Publisher's Note: Leo Peschio contributed to this transcription. Lightly edited for clarity.
What was your reaction when you see Hezekiah [Grimsley] make that kind of catch that he did in the end zone like that? Does he do that in practice a lot?
He actually does. He has very good ball skills so some of those catches that look difficult that he's able to make on a regular basis, but I was just happy to see him go out there and make a play. He's a guy that comes to practice and works his behind off and does all the right things. So you're happy to see guys like that have success.
Does he practice those one-handed grabs like that?
Hez does. Actually he does. Pre-practice I've watched him a couple times out there doing that. I do not have them practice that. Obviously, I want them to catch with two hands, but obviously there are situations where that's the only hand you can get up and that's what he did in the game.
We've talked to you about Tayvion's [Robinson] talent, but did you expect him to come out and other than the drop on Saturday, he hasn't looked like a freshman, 10 catches. Are you surprised that he's been able to be that kind of contributor right away? Did you expect that in fall camp? I know you guys knew he had talent, but did you expect him to kind of come out be one of your top receivers right away?
The first thing is, I think we're pleased, we're not satisfied with where he's at, and a lot of the mistakes that I see and that our coaching staff sees, you guys don't necessarily see. He has a long way to go to be a good player, but I think he has, the impressive thing is he's come in and the situation, the game hasn't been to big for him. In that sense were all pleased with that, but he has a lot of room to grow.
I assume [James] Mitchell spends most of his time with you guys, like in your group?
In your room?
No, no Coach [James] Shibest handles Mitchell. He's a tight end who has some unbelievable ball skills and receiver skills, but he's a full-time tight end.
Okay. Okay. It's just odd to look at out just to figure out where he's at because you see him in the slot a lot.
He's a tight end.
How tough has it been to not have Damon [Hazelton] kind of be able to go, and what's been the challenge in kind of working through and I guess he's been on and off just kind of practice-wise? How challenging is that when a guy, healthy one day and not the next?
I'm sure it's challenging on him, 'cause I know he wants to be out there. I think the positive part of that is it's allowed some other guys to have opportunities. Would Kaleb Smith be getting the reps he's getting if Damon were there, who knows? We're all working with him together and trying to get him back healthy as soon as possible.
About Hezekiah again, I know he worked inside. He's worked some outside. We talked to [Justin] Fuente after the game he just seemed very happy for his success. What is he like as a worker in the room, and what is sort of your impression of him working with him for ten months or however long it's been.
I think the best part about that is, is that you really like the person. He's a good guy, and he does everything that you ask on the field, off the field. So when you see guys that work hard and do everything you ask, you know they're going to have success in life. So when have success on the field you're just overly excited for him, and Heze is one of those guys, he has an infectious personality. You see him out there in pregame dancing and bringing energy to our team. You just like to see good guys win, and that's what he is. He's a good guy.
You mention Kaleb Smith and Phil Patterson, the other guy getting reps too with Damon out. How do you think he has done? I mean after two catches and a touchdown. What was kind of your impression of his start to the season?
Just like all the other guys, I think. Are we a finished product? Absolutely not, and Phil will be the first to tell you that. He has been more consistent which was one of the things I challenged him on when I got here. Is be consistent, day to day, game to game, and he's done that. So if he continues to do that, hopefully by the end of the season we'll have a pretty good player.
I think you mentioned unfinished product, but Tre Turner you said he was a below average route runner at the end of spring. Has he gotten up to average at least, or what would you say? Has he made that improvement? He said he took it personally, was in the indoor, during the summer, taking that to heart.
I think he's getting better. I'm happy that kind of ticked him off because we all need to improve, but Tre, that was one of the things we wanted to focus on coming into fall camp and the season. And if he's gonna take that next step to be what I think he can be, he can't just be a guy that can catch the ball. He has to be a good route runner. He has to be a good blocker on the perimeter. He's gotta be on good on special teams. That's a complete player, and that's what we want in our room.
You had [Bryan] Hudson and [Doug] Nester playing time how do you think they handled the sort of spot light of playing in their first college game?
I thought they handled it well, and they've been working extremely hard and have done a great job of picking it up. The scheme and what not and the calls. They go in there and work hard everyday and put them in there the other day trying them for a couple different reasons, but they handled it very well. Can we get better? Yeah we can. Am I going to be gray headed by the end of the month? Yeah I am, but there still working like crazy and had a great day today.
In the run game did you guys think you did a better job in the second half on the o-line? What was kind of you're thoughts on just the game in general, how it developed? Did you guys kind of think it was kind of inconsistent?
