Tech Talk Live Notes: Fuente Discusses ODU and Looks Ahead to Duke

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Justin Fuente was Monday’s guest on Tech Talk Live.

On his consistency in demeanor despite a tough loss…

I appreciate that, I don’t really revel in those opportunities.  I do understand, at least I think I understand, the position and what comes with that and trying to set a good example for the kids more than anything, in terms of handling adversity.  We have a thing we talk about very early in our program and we repeat it often.  It’s the mirror or window mentality.  If things don’t go well, what is your response?  Is your response to look out the window and point fingers at everybody out there for the reasons for things not going your way, or is your response to look in the mirror, at the person in the mirror, and try to see what you can do in that situation.  Evaluate what you’ve done to put yourself in that situation and try to make it better for everybody.  If I’m going to ask those guys to do it then I should do the best job I can of doing the same thing.  Obviously, it was a disappointing evening, I’m sorry for that.  I think the thing that bothers me the most of everything is I can live with outcomes, we’re playing a game and it’s a competitive game, but how we played and how we handled ourselves under duress really bothered me. It’s something that we’ve got to get fixed.

On not really facing adversity before the Old Dominion game…

Well, I think that everybody thought it was going to be in the first game.  If you think back to the first game, what happened on the very first drive? We went down and scored on offense, go up 7-0, defense gets a turnover, it’s 10-0 very early.  We’re playing well, everything is going well and that never really stopped. We were never really threatened.  There was never an opportunity for the things not to go our way.  Then you turn around and play the second game and that one got out of hand pretty quickly, and it was really the first time for a young team to face adversity.  We weren’t emotionally ready to handle that and that’s my fault.  We weren’t emotionally ready to handle the fact that there is a hungry football team on their home field that has a tremendous amount of pride and was definitely set on defending their stadium.  When things got hard, we didn’t do a good job of that.  That’s poor emotional preparation in my opinion and that falls on my shoulders.

On the process of getting the team ready to handle the new challenges that come now…

What are your choices? We’ll find out who’s with us and who’s not. I’m talking about in our room.  I firmly believe there’s no better group of men to lead these guys than our staff.  I firmly believe that the guys on our team that are with us and are ready to go are going to pull up their bootstraps and roll up their sleeves and go to work.  We need to go back to playing the game the way we’re supposed to play.  The emotion, the fun, the celebration, it wasn’t there.  Also, the preparation that comes with that, that leads you to play with great emotion.  I told our kids during the week, I don’t know if I should’ve said it and I’ve second guessed everything I’ve said to them, but I told them at one point, I liked you guys a lot better when people told you, you weren’t any good.  Now everybody tells you, you are good and I’m starting to not like you guys very much.  It’s just that mentality of trying to earn everything you get, every single day, and we’ve got to go recapture that and get to work.

On Josh Jackson’s injury and the impact…

He was a big part of this team for the last year and however many games and during the summer time.  Josh will still be a part of our team, first and foremost, he’s not going anywhere.  He’ll still have a role.  That’s part of the conversation I had with him yesterday, I said you still have a role on this football team, and not playing is no fun and being injured, there are no fans in the training room.  You still can play a role on this team and in the development of this team. 

I feel bad for him, he’s a competitive kid, he’s a tough kid, and he’s a good leader.  I just wish it hadn’t happened, but it’s part of the game.  We’ve got to rally around our other guys, rally around Ryan (Willis) and Hendon (Hooker), and if Quincy (Patterson) gets into the conversation, we’ve got to do that.  Everybody else has got to…take the step forward and fill those shoes to help whoever is playing quarterback out, and step up their leadership and level of play to help us have success.

On Ryan Willis…

He’s got some experience, he’s played in some games in his time at Kansas.  He does understand what we’re trying to do and he has some talent, he can really throw the football.  He’s got a quick release and a strong arm. Another thing that’s good is he comes in and he fits into the group too, he fits in with the kids, and he’s well-liked.  The strength staff loves him because he works hard in the weight room and does a good job.  He’ll be ready, he understands the seriousness of the situation and what it takes to go prepare and give yourself a chance to play well.

On how he found Ryan Willis…

We actually played against him when I was at Memphis, we had a home and home with Kansas.  We played him up there, he was sharing time as a young player.  He was one of those guys that played as a true freshman on a team that wasn’t very good, and he played some as a sophomore on a team that wasn’t very good.  I think he probably got pushed into playing before he was actually ready.  Through those couple years, things didn’t go very well.  We actually have a connection with his dad, James Shibest and his dad crossed paths in their playing days.  Daryl Dickey, who was on my staff at Memphis and is now at Texas A&M, was buddies with Ryan’s dad, so we had some connections.  They were looking for a place for a fresh start, a chance to hit the reset button and we have had some success with quarterbacks.  I think Ryan’s parents were looking for some people that they trusted to take care of their kid, not that he wasn’t taken care of at Kansas, but I think he just wanted a fresh start.  I said absolutely, we watched his film from him playing at Kansas, he had talent.  He came on and just fit in really well, and we put him on scholarship because he earned it, not because it was a gift.   I’ve been glad he’s been with us ever since he came on campus.

