Virginia Tech Preview 2016: The Hokies are replacing a legend, but now they might take the big step forward.
It sure will be strange not seeing Frank Beamer on the sidelines in Blacksburg this fall. But not so odd that Hokie fans would elect to have the legendary coach back in charge.
For the first time since 1986, someone other than Beamer will be leading Virginia Tech. And while it takes time getting accustomed to such as change after three decades, it was long overdue. Under Beamer, who won four ACC crowns between 2004-2010, the Hokies had peaked. Over the past four years, they were only slightly above .500, wallowing in mediocrity and a gradual decline.
It was crystal clear last December that the Hokies needed a new direction, a jolt of fresh energy that often comes with a new staff. And by signing Justin Fuente away from Memphis, Tech succeeded in landing one of the most coveted young head coaches in America.
At face value, Fuente appears to be the perfect antidote for a program that had lost the ability to get out of neutral. He’s a full 30 years Beamer’s junior, and he just finished turning around a Tiger program that had won three games in the two years prior to his arrival. Plus, Fuente’s expertise is offense, specifically quarterbacks, which is exactly the area that’s felled the Hokies during the current four-year stretch of futility.
Fuente will supercharge the Va Tech offense. Period. But whether or not that can happen in 2016 depends on the development of his quarterbacks, specifically senior Brenden Motley and junior college transfer Jerod Evans.
Whoever wins the job this summer will get an opportunity to direct an offense that has more skill position talent and more potential than has been exhibited in recent years. However, that Hokie QB will need to handle the pressure of being under the microscope from the moment he’s anointed as the guy in charge of Fuente’s system.
The D ought to be fine, because longtime coordinator Bud Foster was retained and because there’s too much history here for Virginia Tech to be so vulnerable for two consecutive years. The Hokie defense was unusually mediocre in 2015.
But while Foster has certainly had access to better collections of talent through the years, he and his assistants have been working overtime to ensure that last year was an anomaly.
The Hokies will be very strong at the point of attack, led by DE Ken Ekanem and DT Woody Baron. The ultimate defensive grade, though, depends on how many players in the back seven can deliver career years.
There are mixed emotions in Blacksburg these days. Beamer was one-of-a-kind, a lifer in an era of job-hopping coaches. Beloved and appreciated, he’ll be missed. But no following the program is not excited by the arrival of Fuente, whose fresh ideas and outlook couldn’t be timelier.
Tech is hungry to get back to competing for ACC championships. And it believes that it’s hired the right leader to get the program back on the right track.