Justin Fuente did not mince words when asked Sunday about how he feels about Tech's unusual opening night matchup with a fellow ACC opponent.
"It would not be my first choice, quite honestly," Fuente told reporters at the team's annual "Media Day." "But I'm not going to pout about it."
It's interesting that he'd be so blunt about it, particularly because I've vacillated recently in my own feelings about opening with the Seminoles, as the start of the season finally nears.
I certainly can see the positives of getting a team adjusting to a new head coach early on, when they still might be working out the kinks. That goes doubly so given FSU's at least mild uncertainty at quarterback, as Willie Taggart mulls his preference for Deondre Francois or James Blackman.
Of course, there's Tech's notorious troubles with top teams in season openers to consider (though the West Virginia win was a nice disruption of that streak). Not to mention the fact that FSU is one of the most talented teams in the country, and will hardly provide the easiest way for the Hokies to start sorting out their new-look defense.
On balance, I think it's a net positive overall. It never hurts to get on ESPN in primetime, after all.
But, interestingly, it seems it's a dilemma the Hokies may confront more and more over the years. As ACC whisperer extraordinaire David Teel points out, the advent of the ACC Network means that the Hokies will only deal with this problem more, not less, as the years go on.
Mihota's Recovery Hits a Snag
Ok, I hate to say I told you so, but it seems like all is not quite well with Vinny Mihota these days.
#Hokies DC Bud Foster said DT Vinny Mihota isn't quite 100 percent after his knee injury. Indicated putting on weight to play inside puts more stress on Mihota's knee.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) August 26, 2018
This is basically just as I'd feared, given his mix of putting on weight to move to DT with his spring knee injury, with Foster adding that the newly minted DT will be limited to as few as 10 to 15 snaps in the opener.
I don't think this is the end of the world, as after FSU, Mihota will have several weeks of games against substantially less fearsome opponents to work his way back into shape.
But it also isn't terribly good news for Tech's chances against the Seminoles, where they already faced an uphill battle in containing star RB Cam Akers.
Suffice it to say that we'll get a heck of a chance to see if the Jarrod Hewitt hype the coaches have been hawking this offseason is justified.
The Curious Case of Trevon Hill
For weeks now, rumors have swirled about Trevon Hill's status for the first few weeks of the season.
As those have remained just rumors, with little to substantiate them, I won't speculate on what the future might hold. But I will say that this development doesn't bode particularly well.
Barber added in a subsequent tweet that reporters had asked to talk to Hill last week as well, only to be told he was off-limits once more.
I understand completely why Fuente wouldn't want to tip his hand on this just yet — I'm sure that, from his perspective, it's not worth filling in fans if it means the Noles can stop prepping to face Hill.
But the reporter in me gets really irked by this sort of thing. If Hill is suspended and you don't want him talking to the press, then just say so.
Or, let him talk to reporters, and if he's asked, let him give a "no comment" if he wants to. Then we'd be playing the same guessing game we are now, but the press has the chance to get his thoughts on the upcoming season — not an unreasonable request considering that he's a legit star on defense this year.
The situation makes me think of how the team handled the Dadi Nicolas situation back before he became a star.
His troubles with the law made the team really secretive at first, repeatedly denying reporters the chance to talk to him, even as his role on the team expanded. Eventually, the staff relented.
And, sure, it was a bit of a circus at first. Back in those days, the team still let reporters ask players questions individually, without the press conference format that so irks the media these days. A huge crowd assembled around him, eager to figure out his status, and what exactly happened with that bike incident.
But he answered a few questions, declined to talk about it in a ton of detail, and reporters moved on. He even told a story about his family in Haiti and showed off his endearing personality, giving fans a chance to get to know him as more than just a football player who was in legal trouble once upon a time.
That's all to say that there is something to be gained with a little transparency. This staff has shown no inclination whatsoever to embrace that sort of ethos, but it's worth pointing out that it doesn't have to be this way.
Instead, it means that Hill's teammates are going to be peppered with questions until we get a straight answer one way or another. At least, that produced some optimism here.
FWIW, #Hokies DT Ricky Walker said he expects DE Trevon Hill to play vs FSU in the opener. Said Hill benefited from learning from some of Tech's recent veteran DEs.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) August 26, 2018
The RB Rotation Expands
The broad consensus on Tech's running back rotation is that Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston are the guys set to see the most time, given the promise they showed at times last season.
But Fuente today hinted at a slightly larger rotation, which doesn't invalidate that interpretation, but adds some interesting wrinkles.
Fuente kind of runs down the RB depth chart. Peoples/McClease at the top. Said Holston and Wheatley battling for third spot. Different kind of runners. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) August 26, 2018
It does not surprise me in the slightest to see Steven Peoples listed first here. Fuente loves talking him up, and much like the last staff, loves highlighting his work ethic.
But, sort of in the same vein as Sam Rogers back in the day, pretty much everyone involved knows that Peoples' role is fundamentally a bit limited, at least compared to McClease.
The bigger surprise, to me, is the inclusion of Terius Wheatley at the end there.
Not only is it surprising to me that he'd be described as actively battling with Holston, a guy who has a full season's worth of experience on him and showed some flashes last year, but that Wheatley would crack the rotation at all.
It seems like we haven't heard much about the redshirt freshman since he made it to Tech from Fork Union last year. And honestly, if the staff was going to work another guy into the rotation, I would've expected to see more of a role for Coleman Fox given his spring game performance, or for Cole Beck, the speedy freshman from Blacksburg.
But it seems Wheatley is getting his shot here, at least for now. I suppose his degree of success will tell us just how deep Tech is at running back.
I'll leave you tonight by observing that I don't know how anyone who didn't graduate from FSU could not be fed up with that stupid chant.
#Hokies QB Josh Jackson said in addition to crowd noise, Tech has been playing FSU's Tomahawk Chop chant during practices. I asked if he's sick of it: "Not yet."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) August 26, 2018