On Saturday, Virginia Tech kicks off its 2016 season at 12:30 pm as it hosts FCS foe Liberty. What areas stand out and what are Fuente's thoughts on playing an FCS team? He addressed that and more this week on the teleconference.
Check out the video above and the full transcript below:
FUENTE: Our kids are awfully excited to play. I'm excited personally to open up the season right here in Blacksburg.
We had a good camp. I like the way our kids have approached everything we've asked them to do since we've been here. We still have a lot of improvement left to do as we go through this season. But we're all awfully anxious to get to play on Saturday.
Q. Are you a guy who addresses the issue of FBS versus FCS about not taking an opponent lightly or do you stress how important each Saturday is?
FUENTE: We make sure we address it. On any given week we try to make sure the focus is on ourselves, our preparation, the things that we can control.
At some point we do have to acknowledge the team we're playing. I think it's important that we understand what we're up against. I've drawn on eight years of experience at that level. I understand what it's like for those kids that are getting ready to play at Virginia Tech, I understand what it's like for that coaching staff.
We've talked about it a little bit in terms of preparing this week to play a game.
Q. It sounds like Bucky Hodges is almost exclusively a wide receiver, Chris is playing more of the H back position. How are you using Bucky and how have you split that up?
FUENTE: Well, Bucky is going to do both, like he's usually done. He's going to play some at wideout and move some in at tight end. That's the advantage of having a guy like that.
Q. As you enter your first game taking the field with Virginia Tech, what is something that if you see it on Saturday you'll be very pleased out of your team, and what's something that would concern you?
FUENTE: Well, I think the first game of the year there's always concern in terms of playing smart. You hear coaches talking about first game mistakes. We have tried to go to the Nth degree in terms of addressing those things leading up to the first game, whether it's alignment technique, discipline on special teams, on offense or defense.
For me, that's what I want to see us do. I'll be pretty pleased if I see us minimize those first game things that can sometimes plague football teams. If we can minimize those things, we will have gotten our point across, guys have listened, I'll be excited about that. If we don't, obviously we didn't do a go job of getting those points across.
All that being said, there's going to be some guys playing college football for the first time. Hopefully we've done a great job preparing those guys. There is no substitute for actually playing. There will be a few of those things out there that occur that are young-guy mistakes.
Q. This may fall in the category of the first game thing. When you're installing an offense like yours that moves at the tempo it does, you're working with players that have never run it before, how challenging is it to make sure you get guys in and out of the game, personnel groupings?
FUENTE: We try to come up with a number of players that we feel comfortable playing, then adapt what we're doing and the game plan around those guys.
Some places, sometimes in my career, it's been 18 or 19 guys. In some places it's been 12 or 13 guys. Whatever that number is for us, we'll try and craft that to fit whatever we need to do to try and win the ballgame.
When you install an offense, it doesn't matter what it is. There are a lot of good offenses out there. The two keys are, can you mold it to fit the personnel that you have and can you fix it when it goes wrong. To me, that's our challenge, installing a new verbiage and a new system with these guys.
Q. When you're looking at a guy like Mook Reynolds, he's worked a lot with Cody Grimm, how important has Cody's presence been with Nick's development?
FUENTE: Yeah, I think it's been good to have Cody along. Obviously he's played the position. He played it at a high level. Some people would say that Cody maximized his athletic ability. He was an intelligent football player, a hard-nosed, tough player that got the most out of what he had.
That position takes some savvy. I mean, you got to be able to play in space, play some coverage techniques, you got to be able to play in the box. You got to be a pretty darn heady football player to play in that spot. It's always nice to have somebody that's done it and has done it at a high level and can communicate to the guy that's currently doing that. I think Cody has done a good job of doing that.
Q. How much with Jerod, if you saw this from him in the game, are you giving him the job for the long run at this point?
FUENTE: I will have to answer that with, we'll have to see how it goes. Long leash, short leash. Jerod is not going out there looking over his shoulder. If he were to come out for a series, it doesn't mean he's not going to go back in. There's some value in taking a guy out, putting another guy in, letting the guy you took out see it from the sidelines, see it from that perspective a little bit.
We're not going into the game saying that's going to happen. How it's going to go or which way it's going to go, I'm just not sure. But Jerod, and we've had these discussions, he's not looking over his shoulder worried about getting jerked out of the game. We'll just kind of see how it goes, see how he handles things, kind of progress from there.
Q. It's only been a couple of practices since you made that announcement. How has he handled himself as he's been officially the starter?
FUENTE: I'd say it's very similar to how he's been since he's been here. He's worked incredibly hard on and off the field to learn what's going on. It's very important to him to be a good player, to continue to improve on his skill set.
I haven't seen a huge difference. He may be a little more comfortable out there. I don't know that it's really perceivable to the naked eye.
Q. What was your level of involvement with the defense during camp?
FUENTE: I learned this lesson working for Gary Patterson at TCU. Gary was very involved with the defense, called the defense, very involved with the game planning. He gave us a broad structure of what he expected on offense, but never once did he come in and tell us what to do, how to do it. It didn't mean he didn't ask questions about why we were doing something or what we were doing.
I've taken that same approach throughout my entire career. At Memphis, Barry Odom as coordinator, he was the head coach of the defense, the offensive coordinator is the head coach of the offense, I'm the head coach of the team. We've taken that same approach with Bud.
I figured it was good enough for Coach Patterson at TCU, it's good enough for me. Let him go with it.
Cornelson is running the offense, Bud is running the defense, Shebist is running the special teams and I'm in charge of the whole thing.
We have good conversations about it, but I do not believe in micromanaging the opposite side of the ball, so...
Q. When you kept Bud and Charley on the staff, was there any concern in the back of your mind how guys who had been here for 20 some years would blend with this new staff? Based on the results, have you been impressed with how seamless that transition has been?
FUENTE: That is so important to the staff, obviously it crossed my mind. It's something that we talked about. I talked to Charley and I talked to Bud about blending with these guys, making sure we understood how things were going to work, kind of laid out the ground rules, I guess you could say if you wanted to.
But the more I got to know each of them, the more confident I was that it was actually going to be a perfect fit. And it absolutely has been. Both groups of guys, our entire staff has gotten along incredibly well, works well together, can work well together even if they disagree, with those conversations, act on them, be incredibly professional at the same time.