Justin Fuente was tremendous this past week. He also was dead wrong about one thing.
On a video conference call with reporters, the Virginia Tech football coach was uncharacteristically forthcoming when talking about the challenges of playing in a pandemic.
Fuente admitted to being a “basket case” as his long-term plans constantly have had to change. He outlined his frustration with all the uncertainty of roster construction and the lack of clear guidelines for postponements in the face of COVID-19.
All great stuff. Valid concerns.
But then Fuente really stepped in it.
He was talking about how position-specific his sport is, how vulnerable a football team would be if a certain position were to get decimated by the virus or injury or a combination of the two.
“You can’t line up your offensive linemen at DB, obviously,” he said.
Well, not with THAT attitude.
Offensive linemen, unite! Your year is 2020. Why can’t you line up at defensive back? Why can’t you take a few snaps under center?
Who has the authority to limit you?
Just imagine former All-American center Jake Grove, who maybe had the nastiest on-field attitude of any offensive player in Tech history, delivering some hits at middle linebacker.
Center Jim Pyne became the first dude in program history to win the Dudley Award in 1993. That trophy goes to the most outstanding player in the commonwealth — at any position. Let’s give him a shot at free safety.
Sure, Eugene Chung weighed 300 pounds. But he also was an All-American. Give him some snaps at QB and watch the magic ensue.
Duane Brown was a tight end before he became a first round NFL Draft choice as a tackle. Think he couldn’t play a little defensive end in a pinch? You tell him that.
And few sights would be better than seeing offensive tackle Blake DeChristopher — who spent his decorated career at Tech selflessly creating holes for Ryan Williams, David Wilson and Darren Evans — take a handoff himself and thunder his 299-pound frame toward the goal line.
Tackle eligible, indeed.
Hey, look. In 2020, offensive linemen already are getting more appreciation than they normally do. The Big-12 Conference announced its cancellation thresholds Friday, declaring that a team must have 53 available players.
Among that 53, only three positions have minimal thresholds, according to the Big-12. You’ve got to have at least one healthy quarterback, four defensive linemen and seven (7!) offensive linemen to play. They’re more essential than anybody, in other words.
So if we’re moving all these big fellas outside of the trenches, you might be wondering who will block for them. Simple. You call yourself an “all-purpose” back? We’re repurposing you. You were recruited as an “athlete?” Good news. We found you a spot among the big uglies.
And if there aren’t enough players to do that, there’s just one more 2020-only rule we need to implement.
Flirting with perfection
Shh. Nobody say anything to Bronco Mendenhall. Don’t make eye contact with the UVa coach. Certainly don’t mention to him that he’s working on a perfect game.
But he is.
UVa’s athletic department released its latest COVID-19 testing results on Friday. Get a load of this paragraph:
“The UVa football team reported no new positive tests. There have been no positive test results for the football program, which has tested 117 student-athletes, since the July 24 report.”
Of course, you can’t go this deep into a perfect game without a lot of help. The players themselves obviously have been backing Mendenhall with remarkable off-the-field responsibility.