The ACC Kickoff is upon us, marking the beginning of the end of the offseason — and it doesn't come a moment too soon for the Hokies.
Unless you've been under a rock since December (which honestly doesn't sound that bad right about now), you'll surely be acutely aware of just how Tech has filled up the offseason bingo card over these last few months.
Some sudden departures? Adios, Mook Reynolds, Adonis Alexander and Galen Scott. A costly injury? Hello, Jeremy Webb. Rumors swirling about the starting quarterback? Glad you're still around, Josh Jackson.
Plainly, the opening of fall camp will be a relief for the coaches and players. But first, we get one last chance for Justin Fuente to reflect on this nightmare of an offseason down in Charlotte.
Press junkets like these tend to be an exercise in just how little coaches can reveal about the upcoming season, but there are always few nuggets we can examine in these football-free months. Some might say Tidbits, if you will.
Let's get into it.
Fuente Talks Turmoil
By and large, the notoriously tight-lipped Fuente avoided saying much about any of the turmoil surrounding the program this offseason.
He had some kind words for Alexander, praising him for working diligently to earn his academic eligibility but lamenting that he "dug himself a hole and couldn't get out." Fuente also was pretty blunt about Mook Reynolds' future with the team after his dismissal.
So much for the longshot hope articulated by some fans that Reynolds could see his felony drug charge potentially knocked back to a misdemeanor, and therefore wind up back in school.
This, however, struck me as the most notable thing Fuente said on the matter.
I'm not sure if he meant this as an oblique shot at the Beamer regime, but it can sure as heck be read as one. Where does he think Bud Foster and Charley Wiles were before he got to Blacksburg, exactly?
Both players preceded Fuente in Blacksburg, but it's not as if this is the new staff's first year either. It seems a bit late in the game to be saying, "Hey, I'm the new guy" when he's had several years to address whatever was happening behind the scenes here.
I think Fuente's comment does hint at the one silver lining hidden in the slew of bad news this offseason — i.e., that it's all coming at once, hopefully, and will be behind the team by the time the pads go on and the Florida State game arrives.
But I would wager, perhaps, that there was another way to phrase that sentiment.
Making a Statement By Saying Nothing at All?
Josh Jackson has never been the most loquacious player on the roster, even as he ascended to the team's most prominent position.
When combined with his own offseason controversy, it seemed an odd choice indeed that Fuente would tab him for what is, effectively, a two-day long media session.
After all, he'd have to answer questions about what exactly happened regarding his academic situation, which prompted some reports that his future with the team was in doubt. It hardly sounds like a good time, even for the most media-savvy athlete!
#Hokies QB Josh Jackson said he was never worried the situation involving academics was going to turn out poorly for him. Said he tried not to think about it, other than when he got texts and messages about it. #ACCKickoff— Norm Wood (@normwood) July 18, 2018
Jackson said it was unfortunate that false accusations came out about him allegedly being indefinitely suspended in connection with his academic situation. #Hokies #ACCKickoff— Norm Wood (@normwood) July 18, 2018
However, more than anything Jackson said, Fuente's decision to bring him to Charlotte in the first place speaks volumes. He wouldn't come out and name Jackson the starter by the end of the spring, but what's a better vote of confidence than knowing a guy would face some tough questions, and putting him up on the podium anyway?
There's still fall camp left to see if Ryan Willis, Hendon Hooker or even Quincy Patterson can unseat Jackson, but this sure seems like Fuente's way of saying that this offseason's uncertainty didn't shake his faith in last year's starter.
"Bringing your starting QB, who is a good worker... just made sense to me," Fuente told reporters. "And I do have confidence in him."
It's Cute That You're Trying
In lighter news, the word out of that other Virginia school is that they're laser-focused on beating the Hokies this year.
Maybe a little too focused, even.
#UVA WR Olamide Zaccheaus on 'Beat Tech' signage around team's facility: "When you're going into work, everything you do you have to beat Tech. Whether it's going to the bathroom – you have to beat Tech in the bathroom. It's making it a lifestyle."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) July 18, 2018
It's a move straight out of the playbook of any rebuilding coach — focus on the rivalry as a way to get the fans and boosters jacked up, and because it's a whole lot easier promising one win than it is 10 (or even six).
Just don't count on anyone in Blacksburg engaging too seriously on such a question, just yet. I think Ricky Walker put it best.
I leave you with a reminder that one coach always, always says something dumb at media day. Each time around, just be glad if it wasn't yours.
Larry Fedora's media session is over. He repeatedly doubled down on his claims about the decline of football/decline of America and added later that he doesn't believe CTE has been proven to be linked to football. That was a surreal Q&A session.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) July 18, 2018