Tech Talk Live Notes: Justin Fuente Talks Miami, Dealing With Distractions

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With Virginia Tech playing on Thursday night and having to change their schedule, Tech Talk Live was pushed back until Tuesday night. It will also air on Tuesday night next week, as Virginia Tech travels to Pittsburgh next Thursday. Virginia Tech’s Steven Peoples and Justin Fuente were this week’s guests.

Steven Peoples

Tone of practice after Syracuse loss

“It’s been intense, because we don’t like losing and we know we have to step it up. We know Miami is going to be a good team this week, so we got to prepare to the best of our abilities and it’s been a really intense practice.”

Lack of experience in close games this season affecting performance in second half vs. Syracuse

“I think it shocked us a little bit, being in a close game. Every game so far, we’ve been blowing people out and being in a close game, we hadn’t been in that atmosphere yet and being in that atmosphere just shocked us a little bit.”

Expansion of role this season

“It’s been different, you know. Just going from blocking, being out in pass routes and stuff like that, it’s been way different. I like it way more and I’m trying to get the ball a little more.”

Celebrating touchbacks on kickoffs

“Coach Shibest likes us to hype up the crowd. He likes it even more on the road games.”

Experience at Fork Union Military Academy

“It was different, going to a military school. Waking up at 6 a.m. every morning, marching everywhere you go, like it was way different. I think that made me a better man.”

Memories of 500+ yard performance in high school

“I just remember my line doing a tremendous job, like opening up holes and I was seeing holes and go running through the holes. My line just killed that game. Just a tremendous job.”

Steve Sobczak
Steven Peoples’ (32) role has changed somewhat this year, moving from the traditional fullback position to playing H-back.

Justin Fuente

How Thursday night game alters preparation

“Well, we’re such creatures of habit. You’re accustomed to playing a game on Saturday, you have your Sunday ritual, your Monday ritual and so on and so forth, all the way to the next Saturday when you play. Basically, that structure, you may tweak practice just a little bit based on what you’re facing, but that structure, that preparation structure never waivers, except when you’ve got to get it in in five days. I’m fortunate, I don’t know that the way we do it is better than anyone else, but I do know this, I am fortunate in that I have been a part of it and I’ve been a part of it in a couple different ways. At TCU, I was the coordinator, I was there for five years. The first couple of years, we didn’t have a lot of success on Thursday night, and Gary (Patterson) changed the way that we practice and all of a sudden, we started having success. That’s the way we did it at Memphis and that’s the way we’re doing it now. It pushed everything forward. We try to get the guys to the game on Saturday feeling as good as they can feel physically and knowing what to do. You really don’t have time to teach. You can get some technique work, but you don’t have time to go into, ‘You know, let’s get tough this week,’ you just don’t have it. You got to find a way to get the guys feeling as good as they can feel and knowing what to do so they can go play fast.”

Where frustrations lie after Syracuse loss

“Well, when I went back and looked at the game, I felt like it was fairly obvious that we all had a hand in the outcome. Whether it’s the special teams, the defense, the offense, individual players, coaches, myself, I felt like you could just count the number of things that we didn’t do, and it was not that we didn’t play hard, it’s not that the kids didn’t want to win, it wasn’t that we were undisciplined, we just weren’t…we didn’t do some things that are indicative of teams who win ballgames. There were just a large number of that spread out across. We didn’t score enough points offensively, we didn’t get off the field like we usually do on third downs. We didn’t make a game-altering play on special teams, but you can go back and see so many good things that also happened, which is ultimately why we had a chance to win the game, and we responded at halftime and did some good things, but part of it is, you got to take your hat off to Syracuse and the other part of it is, we’ve got to be better, across the board. I’ve got to be better, our staff’s got to be better and ultimately, our players have to play better.”

How much Miami looks like previous Georgia teams under Mark Richt

“I think offensively, you can see kind of the Georgia influence in them. They do get in some three-wideout stuff and they get in the gun. There’s still that element of getting in the I-formation under center and having a really dynamic tailback, schemed up run game that’s usually pretty darn effective and they’ve got the play-action off of that. They can leave guys open down the field. Defensively, they look like, particularly in the secondary, like what I envision Miami football being. They have four seniors in the secondary. They’ve played a lot of snaps back there, they’re very good in the backend.”

Concern over injuries in the defensive line (Nigel Williams, Ken Ekanem questionable for Thursday)

“We do, but we’ll be alright. We’ve done a good job repping guys through there. They’re not out, so as we get closer to gametime, we’ll obviously know more. I feel good about it. I like the way our guys are working. We’ve got some tough kids in there, some kids that this means a tremendous amount. It’ll take a lot to keep them off the field.”

Nigel Williams (8) is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game vs. Miami.

Pros and cons of being a head coach and calling plays, as well as not calling plays

“It’s a tough thing. When a head coach calls a play, I firmly believe if, when evaluating your program, you feel like you are the best person to do those things, then I think you owe it to the team to be the play caller, regardless of the workload that is takes. I also think that in your evaluation of your staff and your program, you feel like you are not the best person to do that, then you owe it to the team and the staff to relinquish those duties. I’ve done it both ways. When we were at Memphis and we started out, we weren’t very good. I felt like it would be better if I took those duties and I could kind of shoulder the offensive staff from some of the criticism that was going to come along, because I knew we were going to struggle to start with, and as we got better, my plan was to eventually, if I saw fit, let go of those duties, which was a lot easier said than done. Once we got good, that’s when it’s really fun to call plays. When you call them and they work, that’s really fun. But last year was the first year that I relinquished those duties and Brad Cornelson did a fantastic job. He’s doing a great job right now. Meticulous, as good of preparation as I’ve ever been around. It’s just hard, when you’re the head coach, and it’s Wednesday, and you’re getting ready to play on a Saturday, and you’re driving home at nine, ten o’clock at night and you’re the head coach, you’re usually thinking about, what’s the status of the team, who missed study hall, what do I need to do tomorrow? When you’re the offensive coordinator and the sole play caller, you’re thinking about third and five, you’re thinking about fourth and two, you’re thinking about coming off, what are you going to do in these situations? I just think it’s a little bit easier to just have that sole responsibility, but I also think you have to understand that ultimately, there’s a reason you’ve had success and if you think you’re the best person to do it, you should stay with it.”

