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Hokie Nation! Presenting New Head Coach Justin Fuente!

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Gobbler Country offers its welcome to Coach Fuente and gives Hokie Nation a little bit of background and some observations that should make lots of folks really pleased.

Coach Fu on the sidelines.  He needs some Hokie Gear.
Coach Fu on the sidelines. He needs some Hokie Gear.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

When the managing editor hands you an assignment titled "Justin Fuente", what do you do?  There are articles everywhere on the man, suddenly, out of the blue.  Funny thing is that it really isn't a problem for us.   Joshua did the basic research on him for the Case Series, way back in October.   We have been tracking the possibilities and then probabilities of Whit Babcock's contact, negotiations, and hiring of Coach Fuente since we published "The Letter".

Case for Justin Fuente

We know a lot about the man, even his Justin Fuente Wiki Page was updated the day of the official announcement.  We know he wears cowboy boots, which isn't truly unusual in the south.   I don't think anyone mentioned his hat size, but we know he has a wife and a family - he even let his baby ham it up for the presser on Monday the 30th.  I will give his beautiful wife and daughters the dignity of a relative amount of anonymity.  They deserve some privacy in this transition, and frankly as much as they desire.   We know his salary and how long his contract is.  The executive summary was passed around and fodder for all to know. (Who wants their compensation posted for the world to see, right?)

Justin Fuente is from Tulsa Oklahoma.  He graduated from Union High School, as an all American Oklahoma Player of the Year sort of quarterback.  He was a "Claim Jumper" (aka - a ‘Sooner') for a Red Shirt season (96-97) and then forgotten by the changing regimes at that institution - where football in the 90's was a rolling disaster.  So he transferred to Murray State and became their starting QB.  He has his degree from Murray State (we think it's in Finance but find that nugget and I'll send you a cookie in the mail)  if you are wondering if there is a real non-football brain in there.

His big stints in coaching were as an assistant for TCU during the Andy Dalton years, and that attracted enough attention that Memphis hired him as an HC.  Well he started out with poop for a squad, and ended up this year, a mere four seasons later with a top 25 contending team with a more than sniffing interest in the BIG XII expanding using them as the anchor.

We also got to see and hear something of note at the press conference.  The Oklahoma accent was interesting enough, but what came with it was a sort of easy smile and direct honesty that you don't see too often.  There was no contrived "Pig Sooey"... (We'll leave that reference as one for the "Head Shaking Coach Blather for the Ages" book.)  No one asked Coach Fuente to recite "Old Hokie" to the one - two beat.  There was the usual suit jacket VT lapel pin; a slightly tired look of a man just off a Memphis beat down of SMU, onto a charter jet, into the Inn - presumably, and trying to figure out where on the map you are versus where the rest of the planet is. (and Blacksburg / Virginia Tech has an airport?)

We did find out from the social media wires that his players call him "Coach Fu" from which I have heard more funny lines than I can count.  "You can have your Kung Fu because we got a Coach Fu"... sorts of commentary that smacks of someone having some personality behind the "Coach Face".  We even know from the press conference that Coach Fu can deliver some really nifty self-effacing punch lines.  The one about meeting Coach Beamer and being shown the Murray State Hall of Fame plaque was priceless, including the great face.

Those are the outside or tangential parts of the story to the main reason why Justin James Fuente was hired to replace Frank Beamer as the Hokie's head coach.  That reason is winning, and hopefully winning for a long time.  The executive summary of the coach's contract is listed for six years, with escalating incentives and some serious room for negotiating salaries of his assistants.  This is not unusual, though the numbers for a head coaching offer with the name of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the header is pretty interesting.

Whit Babcock is signing up to work this out long term, and though I think that the turnaround  is a going to be a good deal easier than his Memphis gig we needed a turn executed in a raid hurry.  That's where the real story will be in all of this.  It's what we are going to have to track without much to go on.  Over the next few months, as winter turns into Spring Practice, and then ends in Signing Day before the long Spring and Summer slog into the 2016 season; we in Hokie Nation are going to be learning an entirely new language, discipline, and business pattern.

For nearly 30 years, we have progressed through the season, moved to the Spring practice and the Maroon and White Game in mid-April.  It was predictable.  The school even arranged to have its Spring Open House on the weekend of the Spring game, and the attendance was always good.   All colleges have intra-squad match-ups.  (I would really rather have some inter squad game against a school that Tech would never play - but NCAA rules don't seem to permit the move.

What I do know is that we are going to have to pay attention and watch.  This Spring is going to mean more than it has in a great while, and it'll be our first look at how Coach Fuente sees his upper-class talent, and how he intends to configure it to get on the winning track.

