Fuente wants focus on progress
Coach trying to keep Hokies’ minds off 2-0 conference mark
BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s tumultuous offseason has proved to be just the opening act for an equally difficult start to the regular season.
Since the 2018 season kicked off, the Hokies have dealt with an upset loss to
Old Dominion, the dismissal of defensive end Trevon Hill, an injury to starting quarterback Josh
Jackson and a lopsided loss to
Thursday night, senior wide receiver and punt returner C.J. Carroll said his says the
season was finished Hokies need because to “focus on
of a lingering ourselves
foot injury. and our
Despite all improvement.”
that, Virginia Tech (3-2, 2-0 ACC) is undefeated in the ACC and very much in the midst of the Coastal Division title race going into Saturday’s game at North Carolina (1-3, 1-1).
Not that coach Justin Fuente wants his players thinking that way.
“I don’t think we need to focus on that,” Fuente said this week. “We need to focus on ourselves and on our improvement. I heard quite a bit of chatter about, ‘We’re
2-0 in the league,’ and all that
sort of stuff. To me, that’s counterproductive to what we’re trying to get done here. We need to focus on our improvement and finding a way to get better and give ourselves a chance to win, regardless of whether it’s a league game or a nonleague game.”
Fuente endured an offseason in which cornerback Adonis Alexander entered the NFL’s supplemental draft following academic issues, nickel back Mook Reynolds was dismissed following a drug arrest and freshly promoted co-defensive coordinator Galen Scott resigned after an extramarital affair became public.
Thing didn’t get much smoother once the Hokies started playing football. Jackson suffered a broken left leg in the upset loss at ODU and may not play again this season.
In the big picture, Tech might be a touch ahead of where most would have predicted it. The Hokies were underdogs in three of their first five games, yet they’re 3-2.
They were underdogs in both ACC contests, yet they’re 2-0, having beaten Florida State in Tallahassee on Labor Day night, and won at Duke.
Again, don’t tell that to Fuente.
“The whole ‘we’re still 2-0 in the league’ deal implies that if we were to lose a game in the league then there’s nothing to play for, and that’s not true either,” Fuente said. “Certainly, we’re going on the road, we are playing a conference game and all those things are important, but I think for us, it’s can we continue to bring some of these guys as they get some experience along so that we can be better at those individual spots and, hopefully, better altogether?”
His message has trickled down to his players, who parroted the coach’s talking points to perfection this week.
“As a team, we know we’ve got to get better,” sophomore wide receiver Hezekiah Grimsley said. “We know it’s one day at a time. As far as the ACC goes, we don’t really pay attention to the division or anything. We’ve got to win that next game. We worry about all that at the end of the year. As a team, I feel like the fact that we are inexperienced that it’s going to bring us closer together to work hard in practice and just get better.”
For its part, North Carolina has had a rocky offseason, but hasn’t managed to right its ship since games started.
Thirteen players were suspended in August following a scandal involving the selling of school-issued shoes.
UNC lost games at California and East Carolina before its Sept. 15 game against Central Florida was canceled.
Following the Tar Heels’ lone victory, a narrow home win over Pittsburgh, quarterback Chaz Surratt, one the players who was suspended, returned to action on Sept. 27 in a blowout loss to Miami. Surratt injured his wrist in that game and will miss the rest of the season.