Tech Talk Live returned for its weekly show on Monday night. Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente was the only guest on the show, but he talked about a variety of topics concerning the Hokies. Here are the highlights.
Taking advantage of time off and managing work and family
“Certainly. We try to, we do our best to balance all of those things. That’s why within our program, we have an open-door policy with families and kids, whether they’re at practice or at meals. Obviously, I’m not the only one with a young family on our staff. It’s kind of fun too, because we’ve got some with kids and some with grandkids, and all those sorts of things. We enjoy having them up in the office all the time, or whenever their mothers or fathers feel like bringing them up there. But the bye week is filled with work. I mean, we have a tremendous amount of work to get done in the bye week, but we try to arrange it so that we can take a little bit of time off on Saturday, to kind of reintroduce ourselves to our lives and our kids, and hang out a little bit, and have some good family time.”
Encouraged that starters and older players showed up to last Tuesday’s practice, after being given day off
“Yeah, I figured there would be some guys that showed up, just to watch and see what was going on. I think part of that is because we have a group of guys that really enjoy football and enjoy the comradery, and want to win. They know that those young guys are important to our future and our present. I think there was a little glimmer of, ‘Let’s see who practices well today, and can help us in this final stretch.’ It’s always good to see those guys around. We’ve got a group of guys that hang around the office a lot. Whether it was in the summertime or when we were running camps, or during the spring time, they just come by quite often. They like football, they like the coaching staff and their teammates, and they kind of just enjoy being around.”
Kind of response coaches are receiving on the recruiting trail, how staff evaluates players
“Everybody talks about the sales part of recruiting, and that is important, we do have a fantastic product here to sell, but for me, maybe the most important thing is the evaluation of the player, of their character, their work ethic. Getting players into the program and retaining them, and keeping them throughout their career — playing with older players is better. Because it’s a lot of work. We ask our guys to do quite a bit. Guys that can handle that workload and the academic rigors are what we’re looking for. We really take in-person evaluation very seriously. I have a hard time, with almost anybody that we’re recruiting, that somebody on our staff hasn’t seen live — hasn’t seen them in school, or playing a game, or go compete or play basketball, or go through offseason or whatever it is. I really try to make that a big point of emphasis, because it’s not hard to pick out the top 20 players in America. Anybody can do that. But, there are so many good players that are below that, that in two or three years are going to be elite football players. Trying to project those things takes some time, some work and a little bit of talent and evaluation. Not that we don’t want to recruit the top 20 players in America, we do, but you can’t get a lion’s share of your roster from that pool.”
Difficulty in balancing numbers in recruiting, and keeping spots open for late deciders
“My goodness, that’s the most stressful part of the whole thing. It really is, for me, because first of all, none of the assistant coaches care. They just want to sign as many guys as humanly possible, they don’t ever care. We’re working under limitations, but they couldn’t care less. They want their position to be the best, their side of the ball to be the best, and I get that. I was in their chair at one time not too long ago as well. When I was in their chair, I didn’t care either.
“But, 85 is our number. We cannot go over it. So you have the 85 number. You’re limited now to 25 per year, period. You can’t go over that. And, you have all these factors of unknown. The way we try to do it to break it down is, we want to carry so many running backs on scholarships, so many quarterbacks on scholarships, so many inside receivers, so many outside receivers, safeties, corners, defensive tackles, defensive end, so on and so forth. That’s the best way to try and prioritize those things. But, it never works out that way because obviously, you don’t know who you’re going to get and there comes a point when you may take an extra corner if he’s a better player than your next best defensive tackle.
“Then, you have the NFL Draft. You have guys that could declare early, you have those opportunities and the external factors on those kids trying to make those decisions. You have early graduation. Now kids, essentially, when they graduate, they graduate with another year of eligibility. They are free agents, they can go to other schools if they want, they can really do whatever they want. There’s retention levels, there’s graduation rates, there’s all these sorts of things that are at play that are always moving. You have medical redshirts. Marshawn Williams is a perfect example. He was on scholarship last year as a running back. He’s still a medical redshirt for us now after his third knee injury, so he doesn’t count, so that opens up, or last year, it opened up another spot that we weren’t planning on having. My assumption was going into the year that Marshawn was still going to be with us. There’s a lot of kind of moving facets to it, now with the early signing day and all those sorts of things, it kind of adds to it.”
How official visits require more from support staff than unofficial visits
“You know, there’s been a lot made about official visits, and I have some pretty strong opinions about that. There’s now eight months out of the year that student-athletes are allowed to take official visits. So each student-athlete is allowed to take five. We have a certain number of total official visits that we’re allowed to bring in, which we have never hit before. And now we will, because of the extended time for official visits, which obviously costs more money, but the thing about the workload is it’s not us, we work anyway. It takes a village of people to put on an official visit. It takes the academic advisors, the equipment room, teachers. We have faculty come across and eat breakfast and spend time with these kids. Literally, compliance, every aspect of their life is involved in an official visit.
“Now those people, their responsibilities are increasing. We have to have them. We don’t have any choice. We’re kind of apologetic about it now because it’s blown up to where the numbers are going to be more. So now, you’ve got official visits in season, so it does obviously add to our time requirements during game weekend, which we understand, we work a lot anyway. But the issue, the issue comes with when do we actually spend time with them? We’re spending time with our own team, we’re trying to get them ready to play. Obviously we have an event, a game to plan, so the amount of contact time we have with them on official visits during the season is limited.
“The good news is, many of these young men that are coming in, we have seen multiple times. They’ve been here multiple times throughout the spring, throughout the last couple years since we’ve been here. So they’ve made many, many visits, so I feel a little bit better about that part of it, but it’s kind of another unintended consequence of the early signing period. Now we have more official visits during the season, which actually reduces the amount of the time we spend with them on their officials.”
Difficulty in preparing for North Carolina, considering lost talent and injuries creating uncertainty
“Any time you’ve got an unknown out there, you have to cover scenarios. You have to have those discussions. Whether you actually share them with the kids or not is kind of up to your own discretion, but I think having those discussions when you’re facing, ‘What if they do this.’ You’re always trying to feel out how the other team feels about itself. Who do they want to get the ball to? How do they see themselves, and you try to view how you see them and how to use that to your strengths. Whenever you’ve got some uncertainty, it always makes your job a little more difficult. You have to be a little bit more thorough, in terms of having those conversations with staff and trying to play the ‘what if’ game. I don’t think you should always introduce those to the kids. You can cloud their judgement a little bit by chasing ghosts. You make your best determination and go, but having those conversations during the week helps that.”
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