ACC Football Teleconference Week 2: Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente
JUSTIN FUENTE: Our kids are excited to get to play at home after going on the road last week. We have a tremendous challenge in front of us. We are behind, as of right now, in preparation because of the short week, and anxious to get on the field a find a way to get our guys feeling good and knowing what to do by kickoff on Saturday.
Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on Jimmye Laycock, the longevity he’s had at William & Mary? Do you know much about him?
JUSTIN FUENTE: I’ve had the pleasure at a couple banquets to get to visit with Coach Laycock. Before I moved to Virginia, I did not know much about him, and then the last several years have learned quite a bit. I’ve enjoyed his company. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s accomplished. Obviously his longevity is an outlier in today’s football. I think it speaks volumes to the quality of his program, that year after year he can continue to get his message across and relate to his players and get the most out of them. It’s one of the neat things about my move to Virginia is the couple times I have been around him and got to visit with him a little bit and spend some time with him.
Q. And unrelated, I don’t know if you heard Coach Taggart, but he indicated he believed that your defensive players were essentially faking injuries to slow down the pace of his offense. I know you’re a guy who likes to play fast offense. One, is that true; and do you think that’s a problem in college football?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, I don’t know if it’s a problem or not. I know this: Going into the game, we were severely concerned about our ability to handle the humidity and the weather, just coming from our climate down there. We certainly had some issues with it throughout the game. At halftime numerous guys were in there getting IVs and getting treatment so they could finish out the game.
Q. Related to Monday night, as you have gone through your head coaching career, what have you found, and even as an assistant, are the keys to — besides talent, obviously, to winning on the road and going into environments such as a Florida State or a Notre Dame and having the poise and composure to perform well there?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Sure. I think just the added part of that is having it be the first game, you know, just in general going on the road, I think it’s about composure. It’s about playing the next play. I often tell our team. You can go on the road and you can be up 14-0, and the other team can kick a field goal, and it sounds like you’re down by 10 points. And understanding that you’ve got to stay in the moment and continue to play the next play I think is incredibly important. Having some composure and ability to focus regardless of external circumstances is something that we talk about a lot. And then you combine that with an early season or a first game of the year, and all the things that come with that in terms of preparation on special teams and on both sides of the football, it kind of adds another dimension of preparation there.
In regards to handling that, the atmosphere and trying to be sound in the first game, we had a lot to improve on in all three phases. We made plenty of mistakes, and we have to get them corrected, but I did think we did do a pretty decent job of just playing the next play, continuing to plug away, and try not to let those external factors affect our performance.
Q. Have you developed over time a road routine, for lack of a better description, in terms of travel and game management and such, and if you have, did you learn it from Coach Patterson or did you develop it on your own?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Yeah, our routine leading up to games is very similar if not the same to what we did at TCU. I really — I talked to Gary via text today, and I just really believe in that preparation model. It doesn’t vary from year to year or week to week. Obviously there’s a little added dimension when you’re on the road of travel, but we try and keep things as routine as possible in order to create a comfort level and a focus just on our performance, not necessarily what we’re doing next. I want it to be consistent. I’ve taken that from — as soon as I got to TCU, I fell in love with all of them, what we were doing and how we were doing it, and we’ve taken it from Memphis to Virginia Tech, and I really, really am a firm believer in what we do and how we do it.
Q. How did you evaluate the ground game that you guys had against Florida State? Seemed a little maybe off and on, but when you would hit one, you hit a few big ones. I guess how would you kind of grade how things came out?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Oh, I would say there was some good and some bad with it. They’re a pretty talented defensive front, and they do some things to challenge you in the run game. They’re not the type of defense that is just going to sit back and let you kind of peck away at them. I mean, they’re going to try to challenge you and make things difficult, and at times we were able to run the ball. It certainly wasn’t a dominating rushing performance by any means, but at times we were able to kind of make a living a little bit.
Q. I just want to clarify what you said earlier on the question about whether you guys were faking injuries. Does your answer mean that your players were not faking anything?
JUSTIN FUENTE: My answer is that we had numerous issues with cramping and guys battling through bumps and bruises and nicks and things that they were fighting through.
Q. Talk about William & Mary’s head coach, Coach Laycock. Talk about him retiring this year and you guys playing them.
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, it’s an honor to play them, and to play them in his last year, I know those kids think of world of him and are going to do everything they can to send him out in the right way throughout the season, not just our game, but I know they would love to get a win here for him. Just his level of continuity and consistency that they’ve had there I think is extremely rare in today’s day and age, and it speaks volumes to the foundation of his program that it can last year after year. I mean, there’s coaches that can do well from time to time, but to have consistency and deal with some of the challenges that he’s got there at William & Mary and have some of the success that he’s had, I think it speaks volumes about the type of coach that he is.
Q. Talk about Josh Jackson’s development on Monday night. What did you like about his performance?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, he was gutty and competitive, as always. He’s a leader for us. He continues to improve his knowledge base and his leadership skill. There’s always things for us to improve on. There’s some plays that he made, and there’s a couple plays I know that he wishes he would have made in that game. But I continue to feel good that today at practice he’s going to go out there and work as hard as he can to continue to improve and lead our football team.