Furman Week Presser 9/9/19: Justin Fuente

The Head Hokie reflects on Old Dominion and discusses Virginia Tech's upcoming matchup with the Paladins.

[Cory Hancock]

Publisher's Note: Leo Peschio contributed to this transcription. Lightly edited for clarity.

Alright, thanks again for everybody who came out last Saturday to support our kids. I hope you'll return again this Saturday. We have a heck of a challenge with Furman coming into town. Coach [Clay] Hendrix has done a fine job with those guys there. Fantastic on the offensive side of the ball right now. They're averaging 44 points a game. I watched the game last night, or the film last night and their quarterback is playing at an incredible level. Runs it, throws it, they run the triple option, they spread you out. They do a little bit of everything. I was even more shocked to learn that he's a redshirt freshman today. Really a talented, talented player. Went toe-to-toe with Georgia State who beat Tennessee at Tennessee. They got skill players, great scheme. Defensively they're mixing up fronts and moving back and forth. It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us. We've got to have a great week of preparation this week. Continue to build. I think it's obvious we're not a finished product. Some of the things we talked about yesterday, we've got to continue to embrace the challenge of trying to improve as coaches and as players to continue to try and get better in all three phases of the game.

Questions?

You said you wanted to look at the film before you evaluate those young offensive linemen, how they played. What was your impression of how they did in their first game?

Oh, we've got a lot of work to do. We played a bunch of those young guys, couple true freshmen, couple redshirt freshmen. I may be wrong, the oldest guy might've been a sophomore. I may be wrong, I'm not sure. Lots of work to do with all of those guys. At times played well and at times showed some inexperience. We've got to do a good job as coaches, I think that's the biggest thing is we got young pretty quickly. We've got to do a good job of putting them in good situations, not asking them to do too much, then letting them cut it loose and go play.

Is there something specific with offensive linemen that are young that you look for in terms of, is physicality at the top of the list, because that's always something that can be disqualified for a guy that's so young to get him off the field at that spot?

In terms of recruiting or in terms of when they're ready to play?

In terms of their performance when they get out there on the field.

That's certainly something. There's just a little bit that, there's quite a bit that goes into playing on the offensive line in terms of understanding and technique. There's obviously a physical part of it in terms of maturity, and growth, and strength. Some guys have all or none of those things coming in and it's our job to, as the years go by, to increase all of those things. We do have a couple young guys that are pretty far advanced in terms of those. They're physically advanced and pretty sharp kids that I think will pick things up quickly. It doesn't mean we don't need to take that into consideration, we do, that they're young and that we need to try our best to put them in good situations.

Justin, I know you tend to stay away from the defensive side of things, but I asked Bud [Foster] about the play of the front four on the defensive line. They seem to be having a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. What's your take on that, I know you tend to stay away, but how much are you staying away?

Well, I would say this, the disappointing thing for us as a team is how we played situational football last weekend on both sides of the ball. Four minute offense we fumbled twice. Defensively we were just essentially just trying to keep them in front of us, not being particularly aggressive and gave up some big plays in the run game. That was disappointing. We did get the quarterback off the spot a few times. I thought Emmanuel Belmar had a couple nice pass rushes in there. But something we got to continue to bring along certainly. It's all going to be situational and gameplan based in what we're trying to get accomplished. I thought both sides of the ball realized there in the fourth quarter. I thought both sides of the ball played it correctly in terms of the coaches realizing we're trying to, there's no reason to try and give up anything big on defense and how we were, what we were trying to accomplish in trying to run the ball out. We just didn't execute.

With the offensive line, were [John] Harris and [Silas] Dzansi injured or did you make a change based on performance?

No, I think they're fine. Silas got a little dinged up. He's a guy that sweats a lot. He's had some cramping issues before. But they're both fine.

[Dalton] Keene didn't come back after that play he got hurt in the endzone. What's his status, is he ok?

Yea he's fine, he looked good in practice yesterday.

And Nick Gallo played some extensive stretches for him in that second half. How'd he look especially with blocking?

I think he's got a chance to be a really, really good player. We got to keep bringing him along, we're going to need him as we go through the season.

Couple things, I know Damon [Hazelton] missed chunks of the spring...

