Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
The Inside The Lunch Pail Mailbag returns this week and unsurprisingly, most of the questions focus on the future of Justin Fuente and the outlook of the season after last Friday's blowout loss to Duke.
Just a reminder, you can send your questions directly to us at our email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can tweet them at us.
With that said, let's get to this week's questions.
Many “historic” football programs have had that one year in their recent history that is just downright bad. With that in mind would you say some of us fans are overreacting to our “bad” year?— Avery (@Abrugh94) October 2, 2019
Yes, it is possible that this is just a bad year for whatever reason. The roster is definitely still young, but that talking point doesn't really carry much weight given the fact that Virginia Tech returned around 15 starters from last year's team. That's a pretty good number and should lead to improvement the following season.
However, the red flags that have been raised this season suggest deeper issues with the program rather than just one really bad start to a season.
First, we have once again seen QB play take another step back. Outside of maybe a small step forward in the first couple games from Josh Jackson to Ryan Willis, the QB play has continued to go in the wrong direction with Willis regressing more and more to the point where a QB change seems like the sensible move.
Second, the offense as a whole has continued to be very limited and has appeared to become more limited even for Ryan Willis since his impressive debut against Duke. This past week not only saw a failure to make adjustments but also a gameplan that was full of jet sweeps, interior runs, underneath passes, and screens that allowed Duke to keep everything in front of them while sitting in a bear defense. When VT did try to stretch the field, it didn't seem to be naturally wrinkled in but thrown out there for a series, something that most defensive coordinators see right through.
Third, there's either a lack of developing the talent on the roster or just a lot of poor evaluating. Yahoo's Pete Thamel had an interesting story this week that mentioned an opposing assistant coach feeling that this Tech defense lacks a single NFL player. Additionally, Thamel makes the claim that the Hokies lack assistants that other major programs would have interest in, a claim that reads like a well-sourced point from around the industry rather than a distant evaluation from a national writer.
Last, we saw this team appear to fold at the first sign of adversity. Unfortunately, it seems like this team folds more often than not when trouble and adversity comes especially over the past two years. Even during the first two years of the Fuente era, we saw some moments where adversity was handled well (Belk Bowl, Pitt goalline stand, near comeback against Clemson in ACC Championship), but also some moments where the team folded with none standing out more than the Battle at Bristol.
There are a lot of red flags and the biggest one is the fact that it doesn't seem like Fuente either has any answers to try to fix the issues or that the ones he's tried have already failed.
At this point, you have a coach on a hot seat with 8 games to show that he does have answers or else Whit Babcock will have a difficult $15 million decision to make that could have a significant impact on the future of Virginia Tech's football program.
What’s a realistic expectation Hokies should have regarding year end coaching moves? Ie everyone is let go, Fu stays but rehires new coaches on both staffs l, or only hires a new defensive staff.— Red Velvet (@BigRha3) October 1, 2019
Steve: When will the long-term damage to the VT brand that's currently happening become greater than the cost of Fuente's buyout?
I decided to lump these two questions together because they both get to the deeper issue, is a head coaching change in the realm of possibility. At this point, I do believe it's more than possible but far from a certainty because of the price of that buyout and the fact that Fuente did win 19 games in his first two seasons even if those were with players he mostly didn't recruit.
I don't have a good answer at this point but I will make one point about those saying it's a certainty Babcock won't. Many of those have simply pointed to the tweet he may this summer with a simple "No" in regards to whether Fuente was on the hot seat.
For most of us, that made sense. Virginia Tech lost a lot of starters after the 2017 season and was a program in disarray in 2018. Most reasonable predictions based on having 15+ returning starters including an incumbent starting QB who was one of the ACC's best returners made a floor of 8-9 wins reasonable against a schedule that graded out as the weakest in Power 5 football.
I remember being asked in radio appearances and making the comment that 'this won't happen but if VT somehow only wins 4-5 games and regresses, then a change is definitely reasonable." At the time, I couldn't imagine VT would be looking like this and I bet Babcock didn't when he made his comment.
While I have no idea if Fuente can survive a 4-8 or 5-7 regressing season, I think that anyone who thinks Babcock's offseason tweet is an indication that a head coaching change is off the table should VT finish 5-7 or worse is wrong.
Our Mike McDaniel will also be giving his opinion on this as well (and his state of the program) very soon so we encourage you to give that a read as well to see some differing opinions on the matter.
Will Whit throw a bone to the fan base and bring back “STICK IT IN”?— belvoir_hokie (@belvoir_hokie) October 1, 2019
I don't expect to see the "Stick It In" chant back anytime soon or probably ever. The reasons why it went away previously haven't changed and if anything, it's less likely to come back now than it was in the immediate aftermath.
However, I do think that you may see Virginia Tech look at trying to make some gameday changes. The fact of the matter is how a gameday operation is run is a lot different than a football program and making changes, like giving both bands more time to play during games, can be done on the fly.
Additionally, we've already seen Virginia Tech make bigger gameday adjustments with the North End Zone wristbands and specific entrance into Lane. The fact that VT is willing to make a big change like that, even if some of it was due to a few safety concerns that were raised, is an indication that Virginia Tech is willing to make other, smaller changes that fans have been pushing for on social media.
Trevor: How many wins VT football have on November 30th compared to Virginia Tech men's basketball?
At this point, it's fair to believe that Virginia Tech men's basketball will have more wins than the football program. There's only two more games that I can imagine the Hokies being favored in with those games being Rhode Island and Georgia Tech. I have a hard time seeing the Hokies losing those games while even with my current view, I wouldn't be surprised if the Hokies found another win that is hard to predict in VT's favor currently.
Meanwhile, the men's basketball team has 4 easy non-conference games that they should win after their season opener against Clemson that is hard to imagine a victory in given all the new pieces. It's also hard to imagine Virginia Tech not leaving Maui with a victory given that even if they lose their first two games, they should end facing Chaminade and being able to pick up a fifth win.
Given what I've seen from the football team, I would have to go with men's basketball having a 5-4 advantage which is not something I could have imagined writing this time last year.
Steve: Over/under on Trevon Hill sack total this Saturday? I got him having 2 sacks.
I will set the line at 0.5 and I might take the over just because Trevon Hill will have a chip on his shoulder.
The thing is, Miami still has a very talented group of defensive ends and while Hill is talented in his own right, he has had to work in more of a rotation with the Hurricanes loaded DE unit. That will limit his opportunities and makes putting a larger over/under not something I could reasonably do.
Given the chip on his shoulder though, it wouldn't be surprising to see him go off especially if he's lined up against the right tackle spot that has been an issue for the Hokies. The stage is also there with this game being a 3:30 kickoff on ESPN that may have some extra eyeballs from those in the 757 because of some of the interesting storylines that connect to last year's ODU game and the 757 as a whole given the 757 talent on both sides.