that he was working at tackle with T.J. Jackson.

They had plenty to add about how well prepared he was at Fork Union Military Academy, long a favored seasoning ground for the Hokies.

Then Vice turned around and dropped this nugget about one of the other competitors at tackle.

So if Tyrell Smith was indeed an injury away from earning the job last year and is now smoking guys in practice, presumably he's a good bet to start at RT?

I'd be inclined to think so, but then, why all the talk about Dzansi? I suppose having multiple viable options at tackle is a positive, not a negative, so none of this is bad, just a bit confusing for those of us looking to read the tea leaves.

Finding a Home-Run Running Back

If you'll think back to my interview with Fuente to open the spring, you'll remember that he lamented that the offense "didn't make the unblocked hat miss nearly enough at running back" and missed out on "home-run runs."

That's a bit of a coach-speaky way to say he'd like to see more explosive plays made by his running backs, and plainly that's become a focus for the guys likely to see time at the position this year.

Between Jalen Holston and Deshawn McClease, I fully expect Tech's running backs to deliver a bit more in that department this season. It'll be interesting to see how the team adapts without Travon McMillian as well — does the rotation get shorter to include only the experienced guys, or does McMillian's absence open up space for more RBs to earn snaps?

Fuente talked up the performance of Terius Wheatley, in particular, noting that he's shown some flashes coming off his redshirt year. Holston even joked that his speed made him want to be faster, so Wheatley could be a candidate to provide some of that explosion Fuente is looking to see from his RBs.

I'll wrap up this week by pointing out an...interesting bit of phrasing from Vice.

Comments

If Smith is healthy, he is the starter at RT. I'd just about bet the family cow on it. I'd also expect that Silas will be a swing OT- the first guy to come in at LT or RT if an injury happens. Part of that is Plantin's comfort at guard and second, the lack of talk about the development of the young interior guys makes me think that some of those guys are not ready for starting roles if injuries happen.

Again, that is me putting my swami hat on. But that first OL group (Nijman-Plantin-Chung-Pfaff-Smith) has been the group for everything that has been posted on social media except some full contact work, which I believe we were told that Nijman would be held out of. Hence Silas stepping in for Nijman in those drills.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I'd just about bet the family cow on it.

Dang, French. I had no idea you had a family cow. You are a man of many talents.

Great article, Alex...thanks!

I personally think the staff is guarded to a fault. If they create some small windows for the outside world to sneak a peek, it generates a buzz that carries into the fall. Buzz sells tickets. Buzz sells merchandise. I get being a little closed off, but geez they give us nothing.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

That's because Buzz had to sell tickets. If Fuente wins, Lane will be full.

LOL...I was referring to buzz around the football program, not Coach Buzz. Sorry for the confusion.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

Holy shit haha I feel like an idiot. The way it was capitalized (which I see now is obviously because it's the first word of the sentence) and Buzz's history of trying to put butts in seats really set up perfectly to confuse me.

I read it the exact same way. He really got us.

This is something Fuente needs to work on now that he's at a big-time job. His level of guardedness creates adversaries in the press, and while that might not seem important, having journalists want to cover your program does a lot in weathering down times as well as building excitement. This kind of stuff is crucial in a sport that is driven by donations and dedicated fandom.

I agree, there is a wide berth between marketing your program to fans and giving away trade secrets. Fuente could sharpen his pencil a little bit and give us some more. It's literally the only thing that bothers me about him, he's too guarded with the program. I get why he does it, his job and hundreds of others are on the line. But he's the flagship of a $100M business, Whit could help him with his outreach. Let's fire up the base.

See...that's why he think he needs to share/open up more. We are the funders of said $100M machine.

We put the K in Kwality

You know what fires up a fanbase more than anything? Winning. Frankly I don't see what the big deal is.

It's prime donating and season ticket buying times and we're getting almost no news and no hype about the upcoming season. That's poor marketing, and unless you're winning championships it's absolutely necessary to keep money flowing in.

At least we're not being fed a line of "brick by brick" bullshit

Agreed. I also think it alienates some of the big-time fans - the ones who may be more willing to donate.

Between Jalen Holston and Deshawn McClease, I fully expect Tech's running backs to deliver a bit more in that department this season.

I'm really hoping this is the case this year. I think back to the first play from scrimmage against Miami when Travon McMillian was a missed tackle away from taking it to the house. The outcome of the whole game might be different if he makes that one guy miss.

