Fuente Expects Hooker to Play Against Duke, Warning That Tech Will Need the Help Against the Devils

Despite Tech's offensive outburst against N.C. State, Fuente is warning of a tough matchup ahead.

QB Hendon Hooker should be back on the field against Duke after missing Tech's season opener. [Virginia Tech Athletics]

After missing Virginia Tech's (delayed) season opener against N.C. State, starting QB Hendon Hooker should be back on the field on Saturday.

At least, Justin Fuente was willing to say "I think so," when asked by reporters whether his starter would play any snaps against Duke.

But what form will that take? How many snaps will he play, particularly after Braxton Burmeister and Quincy Patterson looked so sharp against the Wolfpack this weekend? Like so much about this unusual season, that all remains very much up in the air.

"We haven't had him (with the team) for a while," Fuente said during a media availability Monday. "But he's had a really good fall camp, we've been really pleased with him."

Can Fuente shed any light on what "a while" means, exactly?

"No," Fuente said, bluntly.

Fuente confirmed after the 45-24 win over N.C. State that Hooker had been subject to additional testing for health troubles unrelated to Covid-19, but (contrary to the gloomiest predictions on VT message boards) he will still be able to play sometime this year.

As for the rest of the 23 players and two full-time coaches forced to sit out the opener due to Covid concerns, Fuente said the team is "still working on literally a day-to-day basis and trying to do our best."

In particular, he's unsure whether defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton will be able to rejoin the team after his unexpected absence, and he's still tallying up the list of which players will be able to emerge from quarantine or isolation this week. Fuente noted that there are "interviews that go along with these things and more I don't get involved in," so he can't say for certain who will become available against Duke.

But he's hoping that things will at least be easier than last week, when he said "many guys on the offensive side of the ball were out" as he was trying to prepare the team to start the season. That will be especially important because the team will have a standard six days to prepare for Duke, after getting an extra week to study up on the Wolfpack after the UVA game's postponement.

Fuente has to feel good, at least, that his team looked so confident on offense against the Pack, despite all those challenges (to say nothing of Burmeister's mid-game hand cramp). Yet he isn't celebrating the team as an offensive juggernaut just yet.

"We had them pinned down pretty well in terms of what they were doing schematically," Fuente said. "We got the ball to the unblocked hat a couple times and made people miss, and it led to some explosive plays...but it's not going to look like it looked last week (against Duke)."

Don't Sleep on Duke

The Blue Devils haven't exactly looked dominant in their first three games, all losses, but that did not stop Fuente from singing Duke's praises Monday.

In particular, Fuente cautioned that Duke is likely to be a handful on defense, arguing that they've been playing at an "extremely high level," even if the 425 yards they're allowed per game might not initially show it.

"They've had some issues turning the football over and put the defense in some difficult situations, but they have some excellent players on that side of the ball," Fuente said. "This is a group that is disciplined, gap sound and that is physical."

It's not unusual for David Cutcliffe to earn hosannas from his fellow head coaches, given his reputation among his peers, but Fuente insists that anyone expecting an easy game against Duke should look beyond their record (which includes double-digit losses to Notre Dame, Boston College and UVA).

Fuente points out that the Devils had a lead against UVA late in the third quarter and was driving in Cavalier territory before a trick play went awry, with a wide receiver pass getting intercepted and handing UVA the momentum it needed for a fourth-quarter comeback. Absent that, he said Duke could easily be entering the game in a very different position.

Perhaps Fuente is a bit scarred, still, from Duke's 45-10 beatdown of the Hokies in Lane Stadium last year, but he believes Tech's first road game of the year will be a challenge on defense.

"They've got points they've left on the field," Fuente said. That is undoubtedly true, considering Duke is averaging 13 points a game so far.

He's particularly impressed with QB Chase Brice, the Clemson transfer who has managed two touchdowns and six interceptions to start the year, dubbing him "a talented, strong kid that can deliver the ball all over the place."

"I haven't seen a throw the guy can't make," Fuente said. "It's only a matter of time before he finds his stride."

But an even bigger challenge still may be Tech's first team travel in the Covid era, with Fuente noting that his operations squad is still hard at work figuring out the safest way for the team to head to North Carolina, and even how best to stay in a hotel safely.

"It's just not the same," Fuente said. "You used to just pick up your sandwich and get on the bus."

Some Talented Transfers

Twitter was briefly abuzz Sunday with photos of center Brock Hoffman puffing on a victory cigar following the win over the Wolfpack β€” but Fuente said he didn't even hear about it until late Sunday night.

