Virginia Tech, and coach Justin Fuente, face critical 2019

Justin FuenteVirginia Tech doesn’t play football to have losing seasons. Consider Justin Fuente well aware of this.

The offseason following the Hokies’ 6-7 finish in 2018 wasn’t all that pleasant. It seemed like anybody in the program with a pulse was thinking out loud about entering the NCAA transfer portal.

Questions surrounding the future of long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster, whose unit had a historically bad 2018, and whose contract is up this year, aren’t going to go away.

Fuente, entering Year 4, after replacing the legendary Frank Beamer, isn’t necessarily on a hot seat, but he could be, if Year 4 resembles in any way his Year 3.

“There’s two ways to look at it. I think they’re both correct. One, we certainly understand what’s expected at Virginia Tech. We don’t shy away from those expectations. We dedicate ourselves every day to living up to those. We also know that last year was not good enough,” Fuente told reporters at last week’s ACC Kickoff.

Virginia Tech still has enough respect from the writers who cover the ACC to merit being picked third in the ACC Coastal in the preseason poll released on Monday.

That may say as much about how down the Coastal is as it does about Tech, of course.

Fuente tried to accentuate the positives coming out of last season’s disaster.

“There’s also an element of pride in what our kids did accomplish when faced with a tremendous amount of adversity. Throughout the entire season, the amount of guys that played beat up, the amount of guys that pushed through injuries, the amount of guys that we lost that were unable to continue to go, the amount of distractions we had for them to continue to battle through the entire year, I think we can learn from that, too,” Fuente said.

Tech opens on the road at Boston College, which defeated the Hokies 31-21 in Blacksburg in 2018.

After that, well … good news, if you’re a Hokie fan.

The ESPN Football Power Index rates the Virginia Tech schedule the easiest in Power 5. There is the road game at Notre Dame on Nov. 2, but the other non-conference games are ODU, Furman and Rhode Island, which, yes, shocker, plays college football.

And the ACC schedule is nice, in that Tech avoids anybody significant from the Atlantic, meaning, no Clemson, Syracuse or FSU.

Fuente, for his part, isn’t looking past Boston College.

“We have a first game this year that is on the road and is a conference game against a very good opponent, that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. They’re well-coached. They have a clear identity and mission in what they’re trying to accomplish. We’ll have to prepare and play very well to have a chance,” Fuente said.

“We’re looking forward to that opportunity. I think there is a level of hunger and eagerness on our team to get back out there and try to rewrite the script or redefine our identity from a year ago.”

Story by Chris Graham

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