Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente, who has been on the job roughly seven months now, has been active in establishing the culture and building the foundation he deems necessary in order to bring the Hokies back to the forefront in the ACC.
For Fuente, he thinks the foundation has been laid for a successful 2016 season.
“I think our kids understand what our expectations are of them,” Fuente said. “Our kids on our teams have worked incredibly hard, they’ve been all in with both feet. Anytime you change coordinators, assistant coaches, you change head coaches, there’s going to be some adjustment on everybody’s part. I think our kids have done a great job of that. We’ve instilled the blueprint of what our offseason is going to be, what we expect out of kids in the summer time, how Spring practices should operate and looking forward into the fall, we set a good foundation to set us up for the rest of the summer and ultimately a good two-a-day and fall camp.”
Fuente’s summer has been primarily filled with recruiting and hosting satellite camps across the region. Shortly after the NCAA stated they were allowing programs to host satellite camps outside their own state in April, Virginia Tech football announced they would be holding camps throughout the summer in Virginia and other states.
Follow me on Twitter at @RickyLaBlue
So far, the Hokies have hosted camps in Virginia Beach, northern Virginia and Georgia, along with hosting one in Blacksburg.
“I think it was productive,” Fuente said. “We didn’t go overboard. I know there’s a lot of different approaches, but I felt like we were efficient with our time and with our money. The kids came to camp, got good work and got a great evaluation. When I say evaluation, I mean they got a chance to see us coach and us work. I think they got a chance to evaluate us.”
Fuente said hosting camps in Virginia was important when planning out their camp schedule.
“My first and foremost thought when we were allowed to do them was to make sure we serviced our own state, making sure we got to the 757 and to northern Virginia,” Fuente said. “I like the way those went. We got good productivity out of those. Our ones that went out of state, I feel the same way. I feel good about them.”
When Fuente isn’t hosting camps, he’s been recruiting almost non-stop. He believes social media has accelerated the 24/7 recruiting process, and that it has positives and negatives.
“Social media has changed everything,” Fuente said. “It’s just a different endeavor. I think kids are being educated on the recruiting process in terms of what us schools are recruiting, how many of certain positions, all that sort of stuff, I think that is a good thing. I think having that information is good. The self-promotion side of it is a little much sometimes, quite honestly, and sometimes I think it fills some young men with false hopes and dreams and opinions of themselves. I do like the fact we can communicate with them, I like the fact they have more information, those are good things. It’s just like anything else, too much of anything can be bad and the whole social media aspect probably isn’t any different than it is in our society, where people can get a little bit carried away.”
Recruiting at Memphis and recruiting at Virginia Tech would seem to have some big differences. Fuente doesn’t see them though.
“Recruiting is recruiting,” Fuente said. “I think that across the board, that people forget about or people neglect, is the evaluation part of recruiting. To me, that’s the most important thing. It’s not about winning a press conference, or getting a rating or anything like that, it’s evaluating who fits into what you’re trying to accomplish. Evaluation whether you’re at Memphis or Virginia Tech, is going to be incredibly important. I don’t know that there are huge differences, obviously we’re dealing with some different kids, kids that have different options, I understand there are some differences there, but recruiting in general, I don’t think there are a lot of differences.”
Fuente says he’s not big into making a splash with recruits. He isn’t a flashy guy in person, and he doesn’t try to be that way with recruits either. Instead, Fuente wants recruits to see him as genuine and honest.
“We’re looking for the right fit for our program and young men have to be able to work incredibly hard at Virginia Tech. In the classroom and on the football field,” Fuente said. “I hope I project as somebody who’s straightforward and honest and trustworthy, and somebody that parents want their kids to play for because they know they’re going to get the truth. There is the aspect of some flashiness some people have, and I think that’s fine for them, but I think we’ve got a great program to sell, we’ve got a great community to sell, we’ve got a great school to sell and it’s our job to make sure we get that information across and I think we’re doing a good job of it.”
Being at Virginia Tech comes with being in the spotlight, and Fuente admits that he’s tried to change certain ways in which the football program works with the media. Almost every spring scrimmage was closed this year and quarterbacks have been off limits to the media all spring as well. Fuente believes the policies he’s helped put into place aren’t that different than what he oversaw at Memphis and what other programs do as well.
“There has been a little change in how we handle the media from the way Coach Beamer handled it,” Fuente said. “I think it’s maybe more in line with the way many other schools are currently operating. That’s been a change for some other people, but it hasn’t been a big change for us. I think we’ll continue to work through that to make sure we take care of all the responsibilities we have, but I don’t think it’s a huge change for me, in terms of whether you’re coaching at Memphis or coaching at Virginia Tech. Obviously the last few years at Memphis we had more media responsibilities because we were a better team. The first couple years we didn’t have many because we weren’t very good, but we try to manage those things, regardless of the outcome, we try to stick to our policies and we know what works and continue to manage that.”
On the field, Fuente says that Virginia Tech’s upcoming training camp in August is important for the Hokies’ younger players.
“We need our young guys to play better,” Fuente said. “We need to continue as coaches to accept the challenge to develop young players and create some depth. We have some freshmen who will have to play for us this year. I’m not sure who those guys are, or how much they’ll play, but there’s no question coming out of the spring there’s some young guys who will play pivotal roles for us. We’ve got to accept that challenge as coaches. I want to see those young guys make good strides to be more like those older guys that we have in our program.”
The Hokies, of course, do not yet have a starting quarterback, and Fuente does not have a timetable to name one either. He did say in the spring that redshirt senior Brenden Motley and JUCO-transfer Jerod Evans were the top two options for the Hokies’ starting job.
“When we have one, we’ll make that announcement and we’ll make that decision,” Fuente said. “I watch our kids work out and operate and I don’t think they’re sitting up at night wondering who’s going to be the starting quarterback at the Liberty game. I think they just want to continue to get better and do the right thing and give us a chance to win. We’ll see how long that competition rolls out, I know everybody will be anxiously waiting to see who runs out there with the No.1 offense to start the season vs. Liberty. My mind frame is, regardless of what happens, we’re going to need those two older guys throughout the season. We’ve got to get them both ready to play, no matter what.”
Fuente also said that there is no update concerning suspended cornerback Adonis Alexander and defensive end Houshun Gaines. Both Gaines and Alexander were charged with possession of marijuana in April, while Gaines was also charged with underage possession/purchase of alcohol. Both are scheduled to be in court on June 27.