Publisher's Note: Nico Naha contributed to this transcription.
Ryan obviously, a year ago this was the game that you came in and kind of started your run as the quarterback. What do you remember sort of emotionally with that moment when you went in and realized that you were gonna at least finish that game?
Just being ready. My number was called, and I was prepared, and I did the best of my ability.
How different or more comfortable do you think you are right now in the huddle, then maybe you were at that moment, now that you've got the experience and we talked about getting to know the guys better?
I'm a lot more comfortable in the huddle. Kind of had more live snaps in the system. It's my third year here and things just flow a lot easier for me. Getting in and out easier. Kind of take control easier and just flows better.
I think we're gonna talk to Tayvion [Robinson] here in a little bit. What is it about him that made him be able to come in here and sort of take on this role?
That's just who he is as a player. He's gifted, he's got big play ability. He can make all the catches, he's a smart kid, he picked up on the offense really quickly. That's a big thing for freshmen is just knowing the plays, knowing what to do, and he's also got the ability. He's able to do it. I'm proud of him and he's still got a long ways to go.
Kind of the same question, but with Kaleb Smith. I know Tayvion was someone who was more highly touted I guess coming out of high school, Kaleb was not as talked about and then has a great first game. What do you see from him? How has he progressed so quickly?
I love Kaleb, that's an awesome story. That kid's worked his tail off, and he deserves everything he's getting. He's just been going to work everyday at practice, getting better. Not many guys can run like him. His stride length is kind of crazy. He doesn't look like he's moving fast and all of the sudden he gets on someone's toes and he's gone and he's running past them. I'm just proud of that kid. He's battled through a lot, he's kind of rose up the depth chart, and that's just all due to his work ethic.
Looking at a play or a mistake in the moment, it's different than kind of reviewing it. After looking at some of your interceptions, any jump out at you on the film? What you could have done better, or why you kind of made those plays?
The first one was, I had a little seam route and I caught them in cover three. So when we snap a cover three, the whole game and I caught them in it, and I actually went to the right place and I under threw it. The guy made a good play. I should've got outside, to my outside comeback, and I just gotta be better than that, gotta react quicker, and just gotta bring it this week. I kind of looked at myself in the mirror. I said I got two choices. I can either feel bad for myself and sulk and feel like the world's crashing down on me, or my second choice, I can put it behind me, I can flush it, and I can learn and grow from it and get ready for a team that's coming into our place trying to beat us.
Do you think, you've had like nine multi-interception games, that you kind of now need to string some games together here to kind of fight that turnover prone label? Do you worry about that at all?
No I don't worry about it. I just worry about one play at a time, just doing my job, make my correct reads, having a predictive outcome, and just going where the ball needs to go.
How about Keshawn King at running back it sounds like he's gonna have a bigger role going forward. In practice what have you seen from him?
He's an explosive kid. He's really shifty, he's got good speed, explosiveness, just needs to figure out what he's doing. He's a freshman, like I was saying with Tayvion, some guys don't pick it up as fast as other guys, and Keshawn is doing a really good job, but he's still got the next step to take, and I know he's gonna be working all week 'cause he's gonna have to get more touches this week with the news, and I don't know.
You, going back to Kaleb you were talking about his stride. What else, what's the first thing that you noticed about him in a practice or in a play he made when you first noticed him?
When I first noticed him, probably last fall camp on a post route. I actually remember it 'cause it was on the outside field going towards the stadium and I under threw him, and I was like, I did not feel like I under threw him, it's just his stride length it's deceptive. I feel like he gets like five yards in two steps, not many people can do that.
Coach said that you guys don't push pace all game, you don't wanna go that fast every drive. How do you feel like the pace was for the offense? Did you guys feel like you were going a little slow at times or what did you kind of feel about just in general kind of for that game?
