Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente values certain things above others. Among those elevated values is a simple one — continuity.
In Fuente’s first two years as captain of Virginia Tech’s football program, he’s been able to successfully create stability inside a program that desperately needed it just a couple of years ago. Since Fuente has been hired, all of his assistants have been retained and received pay raises, while Fuente has agreed to two contract extensions after each of his first two seasons as head coach. That second extension came just recently on Jan. 30.
“First of all, I want to just publicly thank Whit (Babcock) … and Dr. (Timothy) Sands for their faith in me and our staff,” Fuente said. “I just think it’s — I know it’s an honor to get to coach here, work here, and I don’t take that lightly. To be wanted and to reward our coaches for their hard work, it speaks volumes about our leadership. I just want to say thanks for that.”
Fuente has created that stability by not only winning football games, but by successfully keeping his assistants around. Multiple assistant coaches on the Virginia Tech staff have reportedly turned down offers at other schools. Among them was safeties coach Galen Scott, the former defensive coordinator at Memphis under Fuente. As a thank you for sticking around, Fuente and current defensive coordinator Bud Foster agreed to name Scott Virginia Tech’s co-defensive coordinator, the first time the program has had co-defensive coordinators since 1995 (when Rod Sharpless co-DC’d with Bud Foster).
“As all of our coaches through this offseason were approached by many different places about jobs and that sort of stuff, and I was having a conversation with Bud about that sort of stuff,” Fuente said. “Not necessarily about Bud, but about everybody else on our staff. He expressed a strong desire to have Coach Galen Scott in that room. I think they’ve formed a pretty special bond, and obviously Bud can speak to more specifics about that. But I really think they hit it off so to speak.”
Fuente said on Wednesday that the “promotion” was actually Foster’s idea. The two coaches’ roles will not change, according to Fuente, but Scott will continue to be a vital part of assisting Foster in creating defensive game plans each week.
“I think it was a testament to Bud and his selflessness and humility, that in order to keep, or help keep I should say, a very talented young coach on our staff,” Fuente said. “We have many coaches who have bright futures, and we won’t be able to keep them all the time. But we have, like I alluded to before, kind of become a stable ship. And I think that speaks volumes about our staff and about our guys, and our kind of selfless/ego-less mentality that’s in that room. I’m proud of all of that.”
That “stable ship” is exactly the type of continuity Fuente values. He’s in the process of building a culture around the Virginia Tech program, and that culture seems to be growing each and every season.
“It’s time for us to now reap some of the benefits of stability, in kind of the rough waters of college football,” Fuente said. “That’s what we’re all excited about.”
Bush plans to transfer, Farley’s position still uncertain
At his Wednesday press conference, Justin Fuente also addressed a few personnel issues surrounding the team heading into the spring practice slate, which begins in March. For starters, Fuente confirmed that once he graduates, AJ Bush plans to transfer from Virginia Tech.
“We just had a meeting with AJ and kind of laid out his options of what he could do,” Fuente said. “He’s pretty close to graduating. If he really wanted to go and play quarterback, then lay out a plan for graduation that he could go do that, that if he wanted to stay and still continue to be on our team, and maybe work at some other spots, then we were open to that. We certainly wanted him to get whatever he wanted.”
Bush, who transferred into Virginia Tech for the 2017 spring semester, had hoped to earn the starting role as the Hokies’ quarterback last season. Bush lost to redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, and played sparingly throughout the season. The former JUCO product is hoping to get another shot to play quarterback in his final year of eligibility.
Fuente also confirmed that defensive end Vinny Mihota, who tore his ACL towards the end of the season vs. Pittsburgh, will miss spring practice. Mihota is taking advantage of the extra time in the weight room.
“From what I can tell, Vinny’s surgery went very well,” Fuente said. “Vinny’s been moving around. It’s been good for him, in terms of his upper body. He had two shoulder issues last year that really hurt him in his upper body development. He did a great job of getting back and being ready to play. Not that his injury is a good thing, but the fact that it wasn’t an upper body injury I think is letting him catch up, maybe letting him get ahead with his upper body strength.”
Fuente also addressed rumors about redshirt freshman Caleb Farley switching positions. The former defensive back moved to wide receiver midway through spring practices last season, and impressed in last year’s Spring Game. Farley then tore his ACL at the beginning of fall practices, ending any chance he had of playing in the 2017 season.
Given Virginia Tech’s lack of experience and depth at cornerback, rumors have circulated that Farley could move back to secondary, once he heals from his knee injury. Fuente said on Wednesday that its’s too early to speculate on what will happen, and that the coaching staff will discuss those types of decisions before spring practices.
“We have just gotten off the road,” Fuente said. “We’ll look at all that stuff and kind of see where it falls. How much Caleb is even able to do in the spring, I don’t know. I see him running around and he looks great, but he isn’t playing football. He’s just running. He’s been running and lifting and getting better, and as we get closer to spring, we’ll have all of those personnel discussions and all that sort of stuff.”