ACC Teleconference: Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente talks with reporters on Wednesday on the ACC football teleconference.

justin fuente virginia techJUSTIN FUENTE: I’d like to start by thanking everybody that came to the spring game. We had a little bit of a rough weather situation, but the Hokie Nation turned out in full force, and that was fun for our kids.

Also want to thank everybody that’s joined our Drive for 25 campaign with our Hokie club. It’s the single best way for them to help our program.

I want to send well-wishes to our guys in the NFL Draft coming up. Got a couple guys, I think, that are going to have a chance to the play in the league for a little while, at least.

And we had a productive spring. We’ve got plenty of work from both sides of the ball and on special teams. We’re looking forward to our kids finishing up finals and turning their attention to the summertime.

Q. I know you probably answered your fair share of quarterback-related questions, and the terrific spring performance that Hendon Hooker had certainly makes that an even more intriguing question. What do you make of his progress throughout the spring? Where does he fit into that competition in your mind right now?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, in my mind all three of them are in the middle of the competition. I’m not sure one of them is any further ahead than the others. They all bring a little bit of uniqueness in their skillset. But we’re certainly not repping different types of offenses with those guys. I like the way he’s progressed. He does have some talent.

It’s still a long way to go from being a high school senior to being a true freshman quarterback in college. But he certainly took strides in that direction during the springtime and will need to take strides in that direction during the summer and during fall camp.

Q. Obviously you went through this last year, too, so it’s not like it’s a new situation, but given the amount of other certain moving parts on offense, is there a point in time that you’d like to say, look, I’ve got some stability at the quarterback position that I need to have some consistency for a week, two weeks, three weeks out of the season? Or is it, you know, you’re going to just keep kind of an open mind on things up until a guy actually steps out and is the guy?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Yeah, I think that’s the best way to make a decision, just keep an open mind and evaluate it. If one person separates himself and establishes themselves as the starter, then we should name him the starter.

I don’t go into it with a preconceived date or notion about who should start or what day we should declare the starter. So we’re going into it with an open mind, and hopefully one of those three kids will prove to us that he should be the starter.

Q. I know in the beginning of spring you talked a lot about ball security and ball disruption as being a focus you want this spring. I realize there is an equilibrium in spring ball; that whatever your defense forces comes at the expense of your offense. But do you have a degree of satisfaction in the progress you made on that front this spring?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Yeah, I think we’ve made some progress. I see visual evidence of it on the film, defensive players trying to strip the ball and offensive players giving visual confirmation that they’re valuing the football.

You worry about — I think it’s been easier on our older guys and harder on the young guys, and we’re going to play some young guys. That’s always a concern. But I do think we made strides in the right direction, and we’ll have to do another great job of emphasizing it in the fall — or, excuse me, during camp and then ultimately during the season.

Q. I know ball protection is a big thing you prioritize in quarterbacks as well. In terms of not throwing interceptions, did anybody stand out in that this spring? Were you happy with how that turned out?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Yeah, I don’t think anybody was any better than the other. I mean, there were a couple episodes where I thought we threw a couple bad interceptions. I mean, there is a difference. Nobody likes turning the ball over. But, you know, really the unforced errors are what we’re trying to avoid. And there was a couple of them throughout the spring kind of evenly dispersed amongst the three guys.

Q. I know you said you were excited about the draft and a few guys you were looking to go. To speak on Evans, Hodges and Ford, those three specifically, what can you say about what an NFL team would be getting with those?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, when you think about Isaiah Ford and his ability to make contested catches, to me, he’s a highly intelligent kid that was a great basketball player that really loves football. And he’s a pleasure to be around on a daily basis, and has the ability to go make contested catches.

Bucky, when you look at his size, weight, and speed, it’s appealing. I think he’ll need to find the right fit for an NFL team that wants to try and use and develop that skillset.

Then Jerod is a guy that looked incredibly productive this year, running and throwing the football. Part of that business is finding the right situation, and hopefully he finds the right situation.

Q. In your case heading to the ACC title game in the first year, just what you can say about, obviously, early success and building on that coming out of the spring?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, it was a great group of kids, first of all, that worked hard and made big sacrifices for this program. It was good to see them have some measure of success.

I think it’s helped in reaffirming to us and to our players the way we do things does give us a chance to win and compete for championships. So I think our kids have carried on that work ethic and that workload throughout wintertime and throughout spring practice.

Q. Talk about the quarterbacks who are trying to replace Evans during the spring game. What do you see from the spring game and coming into fall camp?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, we had 15 practices to evaluate them. I think there were some good and some bad in there with all three of them.

The thing that we’re looking for are predicted outcomes. I want to see them deliver the ball in the manner we’re coaching them to do. Sometimes the outcome may not be good, but I want to see them do what they’re coached to do on a consistent basis. I want to see them make the easy fundamental plays consistently, and I want to see them value the football.

All three of them at times did that and at times didn’t do that. So I think that’s why the competition is continuing into the summer and will continue through camp.

Q. Talk about what do you see during the spring camp that you have to work on in the fall that was part of the Achilles heel last year on defense and offense?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Offensively we’ve got to do a better job taking care of the football. When you look back at where we were statistically, it’s pretty poor. I think our kids understand that and our coaches understand that.

It’s a reflection of both of us. We’ve got to find a way to get the job done to take care of the football better. Defensively we’ve got to continue to find a way to get a pass rush either through scheme or through edge rushers to try to give ourselves a chance.


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