Virginia Tech's defense will be tested early tonight against what should again be one of the top rushing offenses in the country. It will be a good coaching matchup between offensive guru Paul Johnson and defensive coordinator Bud Foster. I caught up with Foster on Friday to get his take on tonight's matchup against the Jackets. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What are the keys to the game?
Bud Foster: We’ve got to control the run game. I don’t know if anybody can stop their run game. We’ve got to control the run game and limit their explosive plays. That’s where they’ve hurt everybody. The last two years I think we’ve played them pretty well, except we’ve given up some explosive plays and it’s kept them in the game. That’s part of their offense, they make you have to play disciplined football, assignment football. A couple of those plays they popped on us last year, we had busted assignments and those are things that can be exposed if you don’t execute.
How long, technically, have you been preparing for this?
BF: I’d say about the middle of last week, to be honest with you. It’s kind of hard because we’re preparing for Georgia Tech, but we’re also preparing to scrimmage and we’ve got to prepare our young guys for a whole season at the same time, as far we’re still installing things, but also trying to get some concepts as far as Georgia Tech’s offense goes. Everybody talks about -- and I think Paul Johnson has said he doesn’t believe the extra time helps you -- I don’t know. We do what we do as far as our technique and fundamentals. The biggest time frame that helps you is getting your scout team to simulate that, and you can’t get it enough. They don’t do it fast enough. But that’s the one area it helped us the past couple of years by having a little time to prepare the scout team to play fast. If you’re just going through the motions, you’ll be down 14-0 and they’ll hold the ball the whole first half. That’s what we have to guard against.
What are your overall thoughts on your defense? So many people are talking about how it could be outstanding this year.
BF: The first game is a new season, a new year. You know me: Ask me that at the end of the year. We’ve got a lot of people back, we’ve got experience, we’ve got some young kids who are hungry and can help us, especially up front. That should be one of our strengths. We have Tariq Edwards out, that’s a big blow for us, but we’ve got Jack Tyler and Bruce Taylor playing in our mike and our backer spot. But we’re thin there. We’re thin in the secondary. We’ve got two really good corners in Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, that was a good move for us with Exum. I like our two young safeties, but after that, there’s just no experience back there. … I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s a new season it’s a new team. If we’re feeling good about ourselves, Georgia Tech’s gonna bury us.
What are your thoughts on opening with such an important game?
BF: It helps in your preparation in the offseason, as far as the kinds knowing they’ve got to work hard, they’ve got a big-time game coming up. But it also is a key game in the league race. It’s been us or them for whatever reason since we’ve been in the ACC. It’s always been big head-to-head, but win or lose, this is the first ballgame. We’ve still got 11 more, and seven more conference games. We’re not going to live and die with this game, but at the same time it’s a critical game coming out of the gate as far as the league race, maybe giving somebody a leg up in the standings.