One of the criticisms of Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente is the lack of accessibility around the football program since he took over in 2016.
A big issue for fans and alumni is the lack of media access to the coaches. People want to hear from the coordinators and, to a lesser degree, the position coaches. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue for fans if Fuente were more open and engaging.
Former defensive coordinator Bud Foster always spoke to the media. He spoke of specific plays that he felt helped the team or plays he’d like to have back. He also talked about his players. His availability helped fans get to know players.
After the 2020 season ended and Virginia Tech retained Fuente, he seemed more open to having his assistants speak to the media. It’s a good thing because it not only takes some of the pressure off of Fuente but gives fans a chance to hear from coaches, not just the head coach.
Last week, Fuente allowed media access for his coordinators — offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen and defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton. Here are five takeaways from those press conferences.
You want access; you got access
Not long after the quotes were transcribed on social media or hokiesports.com, fans complained about Cornelsen or mocked some of his answers. More on that later.
The reality is fans, alumni, and the media wanted to hear from coaches, particularly Cornelsen, and they did. And still didn’t like what he had to say or how he delivered it.
Get over it.
I’ve been as critical of the offensive coordinator as anyone. I do not think he should be an offensive coordinator at this level. I don’t even think he should be a quarterbacks’ coach. The proof is in the performance of the quarterbacks over the previous five seasons. Quarterbacks in the system regress the following year.
Ok, enough about why he isn’t good. That’s not the issue. He is here — for at least the 2021 season — and fans should accept it.
We can only hope Fuente allows media access to Cornelsen after games next season. He needs to be questioned on why things didn’t work. That’s been another issue people have with Fuente and the offense. They demand answers and are told that questioning the offensive coordinator is “ludicrous crap.”
I asked #Hokies coach Justin Fuente if he'd consider taking over play calling after the open date: "That's the most ludicrous crap I've ever heard. Next question."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) November 22, 2020
Justin Hamilton is outstanding
For all of the criticism of Fuente and Cornelsen in speaking to the media, Justin Hamilton is the opposite. He is thoughtful, engaging, positive, and the perfect person to speak for the Hokies.
Hamilton doesn’t just seem comfortable at the podium; he is real. He laughs and jokes but answers every question in a detailed manner. His love of Virginia Tech is apparent.
The Hokies need to better connect with their fan base. There is no better person on this staff than Hamilton. The combination of Hamilton and Darryl Tapp would’ve been outstanding. Still, Hamilton remains, and he has some fellow Hokies on staff in J.C. Price and Jack Tyler and a rising star, cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith, to help sell Virginia Tech.
Much like Foster, Hamilton needs to speak every week.
Texas A&M transfer will remain at quarterback
When Connor Blumrick transferred to Virginia Tech from Texas A&M, there were questions about which position he would play. Blumrick, a natural quarterback, is an outstanding athlete who spent time as a tight end and running back.
Cornelsen said he would play quarterback in Blacksburg.
At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Blumrick has outstanding size and is a good athlete. If presumed starter Braxton Burmeister can stay healthy, the Hokies can look to get Blumrick on the field at other positions.
But, for now, he will remain at quarterback.
“We have to get him ready to play quarterback,” Cornelsen said.
Cornelsen’s comments on Hooker & Patterson drew plenty of criticism
When asked about former four-star quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson, Cornelsen had an interesting response.
Going into the season, knowing we had three capable guys, probably what would happen is we would retain one and then two guys would go somewhere else. So that was definitely not a surprise.
Eh, I am sure he would like to have that one back.
While on the surface, it may be true, that comment drew plenty of attention on Twitter, including from Hooker and Patterson. Hooker quickly deleted his tweet.
This is another case of if you want him to speak, you live with what he says. Sure, it was not a good look, and he’d probably like to have it back.
Cornelsen continued to discuss the position saying every quarterback needs to stay on campus for three years to learn the system completely. He’s right in a sense because unless a quarterback is extraordinary, like, say, Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence, a true freshman passer isn’t ready to play immediately.
Ideally, Patterson or Hooker would be returning in 2021. Their development, or lack of development, is more on the coaching staff than either of the young passers. If you had trouble with Patterson as a passer, he was your recruit, and it was your job to develop him.
Both quarterbacks landed in solid situations and should start in 2021. Virginia Tech fans will certainly be monitoring their progress closely.
Hamilton excited about the talent on defense
Hamilton first spoke of Clemson transfer, defensive tackle Jordan Williams, and said Williams would command respect from his teammates on the field. The coaching staff is expecting big things from the Virginia Beach native.
Hamilton discussed a lot of the returning talent on defense and touched on the newcomers, too. It’s clear Hamilton has a preference for the type of players he will recruit. He likes length and athleticism, and he will find the correct positions.
Hamilton also spoke glowingly of senior linebacker Dax Hollifield. Hamilton believes some of the expectations for Hollifield were unfair.
There’s a lot of expectations that they didn’t ask for or they didn’t create, and Dax falls into that category. There was a lot put on him that he didn’t ask for. He just wanted to come in and go to work. He’s already met those expectations. He’s one of the best teammates in our locker room. In my mind, statistically, he hasn’t broken out like some people thought he would, but he’s already broken out. He’s an absolute foxhole guy whether he’s in the game or out of the game. If he’s in the game, the other 10 guys are going to know what to do. There’s a lot of value in there that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
It will be interesting to see if Hamilton uses Hollifield more in his natural position of inside linebacker next season.