The speed at which we operate is all situational. The issue air raid teams run into when they're up-tempo all the time is you're defense. If you get a quick three and out, they're right back on the field. Quick three and out they're right back on the field. Sometimes we kind of want to have just a pre-snap process, kind of run down the play clock and just get into a flow of things and sometimes it's situational. Like before the half we have to go into mayday, like two minute operation, where were on the ball, get ready to go, snap it. Just all situational.
I wanted to ask you about the touchdown you threw, I think it was the second touchdown in the game against Boston College. It was the one to Tayvion Robinson. There was like a really tight window there. What'd you see on that play and how do you kind of make that decision of when you're gonna try to force it through a tight envelope like that, and when it's not worth the risk?
All week in practice we were working that route concept, just a little double out and up, and all week I was hitting the inside guy. Coach Corn [Brad Cornelsen] before the game, he goes, 'Ryan be ready to hit number two on this play, there's gonna be a little pocket there, and I think you can fit it in there.' And we'll be known it was there and Coach Corn was right.
I think you played on special teams last year in the ODU game.
You guys were kind of cruising along until you got to that game, what's going through your mind when that happens at all?
Just another game. Last year's, last year. I just got to focus on this year, you know what I'm saying? It's a whole different team. I didn't play a lot that game I just want to focus on what we did wrong last year, try to fix it all, and just try to be the best we can be this week. Just trying to practice hard every day. That's really all that's going through my mind right now.
Dax, talk about the Lane Stadium experience, first home game of the season.
Ain't nothing like it. Everybody knows that. That's what Blacksburg's known for is Enter Sandman, so that's going to be fun. A lot of my friends from home are coming. It's going to be a lot of fun. I like twelve o'clock games so afterwards I can actually see people. Late night games, by the time we're done it's like ten o'clock, and after that I got to meet my parents and after that I don't get to see anybody or talk to anybody. So, I like afternoon games because it's just a special environment, there's nothing like it in the rest of the country. I love it here, it's a pretty cool thing.
Coach [Bud] Foster said a couple times after the game and today that you guys played tight early.
And he felt like you guys weren't showing what you did in practice. What happened? Did you see that?
It was just a handful of plays. I thought we really did good up front, just stopping the run. Just little minor things. I think he said 70 out of the 75 plays it was like, went for 200 yards and there was five plays that went for 200 yards. So if we minimize those five plays that just broke out we're holding them to like 200, 250 yards of total offense. And that's pretty freaking good. It's just, you got to do that. We came out, and that was all in the first half really. We just came out tight and we just, we finally got it together and once we got it together we just, we fought our tails off second half, we really did. I think it was just too late. We shot ourselves in the foot too many times. You just can't do that and win at this level.
Does it fall on the leaders to kind of make sure that doesn't happen? How do you make sure that doesn't happen again?
You've got to trust the people beside you to do their job. I just got to trust the rover, the safety going to fit in the right gap, the defensive line have proper leverage on the ball or stay in their gap. You just got to have trust. You just got to make it urgent. You got to treat practice like a game. Once you start treating practice like a game, the game starts coming easier to me, and that's my opinion of how it is.
On that third down you guys have the chance to get the ball back and you guys can't. What did you see on that play and how tough was that, you know you said you battled in the second half when that test came?
That last play we've seen it a million times, one thing is everybody's got to be gap accountable and if you're not they'll find the hole. He's a big time back as you know he's a good back. He's going to find the hole if you're, everybody blocks down and some people got, you just got to fit in your gap and trust every one of your teammates is going to do the right job, and we didn't do it on that play. But, we fought our tails off to be honest with you at the end. I'm proud of everybody, how we fought in the second half, most definitely. We could have just folded to be honest with you.
We appreciate you liking afternoon games because as writers we like them too. Is there a difference, I mean you go in camp mode for a month and then all of a sudden it's just a one-week segment that you're dealing with, how is that different?
