You know, your baseball team loses the night before. You get to work and spend several hours weeding through reams of data and log entries, and then the mundane operations management stuff that threatens to make your eyes cross? There's personal negotiations going on, and then the shop calls you about your car - in the late afternoon no less to tell you that your engine has a head gasket leaking and needs new tie-rods because it's got 162,000 miles on it and it's really getting old, but you can't get rid of it because another car payment is just beyond the budget.
Well what does that have to do with sports, necessarily? Something tells me that Football Head Coach Justin Fuente might be having more than a few of those sorts of days coming up. Spring practice is right around the corner, and how he and the team are going to deal with the massive changes that will be occurring. Coach Fuente has told more than a few audiences that offense big priority. Just think, that is "Offense" and Virginia Tech in the same thought without a negative floating around somewhere. That's certainly new.
Just think of what's going on in the fever swamps (ok.. ok.. they aren't planning in the middle of a Spring Drill Field) of the football team right now. All of those exciting things like new coaches getting new offices, glad handing and chatting up recruits, checking out the facilities, doing some workouts in the Beamer Barn... and talking to the media. Those are the cool things that the new staff members, Coaches Cornelsen, Mitchell, Scott, Shibest, Vice, and Wiggins are all getting to do with smiles on their faces. We all know, though, that soon those smiles will turn to furrowed brows, charts, whiteboards, dry erase markers, copy pages, and pencil dust everywhere.
You see Coach Fuente's big Spring adventure is headed this way. I have not seen an official launch date for Tech's Spring Practice, but it's a strictly limited thing by NCAA rule, so it starts within a month of the Spring Game. We've said it before, but this Spring Game is going to be the most important session in recent memory. We have 8 returning starters on offense, and 8 on defense. We also have no playbook or quarterback. As Coaches Cornelsen and Fuente have said, the changes to the offense are going to be implemented over time, with incremental changes made as new concepts are introduced and new skills gained. He wants to pick up the tempo and if Memphis's offense, after four seasons of development, is any indication the Fuente pace is quite a bit quicker than the sort of phony run up to the line of scrimmage and then stare at wig wagging assistants on the sideline (when a huddle would have worked the same).
Beside picking up the tempo, and building a playbook from scratch to match the talent at hand, and getting new coaches settled in with the team, the most critical player related effort of Spring 2016 remains the sticky issue of choosing a new quarterback. We haven't heard firm word, but the background chatter sounds like Chris Durkin might very well make that move to replace Ryan Malleck at one of the Tight End positions. Remember Bucky is staying with us, but unless his role changes in the new offense, he really plays a motioning H-Back or big slot receiver. (Think Antonio Gates or Shannon Sharpe, not Heath Miller.) I really don't see the utility in snugging Bucky up to the classic TE position and having him pounding blocks on sweeps, at least most of the time.
So Coach Fuente's days might look like one of our own for a while; busy, full, tedious, and seemingly unrewarding. I am sure that there will be days of trial, and perhaps a few of triumph. Spring really isn't about triumph; it's really difficult to "triumph" over your fellow teammates. The big goals for the Practice will probably be up on some board somewhere over at Merryman Hall.
We the fans will be rooting for the more esoteric things; a starting quarterback, an offense with a purpose with an implementation plan, and a look at how the new and legacy coaches handle things on the sideline and with the players.
It's going to be fun and sort of exciting to watch. I hope the crowd is big for the game. The local hotels are all booked solid. It'd really be nice to give Coach Fuente and the new staff a peek at what sort of fans Hokie Nation can be. 2016 is going to be different. Offense... That's just such a cool concept.