Really?? It takes more than 1 play or 1 td (mostly)

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Yes, really. We didn't score on that drive. If we go up 7-0 we set the tone and take the crowd out of it. I was there and I hate to give Miami fans credit but they were loud. There were times I thought we were rattled. Momentum is real and a 75 yard touchdown to start a game is a huge momentum play. We could've been playing with the lead instead of trailing 14-3 at halftime.

I don't think it's a stretch to say the "outcome of the game might be different" if we scored on that play.

Mm I agree that momentum is real, but I'm of the belief we need to be up 2-3 TDs (or something like that). The outcome would only have been different if we followed up the score with more scoring.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

LOLUva concurs.

That's why I said mostly to leave room for the statistically low and improbable (but not impossible) error %. Percentage wise, it is BETTER to have the lead than having to play catch-up.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

They've seen hard. They've been through tough.

I'm going to ask girls at the bar if they want to see hard and go through tough.

This should be a vast improvement from your current line:

*Points finger at girl*

This girl f***s?

So...now we feel better about the o-line than before....right?

The OL is the strength of the team right now, take that as you will.

In my mind, when I think of how this team can have it's best season, it comes with us morphing into one of the top 3 rushing offenses in the ACC. If we can pound Holston and McClease and Peoples for 45 rushes a game, that would open up the PA and keep the ball away from other offenses while our D grows up. If we can pound FSU/Miami/ND in the grill to 250 yards, that makes life much easier all the way around. It's a big step to see our RB's being able to handle that, but the OL isn't far away.

The OL is the strength of the team right now, take that as you will.

That's a hard line to take.

The Poster Formerly Known As The Spirit Of Bernard Basham

Yes, I will reserve judgement on the unit that disintegrated when Nijman went down last year. I need to see more before I'm comfortable saying they are the strength of the team.

The OL is the strength of the team right now, take that as you will.

I tried to disagree with this statement and realized I can't....I'm suddenly a little more apprehensive about this season.

I am not normally a wait until the next season type of fan but I do think that this year will be the low point for the next 5 years. Fuente will have his players with experience starting in 2019.

Which really annoys me because I want us to be good with this schedule. We are going to get a lot of attention, it would be nice to live up to it.

I predict our passing game takes a big step forward and our running game takes a step back this year.

Recruit Prosim

How on Earth could our running game get worse?

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

I mean I know we aren't going to drop to division 3 levels of running the ball, but this game shows you just how much worse we have to do before we reach the true bottom.

Correct. Running game has been a disaster since David Wilson left, really. No pop, no explosion, save a few McMillian runs- and he is gone. Our QBs have had to handle the rushing load, because we can't generate any yards handing it to backs consistently. It's been a huge liability.

And JJ ins't exactly mobile

Recruit Prosim

Tell that to WVU.

Most of last season he was running for his life. I think he is mobile enough. He's not Sean Glennon back there.

The Dude Abides

Just my opinion but I think he's more Sean Glennon than MV

Recruit Prosim

No way! He's definitely superior to Mr. INT. The better comparison would be to Byron Leftwich (minus the size, but equal the escapability).

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Oooh, that OL when Byron Leftwich had the broken foot/ankle/leg/whatever...he couldn't run or do much moving of any kind, but they protected him and carried him to the line pretty much every time. Amazing group that was.

To be fair, on the spectrum of Sean Glennon to Michael Vick, the only subsequent starter that's definitely on the MV7 side is Tyrod.

I've been cutting back on the drinking.

Addendum- from practice last night Christian Darrisaw worked as the 2 LT. Xavier Burke was working as the 1 DT next to Ricky Walker. Ashby and Rivers looked like the no 1 mike and backer.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Not-so-hot-take: Adonis really steps up this year, and becomes a 1st round pick next April. Him staying was somewhat necessary, I think he could have left and got drafted late, but its going to have huge dividends.

In regards to the guarded secrecy around the program, I have to say this is the absolute least excited I have been for an upcoming season/spring football game in recent memory. So little has been coming out that I almost don't think of VT football that often. If this sort of approach led to unreal gameplanning and totally outsmarting the competition, I'm all for it. But fact of the matter is, it's not, and I honestly don't think it's giving us any competitive advantage at all. If we win, none of this matters. But if we struggle, you're also shutting out the fan base that you will depend upon to support you through thick and thin.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I find your lack of faith disturbing

Recruit Prosim

I find your farts disturbing.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

You and butt stuff, I swear

Recruit Prosim