Virginia Tech Football: Who Is Frank Beamer's Heir Apparent?
After spending more than a quarter of a century at the head of the Virginia Tech football program, it’s inevitable that people start to wonder who will replace the Hokies’ Frank Beamer.
Beamer’s current contract runs through 2016, but no one is exactly sure how long he’ll continue on as coach after that deal expires, if he does at all.
Accordingly, with the recent retirement of longtime Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, it sure seems as if change is in the air at the university. While it might not be immediate, replacing Beamer will likely be a challenge for the school’s new AD, Whit Babcock.
Babcock’s had some experience in the coaching search during his stint with Cincinnati, hiring Tommy Tuberville to replace the departed Butch Jones, but replacing a legend like Beamer will be a tall order, regardless of his previous success.
The Hokies have long shown a proclivity for hiring internally under Weaver—six of the last seven of the program’s head coaches coached at Tech—so while Babcock might’ve shown a tendency to hire from outside the program at Cincinnati, there will be a lot of pressure on him to look inside the school first and foremost.
He won’t have to look very far to find worthy candidates for the job—several coaches have a claim to being Beamer’s heir apparent.
Read on to learn about each of the Hokies’ future candidates for head coach, presented in order of likelihood that they get serious consideration to fill Beamer’s very large shoes.
He may not be a household name quite yet, but defensive backs coach Torrian Gray is slowly but surely building a reputation as a stellar coach and equally capable recruiter.
He got named a finalist for the Broyles Award—the prize given to the nation’s top assistant coach—over several worthy candidates on the Hokies’ own staff, showing that people are starting to recognize Gray’s abilities.
Tech has developed a reputation as an excellent school for developing defensive backs—commonly referred to as “DB U” by many—and the Hokies have Gray to thank for that shift.
Much of it is thanks to Gray. The younger Fuller and Facyson had electric seasons as freshmen, showing that the best is yet to come from Gray as well.
He’s been an enthusiastic recruiter, reaching areas like Maryland and Florida that are crucial for the Hokies, and finding diamonds in the rough like Facyson really shows he has an eye for talent.
But the question is: what kind of head coach would he make? That’s less certain.
He’s only 39 years old, and not very far removed from being a player himself, a fact that has both its positives and negatives.
While he’ll likely get consideration from the Hokies for the top job, he’s probably destined to head elsewhere sometime in the near future. Gray has got a bright future, but he probably needs seasoning as a defensive coordinator before he can make a play to lead a program.
But that doesn’t mean that he’s not a formidable candidate, and that he couldn’t easily rise up within the ranks at Tech should another candidate on this list be hired instead.
However, he’s got to be considered last on this list, with one young candidate with even deeper ties to the program ahead of him.
It’s no secret that Frank was thrilled to add his son, Shane, to the staff back in 2011.
He made a name for himself in his time with the South Carolina Gamecocks, leading the school’s recruiting efforts and helping them land coveted prospects and future stars like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney.
He’s been Beamer’s running backs coach and associate head coach for three seasons now, and is generally well regarded.
He got the chance to coach star David Wilson in his first year, and has helped develop new starter Trey Edmunds in 2013, but the team’s running game hasn’t been stellar. Part of this fault has to lie with the team’s patchwork offensive line, but Beamer isn’t immune from blame.
But he has been an active and capable recruiter in his time at Tech, particularly in the Richmond area, and the family connection can’t be denied.
However, much like Gray, it’s tough to envision Shane heading a whole program with such limited experience. He’s respected around college football, but again, it’s hard not to believe that leading a smaller program or a coordinator gig somewhere would help.
He’s attracted interest from schools willing to give him a chance—most recently, Florida Atlantic gave him serious consideration for their head coaching vacancy—but he has yet to make a move.
Frank might want his son to take over for him down the line, and if he ends up coaching for a while longer and gives Shane more of a chance to coach out in the world, he certainly could some day.
But he doesn’t seem like an ideal candidate in the short term.
Instead, Frank’s heir apparent is a man almost as synonymous with Virginia Tech as he is.
What is left to say about Bud Foster?
He’s been designing defenses that have terrified programs across the country for the better part of the last two decades, with little noticeable drop-off from year to year.
Foster adapts to developing trends on the fly better than most coaches in the nation, and regularly does more with less talent-wise.
He’s never been a particularly dynamic recruiter, but he identifies the types of players that fit his system and grooms them accordingly.
Put simply, if Foster wasn’t among the more loyal coaches in college football, he’d have been a head coach elsewhere several times over.
He’s had a number of overtures from big programs—with the most recent rumored to have come from Connecticut—yet he’s turned each and every one down to stay with the Hokies.
That speaks to his love of Blacksburg, and of Beamer, and perhaps even his comfort level in a coordinator role rather than leading a program.
He’s certainly a less refined character than Beamer—few head coaches acknowledge they might’ve found their kicker at a Wal-Mart. Yet, he’s got the type of personality and charisma that seems like it would fit well at Virginia Tech, and he’s been waiting for the chance to do it.
When Beamer does go, there will be an uproar if Foster isn’t at least given serious consideration. Basically, it’s his job if he wants it.
And maybe he doesn’t, considering he’s shied from opportunities to do so in the past.
But there’s no doubt he’s Beamer’s heir apparent, and he rightly deserves to be considered as such.