Despite a Dispiriting Four-Game Skid, Justin Fuente 'Couldn't Feel Better About Where We're Going'

Fuente draws some optimism from playing a competitive half against one of the best teams in the country.

[Mark Umansky]

In 2016, the Hokies looked tantalizingly close to beating Clemson in the ACC title game, generating plenty of optimism about Justin Fuente's future. In 2017, Tech looked a bit further away from the Tigers, dropping a two-score game with College GameDay in town, but nonetheless appeared a promising ACC contender for years to come.

So what is there to make of a dispiriting, 35-point loss to cap a four-game losing streak in 2020? Many have posited that it's the clearest evidence yet that Fuente's program has regressed from those halcyon days at the start of his tenure.

But, despite all that, the head Hokie remains convinced that he has things headed in the right direction.

"I can't tell you I feel awesome because of the short-term results we've gotten," Fuente told reporters Monday. "But in terms of a long-term basis and how our kids are performing in their classroom and the community...I couldn't feel better about where we're going and where we're headed, even though we're here in the middle of a tough stretch."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fuente is trying to put a positive spin on the last few weeks. Sure, a four-game losing streak is tough, but he observes that two of those losses were "heartbreakers." It's a bit harder to explain away the Pitt loss, but Fuente sees plenty of positives in the Clemson game too, considering "we came in at home against the No. 3 team in the country, we're right in it in the middle of the game and then we had some of the weirdest things I've ever seen occur."

Certainly, the Hokies couldn't expect that they'd lose their starting quarterback, Hendon Hooker, after the very first drive of the game due to muscle spasms tied to the cold temperature. Even still, Braxton Burmeister proved an able replacement, until he too was forced to leave with a leg injury, forcing Knox Kadum into the game.

Fuente said if the team had been unlucky enough to see Kadum get hurt as well, he would've turned to an emergency option: TE James Mitchell, who played QB in high school. Of course, Fuente noted that Mitchell "doesn't know he's the emergency QB."

"We probably would've just put James back there and had him hand the ball off," Fuente said. "We would've been past the point of being able to conduct a football game."

Fuente's point is: despite all that chaos, his team played a competitive half of football against the Tigers. The wheels came off eventually, but he was pleased that "we were a much faster football team than we were two weeks ago," posting a promising defensive performance (albeit briefly) against a juggernaut like Clemson.

"Our guys have been great," Fuente said. "I'm as proud of them as I've been any group."

'Get that thing back'

So what will all that mean against Virginia? Fuente is certainly hopeful it bodes well for the Hokies reversing this losing skid and winning a rivalry game.

He fully expects that both Burmeister and Hooker will be available at QB. The question is which one will actually get the start, especially because Fuente said he can't be sure how Hooker will recover.

"I've never seen that before, I don't know that our medical staff has ever seen that," Fuente said. "So we're going to try to do everything we can to take care of him moving forward. Obviously I anticipate this Saturday night will be chilly...The guy had some issues with being cold, so we've got to find ways to help him out."

Whoever starts at QB should have some opportunities to exploit against a UVA defense that is missing several prominent contributors, most notably OLB Charles Snowden. Fuente admitted that he'll be glad not to be playing him this year, but cautioned that the Hoos have compensated well for his absence.

"They've always been a versatile defensive scheme," Fuente said. "They have a personnel group that they've gone to, a little bit like an offense might, to get their best people on the field...They've just always been able to go with the flow personnel-wise."

Offensively, Fuente said UVA QB Brennan Armstrong reminds him of Bronco Mendenhall's old BYU protege, Taysom Hill, which will present plenty of problems for the defense. And the Hoos have certainly been hot recently, winning their last four games. But Fuente is hoping to win back the Commonwealth Cup, even as the two team's seasons seem to be heading in different directions.

"I believe previous outcomes have very little effect on future events," Fuente said. "But we know we have our work cut out for us to go try and get that thing back."

Senior Day...Sort Of

Saturday will technically be Senior Day for the Hokies: kind of. A lot of the emotional resonance that normally follows the last game for a class of seniors isn't quite there during Covid times, considering every senior is eligible to return next season.

Fuente said he's spoken with some players already about returning, while others have yet to make a final decision. He was unwilling to name names, however, because "they've still got chances to change their minds" and he didn't want to paint them into a corner.

And Fuente said he would be more than willing to let any senior that wants to go through the Senior Day festivities, such as they are, go through the process and still come back next year.

Big names from Jarrod Hewitt to Divine Deablo to Rayshard Ashby will all have a chance for another swan song in Blacksburg, and Fuente said he would not close the door to anyone returning.

"I think we've got a couple that definitely will come back, a couple that won't and some guys who are going to worry about it when the season's over with," Fuente said. "All are welcome to go through it and all are welcome to come back."