It's a lot different. I mean practice is totally different. Camp it's more like you're competing one-on-one with everybody. It's just a lot of competition and you're just playing out there. It's like a game every day to be honest with you. You're basically preparing for a season. We're installing every day, it's a lot. But now game week when you have this many calls you're really gonna run. This much defense and we just rep that a lot. It's a lot more scout team. Lot more focused on how they're blocking things, how they're running routes, and stuff like that. It's a lot more calmed down, a little more walk through, not really walk through, but slowed down run through. Fall camp, it's all full speed, all full speed everyday.
So it's opponent specific almost?
Opponent specific, yeah most definitely.
What is it like to have sort of a rotation? You had [Alan] Tisdale come in a little bit, a little bit more rotation than last year. Is that something that you like? Does it make it more difficult to kind of get in a rhythm? Or how does that work?
If whoever is out there making plays. I just wanna make plays. Tizzy's a freak athlete. He can really do it all to be honest with you. He's very long, very fast, he can do it all. He's a good cover guy, probably a better cover guy than me. If he's out there making plays then yeah. I just wanna win to be honest with you. I just wanna win. I don't care if we, I don't care how much playing time I get as long as we win to be honest with you.
Sorry you've been asked this. A year ago with Old Dominion. You're a guy that takes a lot of pride.
In that VT that's on your windbreaker.
During recruiting you talked about how much pride you had in the school.
Obviously the image or reputation of Tech was dented in that loss. Do you feel like this is a chance to maybe get some of that back?
It goes through my mind a little bit. I don't know how to explain it. Yes there's a little motivation from that, but it's a new year, it's a whole new team, that was gone. There's definitely a lot of motivation going into that, but really just trying to focus on this year. Trying to not forget the past, but try and take the next step forward. To be honest with you.
Do you know if the people around you, that they're gonna look at that game immediately and say oh ODU that's the team that upset Tech last year.
Obviously that's in the back of our minds, but just can't make that our number one priority. We just gotta focus on getting better. Treating every game just going one another. Treat it like the next game. That's the way I've been thinking.
We talked about the run defense. How did you think, you got a good deal of it from the freshmen, defensive line played.
Oh yeah they're gonna be great. Norell [Pollard] and Mario [Kendricks] and [Joshua] Fuga. I'm really impressed with those guys. They're gonna be really good. Now right now they're really good, but in a year or two when they get a whole year of Coach [Ben] Hilgart under their belt they're gonna be some studs. They're gonna make my job a lot easier 'cause they're gonna take, they can take on those double teams. They're gonna make me clean. So I'm excited about those three guys, and we got Jerry Hewitt and Dede [DaShawn Crawford] and Rob [Porcher]. So we're getting pretty deep right there and I'm excited about that, most definitely.
I'd like to ask you a whole bunch since we haven't met you yet. Tell us a little bit about how you got to Virginia Tech. In terms of, first why did you go the JUCO route and then how did Virginia Tech come to be your school?
First off, I got here because I was under recruited in high school. My biggest option was like a small D-II school. I went JUCO route, then I did pretty good at JUCO. Later on into the season I wanted to get to Tech. Best decision I could make.
Why do you think it was you were under recruited, and did that drive you at all to think that I couldn't play at a higher level.
Yes sir, typically people don't like undersized d-linemen, but I liked the edge I got off that, seeing Aaron Donald play I said made me think that I could do it too.
In picking a school did you spend much time looking at the depth chart and what they have cause obviously there was an opportunity to play right away.
No sir, I feel like I come in and start anywhere I went to cause it was all about a mindset. I feel like, you gotta have the mindset to be the best person wherever you go.
We here a lot about the jump from high school to division one. What's it like to jump from junior college to division one. How much faster is it? What was the difference for you like from your first game?
From high school to junior college?
From junior college to division one.
Oh from junior college to here. It's fast, its really fast the game pick up fast, the linemen big, the linemen strong. It's just faster, bigger.
And what was your kind of main concern about coming into the opener? What were you kind of focused on? Any worries?
No sir, I wasn't worried at all 'cause Coach Foster got us set up for the gameplan. We execute what he do and we're gonna be good.
