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Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente spoke with the assembled ACC media for his regular teleconference yesterday. Here's what he had to say.
JUSTIN FUENTE: Was pleased with last week's performance. Kids did a good job handling everything leading up to that game. Obviously we've turned our attention to a very talented and well-coached Clemson team for our ACC opener. We've had a good week of preparation thus far, and I'm looking forward to continuing it the rest of the week.
Q. Morning, coach. I'm wondering if you could give us a little scouting report on their defensive line, and particularly Clelin Ferrell, No. 99, what makes him effective?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, I tell you, scouting report on their entire defensive line is big, aggressive, fast, physical. They're both equally disruptive in the run game and the pass game. I think it's the strength of their defense, and they've got some really good players in the secondary and at linebacker. So it's incredibly talented from front to back. But those defensive linemen are pretty special.
Q. As you look at that secondary, I know they've got some guys who have been in and out and dinged up. What do you see in the secondary in terms of the talent level and what they're doing back there?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, Clemson has been recruiting at a pretty high level for several years now. So they've got good players across the board and great depth. I see guys in the back end that are aggressive and well coached and physically talented, understand their scheme. They're part of the reason they're only giving up six points to a team like Auburn. I mean, they're pretty darn good.
Q. Good morning, Coach. This is really the first big game for Josh Jackson. How have you seen him this week? What has his approach been? Does he still seem to be the same sort of calm character that we saw in his first start at West Virginia?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, I thought the first game was a pretty big game. Pretty fantastic atmosphere against another quality opponent. Obviously Clemson is defending national champions. I'm certainly not comparing those two schools, but he played well in the first big game. I've seen his preparation remain the same throughout our first four weeks. I was anticipating he'd continue throughout the season.
Q. He looks calm and collected this week and doesn't seem like he's overcome by the game or anything?
JUSTIN FUENTE: No, I haven't seen anything out of character for Josh. Obviously we all know and recognize that we have a tremendous challenge in front of us, but I haven't seen any change in Josh's demeanor or preparation.
Q. You probably would have been surprised if you had, I take it?
JUSTIN FUENTE: I would have been, yeah. I mean, he's a pretty level-headed kid. Takes everything in stride, the good with the bad. I mean, I think he fully understands the challenge that's in front of him and he's going to do his best to have a great week of preparation and try to play as solid a game as he can.
Q. How much of a measuring stick is playing Clemson specifically for where you want your program to be?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, I don't know. I kind of was asked that last year too in the ACC championship game. Clemson is one of the elite teams in all of America right now. There is really no debating that. It's our first conference game, our conference opener. It's one game in our season. So we're anxious to go play. We're excited to play this game at home and see how things go. But I don't know. I haven't really talked to our guys about measuring ourselves versus anybody else other than our own best.
Q. How much do you think it helps the conference overall that there are so many strong teams in the coastal division right now? Nationally the media is always talking about Florida State-Clemson, and this year we're talking about Virginia Tech right now and you guys have the biggest game in the country this week on Saturday? How much does that help the conference? What does it say about it?
JUSTIN FUENTE: I think a rising tide floats all boats. I think good coaches and good athletes are all across this conference. I wouldn't bury Florida State just yet. I wouldn't be surprised to see them win a bunch of games this year. And the season's early. We're only four games into it. But we take all of that stuff with a grain of salt and just try to move forward. But I certainly think having good teams helps the profile of the league as a whole.
Q. I know that your staff, your offensive staff, really prides itself on modifying your offense to the talents of the quarterback that you have. You're coaching your third different quarterback in three years. How would you distill down in layman's terms what you guys do to try to figure out what your quarterback strengths and weaknesses are, and how they'll fit into what kind of scheme you want to run?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Yeah, I think it starts with our offensive coordinator, and quarterback coach, Brad Cornelson. I think he has a really unique gift, and a great gift for evaluation and is able to not always do the same things we've done in the past just because we they used to work. But try to craft those things to fit the players' talent level. For instance, comparing Paxton to Jarrod, I think Brad made an early kind of evaluation that Jarrod was a pretty darn good inside runner, and we didn't feel as comfortable standing back there in the pocket for long periods of time with him as we did with Paxton the year before. So trying to tweak those things to fit those guys' skillset, while still trying to develop the things that they may not be good at, but trying to put those guys in a position to succeed. So in short, I would say it starts with our offensive coordinator. He has a unique eye for evaluation and talent, and the ability to think a little bit outside the box to mold what we're trying to accomplish to those guys' skillsets.
Q. Just as a quick follow-up. If you were to build a perfect quarterback for your system, what would it look like?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, I don't know. To me it's a guy that can make decisions and handle the ups and downs of the game and have some anticipation. Certainly there is a talent level that's got to be there, but we tend to have guys with different skillsets. We can't just always recruit the same cookie cutter guys. So, you know, we'd like a big, strong guy that can throw the ball and is athletic, but I think more importantly we're looking for guys that can make decisions under duress, can keep their head about themselves, have enough self-confidence to battle through the ups and downs of the game, and then have a little bit of savvy or awareness, or anticipation that kind of lets them make very quick decisions and very stressful environments.
Q. Coach, good afternoon. Mike mentioned game day hasn't been there since 2007. So what are you hoping to maybe showcase about your program in this big game atmosphere to the rest of the country?
JUSTIN FUENTE: Well, I think it's a fantastic opportunity for us to not just show off our football program but our school. There is a tremendous amount of school pride here at Virginia Tech. I think that will be on display Saturday morning and throughout the day and into the game. I'd like for people to see a young football team that is on the rise and fighting and scratching and clawing for everything that they can get. I think we play an attractive style of football on both sides of the ball. We have a culture of people that value those same things are attracted to. Hard work and trying to do things the right way. So hopefully people will be able to see that through their television sets.
Q. I was curious if you revisited Adonis Alexander's situation and made a decision on his availability this week?
JUSTIN FUENTE: No final decision. Still kind of working through some things and should know more as we get a little bit later in the week.