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Press Conference: Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente

fuenteVirginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente talks with the news media on Monday.


Opening Statement: “Thank you all for coming out. Obviously, we are all excited for game week. I am happy to get through mock game week. Sometimes the mock game week can be logistically draining. There are a lot of little things that go into playing the game and our kids did a good job of handling that. It tends to be more of a mental focus rather than physical exertion. They did a good job with all of it. We have a big challenge this week. I have followed Coach (Turner) Gill and his career for some time now. He has a talented team with good players on both sides of the ball. Their program has had very good success in the last couple of years. They have an athletic quarterback and a sound defense.

“Before we get to questions, I have one quick announcement. Months ago I had a meeting with (Senior Associate AD) John Ballein. We discussed some ways we could pay tribute to Coach Beamer and his time here throughout the season. Talking to our AD Whit Babcock, his team, and our coaches, we came to the conclusion that we are going to have one special teams player wear No. 25 each game as an honor to Coach Beamer. One of the defining characteristics of his teams was the outstanding special teams play. I announced this to the team yesterday and do not know who will be wearing it this weekend against Liberty. It is something that I think shows we take great pride in the past and want to continue to pay tribute to the way ball has been played here for quite some time. It is something that our staff and our kids are excited about. I am still working on how and when the release of the player wearing 25 will work. I want to stay in line with any statistical rules because it’s not something that is meant to deceive the opposing team on who is playing or who isn’t playing. It looks like Thursday of this week we will tell the team and announce it to the media.” On the status of Parker Osterloh and Colt Pettit on the recently-released depth chart “Parker will be good to go and Colt has played better. This doesn’t mean things can’t or won’t change. It is just how it is right now.”

On Chris Cunningham being listed as number one on the tight end depth chart & Bucky Hodges listed at wide receiver “The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Chris and his development is how productive his summer was in terms of continuing to change his body. We don’t have a roster riddled with true tight ends. Bucky Hodges has the ability to move in there and do some things. Cunningham is not huge but he is the kind of guy who can move around a little bit and play that H-back type roll. He has made big strides and will continue to work hard and get better.”

On what he has seen from the kick and punt return units “Greg Stroman has been really productive as a punt returner. We are optimistic that we will continue to make good decisions back there. The first goal of the return game is that we have the ball at the end of that play. It makes you feel better knowing that you have a guy back there who has done it in game before. It takes courage to catch punts. It is great to have Greg back there. We have been working some other guys back there as well. C.J. Carroll has been doing well. With the kickoff return situation, I am optimistic that the guys back there will be able to help us. Most of the time our time is actually spent on the other 10 guys on the field at that point. If we can surround those guys with ten other guys who take pride in the success of those units then we will have a chance at some success.”

On Sam Rogers’ backstory and what he has seen out of Rogers as a leader “Even before I knew Sam, other people fed me information. He is a fantastic leader, a hard worker and an extremely intelligent guy. He has a lot of talent too. It is not just the story of the hard working guy. He is a hard working guy who also has talent. He is incredibly versatile. I spoke to Sam about how at first he was a walk-on but not a walk-on for long. It did not take Coach Beamer and his staff long to realize that Sam is special. He always wants to do what is best for the team. Whatever he is asked to do he will do it to the best of his abilities on a consistent basis. I am grateful to have him here.”

On having whether he always has anxiety about going into the first game of the season “Sure. For me it is two-fold. One, it is the logistics of everything that goes into game days and game weeks. I feel better after going through mock game week. I do not particularly like going through a mock game week because it is a lot of logistical work but I always feel better after we have done it all once together. It’s good that everyone now knows the way I like it to be done. When watching the Cal-Hawaii game, you see simple mistakes that are made that end up costing a ton of yardage. Those are things that you try to cover. And then you combine all of that with that it is a new team. It is one thing to open the season but it is another thing to open the season with a new coach. There is no substitute to being on the sideline with your team and seeing how they respond and react to adversity. I will try to go through and help the team through these emotions so we can focus on winning ball games.”

On what Liberty does defensively “They are a four-down team that is not afraid to pressure. They are incredibly sound in all of their schemes. That is the thing that jumps out. When you start to watch the film, you see how well they can run in the backend and how they have a couple of guys that can run the passer. They’re an athletic defense that is obviously well-coached. They don’t turn guys loose or bust coverages. They are well schooled.”

On Jaylen Bradshaw and Divine Deablo this off-season “At times they have looked good and at times they have looked young and inexperienced. I like the way they have gone about their work and how they have continued to try to improve. There is a lot to this in terms of playing wide-out. Those guys are learning those things. Divine is a true freshman even though he graduated early and has been here a couple months. These kids have worked hard to give themselves a chance. I think they have both embraced the fact that there is an opportunity behind those top-tier guys. They have done a good job at being consistent.”

On Rogers and Travon McMillian on the depth chart at running back “We will see how it all goes but what I would say is that it is all personnel-group oriented. Sam may be in there or it could be McMillian. When you release a depth chart, you have to take it with a grain of salt. If you want to put the depth chart up of there of every position, you could say you have a whole bunch of starters. I would not read to much into it in the sense that Travon might not be carrying the ball.”