Virginia Tech shortlist: Who should the Hokies hire to replace Justin Fuente?
Virginia Tech parted ways with coach Justin Fuente on Tuesday morning, leaving a head coaching vacancy in Blacksburg.
The Virginia Tech job is one of the best on the ACC — it has the financial support, tradition and facilities to attract a big-time candidate. Perhaps most important, the Coastal division allows a (relatively) clear path for the Hokies to the ACC Championship Game in most years.
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, athletic director Whit Babcock gave some insight into what he’ll be looking for in Virginia Tech’s next head coach:
Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock: What we are looking for in head coach? "Proven track record of success, fits values of Virginia Tech, engage community, leader, CEO that has character and competence", not in any particular order
— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) November 16, 2021
With that in mind, here are some potential candidates:
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell
Campbell has been a hot name in the coaching carousel for years. He’s led Iowa State to arguably its best run of success in program history, including multiple wins over Oklahoma and a Big 12 Championship Game appearance. He’s reportedly turned down big jobs in the recent past, but maybe he’d consider jumping ship now that the Big 12 is losing the Sooners and Longhorns to the SEC?
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier
Napier has built one of the most consistent programs in all of the Group of 5. He’s 37-12 overall at Louisiana and is one win away from his third straight 10-win season. The Hokies would likely have serious competition for his signature if they decided to go this route, but he could be a home run.
Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell
Similar to Napier, Chadwell has had success at a Group of 5 program that doesn’t have a whole lot of tradition. He won 11 games last year and will have a chance at another 10-win season in 2021. He’s never coached in Vriginia, but he does have ties to the region.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson
Clawson has quietly built Wake Forest into one of the most consistent programs in the ACC. He’s now led the Demon Deacons to six straight bowl games, their longest such streak in program history. He’s also one win away from taking Wake Forest to the ACC Championship Game. If he can do that at Wake Forest, what could he do at a place like Virginia Tech — a program with considerably more resources?
Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko
If Virginia Tech wants to hire a recruiting ace, Elko might be the guy. Texas A&M routinely brings in NFL talent and Elko’s defenses have performed well in the SEC. Elko also has ties to the region and to the state, having been Richmond’s linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator from 2004-05.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman
Freeman has only been on the job for one season, but he has already transformed Notre Dame’s recruiting. The Fighting Irish currently have a top 5 class in the 2022 and 2023 rankings, which they haven’t accomplished at any other point under Brian Kelly. Freeman also had tremendous success at Cincinnati. He’s going to be a hot name this cycle and would be a bit of a risk for Virginia Tech, but he’d be a high-upside hire.
Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead
Moorhead is a proven offensive play-caller, having succeeded in that role at Penn State and Oregon in recent years. His lone head coaching stint at Mississippi State left something to be desired, but Moorhead will probably get another chance at some point. He’s from Pennsylvania and has plenty of experience recruiting on the east coast.