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4 Virginia Tech head coach candidates to replace Justin Fuente

Matt Johnson
Virginia Tech head coach, Virginia Tech Hokies, Virginia Tech coaching candidates
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is out after the program and its long-time coach agreed to part ways after six seasons. It’s already a crowded field of college football head coaching vacancies, but the Hokies have some appeal that could lure the right candidate.

Hired in 2016, Fuente replaced Frank Beamer after four consecutive seasons with five or fewer wins. Things got off to a great start for Fuente, with the Hokie delivering a 10-4 win in his first season as the Virginia Tech head coach and the program capped off the year with a Belk Bowl victory. Things still looked promising in 2017, a 9-4 season, but the wheels fell off soon after.

  • Justin Fuente record (Virgina Tech): 43-31, 1-3 in bowl games

After winning a combined 10 games in the past two years, the Hokies’ athletic department decided it was time to move on. With Fuente out the door, likely destined to become an offensive coordinator at a top program, another coaching search is underway.

Let’s examine a few Virginia Tech head coach candidates who should be squarely on the program’s radar.

Joe Moorhead, offensive coordinator, Oregon Ducks

Syndication: The Register Guard
Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, left, and head coach Mario Cristobal, on the sidelines during the game against Stony Brook.Eug 101421 Moorhead05

Joe Moorhead, one of the top offensive minds in college football, should be among the top coaching candidates across college football this offseason. The Ducks’ offensive coordinator began his career on the sidelines as a graduate assistant at Pittsburgh (1998-’99) and has climbed the coaching ladder ever since. He first became a head coach at Fordham (2021-’15), posting a stellar 38-13 record in the regular season. It was followed by a two-year stint as Penn State’s offensive coordinator before a short run with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

  • Joe Moorhead coaching record (FBS): 14-12, 0-2 in bowl games

Moorhead gets the most out of his players on offense. As the Nittany Lions offensive coordinator, Penn State averaged 37.6 ppg in 2016 and finished as the fifth highest-scoring offense (41.1 ppg) in 2017. This season at Oregon, the Ducks are averaging 35.3 ppg and have the 10th-best rushing attack in the nation (227.4 ypg).

Just look at Oregon’s victory over Ohio State and the program’s loss to Stanford, when Moorhead was unavailable, as testaments to his incredible play-calling and scheme. He should be the top choice to become the next Virginia Tech head coach.

Hugh Freeze, head coach, Liberty Flames

NCAA Football: Liberty at Mississippi
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Hugh Freeze comes with some baggage, but there is no denying his ability as a head coach. He posted a 10-3 record in one season at Arkansas, bolted to Ole Miss and found success (39-25) and is now turning Liberty into a must-see football team every week. He certainly wants to return to a marquee program and with SEC teams likely off the table, there’s an opportunity here for Virginia Tech.

Entering Week 12, Liberty’s offense ranks 26th in college football in points per game (33.7), 38th in total yards (435.8 per game) and is one of the most effective teams on third downs (46.9% conversion rate). A strong recruiter with an offense that will attract athletes looking for the right system, Freeze will likely be among the Hokies’ coaching candidates.

Jamey Chadwell, head coach, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

NCAA Football: Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Jamey Chadwell is likely a few years away from being on the radar for top coaching jobs, but Virginia Tech could be the next step in his coaching career. The former quarterback hung up his cleats in 1999 and immediately moved to the sidelined at East Tennessee State, coaching quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends (2000-’03). He then bounced around smaller programs (Charleston Southern, North Greenville, Delta State). After serving as Coastal Carolina’s offensive coordinator for two seasons, including a one-year stint as the interim coach (2017), he took over as full-time head coach in 2019.

The Chanticleers moved to the FBS in 2017, joining the Sun Belt Conference. It didn’t take long for Chadwell to find his footing, taking charge of a five-win team and turning it into a conference champion within two years. Coastal Carolina is 19-3 in its past two seasons and Chadwell’s play-calling is the reason for it.

Through 10 games, Coastal Carolina boasts the second-best conversion rate on third downs (55.24%), ranks 33rd nationally in red-zone scoring rate (88.25%) and is second in points per play (0.633). Chadwell has done everything he can for the Chanticleers and he’d be a terrific choice to become the Virginia Tech head coach in 2022.

Marcus Freeman, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

While a majority of our Virginia Tech coaching candidates are responsible for great offenses, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman needs to be a target for many schools with coaching vacancies. The 35-year-old has learned from some of the best coaches in college football, including Luke Fickell and Brian Kelly.

During his time as the Cincinnati Bearcats’ coordinator (2017-’20), they became one of the best defenses in college football. In his final season before joining the Fighting Irish, Cincinnati’s defense allowed the 14th fewest total yards (322.8) and the 10th fewest points (17.2) per game. Just as important, the Bearcats averaged the second-most takeaways (2.6) per contest and ranked 21st in third-down conversion rate (34.31%).

Not only is Freeman an outstanding defensive coordinator and someone universally respected in the sport, he’s an elite recruiter. He has a chance to be an outstanding head coach and if Virginia Tech is the right landing spot for him, it could be a huge move for the Hokies.