OL Updates

OT Christian Darrisaw may not be a senior, but his soaring draft stock means the UVA game will likely be his last in Blacksburg. And despite a persistent foot injury, Fuente expects "it would take a lot" for him to miss his final game against UVA.

Similarly, Fuente expects Silas Dzansi to be available. He also believes that Brock Hoffman will make an appearance at center again, even though he was benched for Zacariah Hoyt after another costly personal foul.

"I'm going to give Brock an opportunity to get back in there and go," Fuente said. "He's got to play smart football though. Brock knows that. I grabbed him after the game and said, 'Do you understand why? I'm not asking if you like it,' but I asked him if he understood why (he was benched) and he said, 'Yes sir.' Brock has been fantastic in terms of preparation and effort, but we've got to play the right way."

Fuente also expects that Bryan Hudson and Doug Nester could both make another appearance against UVA, after neither played against the Tigers. But Fuente said that shouldn't be taken as a statement on the future of two of the most promising offensive line recruits to join the Hokies in recent years.

"Doug has been hurt and I do think he'll be good to go this week," Fuente said. "Bryan has really been improving. He's maybe the most improved guy from the start of the season to the end of the season. The last couple weeks, not counting the Clemson game, he was getting more and more playing time. Both been really talented and good workers."

Comments

Coach Fu:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

You gotta admire the complete lack of self awareness, has to be invigorating to not care what anyone else thinks...

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:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

He may be totally aware and just trying to keep things positive. What would you say if he came out and was like "we lost, we've been losing, we're just losers, and I'm the biggest one of all."? If he come across as defeated, the team may take the same stance, so I'd rather him be positive going into the UVA game. I'd like it if he's let go, but says something along the lines of, "sorry things didn't work out. I enjoyed my time here and wish things could have worked out better. I wish Tech the best going forward." I'd much rather that than him acting defeatist or pissy. So I'm fine with positive. I think it's better for the players even if he knows 100% he's gone.

One thing to be confident it's another to repeatedly lie or be disingenuous. Then again maybe he means him and the staff and not the team. As in they are going places like a new program 😁

I disagree. The best leaders acknowledge they screwed up and commit to fixing it. They admit failure and provide hope and vision.

All Fuente does is bash his own guys for poor execution. He takes no ownership.

Example. Remember Dominos pizza and 7 years ago? They had an advertising campaign that said we screwed up and we want to win you back. We have changed and we will deliver. And you know what? They did.

Fuentes comments are unadulterated propaganda and spin. It's not mature leadership and it shows a glaring deficiency in his management abilities

At this point he may know there is no coming back. Plus, the time for what you're suggesting was a year or two ago. Maybe even earlier this year as the not good recruiting class shaped up and the losses piled on. At this point, what does admitting you screwed up get you really? I think it's best for him to try to just be positive through Dec. 16th. We all know he has deficiencies in management, but again, you're beating a dead horse at this point. With all the media starting to talk about a next coach for us, I'm pretty sure he knows he's on his way out, and I'd rather him act positive. And if he knows he's getting fired, acting positive can be tough. But I'd rather him do that going into the UVA game.

I guess I needed the /s at the end?

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:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Got 2 paragraphs in and couldn't go any farther.

Tired of the endless excuses and just frank nonsense.

kids are performing in their classroom and the community

Dare I say we are Champions at Life, Coach?

Beat UVA so we can have one final decent memory of your tenure. Then leave. Please. And don't come back. Ever.

Thought you were going to go with the Bruce Allen we are "winning off the field" reference

Hokie Club member since 2017

Team really has a great personality.

Dare I say we are Champions at Life, Coach?

Yeeppp that was my first thought when I read the quote as well... Feels a lot like Butch Jones.

Twitter me

Well stated. This is spin crap from Fuente and no one is buying it any more.

"Winning off the field"

Another great article, Alex!

Puff puff give, coach.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jet Sweep

So yeah, I'm not surprised he thinks we're headed in the right direction

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

Is this that unusual? I don't think many coaches are super familiar with all of the media outlets and ranking services out there.

Twitter me

Just remembered that Fuente made this comment, but I went down a rabbit hole on PFF the other day and learned that they provide customized analytics to all 32 NFL teams and 80+ FBS football teams (75% of the Power 5). The services they provide save coaching staff and assistants a ton of man hours worth of work.

Teams services page on PFF's website: https://www.pff.com/team-services

Someone with more knowledge than me please chime in, but the head coach not knowing what PFF is screams to me that VT football does not use this service. This is a major disadvantage and waste of resources for a program already struggling to keep financial pace with other Power 5 football programs.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

This might explain the lack of use of Herbert. Fu probably didn't even know Herbert was good. /S

(add if applicable) /s

Your comment reminds me of Travon McMillian all over again.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

He's got $10M coming his way. Of course he feels great.

