With a Bye Week to Breathe, Justin Fuente Offers His Thoughts on Potential Anthem Protests

The Hokies have some time to turn their attention elsewhere before facing UNC.

[Mark Umansky]

The Hokies are riding high after closing out the first month of the season with a 3-1 record, and while Justin Fuente will have plenty of time to talk X's and O's during the bye week, the break is also giving him a chance to take a breath and address more weighty subjects.

Namely, Fuente finally got a chance to answer the question posed to just about every other coach in the country at this point: how would he feel if one of his athletes followed Colin Kaepernick's lead and took a knee during the national anthem?

To hear him tell it, it's a subject he's considered pretty carefully over the last few weeks.

"I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of different topics, first of all," Fuente said. "That's what I'd tell ya. I'm not always gonna share with all of you all and I hope you respect that because there's a lot that comes with standing up and voicing your opinion. Doesn't mean I don't have one. Whether it's the national anthem or some other cause, whatever it is, I would hope that our kids would want to come to me and talk about those things and figure out a way to genuinely help whatever cause it is that they feel strongly about.

"Give us the opportunity to discuss how it is that they can help that cause. Knowing that I'm gonna support them in their stance and what they truly believe in, but also, let's find a way to help that cause that maybe can help our football, or not cause huge distractions for our football team. (That) is the way I would hope that that got handled if it ever came up for us."

But Fuente stressed there are plenty of football-related issues for the team to address as they head into their last "get better" practices of the season.

In particular, Fuente is hoping to tighten things up in the passing game. Jerod Evans has put together a pair of superb performances the last two weeks, yet Fuente is hoping to use the bye to refine his touch on deep balls a bit.

"You bet (it's gonna be a focus)," Fuente said. "Well, that and a lot of other things...We have a pretty specific thing we ask them to do when throwing the ball down the field at quarterback, in terms of giving our guys a chance to catch the ball. We didn't do that on a couple of them which was kind of disappointing."

Perhaps one way to help Evans with that consistency of downfield accuracy is having more options in the receiving game. Wide receiver is a position that Fuente, admittedly, still isn't very comfortable with.

"We're still working on it every single day," Fuente said. "Kids are working hard, I'm not displeased with them. I think they know it and I think they're working to try and improve. They're just really, really young. They're just freshmen. But no, it's not a source of comfort."

As one of the more experienced members of the receiving corps, Cam Phillips is hoping to use that seniority to try and help move the younger guys along.

"I think all the guys have played well," Phillips said. "Those guys have done a great job in practice, all the way back to spring ball and fall camp. When they get out on the field, they make their reps count...If they have any questions, they come to me, Isaiah (Ford), or even Bucky (Hodges). We're all a family so we try to help each other."

But without consistent offensive line play, the receivers will be the least of the offense's worries. On that front, Fuente is hoping to use the week off to really hone in on the battle at center between Eric Gallo and Kyle Chung.

"It's still a work in progress for us, in terms of kind of ironing out the two-deep there at center," Fuente said. "That's part of this week's work. Continuing to evaluate and develop our thoughts and feelings about how we should be handling that situation."

Yet the Hokies can only look inward for so long — a road matchup against fellow Coastal contender UNC beckons for the Hokies after the bye.

"Both sides of the ball, we'll take an in-depth look statistically, in terms of alignments and who's in the game and tendency-oriented, that sort of thing to get a kind of handle on that," Fuente said. "We'll get a little leg-up on game plan in terms of North Carolina still (having) a game on Saturday, we'll add that to our breakdown. But we'll go ahead and move forward to breaking ourselves down and getting to North Carolina."

Justin Fuente

OPENING STATEMENT:

"Before I start, I do want to say something about DeAngelo Hall. Just (wanted) to let him know that our thoughts are with him. He's obviously been a fantastic ambassador for Virginia Tech. Great, great player and great personality. Had a chance to meet him earlier in the year. Such a nice man. Our hearts and thoughts go out with him as he is gonna recover from an injury. Also do wanna say something about last week's game. Just really proud of the team effort. I thought it was indicative of what we're trying to preach. The crowd was fantastic. Just a great example of Virginia Tech football or what our vision for what it is and what it can be. In terms of the crowd, playing a huge role, I love the fact that people show up for games here in order to be active participants in the game. I thought they were fantastic. We made big plays across the board on defense, on special teams, on offense, it was a lot of fun to play and a lot of fun to watch the film. Obviously we have a big challenge coming up, obviously a bye week this week, then we have North Carolina in North Carolina. Back in conference (play). It will be a tremendous challenge. They've got very, very good players, good coaches. We're looking forward to getting back on the field this week. Tuesday and Wednesday will be what we term "get better" practices, which are kind of the last two practices we can have like that in the season until the season's over. Really focused on development, young player reps, scheme — look at a couple of things scheme-wise — have some good-on-good work. After those two practices, we'll turn our attention to more of (a) game-prep mindset and then be ready to roll for game-week. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of things we can get better at in all phases of the game. I'm looking forward to seeing what we can improve on Tuesday and Wednesday."