You guys did a pretty good job shutting down the run for most of the game. What do you attribute that to? Especially the tackles, the interior line. It seemed like it was really comfortable. What do you attribute that success too?
The game plan. We set up. It's in the mindset. We set up we said we gonna stop the run, and they're not gonna run the ball, and that's how we did it.
Everywhere you go you're gonna have different coaches, different personalities. What do you think of coach [Charlie] Wiles? What's he like to be coached by?
I love coach Wiles, Coach Wiles is a character. Right now he's my favorite coach on the staff. He's always bringing energy, he's always bringing juice, he's always keeping you motivated. He stays on me hard, 'cause he looks and sees potential in me.
Did you feel any, you said you were confident coming in and win a starting spot. You did. Did you feel any pressure that hey this team needs me 'cause there's a lot of young guys behind you on the depth chart?
No sir, I just felt like I had to come in and do my job.
How important has Jarrod Hewitt been in kind of getting you ready and kind of helping you throughout this process and what's it like coming in and starting alongside him?
First getting here it's like I was really a freshman first getting here. Jarrod Hewitt really took me under his wing and he taught me and he showed me what to do. Guided me along. I got down sometimes, he picked me up. Told me that everything was gonna be okay just you're gonna get some bumps and bruises but you gotta fight through it and you're gonna be okay.
Sometimes guys have when they go the JUCO route there's a year where they sort of losing confidence or losing faith. Man this may never work out for me. Did you ever have a moment where you were worried that hey I'm gonna put in all this work and never get to where I want to get to.
No sir, not at all.
Did you have people that you kind of leaned on when you were in junior college that kept you up, and who were some of those people and what maybe was their message to you?
My junior college coach and one of my d-line coach, Coach [Kwe'si] Drake well my d-line coach was Coach [Anthony] Maddox. I talked to them all the time. They keep me focused. They're telling me, do your job, do what you're supposed to do you're gonna be fine, no matter where you go.
Ryan Willis was in here and I asked him if he remembered the first time he noticed you. He said it would've been fall practice last year, he tried to hit you on a post route and he underthrew you because you were faster than I guess he thought. One, do you remember that play, and do you think people often underestimate your speed?
I don't remember that exact play, but people kind of underestimate my speed because my strides are kind of hard to see. But when it goes out there I cover ground pretty fast.
Tell us a little bit, coach said you earned yourself a scholarship here, what has your journey here been like?
First of all that was just a blessing for me and my family. I took the opportunity to come here over some other schools, and I'm just really appreciative of all the coaches and teammates because they all believe in me since day one I got here. They're all supporting me through it. I'm just glad it payed off.
You were a Wake Forest commitment at one point correct?
Is that tough to walk away from a scholarship offer for a walk-on here? What was the thought process there?
Growing up in Virginia this has always been my dream school, and I feel like I can play at this level. I just want to kind of prove myself, put the cards on myself, come out here and prove what I can do. I think it paid off.
Did you feel like as you were practicing, 'Hey this is working and I'm impressing people, I'm doing the right things.' Or were there any moments where you were like, 'Maybe this wasn't the right call.'
Last year I was on scout team. I kind of just hung with myself and worked with my craft a little bit. Then going into spring ball this last season, last year, I felt myself just making tremendous strides at the receiver position and then ever since then everyday working to get better.
And then to get the experience you got playing in the opener, what was that like?
Really, after practice, going out there in a game everything felt easy. It felt comfortable. Felt like what I have been training to do. What I've been doing all my life. So it's pretty easy.
You guys got a lot of talent at wide receiver. What was it like with all these freshman coming in, you're battling for playing time, trying to earn a scholarship. What was the fall like and how competitive was it in your position group?
It was very competitive, but us as a group we didn't see it that way. Everyday came out and just try to make each other better and that's how we kind of think about it. Nobody really thought I'm trying to play over him, trying to play over him. We're all just trying to get better as a team. We have a goal for us, try to be the best receiving corps in the nation, and I feel like we can do that.