Still, he can't exactly be surprised by Hoffman's preferred style of celebration, given his relatively advanced age for a college football player.

"Man, you must have a mature team or an older team if they've got a cigar in the locker room," Fuente joked.

Fuente suspects that maturity stems from his success landing players on the transfer market in recent years. It's been a bumpy road for some, like Hoffman, in actually securing eligibility but Fuente believes the team's careful due diligence has helped the Hokies land some important contributors over the years.

"I don't know that anyone's brought in better and higher character kids than we have," Fuente said. "I'm talking about high-end individuals who are doing more than just contribute on the field for our program."

Of course, the transfer did pretty well on the field as well. Besides Burmeister, RB Khalil Herbert shined with 104 yards on just six carries. And Fuente believes Hoffman earned that stogie too.

"He was playing against their best player in (DT) Alim McNeill, and I really felt like he was up to the challenge," Fuente said.

On the defensive side of the ball, Fuente also got solid contributions from transfer CB Devin Taylor (helping to fill in for CB Jermaine Waller, who Fuente said should return soon while dealing with a non-Covid related injury). But DE Justus Reed was the highlight, with his two sacks to steady the defensive line.

"I've seen our tight ends try to block him sometimes in the run game," Fuente said. "And we're pretty decent at tight end and I've seen him be able to lock some of those guys out and get rid of them."

Comments

Good news on the QB front, what about the other 22 guys? Not to mention the coaches. Dookies seem to have our number recently so all hands on deck would be ideal especially on the road...

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

As for the rest of the 23 players and two full-time coaches forced to sit out the opener due to Covid concerns, Fuente said the team is "still working on literally a day-to-day basis and trying to do our best."

In particular, he's unsure whether defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton will be able to rejoin the team after his unexpected absence, and he's still tallying up the list of which players will be able to emerge from quarantine or isolation this week. Fuente noted that there are "interviews that go along with these things and more I don't get involved in," so he can't say for certain who will become available against Duke

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Yeah I guess I could have phrased that better. Not worried about qb play after what I saw from 2nd and 3rd string, I am worried about depth especially on defense which is why I care more about the other players

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

Not to be fact-check guy, but just to remind everyone since the most recent game can often skew perception, the only time they've beat us under Fuente is last year. Plus in 2018 we beat them while they were ranked and we were coming off our ODU loss. We definitely got our heads caved in last year, but I wouldn't say they've had our number lately.

I'd say they definitely had our number last year.

Or maybe we had lost our own number last year.

I'm not sure.

Β‘Ay, caramba!

IIRC last year's game took a turn after a botched handoff...and then it was all downhill!

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

I thin HH might have been the QB who botched the handoff.

I had blocked out HH playing against Duke last year... probably because in his 2 series he 1) fumbled and Duke got the ball at our 16 leading to their first TD, and then later in the game HH couldn't pick up the 4&1 to which Duke responded next play with a 40 yard TD run.

Duke blew a lead against UVa.

Which means we REALLY can't sleep on them.

I'll take this thread to say it, the content that TKP staff has been able to manage in such an strange time is exceptional. Thank you all for your work.

(add if applicable) /s

Excellent write up, it's great to be talking about games! Let's go...

1-0 every week

Hokies!

...yes, it is great to be talking about actual football again.

Twitter me

Basically, what Fuente was trying to say about Duke: they'll get after ya.

Amateur superstar and idiot extraordinaire.

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

That's not a problem as long as our guys play their nuts off! And you can quote me on that sh*t!

PS: I really just wanted to get in the first reply so I would get some pointing gif action

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

Well, the pointing was to the post below, saying "they'll get after ya"

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

This is what happens when you read the article then post before you refresh. Highlander beat me by a couple minutes.

Hard play and NO STUPID penalties.

Taunting on a punt return isn't STUPID? - Brion Murray as I recall but all was forgiven on the pick should have been six.

The LewDew, Professional Golf Bum

It was incredibly stupid. The offense would have had the ball in NC St territory and could have just put the game away right then and there.

I doubt all was forgiven in the film room.

I think he was saying we shouldn't have any stupid penalties in the Duke game (possibly referring to the Murray penalty as the stupid penalty we shouldn't have any of).

arguing that they've been playing at an "extremely high level,"

Translation: "They'll get after ya!"

Did we ever see a full list of who the 23 players were?