Thoughts on team halfway through season

“I think we’re making progress. My concerns are the same concerns that I had eight months ago, just our overall depth and the ability to make it through the entire season. I think we’ve got some really good players, some good kids, some guys that really want to do well, but there’s a significant gap there when you get down to the second-level guys. If we can manage our kids and be fortunate enough to stay healthy at the right spots, then I think we’ll have a chance to continue to grow. Ultimately, there’s nothing I can do about that. For us, the challenge is to continue to develop the younger, more inexperienced guys and get them ready to play, because we will need them. I enjoy coaching our team, I really do. I enjoy the way they approach things. We’re still learning, we’re still developing our identity, we’re still learning how to handle a 12-game season, but I’m really encouraged by a lot of the signs that I see on a daily basis with our program, whether it’s our redshirt kids lifting and running, or whether it’s our older guys feeling more comfortable and more empowered to lead and bring guys along.”

Ability to play in a Thursday night game at Lane Stadium

“I’ve spent many a Thursday night in my living room, whether it was in Texas when I worked at TCU or at Memphis, watching Virginia Tech play on Thursday night, just being absolutely blown away by the fan support and the noise level, just the pageantry that goes along with that. I’m awfully happy.

I know people have been looking forward to this and even during the summertime, when I would talk to fans, they would say, ‘You know, we can’t wait until we play Miami on Thursday night.’ I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know, that’s a little far off for me. We got a long way to go to get there.’ I know there’s a lot going into it and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

This is what stokes the true competitor within you. You have a short week, it’s going to be hard, you play a talented team with good players and coaches, you’re going to have a great atmosphere. I mean, if you can’t get excited or motivated to sleep a little less this week and work a little harder this week in order to get this done, then you’ve got issues, because this brings out the true competitor in everyone.”

Night games at Lane Stadium, especially on Thursdays, are always big around Blacksburg.

Concerns about Miami defensive front

“Their front four is big and athletic like I expect a Miami front to be. I don’t think anyone’s scored more than 21 points on them all year, I mean they’re pretty darn good on defense. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us, but that’s why we’re here. Hopefully we can find ways to run the ball, to continue to get the ball to the edge and eke out a living there, and then hopefully make some plays in the play-action passing game and that sort of stuff, but we’ll certainly have a big challenge against those guys up front.”

Keeping team from being affected by media, positive or negative

“Yes. It is a challenge, that’s the way I see it. It’s even harder over the last handful, 10, 15 years because of, the ability to access information. It used to be, there was a newspaper and the evening news, that’s really how you got all of your information. So there might be one newspaper article that talked about how good or bad the football team was, or how good or bad an individual was, and that was really it. Now, everybody’s got their own personal device and information, and social media and that sort of stuff. All I’m saying is, they’re bombarded with good and bad. When things aren’t going well, they’re bombarded with negativity and then when things are well, they’re bombarded with positivity and to me, the thing we continue to try and preach, and I’ve said this before at press conferences, we live in an overreaction society, good and bad. Whether it’s Virginia Tech football, or any of the other things going on in the country right now. The truth is always somewhere in between, and trying to make sure we maintain that levelheadedness and team orientation is maybe the primary charge of the head coach nowadays. Maybe that was a fraction of what the head coach had to do years ago, whereas now, to me, you have to devote more time and more verbiage, more articulation and more observations of other people and different ways to paint that picture on a consistent basis to keep your guys focused on the task at hand.

Controlling destiny in Coastal division race

“That’s true, and that’s great. We have forbidden all of those conversations in our deal. That’s way too much for us. Our focus in one game, preparation and on ourselves. Those things are great, wonderful, and I’m not diminishing the value of those, I’m just saying for us, we’ve got to take this thing one step, one day, one practice at a time.”

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. “I think we’re making progress. My concerns are the same concerns that I had eight months ago, just our overall depth….”

    CJF says it all right there. This team IS making progress and we ARE ahead of schedule (meaning I think we are better in all 3 phases than we were last year).

    Go Hokies

  2. Re: Comments on Steven Peoples that the team was “shocked” playing in a close game. It reminds me that CBS Sportsline ranked CJF (based on his Memphis record) below par on results from ‘close’ games. Hope that lack of success is atypical as most of our games now will be ‘close’ games. We need to learn how to win those.

    1. the team is filled with players who are used to mediocrity over the last few years. itll take time and new players coming in with totally fresh mindsets who have never seen the “old ways” of doing things to fully see what CJF is capable of doing. were on the right track tho.

    2. Yep, that is this staff’s next hurdle. I think he’s the right guy though.

      At Memphis, they still had older guys there who had lost quite a bit and when games get close, I think guys like that can get tight…that “here we go again” feeling.
      I’m excited to see what we can do re: discipline and a better offensive system to get over some of those close game humps

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