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Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente knows he needs a bounce-back season from his team. His tenure in Blacksburg has taken a trajectory unlike many coaches in new jobs: instead of starting slow and building upwards, his early teams experienced a lot of success, but have slipped as of late.
After winning 19 games over his first two seasons, Fuente is 19-18 since the start of the 2018 season, with a sixth place finish in the conference last fall. When asked about his recent stumbles, Fuente hinted that he seemed to know this outcome was most likely, though he didn’t go into much detail.
“Well, it’s certainly been interesting,” Fuente said this past week at ACC Football Kickoff, referencing his time at Virginia Tech. “Each job and deal is different and unique. After our first two years, I had a very honest, really good conversation with Whit [Babcock], our athletic director. We won 19 games in two years. I said, ‘Whit, you didn’t bring me here for these past two years. You brought me here for what we’re about to go through.’
We were not in good shape. We were in the process of building facilities. We had some issues on our roster that were going to take time to get through. We’ve now completed many of those facilities. We’re now adding, expanding our support staff for our players and recruiting. Now starting to get into having an older team … I’m really excited to see this football team play and kick this season off.”
At least on paper, the Hokies should be able to compete with the bigger, better-funded ACC programs this season. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who led Va. Tech to a big win over Virginia in the final game of the season last year, returns this year without any looming competition for playing time.
Burmeister is a bit undersized for a dual-threat quarterback, though, and will need to lean heavily on the weapons around him to stay healthy. WR Tre Turner, TE James Mitchell, WR Jaden Payoute, and RB Raheem Blackshear all figure to play heavily into the Hokies’ offensive schemes this season. And if the offensive line can stay healthy, too? Then don’t be surprised to see Virginia Tech get back to their winning ways from a few years past.
“I feel better about us throwing the ball right now since I’ve been here,” Fuente added. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to throw the ball 60 times a game. But I feel better about it.”
Virginia Tech opens the 2021 season with a huge game against UNC on September 3.