Bleeding burnt orange and chicago maroon

Yes. If you check the game thread, it is posted in there. Andy Bitter tweeted it

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

I don't think that list was all inclusive or tallied 23.

If we just go play another game of solid football like Saturday I think we should be able to win against Duke. It's not going to be easy but it should be achievable. Looking forward to seeing Hooker out there this year.

I did find it interesting that HH could be on the sidelines but couldn't play. I didn't understand that unless he has some other issues going on.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

Couldn't play? Or just you don't play someone who hasn't practiced in over a week?

No couldn't play. He wasn't even dressed. The way we were playing if you're trying to help knock some rust off I think you throw him in for a series or two towards the end and just not play him at all b/c he hasn't practiced well.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

Gotcha. I would still think you wouldn't play him. Sounds like an opportunity ripe for an injury.

Disagree 100%. He hasn't practiced in at least 10 days, if not more. He hasn't done a single rep of game prep. Let him be with the team for the game and then get back at it on Sunday with practice. A series or 2 at the end of the game handing the ball off does nothing for him.

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

DNP - Coaches Decision

I thought they said during the broadcast that he was dealing with other non-covid related issues

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

Ok that would make sense then.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

Direct quote from the article above.

Fuente confirmed after the 45-24 win over N.C. State that Hooker had been subject to additional testing for health troubles unrelated to Covid-19, but (contrary to the gloomiest predictions on VT message boards) he will still be able to play sometime this year.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

This is my speculation, so take this with a grain of salt, but this is my reading between Fuente's quotes and some various board posts on something "showing up" with Hooker that "wasn't COVID related" but "could have ended his career."

Maybe something showed up in an echocardiogram that was a potential cardiac issue not related to COVID, but serious enough to extended his time of not being able to practice. So, there might have been a double whammy of being out due to COVID protocol then being out due to potential cardiac issue.

Regardless of what's the actual truth and what is speculation, we should all be glad that Hooker has been determined to be in good health and will be available for the Duke game.

πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ

I had the same thoughts but still thought it was weird he wouldn't even dress for an emergency situation. That is if he is indeed cleared to play. If it was just lack of practice, Blackshear wouldn't have played either.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

When you got a OLine opening up holes like ours did against NC State, a RB doesnt need to practice.

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

We really don't know, but a personal anecdote from me:

I went to the doctor for the first time as an adult when I turned 31 and as standard procedure, they ordered an EKG.

The EKG results came back inconclusive and the doctor seemed to make a really big deal about it. Started going over worst case scenarios with me immediately. Schedule a ultrasound at a cardiologist and everything.

Went to the cardiologist a couple days later at their soonest available appointment, and my heart looked wonderful, with no cause for concern.

Cardiologist told me that the nurse that did my EKG probably just had crappy placement of the probes (wouldn't surprise me).

Long story short: For about a week I was convinced I was on my last legs with a heart attack immanent, completely unnecessarily.

Could be a similar thing to some extent.

Chick Patty w/ Cheese

I am guessing it was something similar to this. My assumption is that he tested positive for COVID at some point, they did additional testing on those athletes for cardiac related effects and his came back inconclusive. They ordered additional tests like you had, held him out of all activities and then they came back clear and he was good to come back, but the day before the game so they did not dress him.

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

My guess is we shouldn't guess.

Life is good.

Wouldn't that then be COVID related? Follow up cardiac evaluation as a direct result of a COVID diagnosis?

that's like saying that my possible need for a root canal was related to having a sinus infection because the ENT doctor noticed a huge cavity in my tooth while examining my throat.

If the Hokies need help against Duke, tell them to watch last years game on the ACC network like I am now...literally watched 10 mins and I'm back in "screw Dook" mode. I wanna our guys to beat the brakes off of them.

Same here, and I'm pretty sure the "no mercy" rules are in effect.

We need to:

1) take them seriously, and
2) whip the snot out of them.

And you can quote me on that.

What I like about this is that Brock Hoffman was on the team last year (with the forced redshirt) and so he has a personal grudge to carry into this game. I expect our O-Line to equal last Saturday's intensity, if not exceed it.

Tre Turner with another cryptic tweet that has sent the fanbase into a panic. He tweeted "🀦🏾". Then he tweeted about Buffalo Wild Wings. I, personally, am on the edge of my seat! /s

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

when does the roster come out?

Previously LowBrau.

Probably 3:30 pm tomorrow

Yes,that's the Hokie Bird riding a camel. Why'd you ask?