Yeah it was very inconsistent. It is a work in process and playing different guys and some newer guys, that's the chemistry that we're gonna get to is probably not there yet. But second half found a little bit of something, letting our guys play fast. That's the most important thing. Play fast and use their athletic ability to the best. When you're trying to figure something out your feet aren't moving so just simplifying a little bit of things there. But I do feel like we took a baby step forward and we're not there yet, but we took another step today, and I'm excited about what happens tomorrow.
You mentioned chemistry, what else is kind of the young guys is holding the line back do you think in the run game specifically? Is it just a combination of things where you're just kind of different things happen on different plays or do you see any kind of overall?
It's not one guy. It's not one group on the field. It's a little bit of all of us, and it's just getting this run game to develop. And we've gotta help that as coaches. I've gotta do a better job, and the good thing about it is, is that we've got a good group that's hungry and show up to work everyday. We've got some guys that haven't played before and they make a mistake, to their credit they find out what it is and they're able to fix it, and that's exciting and that makes us go to work everyday, and continue to take those steps.
With [John] Harris was that just kind of performance or you wanted to get Hudson in when you made the switch at half time?
I planned to do it a little bit earlier in the game, and just didn't and then did it at the half and then once the half got started we came out and moved the ball pretty well, just who's hot stay with it, one of those deals.
How much of a luxury is it just to have kind of more depth this year and be able to make a switch like that at halftime just at multiple positions, people who can slide into other positions? How do you use that to your advantage? Is that something that you talk about a lot?
It's something we talk about all the time, and it is a luxury. If something doesn't look right I don't have to look at it very long or at least try someone else until they don't look right. It's a very competitive situation in our room, and what that does, everybody's tuned in, in meetings, everybody is tuned in in practice because they know cause I've got a very good group that's all hungry to play, and I've been in situations before where a guy could break his leg and he'd still play. Well that's not the case anymore. Hopefully we can get going here forward and figure out who's who a little bit, but what have you done for me lately is sort of our policy in our room.
If you guys, you got the injuries and you got the young guys. Do you now select the starters Thursday, Friday or do you wait till the end of the week? How does that work just the process. For you you're dealing with who you're gonna get back or how does this kinda work here?
This year. Last week and this week.
I like guys that practice. That tells me a lot more than guys that might be well. Especially Tuesday's a big work day for us, Wednesday's a big work day for us, Thursday's a perfect day, and I need to know something by then usually and get a plan. Some guys get well. Okay I'll put you in a series and see what it looks like, but no our big deal around here is you gotta practice to play.
So do you tell them on Friday's then who's gonna start?
They usually know by then or Thursday. Starting wise they're not, I keep them, especially these young guys I keep them on edge all the time, but by reps they can figure it out they could.
Lecitus, you guys have sort of struggled as a team running the ball. I'm just kind of curious, the mood in the offensive line about some of those struggles?
Honestly, we notice that. We have been struggling running the ball. We'd like to get more yards and progress more as a running football team. It's definitely frustrating to us as an offensive line 'cause honestly we take it to heart. It's not just something we accept. It's something we know we need to get better at because it kind of tags at our character. We need to be more aggressive up front, get more movement. If we gotta get to the second-level, get to those backers and that's what needs to be done and that's what we need to do. It hits right at home. It hits us in our heart. We know we need to get better at that.
Coach Vice said you guys took a baby step forward in the second half. What did you see was the difference there after halftime kind of getting a little more movement in the run game?
Honestly, I think detail. In the first half we were running the ball a good bit, but we weren't exactly dialed in. It's like we need to get the down linemen, the defensive line moved first, and then eventually climb to that secondary, those linebackers and stuff like that. And we weren't exactly getting the job done. We trying to get movement on the down linemen and they move to our front and things like that and it just takes us out of our zone. We went in the locker room during the halftime, and I was a big part of that not exactly being focused so I sat in there. I had to think about everything I was doing wrong. I had to get my mind right so did the other linemen, Silas [Dzansi] and Christian Darrisaw. We just had to sit and calm down. Let's make calls. Let's plan out who we got. If we're working a double team, let's know who we working to. Just stuff like that, and get on the same page and stuff like that.
And the freshmen, you guys played two of them. Bryan Hudson and Doug [Nester]. What did you kind of see from them, and how are they kind of developing right now?
Those two guys, those are some big guys for one. Those are some big freshmen we had come in, but I definitely like the fact that they are able to play early, and I say that because you got a lot of freshmen linemen that come in or freshmen in general that come in, and taking that step from high school to college, it's a big step. It's a different world. The fact that they can come in and do exactly what [Vance] Vice tells them to, to get the job done is impressive 'cause a lot of people can't do it. You come in and no matter how big and strong you are, if you can't do what you're coach is telling you to do, take the correct steps and know who you're working to, it's not gonna work. So I'm proud that they can do that.
