When Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente was entering his third season at Memphis, he had just 7 wins to his name in two seasons on the job still needing to prove to his employers that he could turn the program around.
He responded with a 10-win season that culminated in a thrilling Miami Beach Bowl win over BYU that helped them finish ranked No. 25 in the AP poll. And at that moment Fuente vaulted from offensive innovator who still needed to validate his standing as a head coach to one of the brightest young coaching minds in football.
A year later, after winning another 9 games in his fourth season at Memphis, Fuente parlayed his success into the job at Virginia Tech and now he enters his third season with the Hokies under entirely different auspices.
Virginia Tech has won 19 games in Fuente’s first two seasons and is already in an inherently better position under Fuente than they were in the twilight years of the Frank Beamer era, where they averaged just over 7 wins per seasons in the final four years under the legendary coach.
For that reason, Fuente doesn’t face the same kind of pressure as he may have at Memphis, where he was ostensibly coaching for his job. However, a program that is hungry to compete for the conference crown and everything that comes with it is still hoping to see a fairly sizable bump in 2018.
And the single most encouraging aspect of their prospective growth is the strides that the Memphis offense made in Fuente’s third year at the helm. The Tigers went from No. 111 in the country in scoring offense with 19.5 points per game to No. 22 in the nation in scoring offense with 36.2 points per game from 2013 to 2014.
That year-over-year improvement was largely the byproduct of Paxton Lynch’s improvement. From his freshman to his sophomore year, he improved in every notable statistical category, throwing for 975 more yards, 13 more touchdowns and 1 fewer interception while increasing his completion percentage by 4.5 percent and his yards per pass attempt by 1.4 yards per attempt.
Given that Virginia Tech also employed a freshman quarterback in 2017, that bodes well for Fuente and the Hokies. Josh Jackson is further along than Lynch was at this stage in his career, with a passer rating nearly 25 points higher than the eventual first round pick had in his freshman season.
So while it might not be reasonable to expect similar statistical jumps for Jackson based on where he start, the likelihood of improvement within Fuente’s offense seems high. And a competitive quarterback room significantly mitigates the concern over regression because if Jackson is taken by complacency he runs the risk of losing his job.
With Bud Foster ensuring consistency on the defensive side of the football, Virginia Tech can make up a lot of ground on their ACC rivals by becoming the more efficient offense Fuente would consider ideal. And while nothing is guaranteed, history certainly seems to indicate that things begin to click for this offense in its third season.
Between his redshirt season and his 2017 season as a starter, Jackson, the son of a 40-year coaching veteran, undoubtedly knows every nuance of this playbook. With technical improvements, he’ll be significantly better in 2018 and the rest of the offense should be as well, setting up another big third season for Fuente.
That’s why he preemptively named Jackson the starter while simultaneously making it clear he’ll be challenged by Ryan Willis, Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson. So for Virginia Tech fans concerned that Jackson didn’t give the Hokies enough in 2017, give it time.
We’ve got every reason to believe Fuente will have his quarterback ready for a breakout season in 2018. History is on his side.
The post Justin Fuente has history on his side in Year 3 at Virginia Tech appeared first on Diehards.
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