What is it like playing under, like they said, some of these bigger names, these guys that have been here for a while. Is there anyone you sort of, has taken you under their wing? What have you learned from the older guys in the receiver room?
Dame [Damon Hazelton] has always been a good example. He just leads by example everything he does. He kind of showed me how to relax. Getting out there, the pressure you might feel like it's on your head, but it's really not. Just go out, do you thing, and ball out. So he's been a big help for me.
Just want to ask you obviously first home game of the season. From your perspective, talk about a Lane Stadium experience?
That's something I haven't never really experienced yet. I'm looking forward to it, man. I get goosebumps when I think about it. Something really exciting and really special. I think our team is going to go 1-0.
Coaches said you kind of jumped out early in fall camp. Did you feel right away you were going to get opportunities in week one, or did that take you a while to kind of feel you were going to be part of the rotation as fall camp developed?
Going into fall camp my main goal was just to learn as much as I can on offense, because that was what I was told during the summer. I played a pretty big part this fall, getting a lot of reps, ones and two, and when the game time came I was able to get in and contribute.
With your background as a quarterback, and coming in here you work at the slot, is that a position that's sort of, I don't think easier is the term, but maybe a little. You can pick that up a little quicker playing the slot at your position since it's sort of tailor-made for your size also. Is that a spot that you felt real comfortable at right away?
Not right away. Being that I played quarterback in high school, it was a little challenging having to switch to a completely new position. But it helped playing quarterback in high school being able to throw the ball and beat defenses. So, it wasn't that hard.
When you go into your first game are there nerves when you're playing your first college game? Does that melt away right away? I'm just kind of curious what your mindset was when you take the field?
After the first few plays, first time getting tackled, those kind of go away. After that it was pretty smooth. Just worried about helping us and winning.
Coach said that one of the takeaways for improvement wise you got a little tired, I don't know if it was the second half. Was there a stretch you felt you were worn down a little bit? What happened in that second half where he kind of saw that?
Just getting a lot of plays in. Being in college, the pace moves a lot faster. Also playing receiver you're running every play. It was a change for me. I'm adapted now. Practicing, going hard all the time in practice, so it's easier in the game.
That touchdown, what did you kind of see on it? First game, get your first career touchdown, what was the emotions like after that moment?
It was exciting, being able to score my first college touchdown. I ran the play, seeing the ball in the air, just made an opportunity for myself and I scored. It was a great pass by Ryan.
I know you weren't here last year when these guys lost to Old Dominion. Are any of them talking about that? Do you feel like there's a little bit of added pressure or excitement coming into this game, is that sitting on their minds a little bit?
We go into the every game the same way. Prepping, going in there with a 1-0 mentality to win. I saw the game last year, everybody knows what happened, but we just got to go out there and play.
When you said you've seen it did you watch on TV or were you there by some chance?
I was there.
What was that experience like? Just as a college football fan how shocking was it to kind of see what was happening?
It was shocking. Everybody has their ups and downs and certainly that wasn't our best time, but we've been working all summer, all fall and we're ready to go out.
You said you were there, were you committed to Virginia Tech at that point?
Yes, I committed to Virginia Tech going into my senior year.
Were you wearing Virginia Tech gear, did anybody say anything to you?
Some of my friends who I played with in high school play at ODU. So I see a lot of them there, people who knew who I was, it was cool.
You were really prominently in the mix for punt return duties in the preseason. Is that something that you still sort of envision yourself doing at some point here, obviously Heze [Hezekiah Grimsley] got the first crack the other day, but is that kind of where you felt you might make your impact right away or is it something you put on the shelf for now?
Coming in, special teams I thought was my shot to see the field early. Me and Heze both been working hard and he got the shot. He did great, and I ended up getting the chance to go on kick return which is pretty cool.
Do you have a nickname?
Tell me, first off, getting here did you feel like you had a good chance to play early, and as camp went on what do you think you did to earn that playing time?
