Here is the second part of the Q&A with head football coach Justin Fuente. The coach was kind enough to share some time with Gobbler Country recently. You can read Part I here. Fuente and team prepare to open the season hosting Liberty, and then travel to Bristol Motor Speedway to face the Tennessee Volunteers.
Roy Hatfield: What is the biggest difference in responsibilities for the modern quarterback compared to when you played the position? Specifically, what do you ask the quarterback to do in your offensive system that has changed in the current era?
Justin Fuente: I’d like to think I wasn’t playing back in the stone ages (laughs). It wasn’t that long ago. The fundamentals of playing the position in terms of footwork, using your legs and hips to provide torque and power, recognizing coverages, knowing protections and hot reads, all those things, while some nuances have changed, those things haven’t changed a great deal. In terms of what we do now that may be different, probably some of the focus on tempo and pace, or the ability to play with four to five receivers is a little different. But in terms of the key attributes of playing the position, having field awareness, knowing game situations and leading an offense, those principles are pretty similar.
Roy Hatfield: What are some of the values in the culture that you are instilling into the team? Are there any phrases or ideas that you coach daily?
Justin Fuente: If you walk through our building or follow us on social media, I think the three concepts that you’ll repeatedly see and hear us emphasize are "hard,""smart," "tough." Those concepts are the foundation of what we’re trying to become. If people describe our team using those three adjectives, that would be a great compliment.
Roy Hatfield: What do you see as the biggest challenge for keeping the blue-chip recruits in state?
Justin Fuente: First and foremost, it’s about our staff evaluating those players and making our own determinations of whether they fit our program. We’re not concerned about how many stars someone else gives a kid, we’re interested in whether they can perform academically and athletically at Virginia Tech and buy into how we work and how we play. I said at my introductory press conference that keeping the top talent in our state would be a top priority and that hasn’t changed.
Roy Hatfield: How did the first 90 days at Virginia Tech compare to those at Memphis?
Justin Fuente: Obviously two very different situations. As a first-time head coach at Memphis, there were a number of decisions that I hadn’t made previously as a coordinator. There are conversations with assistant coaches and support personnel that needed to take place. So from that perspective, having gone through the process before made this transition a little easier just knowing what to expect. But as I’ve said before, these jobs aren’t like the private sector where you give your two weeks’ notice. Immediately you’re immersed in recruiting, evaluating and trying to get your staff set. We obviously inherited a great foundation and a great tradition at Virginia Tech, whereas in Memphis we were really trying to create a winning mindset from scratch.
Roy Hatfield: Who are your coaching role models, and who do you call and speak with after a painful loss?
Justin Fuente: Dick Winder at Oklahoma and my high school coach, Bill Blankenship, were big influences on me. They could not be two more different people. Coach Blankenship's laid back. Coach Winder was as rough and tough and as hard as they come. I would have jumped in front of a train for both ‘em. I think I'm in between those two personalities. I also think the world of Gary Patterson at TCU. I learned a lot from him and took a lot of his structure and the way he organized things with me to Memphis. Win or lose, I’ll talk to Jen (wife) and my Dad after every game. They always help me keep the highs and lows in the proper perspective.
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