Virginia Tech has hired Justin Fuente to replace legendary head coach Frank Beamer, the school announced Sunday. Longtime Hokie defensive coordinator Bud Foster will also stay on Fuente's staff.
A former Virginia Tech cornerback, Beamer coached the Hokies from 1987 to 2015. He transformed the program into a Mid-Atlantic power, leading the team to 23 consecutive bowl games (the longest streak in the nation). Foster followed Beamer from Murray State, and has been the Hokies' defensive coordinator since 1995.
Fuente, 39, was one of the hottest coaching candidates this cycle, linked to multiple major jobs. He was one of the betting favorites at Miami and South Carolina, and fans of Missouri, Minnesota and Maryland all floated him as a potential candidate.
Fuente was named head coach of Memphis in December 2011 and quickly turned one of the nation's worst programs around. In his third season with the Tigers, the team won its first conference championship in more than four decades and recorded its second 10-win season since 1938, including a victory in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl.
Fuente's Tigers embraced the tough-nosed style of other Memphis area teams.
We've tried to identify ourselves with that idea, grinding. We've tried to embrace that. In the spring game, we wore 901 (Memphis' area code) on the side of our helmets. We've talked about that kind of stuff, painting a picture of what we represent. Hopefully we represent that. I don't know if we're there yet.
Memphis beat Ole Miss (the same Ole Miss that beat Alabama) thanks to an NFL-caliber QB and an excellent scheme, and hung around in the polls for much of this season, even briefly as a Playoff contender. The Tigers finished with nine regular season wins for the second consecutive year, a first in program history. Memphis did it in different ways, too: the 2014 Tigers featured a top-25 defense by S&P+, while the 2015 Tigers feature a top-15 offense.
Fuente quickly made a name for himself as a top coaching prospect shortly after retiring from his football playing career in 2001. He was hired as an offensive assistant at TCU in 2007, and helped develop Andy Dalton after Fuente was promoted to quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2009.
Fuente detailed TCU head coach Gary Patterson's influence when speaking to Bill Connelly.
My first couple of weeks on the job at TCU, I absolutely fell in love with the way that Gary had it organized from a practice standpoint, from an offseason standpoint. I just really tried to do everything I could to soak up every detail as to why and how we were doing things. He's been a huge help to me, gave me a tremendous amount of responsibility at a young age.
Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom and UAB head coach Bill Clark have been mentioned as potential replacement candidates for Memphis. For more on the Hokies, head to Gobbler Country. For more on the Tigers, check out Underdog Dynasty.