July 21, 2016
Fuente addresses numerous topics at ACC Football Kickoff
Tech's first-year head coach, along with players Sam Rogers and Ken Ekanem, spent the day answering questions from the media in advance of the upcoming season
Quotes from ACC Kickoff Quotes from Justin Fuente, Sam Rogers, and Ken Ekanem

By Jimmy Robertson

CHARLOTTE, N.C – Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente attended his first ACC Football Kickoff media event, joining the throngs of league coaches and media members at the Westin in Charlotte.

In typical and expected fashion, he made little in the way of waves. Neither did Sam Rogers or Ken Ekanem, the Hokies’ two player representatives.

“That was the mission,” Fuente joked.

The announcement of the launch of an ACC Network, a multi-platform component that will bring unprecedented coverage to all of the ACC’s 27 sponsored sports, superseded the football aspect of the event. Yet Tech’s first-year head coach found himself receiving more than enough attention.

The hundreds of media members in attendance – those encompassing newspapers, television stations, television networks, and radio networks – marked a stark contrast to what Fuente experienced at the American Athletic Conference preseason media event when he served as the head coach at Memphis.

“It’s obviously busier and there are more people here than at the American Conference meetings,” Fuente said. “Virginia Tech football is a good thing to a tremendous amount of people and I understand and respect that. It’s been a good day, but busy. It’s been well run and I appreciate that. It’s been respectful of everyone’s time. The neat part about this is that there are a lot of good people on both sides of the aisle – coaches, administrators, and journalists in different mediums. I enjoy that part of the interaction.”

Fuente fielded plenty of questions about the football program, himself, and taking over for retried head coach Frank Beamer, among others. Below are 10 questions that he was asked and his answers to them:

On feeling extra pressure to replace Frank Beamer, who meant so much to Virginia Tech football and to the university as a whole – “I feel pressure to do a good job because Virginia Tech football means a lot to a tremendous amount of people. It’s important. I also want to do a good job because I love this place. This is a great situation. We need to hold ourselves to a standard. Coach Beamer did a great job over 29 years. That doesn’t mean that we have to have his very best season in the first season out of the box. The way we conduct ourselves and the way we go about it should be similar to the values that Coach held.”

On how Coach Beamer has treated him since he was hired and since his family moved to Blacksburg – “He’s been fantastic, unbelievably considerate of us. He’s been welcoming of my family. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

On the upsides and downsides of inheriting a program with 23 consecutive winning seasons – “The first thing is that it’s great to coach at a place with expectations. There is a lot that comes with that and I understand that. That’s just the way it is. But it’s fun to coach at a place that means so much to so many people.

“Obviously, there is a long string of bowl games and winning seasons, but we’re taking over a program that is not where we want it to be. When I say ‘we,’ I mean Hokie Nation. We want it to be back to where it was and I hope that everybody knows that you can just walk into the door and make it that. There is no magic wand. You can’t transport it back to that. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and variables that no one really has control over and we don’t know how they’re going to fall to determine the timeline to get it there. But we will get it there. I know that for a fact. Just when, I’m not sure.”

On the meshing of Bud Foster and Galen Scott, who was a defensive coordinator at Memphis, and their discussions of various concepts and schemes – “It’s like a laboratory in there. Those mean defensive guys get in there and start drawing blitzes up all over the place. The next thing you know, the water girl is blitzing off the bench. That’s what those guys do. It’s been fun to watch them work.”

On having the players over to his house for dinner (class by class, not all at once) – “We’ve always done that. I’ve always tried to bring the guys over to the house. One of the deals I say is that every kid is going to eat dinner at my kitchen table. Not all at once, but through a period of time.

“I think it’s important for those kids to see us and to see me as a father and a husband. It adds depth to our relationship. I’m not just head coach who makes them do it over again or gets on their tails if they’re not doing it right. My kids are over-the-moon excited when the football players are coming to the house. They wear my wife out all day long, ‘When are they going to be here? When are they going to be here?’ They love giving them a tour and showing them their rooms. We have a chalkboard wall that all the players sign. I’m sure our players enjoy parts of it and are really good sports for parts of it. It’s a fun event that I always enjoy and I hope the players do, too.”

On playing true freshmen at wide receiver and the depth situation in general – “That goes along with the mantra of the team. We’re a little deeper at d-line and maybe a little deeper at o-line, but in general terms, that’s where we are. We’ve got to develop the younger players at a quick rate to give us some depth and give us a chance to be successful.”

On what he looks for in a running back – “I want a dependable guy who takes care of the football and runs the ball hard. I will say this; Travon [McMillian] has had a really good summer. I’m excited about the progress he’s made through the summer. I see him moving with more confidence. There was something there in the spring. He was uncertain or unsure or not completely healthy, whatever it was. I’ve seen him rekindled this summer and that has me excited – not that I wasn’t excited before, but he’s had a good summer and he looks good.”

On the offseason transfers of defensive tackle Harry Lewis and linebacker Carson Lydon – “It would be hard for him [Lewis] to get to play and it’s a lot of work to not have a chance at that reward. That was Harry’s primary motivation. Carson, I don’t know. I can’t speak directly with any confidence about that. I think his family has moved a little bit and I think there were some other things besides football that led to that decision.”

On what concerns him about Tennessee, which is the Hokies’ second game of the season – “All over the board. They’re incredibly talented. Whatever their ranking is, they’re going to be deserving of it. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us. We’ll be heavy underdogs in the game, but we’ll have our full attention on the first game. That’s the thing that we need to do as coaches – make sure we all have our attention on the first game.”

On the summer being a relatively quiet one for him and his program – “That’s our mission. That’s what we want to do. We want to turn our focus internally. We want to make sure we’re doing things the right way. We worry about the process to make sure we’re giving ourselves a chance to win. To give ourselves a chance to win, we have to do all of these things. Part of that is doing right and acting right and being where we’re supposed to be and doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Part of that is going to class and not inciting distractions. Part of it is keeping your mouth shut. Part of it is doing your job. I like the way they’re doing it.”

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