Yeah can I, I don't mean to cut you off, I have this written down to talk about. It is an interesting deal. I feel like I did not intend to mislead you all. On Sunday's practice of last week he looked like a million bucks, he really did. We came out Tuesday and he just wasn't himself. So when I had this meeting last week I really fully intended on him playing and I expected him to have a great Tuesday, he just hasn't. He's still trying to get over the same thing. I don't know how long it's going to be. Obviously I kind of stepped out there and felt like he was going to be back last week and he wasn't. That wasn't deliberate that was genuinely how I felt at the time. Go ahead though.

That all extends from the hammy at this point still right? Okay.

I remember last season you memorably mentioned Dax was somewhat of an unguided missile at times and that's something you wanted him to work at, just focusing and making sure you have a good down. As he's gone through a couple games now, how do you sort of evaluate how far he's come along, just on first appearance it looks like he has a ways to go, but again he hasn't played an awful lot still.

Still continuing to develop. He's picking it up well. Bud can speak to the nuances of it. I don't want him to over analyze things. He's a highly intelligent person, young man out there. We want him to be able to cut it loose and go play, but there's still a lot that comes with playing that position every day. He's worked some at the other linebacker position too. So he's got a lot going on, but he seems to be handling it, continuing on, I guess I should say, on pace in terms of his development.

Where in the running game do you guys need to see improvement going forward?

Everywhere. We got to do a better job coaching, better job blocking, better job running. Everywhere.

Phil Patterson's kind of been getting more playing time with Hazelton out, had two nice catches on Saturday. Where is his development and what do you think of him stepping in and playing pretty well?

I've been pleased with Phil. He's had a great summer. Continues to work hard, practice hard, is contributing on special teams as well. Has made a couple nice plays. For Phil it's just continuing to be disciplined in his technique on a consistent basis. Taking care of the ball when it's in his hands, getting north and south, and executing his technique. He does have some natural ability and it's been fun for him, or for us to see him get to have a little bit of success because he has been working hard.

You haven't had a turnover stretch like this over two games since your first two games here, and I know it's a point of emphasis in practice and everything. Is it tough to pin down turnovers sometimes or maybe it feels like you can stress them in practice but they still happen, does that happen sometimes?

In two games we've found different ways to do it. We fumbled the ball last week. Two weeks ago we had issues with fielding a punt and throwing interceptions. It's been different sources, I guess you could say. We have to do, it's a must for us, we have to a better job. As coaches, as players. You can't just go out there and take a knee every time obviously, but we do have to find a way to stay aggressive and take care of the football.

We spoke to Jaylen Griffin about how he did on Saturday as he made the move from linebacker to d-line. What do you see from him since he moved, and what prompted that decision?

Well I think we could probably point to a bunch of different things that led to the position change. I think the biggest thing was we had a guy on our team in Jaylen that was working hard, and doing what we asked him to do, and needed a better opportunity to get on the field. And we felt like that's where it was, was at [defensive] end, and I think he has done a fantastic job. I know he has done a fantastic job embracing that change. His attitude has always been good. He's always wanted to play football, to get on the field, but it just seems like it's giving him a new sense of purpose, I guess you could say, a new lease on life. He's just really embraced it, and continues to get better every single day. I'm happy, it's a testament to him, his willingness to play, and also open-mindedness. Being open-minded about our suggestion or us brining it up, and then him going out there and taking to it pretty naturally.

We talked to you about some of the young offensive linemen, Doug Nester in particular. What kind of stuff out to you about him as a true freshmen to go in there at right guard and start for you the whole game?

Well he's a perfectionist. He's got some god given ability. He's a big athletic human being. He's a mature person, from a great family, and he's seemed to have picked things up real quickly and deserved an opportunity to play.

You had a couple extended drives, but you followed it up with three-and-outs. Do you feel like the offense has found a rhythm yet at all in these first two weeks, your kind of sense of things. Do you kind of feel like you can't get on a roll yet, do you kind of feel like?

Yeah. I don't know, I've really really understood rhythm to be honest with you. What does that mean? Yeah you're in rhythm when you're executing and you're ripping off runs and passes. I get that. Yeah we have not played as well, we're like every other phase of our team right now, on special teams, on offense, and on defense. We just have to find a level of consistency in all areas that will enable us to better and more efficient. I feel the same way about the whole team.

Are you surprised that maybe with the offensive skill players with experience that you haven't had that consistency right out of the gate with the offense?

