In the first of a two part interview (you can read Part II here), Gobbler County was lucky enough to spend some time with head football coach Justin Fuente. Fuente is getting ready to embark on his first season at the helm of the Hokies, and it was interesting to hear Fuente talk tempo, fishing, and who he calls on when challenged as a coach.
Roy Hatfield: You have certainly hit the ground running since being named head coach. You mentioned fishing as a hobby during the ACC meetings. Have you had any chances to wet your line since taking the job?
Justin Fuente: "I haven’t had an opportunity to do much fishing yet, but I’m eager to get out on the New River in June and maybe check out some other spots that other folks have recommended."
Roy Hatfield: After watching film from last season, what do you see as Virginia Tech's biggest opportunity, and biggest strength?
Justin Fuente: "Honestly, we’re going to base our evaluations on what we’ve seen through the spring and what we’ll see throughout preseason camp, particularly on offense. I think Coach Foster has a pretty good grasp of what he’s got coming back defensively and we won’t change dramatically on that side of the ball. Offensively, it’s about what we’ve installed this spring and what we’re doing going forward. We’ve still got a lot of work to do in all phases of our offense, so there are opportunities from improvement all across the board."
Roy Hatfield: How important is tempo in your offense, and do you feel that this type of offense poses a safety issue as some other coaches have stated?
Justin Fuente: "We’re not going to play up-tempo just for the sake of saying we’re playing up-tempo. Would I prefer to play at the type of pace we played at in Memphis? Sure. But as you’ve probably heard me say, we’re going to need to have the right personnel in place to do that. Are we there yet? Probably not. We’re also going to play complimentary football which means we’re not going to hang our defense out to dry. We’ve got to sustain some drives to help out our defense and if that means playing at a different pace, that’s fine. We’re interested in doing whatever it takes to win."
Roy Hatfield: If you can share, what are some team goals you have established for the 2016 season?
Justin Fuente: "Number one, it’s about conducting ourselves as individuals and as a team in a way that positively reflects on Virginia Tech following in the great tradition that Coach Beamer has established. Hopefully we’ve made it clear throughout the spring the kind of effort and the kind of commitment and the kind of work ethic it takes to be a part of this program. In terms of setting expectations for yards, points and those sorts of things, those aren’t necessarily things we’ll get into. Our biggest goal is to get better every time we step into the classroom, the weight room or onto the practice field. If we take care of our business there, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to win some football games."
Roy Hatfield: What was your proudest accomplishment in Memphis?
Justin Fuente: "We enjoyed a lot of cool moments our final two seasons. The price of enjoying those wins and some success was paid by our kids and our staff accomplished in terms of raising expectations and creating a winning culture. We walked into a program that hadn’t experienced a great deal of success. To see those kids get some confidence, carry themselves differently and walk onto the field expecting to win, that was pretty cool. Obviously the winning the school’s first conference championship and bowl game in a long time were big milestones, but those were by-products of changing the culture, which was something a lot of people probably didn’t think was possible at Memphis."