Justin Fuente was the offensive coordinator at TCU when Andy Dalton led the Horned Frogs to their first and only Rose Bowl victory. Fuente then coached at Memphis and helped Paxton Lynch become a first-round NFL draft pick.
Fuente was a quarterback guru, an offensive coach who developed quarterbacks and got the most out of their talent when they played for him in college. When Fuente was hired as Virginia Tech’s head coach and the successor to legendary head coach Frank Beamer, it was felt that the Hokies had a coach who would lead them into the modern age, developing offenses and passing games with creativity and flair.
The fact that Fuente failed as Virginia Tech’s head coach is somewhat surprising, but the big shock attached to his failure is that it occurred because the Hokies’ offense, particularly their quarterback play, did not rise to a remotely good standard.
Virginia Tech’s defenses were not incredible, and they had some weaknesses, but Fuente was supposed to maximize offensive production. He didn’t just fail to achieve that; he didn’t come anywhere close. The offense, more than the defense, took down his program. That is something no one expected. Now the program starts over, and everyone is waiting to see if a defense-first coach brings the Hokies back to the level of status fans think they should attain.
How The Team Changed This Offseason
Coach Brent Pry takes over for Fuente after previously serving as the defensive coordinator for Penn State under head coach James Franklin. Pry’s Penn State defenses were excellent. They enabled the Nittany Lions to be supremely competitive in a cutthroat Big Ten Conference against elite schools such as Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This was true even though Penn State’s offense cratered for portions of the past two seasons, and the Lions’ offensive line became a disaster. Pry comes to Virginia Tech knowing that he can do a good job on defense. It’s on the offensive side of the ball where Pry has to show he can lead a whole program, not just a good defense. Pry’s recruiting is a big piece of the puzzle, but his ability to hire offensive staffers who can develop offensive players is the biggest single point of uncertainty surrounding his tenure. It will be fascinating to see how that tension point is tested and responded to under Brent Pry’s watch.
Virginia Tech Will Be Successful If…
Pry finds a way to make the offense functional. Fans aren’t expecting miracles or dramatic transformations in Year 1. Virginia Tech needs enough of an offense, however, to compete in the ACC Coastal Division. The offense needs to find big-play capability and ball-control competence in equal measure so that the Hokies’ defense is not overwhelmed and doesn’t feel it has to do the whole job itself.
Virginia Tech Will Disappoint If…
The defensive line isn’t outstanding. The offense is a significant limitation on this team and its capabilities, so the defense has to carry most of the freight for the Hokies. The defensive line has to stand tall and prevent opposing teams from establishing the run and controlling the tempo of each contest. If the Hokies get blown off the ball at the line of scrimmage, this year will become very ugly for them.
The One Best Virginia Tech Hokies Bet Is…
Regular season win total: 6.5 wins
There are simply too many question marks with this team, and too many good offenses in the ACC Coastal Division, to expect Tech to win seven or more games. Take the under in terms of the NCAAF odds for the regular season win total.