Virginia Tech fired Justin Fuente on Tuesday, which ends a six-year stint with the program.
Fuente was the go-to candidate to replace Frank Beamer in 2016 after his success at Memphis, and the tenure started well with an ACC championship appearance in his first season with the Hokies. Virginia Tech, however, dropped to sixth place in the ACC Coastal Division last season and was unable to contend in the ACC this season despite an opening night upset of North Carolina.
Fuente leaves Virginia Tech with a 43-31 record, including a 28-20 record in ACC play. It’s still a solid ACC job that should attract some interesting candidates.
MORE: Who’s next at USC? | Names to watch at LSU
Who are some of those names? Sporting News takes a closer look:
Bill O’Brien, Alabama offensive coordinator
The Nick Saban clinic opens yet another door. O’Brien spent time as an assistant coach at Maryland, Duke and Georgia Tech, and went 15-9 at Penn State amid the nightmarish circumstances following the firing of Joe Paterno. O’Brien can take the lessons learned from a one-year stint with Saban and succeed in the ACC, unless, of course, he is looking to get back in the NFL. The college game might be better for O’Brien, and Virginia Tech is a good fit. This would be a fantastic get for the Hokies.
Billy Napier, Louisiana coach
Napier, 42, is going to land a Power 5 job soon. Virginia Tech would be the appropriate level up for the Louisiana coach, who is on pace for a third straight season with double-digit victories. He is 37-12 in four years at Louisiana. Napier has experience at Alabama and Clemson, the two most-successful programs in the CFP era. He could bring those lessons for a makeover in Blacksburg.
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina coach
Chadwell, 44, is the other Sun Belt coach that should get a long look. The 44-year-old has turned Coastal Carolina into an offensive machine the last two seasons, and that style could be a hit with Hokies’ fans. He has guided the Chants into the top 25 each of the past two years and the program has only been in existence since 2017. It’s a toss-up between Chadwell and Napier, but the difference is Chadwell does not have experience with a Power 5 program.
Bill Clark, UAB coach
This is the third door for a Group of 5 coach looking to move up. Clark worked wonders in bringing the UAB football program back. He has guided the Blazers to five straight winning seasons coming off a two-year shutdown of the program. SEC programs haven’t been willing to make this hire. Would an ACC program try it? Clark has been in Alabama for most of his coaching career, so this would require him to step out of his comfort zone, too.
Tony Elliott, Clemson offensive coordinator
Is this the right time for Elliott to get out at Clemson and take his head coaching job? Elliott’s name comes up every year. He’s 41 years old, has been at Clemson since 2011, is an excellent play-caller and recruiter, and he knows the ACC better than the rest of the candidates on this list. Elliott has turned down other jobs in the past. Would he be willing to crossover to the ACC Coastal?
Hugh Freeze, Liberty coach
We know about his unceremonious exit at Ole Miss, where he was fired after a pattern of personal misconduct that included calling escort services while on recruiting trips. Liberty beat Virginia Tech last season, however, and there is no doubt that Freeze knows offense, quarterback development and how to win at the Power 5 level. He was 39-25 at Ole Miss and won a Sugar Bowl. Freeze will take the Flames to a third straight bowl appearance. At some point, the 52-year-old is going to get another shot in the Power 5. Is this better than taking another shot on a Group of 5 coach?
Shane Beamer, South Carolina coach
It’s at least worth the call, right? Beamer is the son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, and he was an assistant with the Hokies from 2011-15. He worked his way up as an assistant coach through stints with Georgia and Oklahoma, and he took on a rebuild at South Carolina in the SEC East. He has had a better-than-expected debut at 5-5, which includes a blowout win over Florida. Would Beamer be willing to go back to Blacksburg after Year 1? Is that what Virginia Tech wants? The answers to those questions aren’t slam dunks.