Comparing JF's: Justin Fuente vs. James Franklin

Offseason topics strike again!

In the spirit of having under 4 weeks until the official start of fall practice, I made an interesting comparison between our beloved head coach and Keegan-Michael Key at the State Penn.

My wife is a Penn State grad so we spend some time on Saturday's watching the Nittany Lions too. Of course, the Hokies always get the main tv if we play at the same time, and she gets the iPad for the PSU game. Hearing some of the Penn Stater's gripe over Franklins first few years seemed all to similar to me and hearing some of the VT fan base have unrealistic expectations, in some regards. So I went back and looked at the PSU and VT recruiting class rankings (according to 247 sports composite team rankings), and record in the first 3 years for each coach. Results were somewhat similar.

James Franklin
2014

  • Coaching Season: 1st
  • Record: 7-6
  • Recruiting Class Ranking: 24th

2015

  • Coaching Season: 2nd
  • Record: 7-6
  • Recruiting Class Ranking: 14th

2016

  • Coaching Season: 3rd
  • Record: 11-3
  • Recruiting Class Ranking: 20th

Justin Fuente
2016

  • Coaching Season: 1st
  • Record: 10-4
  • Recruiting Class Ranking: 42nd

2017

  • Coaching Season: 2nd
  • Record: 9-4
  • Recruiting Class Ranking: 26th

2018

  • Coaching Season: 3rd
  • Record: TBD
  • Recruiting Class Ranking: 24th

It is worth noting that before Franklin, Penn State was in the 30's for their recruiting class rankings. Then again, this is approaching the time where the scandal also broke. Recruiting trends are very similar between the two schools, given that we started at 42nd, which was substantially lower than what PSU had on Franklin's first year.

Franklin's 3rd year was his breakout year, with the help of a freak of an athlete running back and some big weapons on the outside on offense. The 2018 Virginia Tech team, at this point, is no where near as talented as the 2016 PSU team, and certainly will lack depth to have an 11-3 kind of year - I hope they prove me wrong.

Also of note, Penn State is seeing almost $60 million more in revenue than Virginia Tech. According to USA Today Penn State is ranked 14th at $144m in Revenue, while Virginia Tech sits at 44th with $87m in Revenue, for the 2016-2017 year. The B1G had an incredible payout last year which is going to keep that gap pretty wide between ACC/B1G. Money does matter - which is why we have to donate donate donate and donate some more.

Looking at the next 3 years for Fuente and Co, what are our reasonable expectations from where we should be as a program? Can you think of any other coach that would be a better comparison or benchmark for Fuente?

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Comments

Fuente has more hair than Franklin.

Natty or bust!

Better comparison maybe: Will Muschamp at South Carolina. Going into his third season, in a P5 conference, revenue is maybe similar, lots of overlap in recruiting territory.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

not a JF

Chem PhD '16

Jill Fuschamp?

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

Will Muschamp anagrams to Sawmill Chump

Chem PhD '16

Fuente's staff isn't throwing shade at other schools on Twitter when they lose a recruit.

Is it football season yet?

Biggest difference at Penn State was Barkley. One player on offense like that can change a game and also national perception for a school. We haven't had a player of that caliber since at least 2011.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

We had a great string of running backs and failed to get a home run recruit to pan out after the Wilson/Williams era. But yes, Barkley is a game changer and can change a program.

Our RBs were great for awhile, but still nowhere close to Barkley. I'd argue that Vick is the only player we've had of that caliber, as seen by the fact that none of our other guys got the attention or were drafted in the top 10.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Vick>>>Barkley who was a great player but was significantly hyped up by the media. Michael Vick changed the way the game is played, played in a national championship, and had a long NFL career.

Recruit Prosim

Not arguing that, simply saying we haven't had a player of Barkley's caliber since Vick.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

I don't know what a Nifty Lion is...but I know what a Hokie is.

JP

HOKIE: \ ˈhō-kē \ noun
definition:
1: Ass Kickin' Chicken
2: A turkey that has been dipped in Dork Magic
3: A fighting gobbler

FOSTERS: Australian for defense

I wish I could go a week without seeing James Franklin mentioned on this website.

Bud/Wiles 2020

James Franklin held his own at Vandy, Fuente won at Memphis...push?

Yea, I think so. The other thing that I thought was similar between the two programs is that you have Penn State against (more or less) Michigan and Ohio State each year to get to a B1G Championship; very similar to where we stand in the ACC with Miami/Clemson/FSU in our way for ACC Ships.

you have Penn State against (more or less) Michigan State and Ohio State each year to get to a B1G Championship

FTFY

A note on that revenue difference: PSU funds 31 varsity sports. VT has 19. $60M is a lot of difference in revenue, but they've also got 12 other sports at the trough.

Others, for reference:
UVA (27)
Ohio St (31)
Michigan (27)
Michigan St (25)
UNC (28)
NCSU (23)
Clemson (15)
Tennessee (18)
UGA (19)
Bama (21)

A corollary for the above data, VT did pretty well to be 28th in the Directors Cup with so few sports. Directors Cup standings of those mentioned:
6 Michigan
7 OSU
8 UGA
12 PSU
13 UNC
14 Bama
15 NCSU
21 uva
35 Tennessee
50 Michigan St
52 Clemson

Georgia stands out, having only 19 sports but finishing in the top 10. That's pretty impressive. I guess I would suppose the more programs you have, the better your chance that enough of them will hit it big and bring up your Directors Cup score. And it seems the more programs, the better the score.

More programs give those programs the option as to which sports will count towards the total score that year.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I'm sure there is a lot of nuance to studying the # of programs, revenue and Directors Cup standings to understand what the sweet spot is for each school. Feels like VT does well. But I'm not smart enough to figure it all out.

I agree. Feels like VT does it well, and focuses on the sports programs that I'd support, too.

Virginia Tech has the Best Athletic Director in the freaking Country!

Despite the common initials, I don't think James Franklin/PSU is the best comparison for Fuente. PSU is a 'blueblood', VT is not. PSU is the only school east of Columbus and North of VT that cares about football. VT, on the other hand, has schools closer to or equidistant to every major urban area that we recruit from.

I know it gets tiring, but I do think that Clemson/Dabo is the best comparison/road map/benchmark for the VT program. They are/were not a blueblood, but have still managed to make 3 consecutive playoffs. They did so with very good, but until recently, not stellar recruiting. They grew their athletic dept without the help of a single big time donor (no Phil Knight or T. Boone Pickins). Clemson has two advantages over us - (1) they are closer to urban areas (helpful for recruiting), and (2) they have less sports programs (meaning that, despite having a similar athletic budget to us, they can spend more money on football). Otherwise, I'd say the programs are pretty similar.

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They may not fit into the traditional "blue blood" lists, but everything about their recruiting and $ has been blue bloodesque. Before Dabo took over, Bowdin did less with more than any program in the history of the sport. Clemson would be a great plan, if VT could execute it, but we simply don't have the historical draw of talent, that Clemson's seen for the past 30 years.

everything about their recruiting and $ has been blue bloodesque.

Yea, only for the past 4 years. Clemson's football revenue was <$40M/year until the 2012/13 season. In that same year, their athletic dept as a whole brought in $69M, about $1M less than VT brought in that same year.

From a recruiting standpoint, Clemson didn't have a single top 10 recruiting class from 2002 through 2008 (no top 10 classes until Dabo took over). Bowden had multiple classes outside the top 40 (per 247). There is nothing 'blue bloodesque' about that.

IF you're only considering recent history, then yes, Clemson has been one elite college football powers, and without a doubt one of the three best teams in the last half decade. Dabo has not caught lightening in a bottle; he has built a stable program, that will be successful for years to come. But prior to 2013 season, Clemson's best win in a decade was probably over the 2011 Virginia Tech Hokies.

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Klemsun also had a Natty before Dabo. Not sure how much, but it counts to the alumnae (who, as a whole, generally annoy me).

Penn State is not a blue blood

Recruit Prosim

I think they are, and I think that they proved it when they were able to go from worst scandal in college football history to top 10 recruiting class in less than a decade. Hell, undisputed blueblood USC still hasn't fully recovered from the Reggie Bush scandal.

Regardless of if you believe that Penn State is a 'Blue blood', the point is, PSU's status in college football is closer to that of the blue bloods than that of VT.

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Penn State is not a blue blood

Exactly. Their resume (national titles, Heisman winners, etc) isn't blue blood level. They're in that next tier with LSU, Florida, Tennessee, UCLA and the like.

Clemson hung around 8-4; 7-5 in the Bowden years with the same crazy fans, great support, etc. Then Dabo - a WR coach- came in and not only "improved" recruiting... he signed outright studs, top 10 players like Nuke Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Stephone Anthony, etc. Franklin and the logo he wears on his chest has the ability to sign a "blockbuster" crop of kids in a heartbeat- a top 5 type class to put him over the top and sustain that recruiting. For Fuente to do that he needs to either 1. Strike lighting this year or next and play in the playoffs . or 2. Get lucky and have a couple VT legacies the caliber of a watkins or hopkins, etc. - VT simply has never had that type of recruiting profile. That is the difference between the coaches, IMO. Its Franklins potential to sign more elite players over time.

The Clemson and PSU logos have a pull right now; VT is on an upswing, but I think our pace is similar to Clemson - Dabo was 7 years in before he made a Playoff appearance; Franklin could be on that same pace given his success in years 3 & 4, as with Fuente. I think we're heading in the right direction, but it will take a top 10 class here in the next 2-3 years if we want to see if Fuente can keep up with that pace in his year 7.

The Clemson and PSU logos have a pull right now; VT is on an upswing

Oo, oo, I know. We should change our logo!! /sssssssssssssss

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Danny Coale Caught That Ball!!!

Whoever wanted to change the academic side logo to that was off their meds that week.

Two thoughts:

1. I don't think there is as tight of a timeframe as you outlined in "Strike lighting this year or next and play in the playoffs." We probably have 5 more years or so. Fuente saw Patterson build his program up gradually with some dramatic ups and downs. We've also seen Dabo take 7 years to make the playoffs with fairly consistent improvement. Fuente's wick isn't that short.

2. I don't think finding the right talent at the Watkins/Hopkins level is that much luck. I would counter that its more about finding the right players for the system than finding NFL starting WR's in the 3* bin. Sure, it would be great to have that type of talent but talent that is tailored for our system can be just as effective. And it feels like we are headed in that direction, talent wise (I'm not saying we are on our way to making the Playoff. I'm not a Playoff Or Bust guy, I'm accepting that we may never reach the playoffs under Fuente and I will still consider it a successful term and I vow to enjoy success that isn't only enjoyed from the top.)

Virginia Tech football has done everything - except consistently or even infrequently win games against top 10 teams. That is the next and only step really for the program to take. We have won conference championships and bowl games, etc. My point is that if we want to take the next step, yes in fact we do need to sign a "sammy watkins" - a guy that can compete with Bama's CBs for example. 3 stars aren't and wont get it done for the program to take the next step. Fuente has signed some nice players, but he hasn't signed anyone close to Watkins or Hopkins.

win games against top 10 teams

Ugh - this may be one of the biggest tasks that we HAVE to start doing - our record is atrocious vs. Top 10 teams and until we can win consistently against the big dogs, we will not earn the spotlight.

But nobody consistently wins games against the top 10 but Bama and Clemson. Our record could be better, but literally 2-3 wins over top 10 teams over the last 15 years would make us average.

And it's not some systemic flaw. In context, they are all understandable. And we can see them coming, we've got maybe 2 top 10 games coming up this year in ND and Miami and looking at the current state of our young team, we are probably short the horses to pull it off. So another year without top 10 wins doesn't mean we have some fatal flaw, it just means this is where we are right now and beating a top 10 team probably just isn't in the cards this year.

I think your overestimating the speed at which Clemson saw recruiting success. Dabo had one top 10 class in his first 5 years at Clemson (2011), and didn't have another top 10 class until 2015. All other classes in that range were top 15-25. Since then, Clemson has had the 9th, 16th, and 11th best classes (through 2017). Pretty impressive that Clemson is able to compete with Bama and OSU, who have had 5 years of top 5 recruiting classes.

Also worth noting - Clemson only won the ACC once in Dabo's first 6 years (2011) - the year they were blown out by WVU in the Orange Bowl. That was Dabo's 3rd full year as head coach. James Franklin also won his conference in his 3rd season as head coach at PSU. No way VT wins the ACC this year. Doing so would require an incredible coaching job by Fuente/Foster, and a shit-ton of luck.

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Don't diminish the impact of Chad Morris. It wasn't until he arrived in Clemson and installed his offense that Clemson took off. Even after he left, it was his recruit (Watson) who led Clemson to the promised land.

I'm not so sure about the improvement in recruiting. Bowden's undoing came immediately after pulling in a top 3 class and then getting curb stomped by a Bama team that wasn't ranked, to open the season. Talent was there. Coaching wasn't. Dabo big impact was that he was smart enough to know that he couldn't do it like Saban (great X's and O's and player development), so he brought in guys like Venables and Chad Morris, because they were great X's and O's guys.

Edit: I neglected to mention that they were also ranked #9 before Bama beat them

Good point, I'd forgotten about that.

Hokie fan | W&M grad

Bowden's undoing came immediately after pulling in a top 3 class

Umm according to which recruiting service? From what I can see, Tommy Bowden's best class was 2007, and 247 ranked them at 16th in the nation, 4th in the ACC.

I neglected to mention that they were also ranked #9 before Bama beat them

a Bama team that wasn't ranked, to open the season

You are spinning these facts unfairly. Clemson played Bama the first week of the season in the chikfila kick off. These were PRESEASON rankings. Preseason AP Polls are never accurate. Yes - Clemson was coming off a 9 win season and Bama 7 win season. However, Bama went undefeated in the 2008 regular season, while Clemson finished slightly above .500. Had the pollsters known how much Clemson would slide, and how much Bama would improve, I'm pretty sure their preseason rankings would be reversed.

You are seriously glorifying Clemson pre-Dabo. Bowden had three 9 win seasons in 10 years, never once winning the conference, and never finishing higher than a second place TIE in the division (ACC broke into divisions in 2005), and finishing with a top 25 ranking only 4 times (3 of which were outside the top 20). In the decade prior to Dabo, Clemson was a top 30-40 team in every regard - wins, recruiting, and revenue.

Twitter me

Also of note, Penn State is seeing almost $60 million more in revenue than Virginia Tech. According to USA Today Penn State is ranked 14th at $144m in Revenue, while Virginia Tech sits at 44th with $87m in Revenue, for the 2016-2017 year. The B1G had an incredible payout last year which is going to keep that gap pretty wide between ACC/B1G. Money does matter - which is why we have to donate donate donate and donate some more.

Live look at Fireman:

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

Insert post about not stopping until the Hokie Club is raising as much as the blue bloods

Bud/Wiles 2020

It's not really the donations that's setting these revenue figures apart, it's the TV network deal the B1G has.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidching/2018/04/17/big-tens-rights-deal-...

Edit: For some perspective on just how much of a difference this makes - "Nebraska gets approximately $26 million for 2016-17, but that figure will nearly double in Fiscal Year 2018 when it receives its first full share as a Big Ten member after joining the league in 2011."

Hokie fan | W&M grad

PSU also has a stadium that holds 40k more people than VT. Figure 25k of those extra seats are paid season ticket holder...thats $7.5MM more revenue alone ($50/tix for 6 home games).

We put the K in Kwality

Also being in a conference that values football with a real network and doesn't have a corrupt fuckstick for a commissioner

Recruit Prosim

This is an unfair comparison. This implies that Swofford is fuckable.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

He never said anything about his fuckability. He described him as an object with which one fucks.

Can we get a ruling on this from Seth Dooley? Somebody get him in here!

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

is this like comparing cake to pie???

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."