BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia Tech football is back in Blacksburg this weekend, on the cusp of bowl eligibility for the first time in the Brent Pry era. But it’s a topic that the second-year head coach would rather avoid this week as the Hokies prepare for N.C. State.
“I have a young guy sit in my office on Sunday and talk about if, what and I mean I didn’t even let him finish,” Pry said. “I about kicked him out of the office.”
The fact that the Hokies are in position is remarkable in itself, turning the season around following a 1-3 start to the year. Pry knows there’s a lot of noise and unnecessary pressure as the Hokies go for their sixth win of the year.
“You guys write about it. Their friends talk about it. Their families talk about it,” Pry said. “It’s our job as coaches and leaders. We’re going to work to keep the focus on N.C. State and what we need to do to be 1-0 this week.”
The Wolfpack comes into Saturday’s contest already bowl eligible with a 7-3 record. But N.C. State hasn’t beaten the Hokies in Blacksburg since 2004.
“We have keys to success in all three phases and we identify those early and we work like crazy,” said Pry. “That’s where the focus needs to be. How do we accomplish these things we believe to be the recipe for a win.”
But he knows it’ll be a challenge for his team to stay focused.
“That’s part of maturing as a football player and understanding that the only thing that we can control right now is going out and beating NC State,” said Pry. “We gotta do everything we can to prepare to do that.”
Here are some other takeaways from Pry’s weekly press conference ahead of the Hokies’ meeting with the Wolfpack.
Hokies set for first ‘traditional’ senior day under Pry
Saturday’s game will mark the final home contest at Lane Stadium this season, which means that it’s also Senior Day in Blacksburg. And it’ll be the first traditional Senior Day celebration for Pry.
Last year’s final home game was canceled in the aftermath of the tragedy at UVA, which led to those seniors getting honored at halftime of a Hokies basketball game inside Cassell Coliseum.
“These guys deserve this and it’s such a special day for them. When they look back, they’re going to remember that,” Pry said. “Being out there with their families and doing a group photo at the end. I think the fans appreciate it. These guys deserve the notoriety and the applause.”
One of the seniors that will get his moment in the spotlight will be Nasir Peoples. The Hokies safety joined the team in 2018 and redshirted after playing three games that season as a true freshman. The following year, he saw time primarily on special teams before not playing at all in 2020.
Peoples became a major contributor to the Hokies defense in the 2021 season but dealt with injuries that affected his playing time this year.
“I’m surprised I’ve been here that long. It’s been a long time. I’ve been here six years. I still remember when I first got here I didn’t expect to be here for six years,” said Peoples. “But I enjoyed every moment. Just going out onto that field every time is a big thing. Enter Sandman. You never get tired of it. So I will miss that.”
Pry understands that some of the seniors getting honored on Saturday might end up returning next year for a variety of reasons, like medical redshirts or the extra year of eligibility due to COVID. But Pry would rather have those seniors walk on the field than miss out on the experience completely.
“We’ve been through a lot with that group. Guys that had the opportunity to leave and go other places and hung in there with us through a lot of adversity,” said Pry. “So very proud of the group, very appreciative of them.”
QB Talk: Pry’s impressions of Brennan Armstrong and how Drones has evolved
Former Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong was the starter at the beginning of the season for N.C. State before head coach Dave Doeren benched him in favor of MJ Morris. But after going 3-1, Morris opted to sit out for the rest of the season to qualify for a redshirt and preserve a year of eligibility.
Armstrong threw a touchdown and ran for another in his return as a starter to lead the Wolfpack to a 26-6 win over Wake Forest, leaving an impression on the film for Pry.
“Until I dove into the film, I wasn’t aware of how well he ran the ball. He’s a good-sized kid. He’s got good straight-line speed and also puts his foot on the ground and makes a cut. He runs through a lot of tackles,” said Pry. “I think he’s a competitor. He’s tough and runs hard. Runs confident. So I think their offense has changed.”
Meanwhile, Pry spoke highly of his own quarterback, Kyron Drones, when asked how he’s developed since taking over the starting role from Grant Wells earlier this season.
“The way he runs the ball. His toughness. He’s a determined guy. If there’s a yard to be had, he wants to do everything he can to get it. I think we know all that about him. He’s a physical guy, good size, runs well. I think he’s throwing the ball maybe a bit better each and every week,” Pry said. “I’m most impressed with his growth and decision-making. He doesn’t put the ball in jeopardy and his ball security has improved.”
Drones rushed for 135 yards and threw for 219 more, earning ACC quarterback of the week for the second time this season.
“And he’s making good reads. I think Tyler has been putting a little bit more on him each week and he’s been able to handle it,” Pry said. “There’s a lot of raw, God-given ability there. He’s got a high ceiling.”