In open week, Tech is eager to ‘recharge’
Thanksgiving break will be possible for some Hokies players
With no game scheduled for Saturday, Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente said his program will allow players who live close enough to the school’s Blacksburg campus to go home or visit their families for the Thanksgiving holiday, despite the COVID-19 concerns.
“I’m not going to lock them up,” said Fuente on Monday. “We all understand what we’re dealing with. I mean, these kids have already sacrificed a tre
mendous amount. I’m not sure anybody knows unless you’re on the inside what these kids have been through, so I’m going to encourage them to understand the importance of how they act and what they do and what they’re around and I’m not going to force them to stay here or to go.”
The Hokies (4-5, 4-4 ACC), losers of three straight after Sat
urday’s 47-14 loss at Pittsburgh, plan to practice Tuesday and Wednesday this week, then take off Thursday and Friday before returning for meetings Saturday evening.
A school spokesman said players who do leave campus and return on Saturday will go through the normal testing procedures with their teammates, but won’t have to quarantine before rejoining the team.
The most recent guidelines from the ACC’s medical advisory board call for any athlete who leaves campus for more than three days to quarantine for 24 hours and have a negative PCR COVID test before returning to practice, and a second negative result before competing in a game. Tech’s players would be away a little more than two days.
At UVA, which plays at Florida State on Saturday, coach Bronco Mendenhall said players will not have the option of leaving. In normal years, Mendenhall has allowed in-state players to go home for Thanksgiving and to bring teammates with them. This year, he’s asking them to stay in Charlottesville, and encouraging their families to stay away or be extra diligent with wearing masks and social distancing if they do visit for the holiday.
“We’ve asked them to stay here at UVA, we’ve asked for family members that it would be best for us if they didn’t come from the outside in the visit, just for the sake of us helping finish our season,” Mendenhall said. “Man, we’ve come so far. And I know it’s Thanksgiving, and really just trying to keep the protocols in place as best as possible.”
The Cavaliers (4-4, 3-4 ACC), of course, are preparing for a game. The
Hokies, for the first time since 2001, don’t have a game the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Fuente said his players desperately need the time off after a playing nine straight games and dealing with the stress — and roster disruption — of the pandemic. Veterans and more heavily used players will have a light week, doing mostly individual drill work.
Lesser-used players will compete in the larger team drills.
“We need to hit recharge a little bit,” said Fuente, whose team has lost consecutive games to Liberty, Miami and Pittsburgh. “It’s been as long a stretch as I can ever remember and obviously it’s been a revolving door of personnel, coaches and players, and all that sort of stuff.”
With no game to play until the Dec. 5 home contest against No. 4 Clemson (7-1, 6-1), Tech’s coaching staff has time to review the team’s performance to this point.
Fuente angrily shot down a question about taking over the play-calling after Saturday’s loss, calling the query “ludicrous crap.” Monday, in a calmer mood, Fuente said the coaching staff was reviewing every snap on offense, defense and special teams and returning an evaluation of the units to him. He expected to review those Monday evening and formulate the team’s plans for practices this week and next.
“I think the biggest thing that I see is that this is the hardest year to ever improve,” Fuente said. “A nontraditional offseason, no spring ball, fall camp was less than ideal, to say the least, in terms of what we were dealing with, particularly after the students came back, guys in and out most of the season. All of the things we’ve gone through.”