Well that makes one of us.

The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me.

Where we're going?

  • VT football: to a long, painful overhaul and rebuild
  • Justin Fuente: to an eight-figure payoff and a vacay in St. Bart's on VTs dime, followed by HC job at SE Texas St.
  • Brad Cornelson: to a State Farm office in Ada, OK when no AD will hire JF if he brings Cornelson with him

I know it's not exactly on brand for VT, but hear me out... What if we made Fuente walk the plank?

via GIPHY

Down Periscope? wow, takin' me back

Play me a dirge, matey

Never Forget #1 Overall Seed UVA 54, #64 UMBC 74

There is a serious lack of gifs for that movie out there. It's a damn shame. I had to make this one myself lol

We really missed the boat during the ECU series

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

I still remember the quote "This is a man with welcome aboard tattooed on his penis!"

What an amazing movie. Har Har Har.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I've heard submariners say they like to see themselves as Das Boot or Hunt for Red October, but they're actually Down Periscope.

Never Forget #1 Overall Seed UVA 54, #64 UMBC 74

I couldn't feel better about where we're going and where we're headed

home to oklahoma?

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

me in 9 days

I mean, I would feel pretty good about a sudden $10-12 million dollar windfall.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

I would feel good right now if I go through the drive-thru and they super size my meal for free .....

VTMidge

But think about the taxes... :)

Even with the taxes, I'd take that payday.

I'd rather take it in Florida where there's no state income tax, but who's going to complain about a free $7M (or whatever the math works out to be in VA)

Warning- Filter lost.

"Look at this... This is just spectacular.... These people are losing their minds"

Is Fuente fucking nuts?!!!

god this team is bad for my mental health

Danny Coale caught it

So, is this the Tone Deaf thread pt 2?

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Those recruiting class rankings really get me Enter Sandman Jumping.

/s

Overheard as Duke assistant coaches took elevator down from press box: β€œGuys, they stopped the run with a three-man front.” - David Teel Tweet 2018

I can't tell which is the worse opinion.

This, or the fact that French thinks Top Gun is a bad movie.

"I have a PLAN. You just need to have a little goddamn faith, Whit. I just need. more. MONEY." - Justin van der Linde

He's not wrong. Maybe a class above Surfing Ninjas with jets.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Must not downvote opinions, must not ....

VTCC '86 Delta Company, Hokie in Peru, Former Naval Aviator, Former FBISA, Forever married to my VT87 girl. Go VT!

Unfortunately the words he speaks and the product he produces on the field are two different worlds. This is somewhat of a delusional way of thinking. But, if I had his windfall I could get delusional too.

Exactly. This was supposed to be THE year for Tech. It's year 5 for Fuente and VT had a relatively easy schedule. Our recruiting has been REALLY bad the last two cycles. It's honestly so depressing to see a guy from Nowhere Oklahoma try to convince us fans that things are looking up. I have lost all trust in his coaching. So many easy mistakes. He's not coaching to win, only to not lose badly. You gotta be aggressive against Clemson.

The Clemson game was just awful. Since when did VT coaches make so many excuses and try the moral loss talk? We used to kick Clemsons and the rest of the ACC ass from 04-2011. We need VT staff whose sole job is to rebuild the Virginia HS coach relationships. I think a lot of Hokie fans don't quite actually realize how bad our recruiting has been and assume we'll land a better class next year. My expo are so low but would be pumped to get the Commonwealth Cup back. Hokies

Pour some Beer on it

You gotta be aggressive against Clemson

So true - and remember the aggressive and awesomely executed fake punt we tried on them in the 2016 Conference Championship game? Good times, good times....

Mitchell's reaction to being the emergency QB

our receivers when James Mitchel is lined up under center:

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)..

Why do I get the feeling we're about to lose d so one promising players this year to the Draft/Portal/ and just graduation regardless of having an extra year smh.

If they make the change, we might keep some of those players or attract some.

Well it looks like Justus is calling it a career and apparently Deablo and Darrisaw are considering going through w/ draft preparations as well.
S.n I get the feeling we may not see Devon Hunter in a Hokie uniform again

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
ˈkΓ€Ι‘nΙ™div ˈdisΙ™nΙ™ns
Noun. Psychology.
1. The state of having inconsistent thoughts or beliefs especially as it relates to behavioral changes and attitude changes.
2. Coach Fuente when he loses four in a row, is on the verge of getting fired, is piloting a program in a free fall, and insists it is the best it's ever been.

Can someone photoshop Fuente in to this photo?

#MakeTheMove

#MakeTheMove . . . "Vick, dashing back . . . here he comes again . . . Electrifying . . . and have you ever seen anything like this?"

this is kind of embarrassing...

imagine if this were happening in Charlottesville...we'd all be laughing and rejoicing and praying for it to continue forever...

