Virginia Tech is moving on to Georgia Tech after their tough 28-10 loss to Miami that eliminated them from ACC Championship contention. Justin Fuente addressed the media in his weekly press conference and addressed a wide-range of questions from slow starts to the need to be efficient against Georgia Tech to some major injury updates.
Fuente Breaks Down VT’s First Quarter Offensive Struggles
Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled in the first quarters this season, scoring a touchdown in only four of nine first quarters. The Hokies’ offense has not scored multiple touchdowns in a single first quarter this season despite the fact that they’ve faced some of the worst defenses at the FBS level. Justin Fuente addressed those concerns about the Hokies’ slow starts in his weekly press conference.
“Well would I like to score more in the first quarter? You bet,” Fuente said. “I just go back to this, whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter or whatever, we know what we are and how it has to be for us to have success. It’s just going to be hard. Things are gong to be difficult. We’re not as explosive of a football team as were last year. Points will be harder to come by whether it’s the first quarter or the second quarter.”
“I think part of that is because things have to be pretty perfect for us to have success right now. In the first quarter, teams play you slightly different than they have other teams throughout the week. You have to try and get a handle on it. When you’re better or more established or older, then those things don’t matter as much because you can overcome them with experience and talent. Right now, we’re just not there yet,” Fuente said.
It’s hard not to agree with Fuente’s comments here as the Hokies’ offense doesn’t have the same experience and explosiveness on the outside while the ground game hasn’t improved that much. However, we also haven’t seen Brad Cornelsen and the Hokies significantly change their conservative offensive approach early in games that could use some more aggressiveness to push the ball down the field more to guys like Cam Phillips and Sean Savoy.
With Georgia Tech up next this week, the Hokies will need to have one of their best first quarters on offense knowing the Yellow Jackets can run the clock down like no other team in America.
Offensive Efficiency Critical Against Georgia Tech
One thing Georgia Tech’s triple option is well known for is being able to control the clock. The Yellow Jackets’ offense has a way of shortening games in such a significant way where even going down by two possessions can feel like an insurmountable deficit.
Justin Fuente knows Virginia Tech will need to be efficient with this matchup reminding him of when he was the offensive coordinator for TCU in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.
“Well I think that’s important that you’re efficient, I really do. It’s probably an overused term but your opportunities are going to be limited,” Fuente said. “I’ll never forget, this was not a triple-option team, but when I was at TCU, we played Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and we were up in a low-scoring game, but in the second quarter, we ran three plays. We ended up winning the football game. The pressure I felt as the play caller when we did finally get the ball back to be efficient on first down was something I had never really felt before that game, and that’s an extreme case.”
“We went three-and-out on one possession. In the second quarter, we ran three plays and just that feeling of never knowing when you’re going to get it back, and how important it is when your defense has been on the field trying to stop these guys for a long time; that creates some pressure. It’s a similar type instance where you’ve got to do a really good job of being efficient to help the football team out knowing that you’re going to get fewer opportunities,” Fuente said.
Josh Jackson and Virginia Tech’s offense will have a little extra pressure to be efficient knowing how possessions will be limited against a Georgia Tech team that can take half of a quarter or more off on one drive, or even take 4-5 minutes off the clock without scoring. The Hokies can’t afford to get themselves in an early hole this week like they did in last year’s home loss to the Yellow Jackets.
VT will have to move past the less than ideal reality of having one less practice day this week due to their travel chaos and have a great week of offensive prep before facing Georgia Tech’s clock-dominating offense.
CJ Carroll Struggles to Recover From Injury
CJ Carroll has been hurt for weeks with a foot injury and based on what Justin Fuente had to say, it doesn’t seem like Carroll will be playing anytime soon.
“I’m going to answer this the best I can, but I’m not really sure,” Fuente said. “It has been fixed once and it’s just something he’s continuing to deal with. He’ll come and practice for a little bit, and then not continue to practice anymore, not be able to continue through and again, I’ve proved many times that I’m not a doctor. I just don’t know what the next step is.”
“He’s trying to manage it. He is a part of the team, but he wants to participate, he wants to play and he’s just trying to get healthy enough to get out there and go. It’s similar to what he had last year, but it’s been fixed, but it’s still causing him issues. I know I’m speaking in general terms, mostly because I don’t really understand exactly what it is. I know hew wasn’t able to play and he comes out there and practices for a little bit, and then it fatigues him and he just can’t continue to get better. This week, we’ll see how he feels and how he does, and if he’s cleared,” Fuente said.
While Sean Savoy has played well in the slot, CJ Carroll is one of Virginia Tech’s top 3 receivers, and the Hokies’ offense has been hurt by his absence. Carroll had developed into a reliable slot receiver for the Hokies, and VT could run some exciting four-receiver sets if Carroll was healthy with Cam Phillips, Savoy, and Eric Kumah.
Going forward, the Hokies’ offense could use a healthy CJ Carroll though with the ACC Championship no longer being a possibility, Justin Fuente may take a more conservative approach to focus on making sure Carroll fully recovers from this injury.
Obviously, the situation is less than ideal for Carroll and though he wants to get back on the field, it doesn’t appear that his foot will let him get back out there soon. The longer this lingers, the more that Fuente will have to consider shutting Carroll down for the season and focusing on getting his foot healed.
Virginia Tech is Pursing a Medical Redshirt for Drake Deiuliis
After making a surprising debut against Boston College, Drake Deiuliis was expected to have a role on offense going forward primarily as a wide receiver this season. However, Deiuliis picked up a hamstring injury during Virginia Tech’s bye week.
Now, the Hokies are pursuing a medical redshirt for him.
“I do believe we’ll be able to get a redshirt,” Fuente said. “He played in the Boston College, pulled his hamstring in the bye week, then worked hard to get back, and then re-injured it. It’s just one of those deals. We were preparing to move forward with him playing a role in what we’re doing. He’s pretty frustrated and upset about it, and I’m just trying to get him back.”
Deiuliis has had a wild few weeks going from being redshirted to making his debut at Boston College to suffering a hamstring injury and the re-injuring it to the point where VT has decided to pursue a medical redshirt for him. For Deiuliis, there’s no way that this can’t be “frustrating” as Justin Fuente said, but the medical redshirt takes away the pressure to return and allows him to focus on injury recovery.
While the injury is unfortunate, the fact that Deiuliis only played one game and is a shoe-in for a medical redshirt is very fortunate. Preserving all four years of Deiuliis’s eligibility in a season where his role was likely to be minor will be something that VT should benefit from in the future. In the meantime, Deiuliis will now be able to focus on getting his hamstring 100% and simply improving his own game once he returns to full strength.