Virginia Tech rover Davon Morgan is a game-changer, and the Hokies will need him to be on Saturday at North Carolina against quarterback T.J. Yates. Morgan is second on the team with 58 tackles and has two interceptions and four pass breakups this season. I caught up with Morgan earlier this week to get his take on the season and the UNC game:
What in your mind has been the difference in the season so far?
Davon Morgan: I would say the focus and dedication we have right now. Everybody is playing at a high level, and everybody is playing together as a team. We’re not getting down on one another, we’re pushing each other every day.
When you look at North Carolina on film, T.J. Yates is obviously having a really good year. How do you guys game plan for that and how do you feel you guys match up against their receivers?
DM: We feel like we match up pretty good. We have a good secondary and we have a good defense. We’re going to throw some different looks at them and get them to think a little bit. North Carolina has been doing a pretty good job of giving them a lot of pre-snap things to look at. We’re just going to go out there and try to play ahead of them.
There might not be an answer to this, but you guys are 5-1 against Carolina and have played very well against that state. Is there a reason for that, or is that just the way it goes?
DM: That’s just the way it goes. It doesn’t matter where we play or who we play. We’re going to go out there and play hard, whether it’s North Carolina, Washington or California -- wherever it may be. We’re going to go out there with the attitude to play hard.
How does the absence of Drager affect you guys defensively?
DM: Oh, man, Drager is one of those guys who’s hard to replace. He’s got a motor. He’s relentless. Without him, he’s a big piece of the puzzle who’s missing, but we’ve got some young guys who are stepping in there doing a great job, guys like James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Those guys step in and fill the void. They do a great job of coming in there and making it happen.
I understand you might be a kick returner. How comfortable are you with that?
DM: I’m very comfortable. That was how I got injured against Nebraska, my sophomore year. I was very comfortable with it, but due to the injury, it slowed me down. Now that I’m healthy and 100 percent, I’m ready to go.
How do you guys avoid tripping up here down the stretch? It seems like it’s almost inevitable in the ACC that it’s going to happen. How do you guys keep it from happening?
DM: First of all not thinking about tripping up.
Sorry about that.
DM: You can’t think about tripping up. It’s football. These are the things we do every day. If we continue to go out there every day and continue to get better, everything else will take care of itself.
Defensively, how do you think you guys have done overall this year, considering you had to replace seven starters?
DM: Overall defensively I think we’ve done a good job. I think we can do a lot better. It’s a work in progress. Each week we’re trying to get better and better. When you look at the pass defense, the pass defense is very dominant. We’ve been dominant, but we can be better.
What are the areas you think you need to improve on?
DM: I would just say more gap-fit and tackling.
Did you guys think you’d be in this place right now after that loss to James Madison?
DM: Before the loss we knew we would be in this place. It was just how hard are we willing to work for it? The JMU game was a setback for us, but from that point on, the seniors, we looked each other in the eyes and said, ‘Look man, this is our senior season. We can’t go out like this. We need to turn it around.’ I think the seniors have done a good job of stepping up and being leaders and going out there and practicing hard and setting the tone for the young guys.
What would it mean to you because you are a senior to close out your career with another championship? Three in four years? That’s got to be unprecedented.
DM: It is, it would mean a lot to me. But in order to do that, we have to beat North Carolina this week. We’re not trying to look too far ahead. We’ll take it one game at a time and control our destiny.