CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Frank Beamer will always be a legend in Blacksburg. But the last few season, it was obvious the 69-year-old head coach was losing the necessary energy and passion to guide a D1 football program. Hokies fans are optimistic about the addition of former Memphis front man Justin Fuente. Even though Fuente has yet to hit the playing field with his team, the first-year Hokies' new leader carries himself with an obvious confidence.
Last week, Fuente spoke to the media during the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte. Here is part of the conversation:
How are you feeling now that you’re officially at work as the head coach at Virginia Tech?
FUENTE: "I want to thank Dr. Sands, our president at Virginia Tech, Whit Babcock, our athletic director, for their faith in me to take this challenge and represent this fine institution, Virginia Tech.
It's been a place I've admired from afar for many, many years. It's a challenge and a job that I'm awfully excited to be a part of. Many times I'm asked about the attractiveness of Virginia Tech and all the sorts of things that led me to really want to be a part of Virginia Tech. My pat answer is, Why not? So many great things in terms of academic reputation, athletic reputation, location and tradition that I'm just really truly humbled and honored to be a part of it, and try to build on the fantastic tradition that Coach Beamer built at Virginia Tech.
"The transition has been extremely smooth thanks to the professionalism of people, the ensemble we brought together, without worrying about who gets credit, but just moving forward with the football program.
"I'm looking forward to answering many of y'all's questions as we move forward and I know you want to hear from our fantastic representatives of Virginia Tech football."
A lot has been said for athletic directors over the years about having a schedule for the first 100 days. What was the first 100 days like as a new head coach?
FUENTE: "Well, it was pretty hectic. When you take a new job, there's no two weeks' notice in this profession. You just hit the ground running. The first thing we did was try to assemble a staff, get a handle on the staff dynamic, how it was going to work.
"We had to get caught up on the current commitments that Coach Beamer and his staff had already had. We actually had nine guys that were scheduled to come in at midterm. We were really pressed for time to make sure we reached out to those guys and got in front of those kids because they were going to start school in the winter session. We did all of that.
"Building a staff and recruiting, then had a break over Christmas while Virginia Tech and Coach Beamer played in their bowl game, and Memphis played in their bowl game, I got a chance to take stock in where we were at, think about how I was going to approach the team for the first team meeting, set the tone there, and move forward into the spring semester."
Could you give us an update on your quarterback situation. Are you going into the pre- season with a definitive starter? Are you still determining who that guy is going to be?
FUENTE: "No, we're not going into pre-season with a definitive starter. I believe that it will be one of the two older kids, Brenden Motley or Jerod Evans. That's not to say I'm disappointed with the younger kids or don't reserve my right to change my mind if we get in the middle of fall camp and the younger kids pass up the older kids.
"My evaluation so far is it will probably be one of those two. I think both of those kids will play a huge role on our team, whether they're standing on the sidelines or playing on the field.
"I think people will get, particularly local fans, they'll want to know who is going to run out there the first series versus Liberty. I'm going to say we'll need both of those guys to give ourselves a chance of having success during the fall.
"They're both working incredibly hard. There's not one guy over another right now. It's up in the air. But I like the way they're going about it and the way they're working."
How have you found Virginia Tech and how were you received in Virginia, a lot of those high schools you had to go into for the first time?
FUENTE: "Yeah, it's been a great reception. We've done everything in our power to reach out to those areas in the state of Virginia through our clinics. We had clinics in Blacksburg. We participated in clinics in Richmond. We participated in clinics in northern Virginia as an entire staff. We put on our own clinic in the 757 Virginia Beach area to try to extend those invitations and build those relationships.
"Several of our guys that have been on staff for some time already have preexisting relationships. We've tried to build on those. Through the recent camp legislation, we've done camps in those similar areas in order, again, to try to reach out to those people.
"But we've been received very well. I look for it to continue to be a positive thing. It's an emphasis for us. We'll continue to build on that momentum of recruiting in Virginia."
Back to the quarterbacks. What are three traits you would like to see in your starting quarterback?
FUENTE: "Well, the first rule of playing quarterback is don't lose the game, take care of the football, secure the football. It's a guy that touches the ball on every single play and can do a lot of great things for you and can do a lot of damage for you, too. The first rule is to hang on to the football.
"The second thing for us is handling composure, handling the emotional ups and downs of the games. It's one thing to be sitting in a classroom and have to know the answers to the test. It's another thing to be standing in front of 75,000 people and have just taken a big hit and feeling the momentum of the game, the back and forth, and still stay in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand.
"The last thing for us is predicted outcomes. That's what I want to see. I want to see a quarterback go where he's supposed to go with the football. Sometimes the results may not always be what we want them to be, but for us it's about is that kid doing what we're asking him to do on a consistent basis. Even if the result didn't work out, maybe there was another variable at play. For us it's charting how many predicted outcomes we get on a given rep."
How would you describe your offensive philosophy? What people don't know is an advantage to you. But what you can share in general that we should see from your offense.
FUENTE: "Well, I believe the first thing is, wherever I've been associated with, it's changed, not the philosophy, but what it's looked like. When we were at TCU, we had a certain skill set out there. We did what we felt like was best to have success at TCU. Same thing at Memphis.
"It may look a little bit different at Virginia Tech just based on who we have. We didn't have a guy like Bucky Hodges at anyplace I've ever been. It may look a little bit different.
"The first thing is we have to adapt to our talent. That's what coaching is, to give our kids the best chance to have success. We have to do our best job of tweaking it to what fits our talent.
"The second thing centers around running the football. Doesn't matter to me. Kind of the way I was raised in football was find a way to run the football first, everything else will work out. You throw the ball to score points, you run the ball to win the game. A good running game helps the special teams, helps the defense and helps the offense.
"That being said, we have traditionally found unconventional ways to run the football, whether through the wide receiver position, the quarterback position or the runningback position, which we like to think has given us a fighting chance when maybe we were a little bit out-manned up front. We try and find different ways to run the ball. But that's where it starts.
"Then we want to throw the ball down the field. We do a good job of getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands, but at times we need to play-action off that run game and chunk it and see what happens.
"Lastly, tempo, in my opinion, is an advantage. I also believe it's like anything else, it's probably like sugar and pizza, soda pop. Too much of it is not a good thing. I do not believe in going so fast that we hurt the other side of the football.
"I do believe it's an advantage, but we want to manage it in the right way to give us the best chance for the ultimate goal, which is just to win the game. It's not to lead the country in offense, it's not to lead the country in plays, it's not to lead the country in defense, it's to find a way to win the ballgame."
You're one of three first-year head coaches in the ACC coastal division this year. Does that amount of newness increase the challenge in terms of preparation?
FUENTE: "I don't think so. By the time we play Miami, we're going to have a great sample size of what they're doing on both sides of the ball. Same thing can be said for them for us. The things that cause you a challenge when there's turnover as a coach is when there's a coordinator change, then you have them early in the season, you're trying to figure out what they're really going to look like on offense or defense.
"I don't see that as adding to the challenge. Obviously they're very competent and accomplished coaches that I think are going to do very good jobs at their respective skills. In terms of trying to find a way to win the game, it's basically the same thing."
The Hokies get their season underway September 3 at home versus Liberty and open the ACC season September 17 versus Boston College.