ON IF THERE WILL BE ANY EXTRA TIME OFF THIS WEEK:

"We didn't practice yesterday. We're not practicing today. We won't practice on Friday or Saturday. The short answer is yes. (But) we're gonna get quite a bit of good work in."

ON IF HE LIKES WHERE THE BYE WEEK FALLS THIS YEAR:

"I like it. (It) provides us a nice break, right now, to kind of take stock of where we're at, both schematically and personnel-wise. Gives our guys a chance to heal up, kind of for the long haul. We've got a pretty significant stretch that we're staring at with two Thursday games and quite a few games on the road here coming up. I think it falls at a good time for us to take stock in where we're at. Get a good evaluation of some things personnel-wise and scheme-wise."

ON IF HE WAS TELLING JEROD EVANS TO GET DOWN ON THE TOUCHDOWN RUN:

"His ankle is fine. I did not yell for him to get down, I yelled for him to protect the football. I was good with him running it, I just didn't like the way the ball was kind of flopping all over the place."

ON HOW COMFORTABLE HE IS WITH THE TEAM AFTER THE FIRST MONTH:

"That's an interesting way to put it. I feel like we've played well the last couple of weeks. I don't believe that previous performance is an indication of future performance. I don't believe in momentum from week to week. I believe in 12 one-game seasons. But I also do believe that there is something else there that does carry over from week to week in terms of confidence and belief in what we're doing, understanding the process, those sorts of things. I do think there's another level we can get to, but I do think that we have made some progress in those terms. Guys are feeling better about what we're asking them to do."

ON IF HE'S NOTICED ANY ISSUES WITH EVANS ON DOWNFIELD THROWS:

"You bet (it's gonna be a focus). Well that and a lot of other things. We've got a lot of things to work at. We're gonna put him in some situations that you've gotta work on that maybe haven't come up yet. Third down situations, that sort of stuff that we'll put in this week to continue to try to improve his development. We have a pretty specific thing we ask them to do when throwing the ball down the field at quarterback, in terms of giving our guys a chance to catch the ball. We didn't do that on a couple of them which was kind of disappointing."

ON IF HE'S COMFORTABLE WITH THE WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH:

"No. We're still working on it every single day. No, I'm not comfortable with it at all. Kids are working hard, I'm not displeased with them. I think they know it and I think they're working to try and improve. They're just really, really young. They're just freshmen. But no, it's not a source of comfort."

ON IF HE'S NOTICED IF GREG STROMAN APPROACHES RETURNS DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR:

"No, not really. He's just (a) trustable, dependable person. We've trust him since we've been here. I haven't really seen anything different. If you look back at the return, I think that, Greg did a great job, but the other 10 people on the field did a heck of a job, too. There was nobody within a long ways of him. He had plenty of room in there, which is great. It's what the whole unit should take pride in, in those things. But I haven't seen anything really different."

ON IF THERE'S A DIFFERENT APPROACH FOR ROAD GAMES:

"This will be our first 'true' road game. The Bristol game was obviously a different situation. It is a little bit different. When you go on the road, you're minimalist. You just bring what you need in order to get the job done. In my opinion, at times in my career, I have seen seen that galvanize or focus the team. Gives a chance to just bring the people you know are gonna participate in the game, obviously we have travel restrictions for the ACC and that sort of thing. There's not a lot of extra when you go on the road and you're going into someone else's place. You also don't have ticket requests and a lot of other things to worry about that you can do at home. I'm not suggesting that I would rather play on the road than play in Lane Stadium. I'm just saying there's kind of another dynamic there that I think can work to help focus the team."

ON HIS THOUGHTS ON KEN EKANEM'S SEASON SO FAR:

"Ken's been fantastic. That's great for him (to be named ACC defensive linemen of the week), it's a well deserved award. Ken is a very good leader, very competitive, good worker, highly intelligent football player that I'm glad to see get recognized for his hard work. I've been really pleased with really our entire defensive front and how they've played and attacked the games. Coach (Charley) Wiles and the job he's done getting those guys rockin' n rollin', they've done a good job."

ON IF HE CAN RECALL BEING ON THE FIELD FOR A NATIONAL ANTHEM IN HIS CAREER:

"No. I remember the anthem in Bristol because they had it on the TV in the locker room. But I can't remember, I'm not saying I never have been, I just can't remember a scenario when a football team, whether ours at TCU or at Memphis or in my short time here, where we have been on the field for that. It may have happened at some time, but I can not recall."