Am I surprised?

Did you expect to be more consistent coming out of these first two games?

Oh I don't know, I don't know the answer to that to be honest with you. I know I expect us to operate and execute at a certain level all the time whether it's at practice or in the game. We haven't found that yet.

Tayvion Robinson obviously played some quarterback in high school. It's his first year as a wide receiver. Did that transition to the position on the outside, did that start before he arrived on campus or was that something that happened right when he got here and started working with you guys?

Well I would say it was never a discussion for Tayvion, hey we're gonna start you off at quarterback, and if you end up wanting to move to receiver then we'll talk about it then. That wasn't the way it went, and it's been like that before with other guys, but it wasn't like that with Tayvion. Tayvion was a receiver from day one. I'm sure he thinks he can play quarterback if you asked him, but I think he was just mentally and emotionally prepared to jump right in and play wideout, and then he has picked it up really quickly. It's been pretty natural for him. He's one of those people, and we're all different, we all learn different, but very rarely has he repeated a mistake. He can take it from the classroom to the field. He can take correction. He understands the big picture so when you're communicating with him he kind of understands the piece of the puzzle fits in. Maybe that's from playing quarterback a little bit, I don't know, but it seems to have been pretty smooth.

You mentioned that Furman runs the triple option. Did you kind of hope that you wouldn't have to face that now that Georgia Tech has a new coaching staff?

Yeah, we didn't quite get out of it all the way. I remember Coach Hendrix spent some time at Air Force and when I was at TCU we used to play Air Force. It was the option and everything else. So that was a totally new animal. Totally different animal that you have got to be prepared for. They must do a great job teaching the other kids going because they seem to have quite a lot of stuff going on.

The special teams, you were kind of frustrated last year with some of the consistency. You get the big play kick returner. Are you happy generally with how those units have performed better kind of mixed up veterans and how the young guys on those units have. What are your kind of thoughts on how they've been so far?

I said I was frustrated or you said I was frustrated?

Punt return certainly were frustrating. You said you weren't happy.

I never use the word frustrated. I want to see it.

You weren't happy.

I want to see where I used the word frustrated.

I was categorizing.

I hate that word.

Some synonym. [Laughter]

Here's the deal. I don't think we were very good with it in our coverage unit last year. Particularly, in punt. We did struggle to find a punt returner, that's for certain. We were down to, by the end of the year, trying to find somebody to cover a punt. We weren't very healthy. Thus far I've been very pleased with our speed down the field. We look more like we did a couple years ago covering punts. The first two years we're here, the last couple years at Memphis we had all these techniques we used to cover a punt. We didn't have to use any of them we were just running by people to get down there and cause a fair catch or make a quick tackle.

I'm not saying all our problems are solved, but in two games it's looked closer to like that. We still have missed a couple tackles particularly in the first game. We're improving there, we have some guys that are getting down the field quicker. So that's been good. It was nice to get a big play in the kicking game. I feel like our punt return unit has a chance to be good, we just need to be a little more consistent. We've got guys that have got some experience that are blocking, either pressuring punts or blocking for Heze. We didn't have very many opportunities to field punts last week. Anyway, I like where we're going, I like the pride our guys are taking in it. We'll see as we continue. I don't mean to keep just beating the same drum, but we're about, in all three phases we're kind of the same. We got to continue to embrace the challenge of improvement.

Comments

Just to be clear, Fu is not frustrated.

JP

Always appreciate these.

Question: is this about Dalton Keene instead of Keshawn King?

[Keshawn] King didn't come back after that play he got hurt in the endzone. What's his status, is he ok?

Yea he's fine, he looked good in practice yesterday.

And Nick Gallo played some extensive stretches for him in that second half.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

That definitely makes more sense.

Note to self: Never say anything that suggests Fuente said the word frustrated. He becomes a snappy-boi.

I am frustrated with Fuente's frustration over his alleged frustration.

But he never said he was frustrated with his alleged frustration.

Wish I had the photoshop skills to insert Fuente into this

via Gfycat

Where in the running game do you guys need to see improvement going forward?

Everywhere. We got to do a better job coaching, better job blocking, better job running. Everywhere.

They need to reiterate this point every week. We cannot be successful in ACC play with out a hint of a run threat. If we keep expecting backs to "make the unblocked hat miss" in the backfield we're screwed.

