Practice report: Fuente wants toughness

Justin Fuente didn't take over a rebuilding job. He took over a program without any real foundation, one deprived of any tangible basis for winning football games.

Justin Fuente didn't take over a rebuilding job. He took over a program without any real foundation, one deprived of any tangible basis for winning football games.

It will most certainly take longer than one week of spring practice to establish that basis. But before he can build up a winning tradition, Fuente said his team must first learn how to practice to his liking.

"I think you see bits and pieces of them doing it correctly, they just haven't been able to sustain it yet," Fuente said. "The kids are trying, and they're trying to kinda learn the ways of this program now. That part's encouraging, but we've still got work to do."

Fuente doesn't want the quicker tempo to stop on the field, either. The first-year coach said he's not happy with small things like the urgency with which his team moves from meeting to meeting.

"It's everything. It's from special teams meeting to position meeting. We've gotta move faster," Fuente said. "We've just gotta get our work in faster. We can get more done in an allotted amount of time."

For Fuente, revamping the program from trivial matters like meetings all the way down to the nature and pace of practices is a vital step in the process. The next task on the first-time coach's checklist — and one of the more challenging ones — is instilling toughness in his group.

"We've gotta develop some toughness," he said. "Everybody gets lost in the fancy X's and O's, but this game is still about toughness. We've gotta establish some physicality and toughness."

Fuente inherits a team that's stumbled to a 5-31 record over the past three seasons, and one major cause of the program's recent failings is the lack of steady quarterback play.

It's a two-horse race for the starting quarterback position between Texas Tech transfer Jacob Karam and sophomore Taylor Reed, but Fuente declined to name a front-runner on Monday.

He said he's noticed some players separating themselves from the group, but that it's still too early in the year to name starters or standouts.

"Some guys are on different learning curves," Fuente said. "I don't think it's fair to judge anybody right now. It's not a big enough sample size. There are some guys who get it really quick that have some talent that you can pretty much figure out, but for the most part, everybody's heads are swimming and they don't know if they're zigging or zagging right now. Once that calms down as we get into spring, hopefully we'll be able to tell."


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