On whether the change at quarterback requires a change in the offense…

I don’t know, I mean certainly there’ll be some playing to his strengths.  I don’t know that it’ll be a huge difference.  He does have a little bit different skill set.  With Josh, we could put a little more on him, maybe we’ll take a little off Ryan.  That doesn’t mean we’ll throw the ball more or less, it just means in the theory of game-planning and that sort of stuff.  He is a better athlete than people give him credit for.  He’s a big tall kid that runs pretty well and likes to spin it and likes to throw the ball.

On whether Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson will receive more reps after the injury…

Certainly, they will.  It brings another deal.  We have talked throughout the year about Hendon and Quincy and what role they have and how we’re trying to use their skill set.  I think it’ll be an everchanging situation as we go through the season.  Hendon will take over the full number two reps, and we’ll discuss about the thought of Hendon jogging out there in the middle of a series, or for a series to continue to get some work, and maybe give Ryan some time to watch from the sidelines for a play of two and put him back in. I don’t know for a fact whether we will do that or not, that conversation is kind of ongoing right now.

On the dismissal of Trevon Hill…

I think that’s the hardest thing we do as head coaches.  I believe in our responsibility to develop and help improve these kids, and trying to mentor and continue to shape their outlooks and opportunities for success down the road. With that comes some responsibility of adhering to what we’re asking you to do.  I always weigh those very heavily, I’ve had many meetings with Trevon.  I hated to have the most recent one. It wasn’t something I did lightly, it was something I agonized over, but it was a decision I had to make.  Our kids understand that when I’m faced with decisions between individuals and the team, I’m going to choose the team every time, that’s my responsibility.  I hate it for him, I’m going to be supportive of whatever he wants to do for his future.  We’re going to continue to try and help him in every way possible, but it’s something we can’t continue with.

On having over 600 yards of total offense and 300 yards rushing in the loss…

I don’t know if I’ve ever been more miserable, period, but that’s part of it.  It’s what I said when I got here, I don’t care about statistics, I care about us finding a way to get the job done.  I’m not in charge of the offense, or special teams, or the defense.  I’m in charge of, I’m responsible for all of it.  I understand that.  It’s my job to give us the best chance to win. Sometimes we do that and we don’t win, but we have to give them the best chance.  When you lay your head down at night as a coach and you didn’t do your job well enough, that’s a bad feeling.

On what he told coach Bobby Wilder after the game…

I felt like just being honest with him, telling him to enjoy it and he deserves it.  They deserved to win the football game and I wanted him to know that, it wasn’t a fluke.  They deserved to win, and they got what they deserved and we got what we deserved.  I tried to get him to heed my advice and enjoy it and move forward. 

On the performance of Steven Peoples…

Our two running backs ran their hearts out I thought.  Deshawn McCleese didn’t have quite as big of numbers or carries as Steven, but Deshawn just ran his tail off as well.  Steven’s best run was the one that went down to the 3-yard line and he broke about three or four tackles and it was about a twelve yard run.  Steven really played hard and played well and it was good for him to get out in the open field and prove that he was more than just a big guy and he can go out and stretch it out a little bit.  I was proud of those two guys and how they played, they really ran hard and took care of the ball.

On balancing getting the confidence back and installing the game plan for Duke…

Well I think you get confidence from practicing well and repeating your activity over and over again so that you feel like you can execute it.  I would like to get back to us playing with a little bit of freedom and joy and passion.  When we started this thing out nobody thought we could do anything, we attacked everyday and went after it and that’s what we need to get back to.  Let’s kind of free ourselves of these burdens, and let’s just cut it loose, and let’s go do a great job preparing and let’s go play. We’re going to play the best Duke team since I’ve been here.  I think they won their last three or four last year, seven in a row (overall).  We’ve seen this coming from them, from talking with David and spending time with him.  We’ve seen it coming for the last couple years, they’re young.  We’re kind of where they were a couple years ago right now, in terms of their roster.  They’ve been young, they’ve been building and now they’re ready to rock and roll.  It’s going to be an awesome challenge, we’re going on the road and I know we’ll have a bunch of Hokie fans there.  We’re traveling down there, let’s cut it loose and let’s go play and see what we can do. 

On his relationship with Coach David Cutcliffe…

1995, I was a senior quarterback at Union High and Coach Cutcliffe was at Tennessee.  They started recruiting me, they had lost a couple of quarterbacks and Peyton Manning was playing at Tennessee.  We had a couple conversations on the phone back then and I know a guy or two that has worked for him.  I’ve always kind of gravitated towards the older guys in coaching, I’m not sure why, I’ve just always enjoyed listening to their perspective.  He is honest and forthright and one heck of a coach.  We occasionally, not just at the ACC meetings, but at a couple other events when we’re together, I’ve enjoyed being around him, and talking to him, and bouncing things off of him about guys we know.  He’s always been enjoyable to be around.  When it comes to Saturday I know that he’s going to try and get after us and we’re going to try and get after him, but there is certainly a level of respect that I have for him, that’s maybe on a greater level than the normal coach out there. 

