Virginia Tech Notebook: ‘Stable Ship’ Has Hokies Headed in the Right Direction

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Justin Fuente Virginia Tech football
Through winning, pay raises and a little but of humility, Justin Fuente has been able to create a “stable ship” at Virginia Tech. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

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.”

AJ Bush Virginia Tech football
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente told the media that while AJ Bush (6) is still on scholarship with the team, that he does indeed plan to transfer once he graduates. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

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.”

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. The fact that Coach Justin Fuente is here, and will be for the foreseeable future, has prompted me to double my Hokie Club donation for 2018.

  2. Bush is what I consider a coach killer, my definition being that guy who looks all-world and the thinking is that if you just coach him up you might have something…but it never happens. All that time wasted and a bad season might loose that coach his job. Fuente’s thinking here was to get someone to back up JJ and preserve a redshirt. That really didn’t happen and JJ motored through the season injured but made it to the finish line. A Bryan Randall award for staying upright through the season when there was no viable backup and a Ju-Ju award for Bush, also known as the whistling past the graveyard award. Fuente isn’t a coached to be killed though, took a chance on Bush, realized early on that it wouldn’t work out and presented Bush some clear-eyed options none of them being QB at VT. Good. Even being moved to say WR is problematic, he better catch 2 of the first 3 balls thrown to him in September or that option would close. He probably needed two years for any other position. His career is done, was probably done even before he got here time to get on to other things. We can use the scholarship for someone else.

    1. I disagree with your assessment of Bush as I interpreted your comment. Bush was recruited to compete for the starting QB position and provide some experienced depth. He did not win the job and he was a reliable backup. His pending transfer tells me he is likely the 3rd QB. I wish him well where ever he decides to go.

      1. He needs to think about the rest of his life now, what’s the point of transferring to play one year somewhere else? Would he even get established at an FCS school? Honestly, he’d be better off back-benching at VT and taking a few classes thinking about the future. He needs to get on with it instead of chasing the football dream. It’s late in the day.

  3. Great interview. It’s evident that Coach Fuente has a good vision for our program and is dedicated to making it work at VT. But, it’s going to take some time and patience by our fan base.
    First, his recruits need to grow up and gain some experience. Secondly, we need a few wins in some signature games to show our fan base and recruits that we can compete & win against the top programs. Then his and Whit’s vision for facility upgrades need to be in place and continue. I’d like to see us come up with a novel idea for residential facilities to at least be competitive with some of the big boy programs.
    If all of that can come into place then our recruiting will improve which will place us at that level. We have the coaching staff and stability to hang with the legacy programs, just need the horses to do it with.

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