Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and assistants spoke to the media on Tuesday morning. The Hokies had their second scrimmage of fall camp over the past few days, which included live kicking. Fuente and special teams coordinator James Shibest both said they learned a lot about the unit during that scrimmage.
Robinson Back to His Old Self
Tayvion Robinson has been the go-to punt returner for the Hokies over the past two seasons, but had three muffed punts in 2020. Teammate Dorian Strong recovered a muffed punt against NC State. However, a miscue against Duke was returned for a Blue Devils touchdown and Liberty recovered a punt Robinson dropped and scored on the next play. That lead to a drop in Robinson’s confidence, and the Virginia Beach native didn’t return a punt in the last four games of the season.
Shibest praised Robinson and his confidence on Tuesday and said, “he looks like a different guy this season.” He noted how critical the position is in terms of field position and momentum swings and said he believes Tech will have the 2019 Robinson back in 2021.
For comparison, Robinson returned 13 punts for 185 yards (14.2 avg) in 2019 but his totals dropped to just 10 returns for 21 yards in 2020. A consistent Robinson in the punt return game will be a big weapon for the Hokies this season.
King Continues to Be No. 1 Option At Kickoff Returner
In 2019, like Robinson at punt returner, Keshawn King was the guy in the kickoff return game. While he only had six returns, he averaged 28.0 yards per return.
Khalil Herbert had 16 returns last season for 430 yards. No one else had more than three returns and 65 yards, both of which were King. With Herbert gone, it’s King’s time to shine in the kick return game. Shibest noted his explosiveness and said he’s the No. 1 guy in that role. If he can get back to his 2019 form and rip off chunks at a time, it will set the Tech offense up well.
John Parker Romo Can Do It All
The senior kicker from Peachtree, Ga. finally gets his opportunity as a field goal kicker this season after sitting behind Brian Johnson for the past few years.
A 2017 transfer from Tulsa, Romo was Tech’s kickoff specialist the last two seasons. Out of 124 total kickoffs in that time, 81 (65%) went for touchbacks. Because of the departures of Johnson and punter Oscar Bradburn, however, Romo may find himself doing more than normal.
“Who knows, he could be punting, too,” Shibest said. “He can do it all.”
Romo didn’t have an opportunity to take a field goal in-game because of Johnson being the starter, so this is his time to finally shine. Shibest said having Romo back after losing Johnson and Bradburn has been huge, not just as a kicker but as a leader.
Filling the Aussie’s Shoes
In terms of punting, Peter Moore is the guy. Back on Aug. 4, Fuente said Moore, a freshman from Towson, Md., had the lead in replacing Bradburn. Moore had three punts for 99 yards last season, with a long of 39.
“We’ve seen him do it in practice,” Shibest said. “It’s, ‘can he go do it in a game,’ now.”
Bradburn was a force on special teams in his time in Blacksburg. A two-time All-ACC Honorable Mention nominee, the Sydney, Australia native punted 225 times for 9,796 yards. 103 of those punts were fair catches and 81 were inside the 20. Those are some big shoes to fill for Moore.
Fuente Continues Praise
It used to be rare that Fuente raved about individual players, but it’s been very common this offseason.
On Tuesday, Fuente said cornerback Armani Chatman and linebackers Keshon Artis and Dean Ferguson have had “as good of camps as they’ve ever had.” Back on July 20 on the Tech Sideline Podcast, Fuente raved about wide receivers Da’Wain Lofton and Jaylen Jones, calling them, “studs.” He didn’t do it often in the past, but it’s become noticeable recently, which is something of note.
Beau Davidson to Texas Tech
Can confirm the news from a source that director of recruiting Beau Davidson is leaving the #Hokies for the same position at Texas Tech. Homecoming of sorts for the Texas native.
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) August 24, 2021
As some speculated, Beau Davidson, Virginia Tech’s director of recruiting, is leaving Blacksburg to take the same job in Lubbock at Texas Tech.
A North Texas graduate who served as a GA for the Mean Green in 2007, Davidson had been on the staff in Blacksburg for four seasons. The Katy, Texas native was an offensive quality control coach for his first two seasons before he was promoted to assistant director of player personnel. With the departure of former director of recruiting John Iezzi, Davidson was promoted to that position following the 2020 season.