(add if applicable) /s

I almost want CornFu to tell the offense that they aren't going to throw a pass on Saturday. Tell them, "if you want to win, we are going to have to do it running the ball, because we aren't going to throw a single pass all game. They're giving up over 5 ypc against the run so far this year. So let's go run the ball all over them!"

Obviously that won't happen. But seriously, we should score 28-35 in the first half against the defense, with Willis only throwing 10 or fewer times, and our backs gaining 125 yards on the ground. I don't think this will happen either. But I'm hopeful that the OL runs a few plays with great execution and King and McClease get loose for a several long ones.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

We would lose if we did that with the current run scheme.

(add if applicable) /s

If we would lose to Furman by running the ball every down, the whole team needs to start practicing baseball or something, 'cause they are never going to be a football team.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but if you're right, there is no point in continuing the season.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

Look at our running statistics in the past two seasons....we average something like 3 yards a carry. Furman is not a bad FCS team. We have the talent everywhere to be a good offense. We refuse to match a run scheme to the talent we have.

Upon further investigation. Furman is 73 in FCS run defense. We should push 6+ypc this game...I'll be disappointed if we have less than that.

(add if applicable) /s

Is Hale trolling aOSU with his twitter handle?

Yes

(add if applicable) /s

Upon further investigation. Furman is 73 in FCS run defense. We should push 6+ypc this game

Ho boy, if that isn't a sentiment we have parroted over and over again for the past 7-8 years. Seems like every week we play -x team- with terrible run defense who we should finally be able to run against.

Cut to after the game and VT had 84 yards on 40 carries.

I swear we do this all the time. We just can't seem to run against anybody. Even the bad run defenses.

Yeah normally I'd not be that optimistic but they have given up 5ypc to Charleston Southern and Georgia State.....if we cant do better than that we've got bigger problems that I thought and. I didn't think that was possible.

(add if applicable) /s

Uh, I have a feeling Furman isn't that much worse than ODU. Furman isn't Rhode Island.

I watched the presser and have been thinking about this quite a bit. I think Fuente is a good guy, tries to do everything the right way, and cares deeply about his players and staff and their success. I just continue to feel like he needs to do a better job building the team up emotionally.

He seems to be all business..."we have to get better. we have to be more consistent. We need to improve everywhere." and on and on and on. I do not doubt or disagree with his assessment of the program. But when all the players come into the presser and say the same things it makes me worry.

Sports, especially at the college level, can be about the intangibles, emotion, and belief. I feel like the only thing Fuente is ever saying is "get better, improve, don't make careless mistakes", and I worry that he doesn't do enough to build up the belief in the players that they are very talented, that they can beat any team, that they should impose their will and just go make plays because they want it more than the other guy. That kind of stuff can go a long long way and should not be undersold. Is UNC all of a sudden that much better than last year? Not really, they just have a new coach and a new QB, and they've built up an enormous amount of belief in the team around those two guys.

Fuente just needs to tell them to go impose their will against Furman.

Probably reading too much into this and making more of it than I should. But when Grimsley says that Coach is the type of person that doesn't show his emotions, that is concerning. You really need to be able to do that and control when and how much and in what way you do it as a college coach.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

To me it seems that when asked about a specific player Fuente generally gives a pretty nice endorsement, but when asked about position groups it's usually all business.

stick it in, stick it in, stick it in!

He needs to tell the team that in the locker room. Does he need to tell the press the same thing in a press conference?

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

Typically, the coaches that are emotional like that in the locker room will also show that occasionally out of the locker.

Fuente is a grinder. He is an in at 5am leave at 11pm type coach. He is very demanding of the players and coaches. He is not a happy go lucky guy during spring or fall practice. He hired a very demanding strength coach as well. That's who he is, that's his approach. He is never going to puff up the players. He doesn't disrespect them, he is just not going to puff them up- that's not who he is. Also, to be honest, the team is still soft on the field IMO. I don't think they are going to get tougher at the line of scrimmage with locker room fluff either. VT is going to win or lose with a grinder, demanding, tough head coach. He is not changing. If the players don't buy into that, they aren't his type of guys and he will replace them.

100% correct.

I don't think they are going to get tougher at the line of scrimmage with locker room fluff either.

