Virginia Tech football: Justin Fuente discusses the transfer portal & 2021 recruiting

The transfer portal hit Virginia Tech hard after the 2018 season with numerous players entering the great unknown. In most cases, it was more addition than subtraction, while in some cases it was players entering the portal only to return to Virginia Tech.

Well, that’s not going to happen in 2020, per head coach Justin Fuente.

Virginia Tech fans went wild on Wednesday when Fuente, discussing the class of 2020, said players who entered the transfer portal would not be welcomed back.

Ok, then.

The perception was Fuente himself flirted with the Baylor job last month, only deciding to remain at Virginia Tech. We will likely never know if Fuente was actually offered the job or not, but the alleged hypocrisy made Virginia Tech fans, as well as some of those in the media, furious.

Well, if you actually listened to Fuente’s comments they weren’t exactly as strong as the headlines indicated. While the head coach did say anyone who entered the portal in January would not be back, he also said things like this would be decided on a case-by-case basis. In no way did Fuente say anyone who ever entered the portal would never be welcomed back to the team.

Fuente doesn’t always do well in these types of settings. Not because he doesn’t speak well or isn’t able to handle himself, but sometimes because he is too tight-lipped. Fans—and the media—get frustrated with him.

On Wednesday, Fuente did open up a bit about the portal. He mentioned how he made a mistake last offseason not educating the players on the changes the NCAA had made regarding the portal and he discussed that with the team this time. Regarding this offseason’s portal entries, Fuente didn’t really get into detail if that was solely his decision or a mutually-agreed upon decision between himself and the player involved.

So, the headlines grabbed people’s attention, as they are prone to do, but—like anything— requires context. In speaking with the media on Wednesday, Fuente offered more context on not only the transfer portal but the class of 2021, too.

Many coaches don’t publicly acknowledge the most obvious things at times. Anyone around the Virginia Tech program knows the class of 2021 is an absolutely critical recruiting class for the Hokies on a variety of fronts.

Fuente acknowledged this, per hokiesports.com:

It’ll be larger in numbers, obviously. I think it’s got a chance to be the most important class in some time at Virginia Tech. Our aim is to have it be an elite class, and we’re off to a great start. We’ve still got lot of work to do. I do think we’re in great position with people that we’ve been developing relationships with for a long time. So I’m incredibly optimistic.

It’s clear the coach realizes the Hokies have to do a much better job on the recruiting trail over the next year or he may begin to feel the heat. Generally, a coach isn’t going to pinpoint a specific recruiting class as critical a year ahead of time. Fuente did, while also speaking with confidence.

Many of the changes after Bud Foster’s retirement were done with recruiting in mind. Defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton was promoted to replace Foster for a variety of reasons, notably his youth and energy. Adam Lechtenberg replaced Zohn Burden as running backs coach and has already made waves in Texas.

Darryl Tapp and Bill Teerlinck combined to replace Charley Wiles with an emphasis on bringing in better talent on the defensive line. Not just better talent, but bigger bodies, too. The early returns are good there, with the signings of Robert Wooten, Alec Bryant and Justin Beadles in December. The hope is Tapp and Teerlinck’s NFL pedigrees will also help things. Tapp also happens to be from the ‘757’.

New cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith, who came to the Hokies from JMU and played at William & Mary, is a young coach with recruiting ties throughout the state.

Back to the transfer portal, it is important to remember these coaches are working with 85 scholarships. There is attrition every year and if you are already over the number or close to the number, bringing kids back is not always an option once they’ve indicated plans to look around. Don’t blame the schools or the players. It’s a rule that is wreaking havoc throughout college football and is not going to get better anytime soon.

Too often, these kids get bad information thinking they will transfer and start somewhere else. When, in fact, no other school is invested in them as much as their current school and Fuente noted this in his press conference.

Fuente has earned the criticism on numerous levels over the last couple of years. Wednesday was not one of those days. Fans should relax. The Hokies need to win on the field in 2020 and, if that happens, the 2021 class should indeed be a good one. If not, well, things could get interesting.

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Author:

Bryan D. Manning

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