Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
After a 45-10 beatdown at the hands of Duke, the question is no longer whether Virginia Tech has serious problems as a program. That is now a given. The new question is, what will the Hokies do to solve it?
For head coach Justin Fuente, it starts with establishing an offensive identity. He said as much in his postgame press conference last Friday.
“I would say that, like any good offense, you have to have an identity and we’re struggling to find that identity,” Fuente said. “We’re inconsistent in the run game, we’re inconsistent in the pass game. It’s a combination of all of those things that we have got to find a way to get a handle on.”
It became apparent against Duke that Fuente was right. Despite starting multiple drives in Duke territory in the first quarter, Virginia Tech came away with just three points.
That made them much more susceptible to big swings such as the turnover in the second quarter. If the offense is not executing, a turnover that costs 7 points can completely change the complexion of the game.
“Last week, in no area were we consistent, nor were we able to execute on a consistent basis in any of the three phases,” Fuente said. “That’s very disappointing, and that’s my responsibility 100 percent.”
So what’s the answer? When Fuente was asked whether personally taking over some playcalling duties may help, his response was quite candid.
“That’s not what’s needed,” Fuente said. “I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there that think that they know all the answers and that they’re right, but being inside of it every single day, that’s not the answer.”
Instead, he feels that smaller changes will be more practical and effective. One specific issue that Fuente and his staff will need to answer is who will play quarterback. Right now, it could be Ryan Willis, Hendon Hooker, or a combination of both.
“I would say that all things are open to be considered right now,” Fuente said when asked about the possibility of a QB rotation.
Another big question for the Hokies is their line play. On offense, both run and pass blocking have left a lot to be desired, and starting offensive guard Lecitus Smith knows that.
“To me personally, I would want [our identity] to be mean and rugged,” Smith said. “We say hard, smart, and tough, you know, we need to get that hard and that tough going.”
As far as the line is concerned, a lot of that comes with experience. Coach Vance Vice has talked a lot about consistency on his unit despite the fact that he uses a rotation. Smith thinks that the team is improving in that area.
“As far as chemistry, I feel like it’s definitely getting better,” Smith said. “We just need to communicate at 100 percent.”
One thing that will help Virginia Tech is getting some of their skill players back to full strength. Damon Hazelton caught a 72-yard touchdown pass in his first game of the season, but he was not ready to celebrate one play because of the loss.
“I know I’ve still got it,” Hazelton said. “I’m not worried about that. I’d rather win.”
At a time when the Hokies are searching for an identity, that mentality may be just what they need. Hazelton said the team needs to focus on their own responsibilities and let the coaches deal with the bigger picture.
“All I try to do is continue to encourage on and off the field, and run the plays that are called,” Hazelton said. “It's not really up to me to decide... I just try to go execute.”