ON HIS FEELINGS IF A PLAYER WANTED TO TAKE A KNEE:

"You had to go there didn't ya? I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of different topics, first of all. That's what I'd tell ya. I'm not always gonna share with all of you all and I hope you respect that because there's a lot that comes with standing up and voicing your opinion. Doesn't mean I don't have one. Whether it's the national anthem or some other cause, whatever it is, I would hope that our kids would want to come to me and talk about those things and figure out a way to genuinely help whatever cause it is that they feel strongly about. Give us the opportunity to discuss how it is that they can help that cause. Knowing that I'm gonna support them in their stance and what they truly believe in, but also, let's find a way to help that cause that maybe can help our football or not cause huge distractions for our football team. (That) is the way I would hope that that got handled if it ever came up for us."

Comments

Well done on that question...

@hokie_rd

Very well chosen GIF.

He dodged it but he also answered it. He gave a great response for it too. It is something he would rather make a difference for the player than have them protest without a plan of action. Let them be an actor in a movement if they feel like they need to be a voice. I love the way he answered it.

"I'm too drunk to taste this chicken" - Colonel Sanders via Ricky Bobby

Agree, I liked it as well and wasn't implying he dodged the question. Meant a strong response can get you front page of ESPN pretty quickly.

@hokie_rd

It's easy to parry when all they're doing is aiming for your weapon...

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Wait, reading the transcript the question came out of nowhere. Was there anything that led to the being on field question?

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

Norm Wood was the reporter who asked. He first asked the question if CJF could ever remember a time when he was on the field for the anthem. When he said no, Norm asked the question of what he would do if one of his players wanted to protest.

I thought CJF did a marvelous job of answering it.

Exit light. Enter night. Enter the Hokies.

He absolutely did. Thanks for the clarification. Just seems like a really strange question to ask with no evidence of this being a subject on the VT team. Guess Norm just needed something to write about on the bye week.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

At this point, I don't even know how it's possible, but I like this Fuente hire a little bit more each day

.....
95% of what I say is sarcastic. The other 5% is usually taken out of context.

Coach Fuente -

There's not a lot of extra when you go on the road and you're going into someone else's place. You also don't have ticket requests and a lot of other things to worry about that you can do at home. I'm not suggesting that I would rather play on the road than play in Lane Stadium. I'm just saying there's kind of another dynamic there that I think can work to help focus the team."

I've been saying this for YEARS. Road games have a silver lining. Especially if the team feeds off of each other.

Leonard. Duh.

I think its the "us against the world" mentality that road games automatically create that is a really easy sell for the team. It definitely worked in Columbus circa 2014.

He's no good to me dead.

I think we should all take Fu's example to heart, and keep our comments on the game.

TKP is a space and a community for a designated purpose. Sports often intersects with culture and politics in profound ways but we all find other outlets for these important and often rich conversations (or not). It is difficult sometimes not to have them here because it's such a smart, thoughtful, and always humorous community. But to Joe's credit, one of the reasons the site works as well as it does in building community is because we do not do politics here.

Unfortunately Coach Fu lives in the real world of humans (college aged male humans at that) where sports, culture and politics exists not as distinct entities but inextricably intertwined with one another. That is a tricky place to be a leader. Once again though, Coach Fu seems to have a reasoned and rational approach to a complex topic. I am grateful that our university is so fortunate to continually have this kind of leadership. Certainly not all are so lucky.

Edit fixed typo

"Don't go to, go through"

ON IF HE WAS TELLING JEROD EVANS TO GET DOWN ON THE TOUCHDOWN RUN:

"His ankle is fine. I did not yell for him to get down, I yelled for him to protect the football. I was good with him running it, I just didn't like the way the ball was kind of flopping all over the place."

Coach Fu's subtle shot at the NBA....

Is that real? Wow...

Man that Florida player lit his ass up! No surprise he got ejected!!

I know a lot of TKPers revile Nick Saban. However, the one trait of Saban's that I have always admired is his ability to praise the work and effort of his players, and never criticize them unless it is in a constructive way, while also never bring satisfied with where the team and the program are at. It is a trait that separates good coaches from championship-caliber coaches, and it is a trait Justin Fuente has in spades.

"I mean, you know, fuck them, but good for them." -Too Druck to Funk

Let me get some of that Nick Saban recipe

Autocowrecked.

But here goes:

1 pound obsessive compulsive disorder
1 cup perfectionism
1 cup personality, dry
1/2 cup God complex
1 gallon orange food coloring

Mix well. Serve with national championship trophies and top 5 recruiting classes.

"I mean, you know, fuck them, but good for them." -Too Druck to Funk

Don't forget the Kiffin Sprinkles!

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.

and the Coke

@hokie_rd

Sometimes I wonder how old the bottle of Coke that sits on Saban's podium is... Cause I'm betting they just leave the same one there all the time.

Achievement unlocked: All of the Fullers

"Sam Rogers is a college football icon" SB Nation

Thanks Frank!

