The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: If I Had A Million Dollars

Virginia Tech, Brent Pry
There hasn’t been quite as much turnover at Virginia Tech as expected. (Virginia Tech Athleticss)

1) Has there been less player turnover at Virginia Tech since Pry arrived than what you would have expected? How does it compare right now to the beginning of the Fuente era? As I recall, we were expecting a lot of players to balk at the culture shock Fuente came in with. It feels like that’s been less of an issue with this coaching change. – VT Ken

Chris Coleman: That’s a good question, and my answer is yes. I don’t remember exactly what it was like when Justin Fuente took over in terms of attrition, but there has been less player turnover at the beginning of the Brent Pry era than I expected. A number of guys left because they weren’t going to play and because Virginia Tech needed to get back to the 85-man scholarship limit, but outside of that, it’s been quiet.

The one thing I remember about the beginning of the Fuente era was that at the first press conference before his first game, he showed up in the media room and announced that a number of players were suspended from anywhere from one to four games at the start of the season. I remember Marshawn Williams was one of them, though I don’t remember who else. It wasn’t a ton of guys, maybe 6-8, and it wasn’t anybody hugely important. But I remember thinking, “Wow! Accountability.”

Tech responded by winning 10 games that year and another nine in 2017. The line of thinking at the time was that the Hokies had improved their discipline and were on to bigger and better things. Then a very young Tech team with no quality depth hit the field in 2018, the team struggled and there were player issues behind the scenes.

It’s been covered time and time again about how Fuente perhaps took his foot off the discipline throttle at that point due to the player discontent. The Hokies came back to win eight games in 2019, but on the whole, the program wasn’t the same after that 2018-19 offseason. You really started to see the lack of development in strength and conditioning, and it’s when I started to hear stories about guys just throwing away their protein shakes when they left the weight room. I think the accountability and discipline within the program were strong before the 2018-19 offseason but went downhill.

Those two things seem to have improved under Brent Pry from where they were over the last few years of the Justin Fuente era. I don’t have any way to prove that, but I’d have a hard time believing that they haven’t gotten better. I still remember a story I heard in 2020 about a defensive lineman who showed up late one day, and when Darryl Tapp tried to discipline him, the player was surprised and resented it. Apparently he came to the facility that day late, and it didn’t bother him because he didn’t expect any repercussions. That’s not how you run a football program. In the right kind a program, a player needs to be scared to be late because he knows there will be repercussions that he’s not going to enjoy.

So yes, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a little more turnover since Pry arrived. Assuming the discipline and accountability exist at the levels they should, I figured a few guys who were using to having an easier time of it would decide after winter conditioning and spring practice that Virginia Tech football under Pry wasn’t for them, but that didn’t seem to happen. That could be for one of two reasons…

1) Pry is very