Monday Mail: Football Culture Turning the Corner, Basketball Recruits and More

Howdy Hokies, and welcome back to another edition of Monday Mail. We’re hitting the point of the year where there is little news to talk about, but if you dig deep enough you can find some potential nuggets that are actually pivotal moments.

I don’t want to spoil the questions for this week, so let’s get to it.

You’re not alone in this thought. Whether it’s real or not, there is a perceived vibe around the Virginia Tech football program that is much more positive than last season.

It’s odd for a program coming off its first losing season in ages. You’d expect the tone to be angry and vengeful. But instead, the perception is that Virginia Tech has weathered the losing and the transfers and has come out on the other end better than before.

Justin Fuente’s return to Twitter has been one signal. Fuente went silent in Sept. 2018 and didn’t tweet a single thing until March 29 of this year. His first tweet back? A get-together of him and former Tech players.

Since then, Fuente has joked with players, praised players for their conditioning and thanked former players for returning to Blacksburg. He even jokingly traded barbs with Dax Hollifield.

Players won’t dare say anything negative about the program publicly, but their talk about a different vibe in the locker room is noticeable.

“Last season, that wasn’t ‘LPD.’ We all know it,” sophomore defensive end TyJuan Garbutt told The Athletic. “That’s just a mindset we had to come together and realize. The defense has been here. It’s been here for years. It’s nothing Coach Foster is doing wrong or (defensive line) coach (Charley) Wiles. If anything, we needed to mature, step up and grow up. I feel like this season we are going to surprise a lot of people with that.”

“I feel like everybody’s all in,” Hollifield told The Athletic. “Everybody believes in each other. Like last year, I feel like on defense, I know that it wasn’t all one as a whole. It was just everybody trying to do their thing. But now it’s just like a big machine, just moving all the parts and moving together now.”

These aren’t the only comments, but they were readily available (if you have a subscription to The Athletic).  There’s a different vibe around the program now. It feels like this program has a fresh start.

Last season was tainted by the dismissal of Mook Reynolds, the ineligibility of Adonis Alexander, the midseason dismissal of Trevon Hill, the late-season transfers of Rico Kearney, Sean Savoy and so on and so forth. This winter felt like an exodus, as leading receiver Eric Kumah and tight end Chris Cunningham left via the transfer portal. In terms of culture and locker room vibe, Virginia Tech has come a long way since then.

I could be reading too much into this, but I don’t think that’s the case. The Hokies seemed to have rallied around Fuente and his staff, and that’s about as positive a development as one could ask for.

Whit Babcock is going to give Mike Young a pretty long leash, considering Young’s track record and what he’s currently working with.

To say Buzz Williams left very little for Young to build on would be a massive understatement. Even though Young secured Landers Nolley, he still is working with a middling roster that is going to struggle to compete in the ACC.

It took Young six years to finish with a better than .500 record in conference play at Wofford. It took seven years for him to make an NCAA Tournament. It was a long and arduous road, but Young eventually got Wofford to the top of the Big South Conference on a semi-regular basis.

Young won’t get six years to right the ship in Blacksburg, but he’ll get at least three seasons before Babcock seriously considers pulling the plug. Babcock would never hire a guy he didn’t plan on giving a real opportunity. He brought Young here because Young built a lasting winner at Wofford, not because he was a flash in the pan.

As I’ve written, I’m not sold on the Young hire. But he deserves at least three seasons to get Virginia Tech back in the NCAA Tournament. Tech is going to struggle mightily this season but if there’s noticeable growth over the next two years, Young will be allowed to finish the job.

Young has already secured two commitments — Landers Nolley and Hunter Cattoor. Nolley was technically a member of the roster already, but he has four seasons left and could have left and gone anywhere he wanted to. I’m counting him as a recruit.

In terms of recruits on the board, one that seems to be seriously considering Virginia Tech is 6-foot-7 wing player Jeremiah Davenport. Davenport’s offer list doesn’t impress, but he might be one of the best guys Young can get at this point. Per 247Sports, Davenport visited Virginia Tech on April 27. Interesting note — Davenport also holds an offer from Steve Roccaforte and East Carolina.

The highest-rated recruit still considering Virginia Tech is newly classified point guard Jalen Cone. Rivals says that Cone will announce his decision on Thursday at 3:45 p.m., so set your schedules accordingly. Cone is currently considering Boston College, NC State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tech and Wake Forest. Unsurprisingly, Buzz Williams is still in contention. Cone was originally a member of the 2020 class, but landing him would be a massive win for Mike Young’s first recruiting class.

I’m not sure where Wabissa Bede stands in his transfer portal journey. It’s only been a couple weeks and I’m not sure what his time frame is going to be. For those who want to read into things, there was a positive “note” in the Bede development when Bede posed for picture at the annual Gobblers with the rest of the team and Young.

Time will tell, but it seems like there isn’t a ton of interest in Bede outside of Blacksburg. I haven’t even seen any “Bede to A&M” rumors, which is surprising. Virginia Tech would love to keep Bede around strictly for numbers and depth purposes and it seems like that’s still on the table.

(UPDATE: Virginia Tech added a transfer on Monday, as sophomore announced his decision to transfer from Wofford. Aluma played and started in 14 games last season, averaging 6.01 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-9 and 230-pound forward will likely have to sit out the 2019-20 season.)

4 thoughts on “Monday Mail: Football Culture Turning the Corner, Basketball Recruits and More”

  1. Ricky-

    I am much more positive about Mike Young than when he was originally announced has HC but I have never heard the answer to one question. He had a great 2018-2019 season but the two seasons prior to that were I believe losing seasons (albeit just barely below .500). Do we know or has Mike ever said what went wrong in the two prior seasons and what turned things around so dramatically this past year?

    1. Wofford struggled in 2015-16 and 2016-17, going 15-17 and 16-17 respectively. I’m not sure what caused that and I haven’t seen him talk about it anywhere. Good point.

      1. I actually sent an e-mail to Mark Berman of RT just prior to the official announcement and news conference welcoming MY suggesting he ask about that or check in to it but never receive reply nor I think has he explored that issue. Thanks for your reply.

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