On the differences for Duke after their quarterback change to Quentin Harris…

I think the thing that stands out to me with Quinton is that he’s valued the football. You bring your backup quarterback in, I think he’s thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions.  They did have a fumbled exchange, but it looked to me like a fluky deal. Center-quarterback exchange, snap count issue that resulted in a turnover.  You can see that he’s not taking risks with the football.  He’s still making plays, he’s not out there just handing off the football, he’s making plays and you can tell he understands that they’re very good on defense and he’s got some playmakers around him.  He does a good job distributing the ball and he’s a good athlete in his own right.  He’s somebody that has filled in nicely and given them the opportunity to continue down the road.  Everything I read, they’re going to get Daniel (Jones) back at some point down the road.

On whether Duke will try to throw the ball more and how he will prepare his secondary…

I certainly would expect them to challenge us down the field.  We’ll do some things to help those guys out. Hopefully we can handle those adjustments better than we did in real time in the game, but yes I would certainly expect them, since they have so many playmakers on the outside, to go challenge those guys and we’ve got to, by getting pressure and mixing up our looks which Bud does a great job of. Playing in our defense is not just standing in the middle of the field and playing centerfield, there’s some stuff going on in the back end and it’s a challenge for any quarterback and continuing to mix up those looks will be important for us moving forward.

On the impact of Divine Deablo’s absence…

It affects two positions, our alley player and our free safety.  Khalil had to go back and play free safety  We feel good that he’ll be back and ready to go this week, but he’s just such a long, rangy, good player back there and a good leader and worker for us.  I hope that we can keep him healthy, because he’s so good and has such a bright future.

On how playing against familiar coaches affects game-planning…

I don’t know, we’ll see.  They’ve been so good on defense this year, they’ve given up points late in games, but they’ve really dominated games defensively.  I would anticipate they’re going to play, because they’re good at it, they’re good in the backend and in the front, they move the front around a bit.  They may play one more or less of things that they usually do.  Then on third down and long it’s a little fire drill out there, they’ve got little ants running around out there, blitzing from places and dropping, and there’s people running all over the field, so that will be a challenge.  I’m sure they’ll give us something new on that, they usually do.

On preparing players to be ready to go on any given day…

If you think about this, I’ll probably do a poor job of illustrating this, I enjoy that part of my job.  I enjoy trying to get guys to buy into a theme or a word or whatever we’re trying to do.  If you really think about the time that I have with them.  Let’s say we have a five-minute team meeting, and then we have practice, and I pull them all up for five minutes after that.  If you think about all the contact points they have now compared to what they had 10 years ago or 15 years ago with the phone. Like how many people have a chance to influence their opinions and their thoughts, the number has skyrocketed in the last 10 or 15 years between Twitter and all that other stuff that’s out there, there’s so many other opportunities to chip away at the message you’re trying to teach.  That’s the challenge, is to continue to get a group of kids to be unselfish and to sacrifice for a group in today’s day and age.  Not because the kids are different, but because there’s so many more message points that are hitting them every day. When kids used to go home from school, they used to home from school, there was one phone in the kitchen.  There was no other interaction, maybe you go shoot baskets with the neighbors, but that was it. Today it’s a lot different.

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8 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. This line from CJF gives me an uneasy feeling:

    “With Josh, we could put a little more on him, maybe we’ll take a little off Ryan.”

    I sure hope the coaches don’t keep RW on such a tight leash that we end up with a plain-vanilla, conservative game plan. That is a recipe for a big loss at Duke, IMO. Duke’s D is too good to go into a conservative crouch. At some point, we need to value offensive firepower as much as we “value the football.”

      1. We should have had 28-35 point at the half. If that had happened ODU’s belief that they could beat us would have been lessened. As bad as our defense was, our offense helped let them stay in the game way to long.

    1. Here’s why you have to have a QB that does more than “manage the game” and “not beat yourself”

      “We weren’t emotionally ready to handle the fact that there is a hungry football team on their home field that has a tremendous amount of pride and was definitely set on defending their stadium”

      The opposing QB is trying to beat you, not just “manage the game” and LaRouse BEAT us.

      1. One of the best comments ever and Chris or Will could elaborate more on other player’s role in just managing the game.

  2. Coach makes a good point about the variety of communication facing young people today in Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Messaging, etc. They live in the moment and important communication to them has to be short, to the point and seen by them as important.
    In my organization I found over the last 10 years that long team meetings had to be a rare thing, short daily meetings about the important goal of the day were more important.
    I do feel that part of the reason for this game was the team was inundated on social media about how great they were and that this game would be a walk over, this and our youth combined with lack of team leadership won over the staff’s point that every game is a dog fight and sometimes the chihuahua will win.

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