August 4, 2016
Hokies open fall practice in preparation for 2016 campaign
New head coach Justin Fuente expects a much-improved team from the one that he saw this spring
Post-practice news conference quotes Quotes from Coach Fuente

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech football team opened fall football practice Thursday evening and began preparations for the 2016 season.

Tech practiced for two hours in shorts, jerseys and helmets, with most of its work coming in the indoor practice facility. Two days of rain in the Blacksburg area left the outdoor practice field a little slick, so the team worked mostly inside, though several positions went outside during certain periods.

“My initial reaction was certainly better than our first practice in the spring,” Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “I liked the way our guys flew around. They seem to have a decent retention level. Obviously, it is hard to tell anything in just helmets. You can tell that there are some guys out there that have spent some of their own free time trying to figure out what’s going on. It showed a little bit today. In a good way.”

All eyes centered on the quarterback spot and Tech’s contingent of five received equal repetitions. Jérod Evans worked with the first unit and Brenden Motley worked with the second unit. Those two are considered the frontrunners for the starting job.

Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen and the rest of the coaches on offense chart what takes place in a practice, but Cornelsen takes into account more than numbers when evaluating quarterback play.

“You have to take into account what else is going on out there,” Cornelsen said. “It’s not just a statistical battle of completions or interceptions – it’s what else is going on and what situations those guys are in. It’s the entire thing.

“We’ll split those guys’ reps as we need to change reps, and when we do, we’ll communicate with those players. They’ll know where they stand. I’m not worried. The two older players are both team-first guys. They know whatever role they’re going to have to play will be a bigger role either way.”

Below are a few notes from the day’s practice and post-practice news conference:

• Fuente was asked if he took anything from his first year at Memphis that would help him in his first season at Tech.

“I try to block that first year out at Memphis,” he said, smiling. “I store that deep, deep inside.”

The Tigers went 4-8 during his first season, but the year served as a learning one for Fuente, who was a first-time head coach. He learned about how to communicate with his team and how to communicate with certain individual players.

“There is something about conveying a message,” he said. “It is my job to do a good job at articulating what I want and how we need to go about our business. I do believe that these guys are good listeners. You can see them actively do what we are asking them to do, which makes you feel good. It also makes you look introspectively and how you are articulating the message.”

• Fuente said that he and his staff planned on spending the first six days of practice installing the base offense and defense for the upcoming season. Then they plan to work on situations before beginning to work on a game plan for Liberty.

“We will go basic installation for the first six (practices). Then we will take a day off,” he said. “We will get into a little bit of down and distance in those first six. We will really work on first and third down to try and get everything going special teams-wise.

“Obviously, we have to get ready to play games. We have to get some great situational work. Then we will really turn our attention to in-game scenarios on a daily basis after that. When we get through that phase, we will start to turn our attention to opponents and that sort of thing.”

• Fuente got his first look at record-setting receiver Isaiah Ford, who missed nearly all of spring practice with an injury. Several others missed spring practice, too, but Ford, who led the ACC in receiving yardage last season, caught Fuente’s eye.

“I know Isaiah (Ford) didn’t do much in the spring, but he moved around pretty well,” Fuente said.

Fuente also made a point to talk about Ford’s leadership, even though Ford is only a junior.

“He doesn’t need a lot of coaching when it comes to helping guys out,” Fuente said. “He is kind of naturally outgoing and like that. He might as well have had a whistle around his neck most of spring. He’s a sharp kid that picks it up quickly. He is not afraid to help those guys out.”

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