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

We did. The Al Groh years. There were t-shirts that said "Winning Grohs on You"

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

"I believe previous outcomes have very little effect on future events," Fuente said.

As in, previous years of being the head coach of Virginia Tech football have very little effect on still being the head coach next year.

I tried to read this but I started tasting bile in my throat.

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

"I believe previous outcomes have very little effect on future events," Fuente said.

This explains a lot. (And yes I know what he was trying to say, but poor timing/ choice of words).

"That's it guys. Let's get out of here. That cold drink's waitin' on us, let's go." - Mike Young after win no. 300.

I hear you. This play has not worked before, but it will work this time.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Where does Fuente think we are going?

Seems like we are headed to MAC level talent, 4-6 wins a year.

Maybe he thinks he can take 2 star players and magically make them compete with Clemson?

He and Corn are going to develop a drop back game?

Genuinely confused at how CJF thinks he can fix problems when all he has done is create them.

I'm thinking we might need someone with a little more guts than Fuente, a guy who can take risks and have them pay off. I imagine this will be Whit to our new head coach:

The interview may be a little awkward if proof is demanded. Or proof offered. But I like where your head is lol

Our basketball guru - ltrepeter posted a tweet from Dave Scarangella about MY branded popcorn and that led me to and interesting post with some good points that I haven't seen around here. We certainly are at a crossroads

...
But in the final minute of the first half, you saw the downside. Like the game earlier in the season against Miami where there was a similar start that lasted three quarters, you saw a lack of faith. A turtle going back into its shell. Calls made to avoid losing instead of trying to win.

....
I like Fuente, and for the last three years have been hoping he figures all this out. He's a good fit for Blacksburg, and he's young. But I come from a long background in sales, where you learn it doesn't matter if you're liked or not, it's only about results. Hit 100 percent of quota and you'll be liked and get a bonus. Hit 80 percent and you'll be liked but working at another company.

The first-half Fuente I saw last night who is bold and confident can coach any team I pull for any time he likes. But the Fuente who plays to avoid a mistake instead of playing to win is a big question mark. A question mark, I might add, that has cost the Virginia Tech program its lengthy streaks of not having a losing record, not losing to UVA, and not going to a bowl game.

So like I said, here we are. Back at the crossroads.

Someone needs to choose.

It's an unwritten law that it's my lunch pail. I've issued the challenge. If someone outworks me, they can get it.
Darryl Tapp

"The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness."

Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out. And then bring one every ten minutes.

I was a reminded of that exact Bull Durham line when I read this...

But the more I think about it the more I start to believe that ultimately, Fuente's problem is he's too smart to be Dabo Swinney and not smart enough to be Nick Saban.

lol, what a place to be in. It will be very interesting to see where Fuente goes (if anyone hires him) and who he brings with him when he goes. I personally think his failure to succeed in Blacksburg is tied to his stubborn refusal to admit that Cornelson isn't qualified to do his job. I recognize that there are deeper issues beyond just the OC being useless but in Fuente's case this is almost a scenario of "you had one job!". He was pretty much brought in to bring an offense to Blacksburg and has largely failed in that regard. I wouldn't be shocked to see him succeed somewhere else without Cornelson. I would be pretty shocked to see him succeed somewhere with him.

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

Corn may not be great but I don't think Fuente's failure is all on keeping Corn.

I seriously wonder if there isn't some kind of IQ / Personality / Skill-set dead zone for P5 head ball coaches that Fuente inhabits.

yeah I know that there are more, deeper issues but the decision not to fire Cornelson in 2018 is a pretty clear and tangible indicator of some of the deeper issues Fuente has as a HC. Chief among them is recognizing shortcomings and taking steps to address them. Everyone and their brother knows what our offensive play calling tendencies are and when reporters asked Fuente about him taking over play-calling he dismissed that question as "the most ludicrous crap" he had ever heard. That is a glaring example of a coach who isn't aware of the problems that plague his program. That is a much deeper issue than having a bad OC but having the bad OC and not doing anything about it is a clear sign of those deeper issues. That's kind of my point. Cornelson is far from the only problem. But he's very clearly a problem that the coach can't recognize even though everyone else sees it. If the coach can't recognize that issue then he's likely missing other, less apparent issues. You can't fix what you can't see. Fuente can't see the problems so they're just going to get worse and worse.

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

I don't know if they would even give him a look, but Marshall is going to be looking for a coach soon when Doc retires. I'm sure they are close enough to VT and the program that they may not want to go down that path. Or he might thrive in a smaller setting in a smaller conference. Who knows...

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

I do kind of feel bad for the guy. I think he's probably generally a good fella who means well. I wouldn't mind seeing him succeed somewhere (wish it coulda been VT, but alas)

I'm probably going to follow him in his next job partly to see if my hypothesis about Cornelson holds true

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller