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Hokies notes: McMillian's workload, recruiting against UNC and a midseason All-American

Hokies notes: McMillian's workload, recruiting against UNC and a midseason All-American

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I wrote a story updating some of the Hokies' injury situations -- as much as you can when Justin Fuente is the one giving updates -- in a story for Tuesday's paper to kick off the week. Go read that here first.

As I noted at the end of that, the Duke game at home on Oct. 28 will be a 7:20 p.m. start.

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Now for a few more notes and quotes from Monday's press conference ...

1. Travon McMillian got a big workload last time out for the Hokies. Whether he will again this week is TBD.

McMillian carried the ball 17 times for 89 yards and a touchdown against Boston College last week, and while that doesn't sound like a major workload, it's the most for any back this year and tied for the second-most carries any running back has gotten under Fuente at Virginia Tech.

McMillian had 18 carries during a 131-yard night against Miami last year and 17 against North Carolina in the rain last season.

Will it be like that going forward?

"Well, we’ll see," Fuente said. "Part of that was because Steven [Peoples] wasn’t able to play a couple of weeks ago. Part of it was because Travon was playing well and taking care of the football. I certainly anticipate that he’ll be the guy that runs out there this week and if he continues to play well, then he’ll continue to stay in there.

"That doesn’t mean that if he makes one mistake, he’s not going to play again. That’s not what I’m saying. Some of it where we’re at in the season and whose available and some of it is playing well is really is important to Travon. And we appreciate his work ethic and how he’s tried to approach things."

2. Virginia Tech and North Carolina go head-to-head in recruiting quite a bit these days. It doesn't mean that Saturday's outcome will play a big role on the recruiting trail, Fuente thinks.

A win would help, no doubt. The Hokies always want to put on a good show for recruits, but it's not like their decision hinges on whether or not Tech pulls off the "W" this weekend.

"To me, if I was advising an 18-year-old on where to go to school, I don’t know that I would stake a large portion of that on one football game," Fuente said. "I think there are a lot of other factors that are important to their happiness and their day-to-day life that don’t have to do with what happens on one particular Saturday for four hours.

"So I’m sure in their minds, there’s an element of that, but ultimately, you’re making a decision on where you want to go to school and who you’re going to play for and the program you’re going to represent. To me, one game shouldn’t affect that one way or the other."

Saturday is a big recruiting weekend for the Hokies, regardless. Although he doesn't have UNC as a finalist, five-star defensive end K.J. Henry, a Clemmons, North Carolina, product, will be in Blacksburg. Henry has Virginia Tech as one of five finalists, along with Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Clemson.

3. Cam Phillips got some midseason All-America love.

Even though he essentially missed a full game against Boston College with a foot injury, Phillips earned midseason All-America honors from the Sporting News.

Phillips, who has 42 catches for 608 yards and five touchdowns, joined Oklahoma State's James Washington on the publication's All-American team.

The senior was also one of four Hokes on ESPN's midseason All-ACC team, joined by defensive tackle Tim Settle, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and cornerback Greg Stroman.

4. Drake DeIuliis burned his redshirt against Boston College, which is just about as late into the season as Fuente would like to do such a thing.

DeIuliis, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound freshman, got his first taste of action against the Eagles, split out wide. That's where the Hokies envision him helping them this year, even though Fuente thinks his long-term future is as a tight end.

"First of all we were in a situation in the game two weeks ago where we didn’t really have a lot of choices," Fuente said, noting the Hokies' injuries at wideout. "But we had been preparing him for that. He had been working on the outside or has been working on the outside. Long-term I think he’s going to be a tight end, but he has some unique skillset in there."

Week 6 is about as late as the coaches would like to burn a 'shirt.

"I would prefer -- sometimes it’s beyond our control -- but I would prefer obviously the later you get in a season not to burn those guys," Fuente said. "But our plan for him when we did decide to play him was that he would continue to play a role. It wasn’t just throwing him in there to go block a couple guys. We feel good about him and his development."

5. The biggest thing Tech has to guard against on kickoff coverage? Complacency.

Joey Slye has touchbacks on 36 of his 39 kickoffs this season, which is a lot of sprints down the field for the gunners with no action. Fuente thinks the Hokies have to stay on edge, though.

"That’s a constant message to our guys on our kickoff coverage team that we can’t take it for granted. We can’t relax," Fuente said. "Not just because we may play in some windy conditions as you get later in the year, but you just can’t take it for granted. Our guys have done a good job at it. I think they’re eager to cover kicks. The way I’ve seen them cover the couple that have been returned, I think they’re anxious to get those opportunities."

It's part of the reason Tech is 13th nationally in kickoff return yardage allowed, giving up only 17 yards per return on the few occasions that an opponent has taken one back.

"In my mind, just looking at our team at the midway point, for us to give ourselves a chance to win, we are going to have to do all of those little things as we continue through the season in terms of winning the field position battle," Fuente said. "We won a game or two in our first six games, not only because of the field position battle, but it played a huge role in us being able to win, particularly the first game. And us continuing to emphasize and accomplish those things, whether it’s downing punts in the red zone or eliminating return yards, is going to be huge for us moving forward.”

Contact Andy Bitter at andy.bitter@roanoke.com or 381-1676. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyBitterVT.

 

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