Va. Tech football approaching opener with caution amid pandemic

“We’re all living in a test-by-test world now,” Fuente said Monday during a Zoom call with reporters. “So we’ll see as they come. Hopefully everything works out fine. I’m not trying to raise alarm, but I’m also not trying to — I’m just being honest with the situation we’re in.

“I mean we’re just trying to make it to each day to see where it’s at, and hopefully we’re on the right side of where this thing’s trending.”

With the No. 20 Hokies preparing for their season opener set for 8 p.m. Saturday against North Carolina State at Lane Stadium, Fuente spent a portion of this week awaiting virus test results for his players and staff.

The last of three tests per week as mandated for all ACC schools comes Friday, at which time Fuente will be able to determine his starters with at least some degree of certainty.

Still, he indicated not all the players listed on the two-deep depth chart are ready to play. Others may be inserted at multiple positions against the Wolfpack with the roster potentially diminished from test results.

Virginia Tech has not disclosed publicly results of its in-house virus testing and those quarantining, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, but linebacker Dax Hollifield provided insight into what players have been dealing with since returning for voluntary workouts followed by training camp.

When the junior arrived for a team meeting earlier this month, he was the only linebacker in the room. Several days later, Virginia Tech announced its Sept. 19 season opener against Virginia was being postponed for precautionary reasons.

“I knew it was coming,” Hollifield said Tuesday, revealing he had tested positive since coming back to campus and was asymptomatic. “We’ve seen people going down right and left, but you’ve just got to handle [it]. If you’re still in, you’re still playing. You’ve got to go out there and do the best job you can.”

According to the ACC’s virus protocols, players testing positive are not subject to weekly tests for 90 days from the date of their positive result unless they develop symptoms.

In attempting to mitigate the effect of potential virus-related absences, Fuente and his staff have been cross-training players throughout training camp and fall practice. Fuente also is playing two quarterbacks this season, with incumbent Hendon Hooker starting and Braxton Burmeister, a transfer, expected to take snaps.

It’s the first time in his coaching career Fuente by design is using two quarterbacks in the same game, saying Hooker earned the right to start, particularly given his experience in the system, but Burmeister brings another dimension to the position that could benefit the offense.

Concerns about availability also include the coaching staff, compelling Fuente to craft a depth chart for assistants if he or one of his coordinators were to test positive. To date three head coaches in major college football are known to have tested positive, with Florida State’s Mike Norvell to become the first to miss a game.

“It’s a little bit like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, and a new layer of the Rubik’s Cube gets added every single day,” Fuente said. “It’s just trying to figure out who’s available and who can get work and bring the team together and all the things that come with this. I’m certainly not up here to complain about it. I’m just saying it’s a part of the situation that a lot of people are in. ”

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