Monday Thoughts: The Upbeat Fu

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Justin Fuente Virginia Tech
Why is this man smiling? — Justin Fuente at the 2018 ACC Football Kickoff (Photo by Will Stewart)

I was talking with an athletic department staffer recently, and that staffer recalled seeing Justin Fuente speak to a crowd of Hokie fans recently.

“And he was very optimistic,” the staffer told me. “He was very positive and excited about next season.”

I paused. “He knows he’s pretty much lost his entire defense, right?”

That brief discussion was the seed of one line of thought. Another was the thought that the Hokies are becoming more “Fuente’s team” this year, nearly three years after he was hired. The big contributors in Fuente’s first two seasons were all Frank Beamer’s guys, with the exception of one very important player: Jerod Evans. Other than Jerod, looking up and down the stat sheets for 2016 and 2017, you see one Beamer guy after another.

That’s to be expected. A new football coach’s players don’t start to make an impact on a program for years, especially because a coach’s first recruiting class is pretty much all guys who committed to the previous coach. A coach doesn’t sign a class of his own guys for over a year.

The idea that Fuente’s guys are only now starting to filter into the two-deep in significant numbers isn’t a brilliant concept, nor is it enough to build an entire column on. So I sat on the thought.

But when that staffer mentioned how upbeat Justin Fuente was, those two lines of thought started to come together.

Fuente’s Mindset Running Counter to the Fan Base

Since the end of the 2017 season, there has been a huge exodus of talent from the Hokie football program. On offense, all-time leading receiver Cam Phillips and NFL draft choice Wyatt Teller were the big departures. Travon McMillian also transferred out.

On defense, the losses were more severe. Eligibility expired for Greg Stroman, Andrew Motuapuaka, and Brandon Facyson. Tim Settle, Terrell Edmunds, and Tremaine Edmunds all declared