Written by Brian Pohl
Charlotte, NC- Prior to the start of the 2018 college football season, the Virginia Tech Hokies addressed the media at the ACC Kickoff to discuss offseason roster attrition, continuing the blue-collar culture left by Frank Beamer, and a season-opening ACC matchup against Florida State.
Heading into the third season under head coach Justin Fuente, the Hokies are looking to build on 19 wins the previous two years. To do so, whoever, Fuente must replace key starters on both offense and defense.
When asked about the roster changes and inserting young position players Fuente said, “It’s a tremendous challenge, but I love it. I think our players will embrace it.” He continued, “There’s no sense in us just dipping our toe in the shallow end. We might as well cannonball in the deep end, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Along with Fuente, the Hokies brought along redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson and senior defensive tackle Ricky Walker to also address the media. Both players expressed excitement about new position players that will have a major impact on the upcoming season.
Offensively, Jackson talked about his young receiving corps and whom he feels will make an impact, “Got a lot of confidence [in them]. I know they’re young, but Sean Savoy, Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson, [and Eric] Kumah.” He then singled out Ball State transfer Damon Hazelton as a new name that will have a big influence on the Hokies.
On defense, Walker was excited about their new young linebacker group stating Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby as two guys he can’t wait to see because of the leaders they learned from last year. The Hokies are returning just three starters on the defensive side of the ball but according to Walker, “As long as [defensive coordinator] Bud Foster is in Blacksburg, I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Coach Fuente was then asked about how he has been able to make the transition as seamless as possible following Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer’s departure. He answered, “Well, people have often asked me about how to follow a Hall of Fame coach, and my answer is pretty simple, is be really careful about the Hall of Fame coach you choose to follow.” Fuente also noted that coach Beamer’s support has allowed the team to avoid unnecessary distractions that has allowed the transition to go so smoothly.
The Hokies will have a difficult challenge out of the gate when they travel down to Tallahassee, Florida to take on the Florida State Seminoles. Ricky Walker was asked about the game and what it means to him saying, “It’s exciting. You know, growing up you want to play in those kinds of big games. Florida State, it gets no better. Great fan base, great tradition, Doak Campbell Stadium, Monday night. It gets no better than that.”
The game will be the first time Virginia Tech has played Florida State in 2012 and the first in Tallahassee since 2008. Although this is the first time these programs have squared off in several years, it won’t be unfamiliar territory for the head coaches. Coach Fuente has a long history with new FSU head coach Willie Taggart that dates back to their playing days.
Fuente on their history, “I’ve known Willie for a long time. We played against each other. He was at quarterback at Western Kentucky and I was the quarterback at Murray State a long time ago.”
Coach Fuente and Taggart have also faced each other several times as coaches, but Fuente anticipates this one will be different saying, “I don’t know that you’ll be able to glean anything from those previous experiences.”
The 2018 college football season will be a difficult test for Virginia Tech in the third season of coach Fuente’s tenure, but if they are able to meet the challenge, the Hokies will be set up for future success with a lot of young talent.