With Virginia Tech football roughly a week and a half from the season-opener vs. West Virginia, head coach Justin Fuente and former head coach fielded questions on the Mountaineers and the state of the current Hokies’ team. Let’s hit on some of the highlights.
Fuente pleased with team’s adaptation to new camp rules
At the beginning of camp, Fuente was very open about his concerns regarding the NCAA’s rule changes regarding preseason camp. With camp running longer than normal, Fuente and his staff were forced to adjust their schedule to match their new reality.
“I think our guys have handled it well and our coaches have handled it well,” Fuente said. “I think we’re anxious to kind of get through the next couple of days and get to mock game, and then really get into preparing for West Virginia. It’s kind of that time for us to kind of turn the page.”
Fortunately for Fuente and Virginia Tech, the Hokies haven’t had to make many changes to their original camp schedule set beforehand. Tech has made minor adjustments, like canceling Wednesday morning’s walkthrough, but Fuente said things have largely stayed the same.
However, Fuente sounds like he’s open to making changes for next season’s camp schedule.
“I’ve read that some people have given three or four days off, and I think that’s interesting,” Fuente said. “We weren’t afforded really that luxury this year, with the way the calendar fell, without getting into all the details. That’s something I’m interested in, if the calendar falls correctly for us, next year, if the rules are the same.”
As for this preseason, the Hokies are beginning to shift their focus from camp to the season. Virginia Tech will hold its mock game this weekend, as an effort to prepare players for Sept. 3 vs. West Virginia. For now, Tech is finishing up its preseason work.
“We’ll still work some good vs. good and really have no gameplan in mind,” Fuente said. “We’ll also do some work today on both sides of the ball with West Virginia in mind.”
Tech getting closer to answering personnel questions
Even though Virginia Tech hasn’t released an unofficial depth chart, it sounds like the Hokies are close to wrapping up their personnel discussions. Fuente said on Wednesday that the coaching staff is moving in that direction.
“Offensively and defensively, we have an idea,” Fuente said. “There’s a few spots that I’m not sure who will be the first person to trot out there… but by and large, I’d say a large portion of it is filling out.”
Wide receiver is likely one of those spots not yet set in stone. Virginia Tech is dealing with multiple freshmen at the position, as well as younger players who have yet to play significant time at the college level.
One of those freshmen who’s likely to play is Sean Savoy. The 5-foot-9, 188-pound receiver has impressed this fall, and if things stay on track, should see a significant role in 2017.
“Sean is talented,” Fuente said. “He’s a stronger young player, I mean he’s 190 pounds, he’s a little more filled out. He’s got explosiveness and quickness, he’s good with the ball in his hands. There’s a lot of nuances that come with playing in the slot that he’s still trying to work out and ultimately, how he can handle those things, playing without the ball in his hands, will determine how much he plays. He’s a guy that could earn significant playing time if he continues to improve.”
Beamer excited to renew West Virginia rivalry
Former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer addressed the media on Wednesday as well. Tech announced on Tuesday that Beamer would serve as an honorary team captain for the Hokies against West Virginia.
“I’m deeply honored Justin and Whit (Babcock) allowed me to be the honorary captain of this game,” Beamer said. “To be with a great friend in Don Nehlen, we always got along great. Had a lot of respect for him. Thought he did a great job there. Sometimes our fans didn’t get along so well, but I think even with that, I think there’s a lot of respect from our fans for their program, for their fans, and the same goes back the other way.”
Beamer said that he’s happy that Virginia Tech and West Virginia are rekindling their rivalry, which has been dormant since 2005.
“I think it has new meaning in that now we rep different conferences,” Beamer said. “I know we want to represent the ACC in a great way. So, I think that adds to the importance of the game. And so, I look forward to it and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”
With Beamer no longer a part of the team, very few members of the program have experience with the rivalry. Fuente says that he’s going to do his best to educate his players on the rivalry and its importance, including allowing Bud Foster, Charley Wiles and former player and current strength and conditioning assistant Ryan Shuman to talk to the players about the rivalry.
“Ultimately, our approach to every game remains the same, in terms of it being about our preparation, our emotion and our accountability to each other — but this is a little bit different,” Fuente said. “I think we do need to take an educational step, just to kind of paint the picture of what it’s like when you play in a game like this that has been dormant for a little while.”