Here is the ESPN Sports Chart on the Memphis Tigers' offensive effort this season.  While it isn't necessarily exactly what Coach Fuente is going to do, here - he promised that his style is adaptive to the talent—it will be indicative of what he can do, and what sorts of numbers he's looking at putting up:

Passing Statistics

NAME

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

Paxton Lynch

280

406

3670

69.0

9.04

28

3

166.2

Clay Holgorsen

14

20

177

70.0

8.85

1

1

150.8

Phil Mayhue

1

2

44

50.0

22.00

1

0

399.8

Totals

295

428

3891

68.9

9.09

30

4

166.6

Rushing Statistics

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Doroland Dorceus

144

613

4.3

35

8

Jarvis Cooper

87

363

4.2

26

5

Sam Craft

77

321

4.2

26

5

Jamarius Henderson

58

310

5.3

28

4

Paxton Lynch

82

240

2.9

23

2

Mose Frazier

14

113

8.1

60 (TD)

2

Jae'lon Oglesby

6

59

9.8

31

0

Anthony Miller

9

54

6.0

15 (TD)

2

Tevin Jones

9

45

5.0

25 (TD)

1

Robert Davis

9

42

4.7

28

0

Tearris Wallace

7

31

4.4

14

0

Darius Lee

9

29

3.2

11

0

Clay Holgorsen

4

14

3.5

6

0

Nick Jacobs

1

11

11.0

11

0

Jackson Dillon

1

5

5.0

5

0

Phil Mayhue

1

4

4.0

4

0

Frank Wims

1

4

4.0

4

0

Totals

532

2234

4.2

60

29

Receiving Statistics

NAME

REC

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Mose Frazier

66

750

11.4

45

4

Anthony Miller

44

684

15.5

82 (TD)

5

Phil Mayhue

47

644

13.7

43 (TD)

1

Roderick Proctor

25

335

13.4

61

0

Tevin Jones

19

300

15.8

58 (TD)

4

Alan Cross

24

229

9.5

38 (TD)

3

Doroland Dorceus

11

217

19.7

61 (TD)

3

Jae'lon Oglesby

20

167

8.4

30

1

Daniel Montiel

10

155

15.5

60

3

Sam Craft

8

114

14.3

60 (TD)

2

Daniel Hurd

5

84

16.8

36

1

Jamarius Henderson

6

83

13.8

43 (TD)

2

Frank Wims

3

57

19.0

21 (TD)

1

Jarvis Cooper

3

29

9.7

11

0

Greg McKillion

3

29

9.7

17

0

Devonte Howard

1

14

14.0

14

0

Totals

295

3891

13.2

82

30

In the next few months we should start to see an unveiling of the coach's new staff, get a hint at how his spread out run first, moving pocket, attack the edges offense is going to work.  We'll see what current players are going to bubble to the top of the depth chart, and in what positions they will be tried.  There will certainly be some player shuffling, recruit loss, and we might actually gain some new faces.  Coach Fuente's offensive orientation might just attract more new players than the change from Coach Beamer chased away.

I realize that the competition within the mid-major levels of the AAC is not exactly the same as the Power Five conferences; however, when you look at the level of competition from the perspective of relative equality these numbers are impossible to complain about.  Coach Fuente took a mid-level struggling quarterback and turned him into a pro-prospect who completes nearly 70 percent of his passes, and only has three picks for the season.  That's smart football for the QB, but it's also smart play design and implementation by the coaching staff.

I don't see how upper end offensive recruits can't see that Coach Fuente's Memphis Tigers put up 6, 125 yards of total offense over the last season, and put 29 touchdowns across the goal line on the ground as well as 30 in the air.   Folks, that is true offensive balance and it, is also indicative of a desire to score touchdowns, not settle for field goals.  That is more than great news for a program that has been starved of those kinds of offensive numbers for years, if not a decade.

Coach Fuente seems to be a step back, but a step ahead at the same time.  He's a step back because he's 39, and basically the same age as Frank Beamer, at the outset of the last era.  He is keeping some stability by engaging Bud Foster, so that the #LPD remains in place - with hopefully a better recruiting methodology (especially for Linebackers and interior defensive linemen).  Coach Fu is also stepping ahead, his spread out fast attack aggressive and adaptive offenses will be tonic to many eyes in Hokie Nation.  He has the chance to not only bring us back to the top 20, but maybe tickle the stratosphere, again.

Wait! We shouldn't get ahead, though.  Coach Fuente is new, he's experienced, but he has lots to learn in both recruiting territory and what he has in his hand before he can add new things.  We in Hokie Nation need to be patient and have a good deal of perspective.  We not only have to show the new staff what great fans we are, but how smart we are, too.   They'll need some room to maneuver; and time to get things running the way they want them to.   I don't expect the years to be as tough as Frank's first four, but I do expect growing pains, and so should we all.

Coach Fuente will be riding the pine for the Bowl game (whatever game it is) and he'll be cheering has hard as the rest of Hokie Nation.

Welcome Home Coach Fuente; because Blacksburg is home to all Hokies, and no matter where we are it'll always be that way.

Next official analytical look - Do we get Silver or a Bronze Booger?

Sources:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/235/memphis-tigers