Justin Fuente and a few players spoke to the media yesterday as Virginia Tech intensifies their preparations for their season opener against Florida State. Here are a few highlights from their comments to the media.
Justin Fuente Address Declining VA HS Football Participation
One of the biggest storylines in sports within the Commonwealth has been the decline in participating in high school football. The decline in participation has been highlighted by the cancellation of varsity football season by multiple non-rural high schools including Manassas Park and Park View high schools. In addition, the VHSL Director revealed earlier today in an interview with the Roanoke Times that the return of 8-man football is being considered in 2019 for schools struggling to field a full team.
When asked about the declining participation, Justin Fuente had this to say.
Across the sport, we've seen changes made to try to make the game safer and sustainable whether that's putting age minimums for kids playing tackle football or the creation of personal foul penalties on helmet-to-helmet hits. However, there's still plenty of concerns regarding the safety of football with the impact of the concussion crisis starting to be felt on the sport's participation at lower levels.
As a university, Virginia Tech has been on the leading edge of helmet research with the hopes of encouraging the design of safer helmets that can at least play a part in making the game of football safer at all levels while also giving football programs the information to know which helmets are the safest.
While we have seen some extreme statements from other head coaches this offseason like UNC's Larry Fedora, Justin Fuente is living in reality knowing that the game of football does have to evolve for the future of the game.
Situational Work Being Emphasized More Than Normal in Practice
As Virginia Tech approaches their first game week of the season, the Hokies have been starting to focus on situational work in practice. However, Justin Fuente told the media that the Hokies have spent a little more time on situational work this year than they have in the past.
The fact that the Hokies have a returning starter at quarterback for the first time in the Justin Fuente is likely one of the top reasons why Fuente has been able to focus on more situational work. In addition, the Hokies also have an offense that only lost three starters from last year's team, likely meaning that instead of using camp to teach the base offense, Fuente and his staff should be building on a solid foundation even with an offense that is still relatively young.
Of course, part of the reason for the increased situational work may be the fact that the Hokies open this season with a high-profile conference game instead of a non-conference game even against a higher profile opponent like West Virginia. Even though a loss to Florida State wouldn't destroy the Hokies' hopes of winning the ACC Coastal, it would decrease the margin for error they have against a Miami team ranked in the top 10 to start this season.
While Fuente did emphasize that the Hokies have also worked on their base offense, it's appears that Virginia Tech has a stronger base philosophical foundation than they have had in previous seasons.
Frank Beamer's Special Teams Legacy Lives On
Oscar Bradburn was never coached or recruited by Frank Beamer, but Beamer's legacy on special teams has continued to live on and be impossible to not notice.
Of course, Justin Fuente has encouraged that legacy by making special teams a priority and honoring Beamer with the #25 jersey which has also become a great tool for motivating special teams players and unifying the team as a whole.
Bradburn has also lived up to the standard after emerging as one of the ACC's top punters last season averaging 42.4 yards per punt with 32 fair catches. In addition, Bradburn was consistant at getting impressive hang time that helped make VT's punt coverage unit one of the best in America.
Frank Beamer may not be the Hokies' head coach, but his special teams legacy is living on through special teams coordinator James Shibest, Oscar Bradburn, and others.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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