Mr. Smith what do you feel is the toughest thing about run blocking? Is it a state of mind, or what do you feel if there is a tough thing about run blocking?
The tough thing about run blocking for me is, it's not only, a lot of people think you just gotta be able to run you're man off the ball. It's not always that 'cause like I said a lot of times when that offensive line we're working double teams, and if not that if I got a three-technique and we're running a play to the left I can't just come off the ball and just head first because if he swim moves me or makes a move or anything like that. Now I'm beat, he's in the backfield making that tackle. So you have to be under control but at the same time strong 'cause you got those linemen coming off the ball full speed and we have to be more under control to either work that double team and just get under his pads and fit up just right. Their job is to pretty much get past us, but we have to fit up just right, and if it's not just not right then you may not block him the way you're supposed to or that double team may not work the way it's supposed to.
Do you have a preference between run blocking or pass blocking?
Not exactly. I definitely feel like I got better at pass setting so that's something I kinda like. I like to see myself doing that on film now. I see myself getting better at pass setting, but like I said as an offensive line we notice that we're not moving the ball like we should. So I'd much rather now just run the ball more. We just need to get better, like I said it hit us dead in the heart. It's not like we're just moping around like 'ah man'. We're gonna toughen up. We're gonna get it right. We gotta move those down linemen and get to those backers and even the safeties or cornerback if it's a hot blitz. We'll do it. We'll get the job done. We gotta get it done.
I think you guys had a pretty clear leader on the o-line last year in [Kyle] Chung, directing a lot of traffic. And now you look at the line it's sophomores and freshmen with [Zachariah] Hoyt out. Is there somebody that's sort of stepping into that Chung role from last year. Maybe taking charge of that room or is that a work in progress at this point?
I kinda want to say yeah, it's Hoyt a little bit but as far as Kyle Chung. He was a big help on that offensive line. He would tell everybody where to go and this and this and that. Hoyt is somewhat the same way, but as an offensive line as a unit we're not exactly looking for that guy anymore. You get what I'm saying? Me and Christian and Silas and Doug we're not getting down looking at the center for our rules and what to do and who we're doubling to. We kinda want to know it ourselves. You get what I'm saying?
Some days we come to practice and we're sitting in the film room and Vice will go, 'Oh Silas'. He'll take Silas from right tackle and put him at left guard or left tackle, you get what I'm saying. He doesn't want us to have to depend on one man. He wants us all to know exactly what we have to do so we don't have to depend on that one person because if it's Hoyt and Hoyt's not playing then we can't depend on anybody but ourselves. We communicate as an offensive line, so I may not know everything that CD is supposed to do, and he may not know everything I'm supposed to do, so when I get on the line I make the call and tell him I'm bobbed up, I'm manned up or we're working a double scheme something like that. We just try to communicate the best we can instead of relying on only one person.
Obviously a lot's been made of the run blocking being a little bit of an issue, but the pass blocking has been pretty solid. Is that something that you guys kind of take confidence in and how do you think that you've improved this year in the pass blocking?
I feel like we improved because we work with Vice a lot on pass blocking because I know for a fact, me personally last year, last season it wasn't very good. It's small things though like if I'm supposed to be setting a sort on the left side, I have to know in my mind, I gotta keep it in the back of my mind, okay just because I'm setting a sort I can't get turned out. You get what I'm saying? So if I'm setting and I get turned out because I see somebody coming off the edge and they swim back inside, then that hole is wide open for him to get to the quarterback so it's small things. I know that I gotta set straight back and the only thing, nothing really changes my pass set except the only thing that changes is my eyes. So if I know if I'm setting a sort I'm setting straight back and my eyes are there. Nothing's there I'm helping the center. Ya get what I'm saying? We can't change our foot work or anything like that. Everything has to be the same unless it's like an eighty-pro where we just slide left or right. That's the only thing that'll change us.
Chemistry. You guys have gone with a bunch of different lines in just two games. How hard has it been to kind of get that chemistry right now when you guys have had some injuries, made some changes? Has it been a challenge?
