Home Fuente Out at Virginia Tech: A Look at Potential Replacements

Fuente Out at Virginia Tech: A Look at Potential Replacements

by Connor Jackson

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

As expected, Justin Fuente is out at Virginia Tech.

In six years, Fuente finished with a 43-31 record in Blacksburg. People around the program gradually drew more and more frustrated with the lack of consistency. On top of that, in 2020, Virginia Tech had its first losing season since 1992.

The next head coach will be tasked with getting Virginia Tech football back to national prominence. It is a tall task, but as Frank Beamer proved, it is far from impossible.

Examining the Job

Fuente was tasked with taking over for Beamer, who happens to be the best coach in Virginia Tech history. Things were never going to be easy for him, but he simply failed to keep Virginia Tech football at the competitive level it had been. In fairness, Virginia Tech lost at least five games in each of the final four seasons of the Beamer era.

At its peak, Virginia Tech was an annual national title contender. In fact, the Hokies played for the national championship in 1999 with Michael Vick at quarterback. From 2004 to 2011, the Hokies won at least 10 games every single season. They claimed four ACC titles over that stretch.

The history and the potential for success are there. Still, it seems as if Virginia tech has reached a crossroads.

With Clemson surely returning to national prominence after 2021 and programs like Wake Forest and Pittsburgh on the rise in the ACC, the Hokies need a hire who can turn some of the tide back in their favor. If not, Virginia Tech could become an ACC afterthought.

Here are potential candidates:

Louisiana HC Billy Napier

The Hokies need a recruiter. Every candidate should fall after Billy Napier.

Napier has been linked to the LSU and TCU openings this year. In previous cycles, he was also a candidate at schools like Auburn and Mississippi State. Seemingly every opening at the Power 5 level has been linked to Napier, and for good reason. Louisiana has turned into one of the premier Group of 5 schools in the nation, and Napier has spent time coaching under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.

Would he take the job? Who knows. He would probably be more comfortable somewhere in the Deep South, but he is going to likely take a Power 5 job at some point. The path to winning is easier at Virginia Tech.

Georgia DC Dan Lanning

For some reason, Lanning’s name has not come up much in head coaching conversations.

Why? Who knows? At 35 years old, Lanning is currently leading a Georgia defense that is on pace to be one of the best ever — at least statically. He also helped recruit elite players like Nolan Smith and Nakobe Dean to Georgia.

Lanning is arguably the best assistant in football, so him landing a big-time job is inevitable at this point.

For Virginia Tech, taking a chance on an elite coach before someone bigger does might be its best bet.

Liberty HC Hugh Freeze

Everyone understands that Freeze carries some baggage after the end of his tenure at Ole Miss.

Still, he is very much the elite offensive mind that he was in Oxford, and Liberty’s results on the field prove as much. Since being hired, Freeze has taken advantage of a second chance and is 25-9 as a head coach.

At what point does someone give Freeze a second shot at running a major program? With Freeze only 90 minutes away, Virginia Tech could be the program to give him that chance.

Alabama OC Bill O’Brien

Recruiting battles with Penn State are a major part of being the head coach at Virginia Tech. Going out and getting a former Nittany Lion head coach would be a major victory in that category.

O’Brien spent two seasons at Penn State in 2011 and 2012 in wake of major NCAA violations. Still, O’Brien somehow rallied his troops and won 15 games in two years as head coach. He received multiple Coach of the Year honors in 2012.

He ultimately landed in the NFL as the head coach and eventual general manager of the Houston Texans. There, his decisions as a GM ultimately put him out of a job. Fortunately, he has landed at Alabama as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator. Alabama once again has one of the best offenses in the country.

It is inevitable that O’Brien will get another shot as a college head coach. Could that be at Virginia Tech?

South Carolina HC Shane Beamer

There is always a wild card candidate. In Blacksburg, it is Shane Beamer.

Not only did Beamer grow up around Virginia Tech football with his dad, but he also served on staff for five seasons. Oh, and the Hokies are his alma mater.

His work as Lincoln Riley’s right-hand man was going to eventually land him a head coaching gig, and that is what happened with South Carolina. In his first year, the Gamecocks are exceeding expectations and are sitting at 5-5. A bowl game in his first year would be very impressive, especially for a program that was 2-8 just a year ago.

Shane Beamer is only making $2.75 million per year at South Carolina and the Hokies might be able to top that. Still, is Beamer willing to get up and leave after just one season in Columbia? Probably not.

If he does, it is probably to follow in his father’s footsteps at Virginia Tech.