Pretty much the team left everything open for me, and they guaranteed me that if I play hard and know the assignments well, I'll be able to play, and you told me again what was the next question I'm sorry?
What were you doing in camp that you thought hey I'm probably impressing, or what was going well for you in camp?
I just knew to work hard every play I went. Follow my teammates footsteps, and follow their lead, and I'll fall in the program some way, somehow.
Coach [Justin] Fuente told us that obviously you haven't mastered the entire offense yet, but they keep giving you a little more. Have they added a bunch more to your play this week as you prepare for this game?
It's something new all the time, it's something new all the time. You just have to learn it, you have to know it, and then you have to go and execute.
Coach said that you guys left some plays on the field. Was there any one or two carries that you had that you kind of thought, should've gotten more on Saturday?
It's always gonna be mistakes and mess-ups, and things like that, but we just gotta execute more and just find a way to overcome the bad plays, and we just gotta keep pushing. You always gonna have mess-ups and things like that you just can't look at that we just gotta move onto the next play.
I'm curious, how did a Florida guy like yourself hear about the Hokies and kind of get it on the radar here? What was the selling point?
Obviously, playing for the Hokies is the best. I'm not sure what you're trying to ask on that again?
I'm just curious when did they first start kind of contacting you, and how did you hear about them? I know Jacksonville has sort of been a hot spot?
It was in the beginning of my senior year they started really contacting me, and things like that. They saw my film. They were very impressed, and then they contacted me, they kept contacting me every way, every how. They never let up on me. That was one thing that stood out to me with them recruiting me at that point.
When you were getting recruited here did you look at the style offense they play. They like to use four or five backs, rotate the ball around. Go with the hot hand, if somebody gets hot I guess, but as you studied that were you apprehensive at all, about the fact that they didn't really have a running back one, and a running back one A, like a lot of other schools do, or did you kind of take that as a challenge that if you do come here, and if you have a good start then maybe you can get more carries and take that role?
Every opportunity is open, they give everybody opportunities. That's one thing that I do like about this program. It's never a one man's game, it's everybody. I do like the rotation and things like that. It gives everybody a chance to shine. I knew that coming into this program if I showed them what I could do and things like that, and obviously playing behind the team that everybody was gonna get fed. I play my part in everyway I can.
Are you the kind of guy that got better as the games went on in high school? You got lathered up.
Why is that?
Because once you start learning the game and you start picking up on things, and learning how you're players play and things like that. Then you understand the game a lot better, and then as far as being early in the season, things like that. Obviously nerve racking and things like that sometimes, but you get used to it, and it becomes something that you just, it comes to hand.
Coach has talked about how hard it is for running backs, especially young ones, to kind of learn the blocking schemes. That's kind of what takes time. How hard is that? What's that process like, and what do you do to kind of, is it just watching film or talking to the other guys? How do you kind of drill that down?
Yeah we watch film, film watching is always, everyday, all the time. Obviously, you gotta build a relationship with your teammates. Once you build a relationship with your teammates, understand how they play, understand how they go about things. Then I feel like you have a better understanding on how they play. You understand how they, obviously just being aware of things, it's an instinct you just gotta know how to play ball.
How much film did you watch during fall camp do you think?
Aw man, everyday, everyday after practice we always watch, day before practice and after practice, watch film all the time. You gotta be in the film room. Yes sir.
You talked about the rotation obviously you said it was something that you were okay with that you even respected coming in here. With one guy going down, that means that you're gonna get more carries just by default. Obviously you hate to see [Jalen] Holston go down like that. Was that something you're excited for, just the prospect of getting more carries, and is that something you feel like you're ready for going into the next part of the season?
Obviously, I'm hurt about my brother going down, and the team is hurt about our brother going down, but you gotta be ready when your name is called. When your name's called you gotta know your assignment and know what you gotta do. I'm prepared for it. I'm ready for it, and obviously my brother has trained me and showed me the way on what things I need to pick up and how to get the job done.