Somewhat, somewhat. For me, like I know it kinda feels different. I'm so used to Hoyt, having Hoyt on my right side and having Christian Darrisaw on my left that if we're practicing and for whatever reason Christian Darrisaw had to come out for a rep because of his helmet or anything like that. Then it just feels a little bit off, but like I said as a unit we try to make sure everybody is on the same page. So no matter who the backup is, 'cause Vice always tells us we're only as strong as our weakest link. You get what I'm saying? So it's not like 'oh you're third string so you don't need as many reps' 'cause it's always next man up. God forbid if I was to go down my backup would have to come along and he gotta play now. We try to make sure everybody is on the same page and as far as chemistry like I said sometimes it feels a little bit different, but we always try to communicate. I try to work with Tyrell Smith just as well as I work with Christian Darrisaw, same way with Johnny Harris, the same.
Curious, did you stay up to see your catch on the SportsCenter top ten highlights?
Actually, I don't even have cable. It was sent to me, I didn't even realize I made it. It felt good being on, I mean you already on TV, but being on ESPN was a big deal for me and my mom.
That one handed catch, I was curious, I asked Jafar [Williams] whether you guys practice those. He said he would like you guys to catch it with two hands, but there's opportunities where you have to go up with one hand, you don't really have a choice. Do you do that a lot in practice, beforehand, after, or during?
I try to because obviously a D1 sport we got here because we know how to catch with two hands. I'd rather practice the catches, like the rare catches, so before every practice I grab a teammate, probably Tayvion Robinson, grab him and go over one-handed catches. It's just for situations like that just to get the right hand eye coordination.
Are you good at it? Is it something you have down at this point?
I wouldn't say I'm good at it, I'm trying to get better. Obviously my favorite receiver is Odell [Beckham], trying to get on that level, but who knows.
Understanding you're probably getting some more looks with Damon [Hazelton] off the field maybe, but you look more comfortable out there than you ever have. Is there an area of your game where you felt like, I don't know if you felt like you needed to improve in, or that you just kind of naturally have evolved over the course of the year from last year to this point that's gotten better?
I feel like it was just a matter of time because obviously freshman year for me it was hard making that transition from high school to college. I feel like time was something I really needed. I just talk to myself a lot, just trying to play comfortable. It's something I've been doing all my life so it's nothing changed, it's bigger, stronger faster dudes.
You said you talk to yourself a lot. What do you say? You talk on the field or in practice or what do you mean?
For example, when a ball in the air, look it in. Going out there for punt return, look it in. Just little stuff, it's side notes to myself just to stay focused, try to keep myself on track.
Curious, along the same lines with what Jafar said that he had challenged Tre Turner about his route running at the end of spring, that was one of the main focuses. What did he say at the end of spring for you? What was his challenge to you, what did he want to see from you going forward?
He wanted me to learn every position. That was his main focus on me because he knew I'm going to come out and perform everyday and try to give him my best. His main thing was just after looking the ball in and everything just learning all the positions because now one of the guys supposed to know all of the positions moving up, and we obviously got more guys coming in so he wants me to be one of those leaders in the receiver room. That was his main challenge for me.
What was it like going against a former teammate in Eric [Kumah], you guys had a couple of plays, you broke up a couple deep passes to him. Is there trash talking, I know he's a talker, how'd that game develop against him?
He actually wasn't talking much, but it was very fun and competitive. Kumah is very competitive so it was helping me study film all week knowing that he's going to come out and try to do what he can do, play to his fullest potential. It was fun, competitive.
He didn't talk, but did you talk?
We got a good friendship so it wasn't nothing off the wall. We talk on the regular.
And the challenge this week, Coach Foster said they got a pretty good receiver. What did you see out of him on film?
Yeah, they have a pretty good offense overall. Coach Foster is big on telling us every week is a big week, never underestimate some opponents. You take every game is serious, every game is a big game, play it like a championship.
Jermaine, back here. By the way, great first name because that's mine. I got to ask you, I asked Coach Foster about DBU, Tech's considered one of the DBUs. What's it like being apart of that proud tradition? Obviously a lot of great defensive backs have come through Virginia Tech.
It's great upholding the standard and knowing what the guys that came before us did and knowing what we have to do. It gives us a challenge, you're not just playing football, we got to live up to something.
I would imagine you line up against Hezekiah in practice quite a bit. What's it like defending him, what kind of player is he to go up against?
He's very competitive also. He got a lot of moves, he quick. With all of our receivers we got to come to work every practice because they're going to try something new. They're working on they're craft and we're working on ours. As a whole all of the receivers, you got to line up and strap it up.
Coaches seem to think he has an upbeat personality. Is he somebody that kind of gets guys going at practice?
Heze? Yea he does talk. He's not always the loudest person, but he'll have his little side, he'll come say something to you. The DBs and receivers we talk on the side about what we can do, what we look for in the wide receiver and what the wide receiver look for in us to help us.