The Washington Post

Virginia Tech Coach James Johnson hopes to ‘set the tone’ with benching of C.J. Barksdale

C.J. Barksdale (42) received only eight minutes of playing time in Virginia Tech’s defeat to BYU over the holidays. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

Whether the Danville native plays Wednesday against Boston College remains up in the air, but Johnson made it clear Monday this move was more about the big picture.

“I’ve got to set the tone of what’s wanted and what’s needed for the team, and effort’s one thing,” Johnson said during the weekly ACC coaches teleconference. “Playing hard is one thing. If I’ve got a starter that’s going out and playing 20 minutes and getting one rebound, that’s not feasible to the program. That’s not what I’m looking for at that position.”

Barksdale is averaging 5.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, his best performance coming when he played a season-high 34 minutes, scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Virginia Tech’s loss to Georgia Southern last month. Since then, though, Barksdale had been largely invisible.

He had just six points and six rebounds during the Hokies’ three losses out west over the holidays and received only eight minutes of playing time in Virginia Tech’s defeat to BYU. In his place, walk-on Christian Beyer has seen more action and redshirt freshman Joey van Zegeren got his first start of the year against Maryland.

But it left the Hokies with just six scholarship players in College Park Saturday, and the lopsided score reflected that reality.

“We have to do a better job on the defensive end and rebounding the ball, which we’re not doing, which I’m not happy with,” Johnson said. “That’s why a couple of changes have been made.”

Van Zegeren tied his career high with 10 points facing Terrapins big man Alex Len and Beyer came off the bench to have another solid game. The 6-foot-7 New Bern, N.C. native has averaged 4.5 points and 7.8 rebounds since Barksdale’s swoon began last month.

“It depends on who’s giving me effort right now,” said Johnson when asked about Barksdale’s role in Wednesday’s game. “I’m trying to build a program here. I told everybody be prepared to help this team win a game at some point and I’m going to use as many guys as I have to, scholarship or non-scholarship, if they’re competing and giving me effort, doing what we need done to help the team win.”

Mark Giannotto is a Montgomery County native who covers high school sports for The Washington Post. He previously covered Virginia and Virginia Tech football for five years.


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