Hokies bought into Fuentes plan

New coach instilled a belief in his players that they could compete for a title

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports—X02835
Nov 26

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech first-year football coach Justin Fuente isn’t one to make
promises, but he didn’t need to make any brash declarations to get the Hokies to
buy into his vision for the program. He had a plan for returning Tech to glory, but he needed a commitment from
his players to get it done. “The kids wanted to win and were willing to do whatever we asked them to,
under no guise of a guarantee,” Fuente said. “Kind of the way I put it to them
is, if we do all these things then we at least have a chance. If we don’t do
these things, then we have no chance, and the kids have bought into that and
have done a good job.” The 19th-ranked Hokies (9-3, 6-2) weren’t considered a championship
contender when practice started back in August, but they have exceeded
expectations by making it to Saturday’s ACC championship game, where they will
face No. 3 Clemson (11-1, 7-1) at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Tech won the Coastal Division and capped its regular season with a
resounding 52-10 home win over state rival Virginia on Saturday. It was the
Hokies’ 13th straight win over the Cavaliers. They have so much more they want to accomplish, however. “We didn’t just come to Virginia Tech to beat UVa. We came to win ACC
championships,” Hokies wide receiver Isaiah Ford said. Fuente, who replaced legendary coach Frank Beamer, instilled a belief in
his players that they could compete for a title. That doesn’t surprise Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who interviewed Fuente
for his team’s offensive coordinator position back in 2011. The two coaches have
stayed in touch — even after Swinney hired Chad Morris over Fuente — and
Fuente’s appointment at Tech caught the attention of Swinney. “I knew when they hired him that it wouldn’t take long for him to get them
back to this point,” Swinney said.