Frank Beamer was the longest-tenured head coach in college football before retiring in 2015. Beamer arrived at Virginia Tech in 1987 and served his post faithful and valiantly, turning the Hokies into a national power.
Well, now it’s Justin Fuente’s turn. Fuente, 39, who took Memphis to great heights, will take over for Beamer, 69, in Blacksburg.
There has to be a lot of pressure associated with that, right?
“Well, first of all, I look at it as an honor,” Fuente said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “(It’s) an honor to be trusted with Virginia Tech football – a program that Coach Beamer, I don’t know if you want to say built from the ground up but certainly has taken a long ways and accomplished amazing things with. So first of all, it’s an honor. I feel pressure to do a great job here for Hokie Nation because it means so much to so many people. I can tell you this: Coach Beamer has been absolutely fantastic. He has not added any pressure at all. He’s just been great. He’s very conscious of not being the overbearing former coach. His reputation nationally is being a very good person, very humble, hard-working guy. It’s absolutely who he is. He’s really helped probably as much as anybody with the transition.”
Fuente, who went 7-17 in his first two years at Memphis but 19-6 in 2014-15, had a number of suitors last season. Ultimately, he loved Virginia Tech’s tradition, administration and fan base and felt Blacksburg would be a great place to raise his family.
There was also Bud Foster.
“I feel like he’s the best defensive coordinator in America,” Fuente said. “This is a job that had a chance to come along with that. It just really works smooth. There’s a bunch of reasons to be here.”
Still, an outsider has to wonder about the relationship between head coach and defensive coordinator. After all, Foster, 57, has been coaching at Virginia Tech since 1987. He seemed like the perfect heir apparent to Beamer, but the Hokies went in another direction.
That has to be sort of an odd situation, no?
“No, it’s pretty far from that,” Fuente said. “But I can understand from the outside people seeing that and having curiosity about it. But the bottom line is, Coach Foster is incredibly professional. He wants what’s best for Virginia Tech, much in the same way that Coach Beamer wants what’s best for Virginia Tech first and foremost. Coach Foster and I had a great conversation before we agreed to take the job and talked about what we saw for Virginia Tech, how I ran the program, his desire to stay here and be a part of this. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but it might have kind of rekindled a little bit of fire in an already very fiery coach. It’s just really worked smooth.”
Fuente’s job will not be without challenges. After winning 10+ games eight straight times from 2004 to 2011, Virginia Tech has finished 7-6 in three of the last four seasons.
“I think the biggest issue we’ve got is depth,” Fuente said. “I just watched us practice, and when we go from our 1s to our 2s, there’s a pretty significant drop-off. I like our 22 guys. We’ve got nine scholarship seniors that I think are really good college football players. The problem is, we only got nine. We’ve got a little bit of a younger roster here. In order for us to have a chance to be competitive week in and week out throughout a 12-game season, those guys are going to have to fill in spots and play at a high level, whether it’s on special teams or offense or defense. To me, that’s our biggest issue right now.”