I don't think that instilling unwavering, almost ignorant, confidence in his players is locker room fluff. In our history of success, we have had loud, in your face, confident players. That permeates across the team and you can see that in the way teams play. Those teams have no quit. I don't feel like we have those players on the team right now. I don't see team leaders that are holding his players accountable. Seems like that is missing. I don't know if that stems from coaching. Or simply from the guys we recruited in general. Or both.

Part of that is lack of seniors.

I agree with that, but there are a ton of guys that played last year. Where is the dog in them? Where is the pride to be the best they can be and not let another team come into Lane without pushing them around? Idk, I miss those players.

I think when the current Freshmen and Sophomores get some more time and more confidence, you will see that. A second year player who has only been in the system two years hasn't matured enough to lead that way. They also didn't have a lot of good examples last year to learn from. (hence all the locker room turmoil.)

I don't think that it necessarily has to come with experience. I think some players intrinsically have that kind of energy and natural leadership ability. I thought Dax was going to be that guy. He seemed to display some of those qualities last year, but those seem to have disappeared this year from I can see.

With Dax, I think its the confidence thing. He had confidence last year, because he was playing well for a freshman (still made freshman mistakes, though.) This year it seems he hasn't taken a big step forward and has probably lost a little confidence which has eroded his willingness to lead.

I completely agree with you there. I wish we had guys though that had that ignorant confidence though. Doesn't matter if they have bad games or not.

I think Tre Turner will be that guy...I think Quincy Patterson will be that guy...Hoffman, Nester, Farley(I think he needs to move to safety because he can cover a lot of ground)...all these guys seem to have that leadership quality

I think Sam Rogers had it, and I think Dax is showing he's got it, just not as consistently as we'd like.

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

Sam def is an example of what I'm thinking of. And I agree that Dax seemed to have that last year. No idea where that went this year so far though. Dax is invisible on the field, both emotionally and physically.

I wan the Fu that, in 2016, ran and jump hugged Foster and when he flipped on the refs after a bogus call one game. That's the Fu I liked. I get not all coaches are passionate all the time (see Saban, Belichick), but Fu is capable. He needs to show that side to his team and the fans.

"These people are losing their minds!"

The jump hug was last year, after the UNC game

Fu is 1-1 with Furman coming in and is wound tight as a drum right now. Gonna be a long season.

Frustration is what Hokie nation feels with job you have done with this once proud program. Coach Beamer may have been slipping in the last few years but people still loved him and gave him the benefit of the doubt

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

How dare you opinion!

Fuente also deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Fuente didn't break it - the slide was happening before he arrived. The question is whether he'll be able to turn it around, and we don't have that answer, yet.

Reading the 'frustrated' comments, Fuente sounds a lot like Bobby Knight. Given everything that's gone on, it seems kinda fitting.

Hokie fan | W&M grad

Watch the video, he was smiling and laughing the entire time he was talking about it.

These transcripts are great, but if you have time to watch the videos, you can get more context.

Chick Patty w/ Cheese

Ah, gotcha. Appreciate the added info.

Hokie fan | W&M grad

πŸ‘

Hokie fan | W&M grad

Can't spell frustrated without FU /s

This should be come a fun running joke. After a big win, first question in the postgame, "Justin, you look a little frustrated."

Fuente is so much more chill on Tech Talk Live.

Can you imagine if Fu was there when JasonInArlington called? Aint gonna be no "I think youre out of whack"...Fu would have said.."Let me you something you little @#$@#....

Don't think I'm TKPing hard enough as I don't get this reference. I'm all ears to hear about JasonInArlington though.

Thank you sir.

Edit: or ma'am... but probably not.

Sir, it is!

πŸ‘

Had forgotten about this.. but

Hot take- Jason in Arlington was absolutely correct. We've been on a downward slide since the peak in the early 2000s. College football changed around us and we held onto beamerball too long.

We were may more of a flash in the pan (even though that flash changed football forever) than people like to admit.

Our entire history boils down to a pretty decent 8 years where we ultimately failed to capitalize, and The domestic zeitgeist of our program has more failures in it than successes.

That takes no credit away from what Beamer did or how he responded in the moment to this person, but I bet if Beamer were here he'd more closely align with this retrospective than a lot of people might guess.

Chick Patty w/ Cheese