My phone incinerated as I scrolled through Twitter post-lunch to digest the high-level of Justin Fuente's signing day conference. Sidebar: The carne asada at Chipotle is top-shelf, and it's deflating when an initial huge scoop gets some shook back into the tray. Anyways... Fuente was scorched for his point-of-no-return stance on the transfer portal (at least for this go around). It didn't help that some initial accounts of the exchange lacked the nuance and context of the entire conversation (but hey that's Twitter), and that helped fuel the eruption. Either way, the end result was a press conference intended to discuss the Hokies' pair of football signees made national headlines for anything but.
I listened and transcribed the complete interaction.
Reporter: With any of the kids that we know of that have entered the transfer portal, or did, have any of them decided to return?
Fuente: We're not doing that. We've talked about that. We talked about it as a team. I talked about Hendon [Hooker] and Deshawn [McClease] last year, and how that was me not doing a good job educating them. We'll take all of 'em on a case-by-case basis, but we're moving forward.
Reporter: When you say you're not doing that, you mean you're not taking any of them back?
The fanbase is polarized and it's made the discourse of the Fuente era and Hokies' football exhausting rather than engaging. Fault Fuente for his honesty here, because coach speak would've produced a non-issue. Call Lionel Hutz to consult him on the truth.
Or maybe he leveraged the media to reinforce a message to his team about commitment. And perhaps that's a hypocritical stance given his recent flirtation with Baylor. In any event, this off-season seems poised to rival a Westeros winter.
For my money, the most interesting takeaway was Fuente's optimism for the direction of the program, and both his implicit and explicit expectations. He affectionately referred to the Hokies' 2021 class as "spoiled" because of all new facilities scheduled to be finished for that group's arrival: new dorm, new dining facility, new weight room, new meeting rooms, and refurbished players lounge. The same amenities Tech has wisely promoted on social media.
He even divulged a goal for next cycle, to sign an "elite class". And whether or not he intended it, that means starpower to the recruitniks. Regardless, it's a metric he can/should/will be measured against about a year from now.
Beyond that, he meticulously segued from the expected question about Baylor to rave about the future of the football program.
"I'm more excited than ever," said Fuente. "We have done everything possible to pay respects to the people that have done such a wonderful job in this football program in the past. You look around and see what we're building, not just bricks and mortar, but as a program and staff wise I couldn't be more excited. It's a little bit of rejuvenation, and feels a little bit like your first year."
(The only way that response would've been more perfect was if it happened a few weeks ago. /Ducks)
Combine that with what Fuente said back at his early signing day presser, and you have a coach that expects to win some football games.
"We've got a pretty darn good football team coming back," he said on December 18.
And I'm glad we're all on the same page with that.