I knew there was a reason I don't like Coke

You forgot about one ingredient
1 contract with the devil for his soul

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Also, vast dingy basements full of quality control analysts doing all the prep work for the coaches.

Wait, so you're telling me he opened the press conference with a statement about a player he never coached, who last played for us 10 years ago, who just got lost to injury for the season in the NFL? Holy hell, this guy gets it so hard they might have to start censoring his image on TV.

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

VT has a long list of people that have extended their playing careera, I hope Fuente has observed that their presence back on campus is something that needs to be addressed. Things like that are great for getting there.

Ryan, I noticed on Twitter that Woody Baron was at the press conference. Any update on how he's feeling after appearing to injure himself during the game?

He was back in the game after he got hurt, I believe. He looked fine at the conference today. Didn't mention anything. Neither did CJF.

Exit light. Enter night. Enter the Hokies.

Good to hear, thanks. I wasn't sure if he had come back in or not.

I believe he strained his strain on that play.

Thanks for update! I was curious as well. Even if it isn't major, this bye week helps.

I love how Fuente thanks the crowd and such, I wonder if he is as giddy for the Thursday night against Miami. That's when Lane really gets rocking.

If neither team has lost a game by then we might be top 20, they could be top ten.

I don't think Fuente knows what a Thursday night game in Lane is like (yet).

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

Is that the next home game? I'm thinking sellout, and giving Coach Fu a true taste of what the fans can do. Looking forward to a well-placed Enter Sandman in the 4th quarter, Richt channeling his inner Al Golden.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Hoping we don't need the Sandman in the 4th. I'd like to see them bring back the Na Na Na Naa, Na Na Na Naa, Hey Hey-ay, Goodbye thing. That was fun to hear back in the day.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Yeah, but playing that in the THIRD quarter against WVU, while awesome, was kinda much.

There is nothing in the world like Thursday night in Blacksburg!

Yep, that is the next home game. We only have 3 home games left. That's kind of sad.

"I believe in 12 one-game seasons." --CJF

I love this guy.

Reminds me of the 99 team motto. They didn't want to go 11-0, they wanted to go 1-0 11 times.

There is nothing in the world like Thursday night in Blacksburg!

So he's only planning on 12 games? No bowl? No ACCCG? And no playoffs?

Sheesh next he'll probably take the LSU job.

What about those preseason games though.....

CJF on Jerod Evans: ""His ankle is fine."

Me....

Insert gif of me dancing in a track suit and gold chains.

Me on USAFhokie: "But your link is broken."

/s

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

I'm on a government computer so its hard to tell whats working. Fixed.

It is my hope that CJF was able to relay his sentiments to the team the same way (if not more clearly) that he did to the media/fans.

I like the idea of 'answers over distractions'. NFL.com was basically a "who's protesting today" tracker Sunday afternoon.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Not just NFL.com, but ESPN.com has been running weekly "this is who protested today" not to mention the obligatory mentions on the broadcast of who did what during the national anthem. Give South Park some credit, they beautifully predicted how this would carry over into the regular season with their season opener this year.

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

I haven't hardly watched a single down of NFL Football this season. It's just an absolute joke in so many ways. All the scandals and issues the league has had recently, excessive penalties which really slow up the game, non-stop commercialism, literally every team in the league runs the exact same offense, and on and on. Now add this to the list. College football Saturdays are just an awesome day where we can put the bs to the side, rep our schools, and watch some games. Sundays, I'm turning the TV off.

ugh, the last few years, college football has been more of a display of Stockholm Syndrome for me. Love the Hokies, but it definitely seemed like the fun just wasn't there, and it was showing on the field. Thankfully, that's all changed so far this year, and you can tell the team is just far more loose than they were in years past, and they're having a lot more fun, which is carrying over into watching fun games.

The NFL is frustrating. Its almost as if the rules are set up to boost the bad teams and partially neuter the good teams to make every game competitive. And once one team goes on a run, its almost like the NFL goes out of its way to force them back down into the pack. All this does is create a league where only a few teams can legitimately win it all, but a massive glut of teams that aren't good enough to win everything, but aren't bad enough to legitimately set themselves up for the future.

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

I just legitimately find the NFL product boring. There is no offensive variety in the league. One of the things I love most about college is that, on any given Saturday, you can watch a team running the spread option, pro style, triple option, west coast, air raid, etc. I feel like the adjustments a team has to make week to week depending on opponent make for a more interesting chess match between OCs and DCs in college. Everyone in the NFL is doing some variant of the same thing; short timed passing routes and some power runs every now and then. It's just an outrage that Tyrod, Shady, Reggie Bush, Watkins, and Harvin have to endure the joke offense Rex Ryan has them running. There's too much talent to be that inconsistent on offense.

I do think there's another level we can get to