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Updated Virginia Tech Head Coach Search Potential Names to Watch

Whit Babcock 1

Since I released my initial list of potential candidates for the Virginia Tech job, two of the top guys on the list have come off the board as Billy Napier became the next head coach at Florida while Dave Clawson agreed to an extension to stay at Wake Forest.

So where are the Hokies at now? Here's my latest list based on a mix of intel and who I think Tech may look at or should look at with Napier and Clawson off the board.

Iowa State HC Matt Campbell

At this point, Matt Campbell looks like the top target left on the board for the Hokies. Campbell was not a name that I imagined Tech pursuing in part because I didn't think he was in the realm of possibility and he still may not be, but I have a high confidence based on some of my sourcing that Campbell is someone Tech has shown interest in.

There's no doubt that Campbell would be a home run hire as he has done tremendous work at Iowa State with five-straight winning seasons including a 2020 Big 12 Championship appearance in his six-year tenure. For comparison, the last Iowa State coach to have 5 or more winning seasons overall during his tenure was Clyde Williams over a century ago.

Additionally, Campbell has recruited nationally at Iowa State and elevated the Cyclones into the top 50 on the recruiting trail with a top 25 class potentially at the moment in his best year yet on the trail. Campbell also was really good in his four seasons at Toledo before Iowa State with a winning record all four years including 3 9-win seasons and 2 MAC division titles.

The fact is that Campbell would be a home run hire but it's still unclear if Campbell would or wouldn't jump at Tech or if other openings at Oklahoma and LSU could get in the way of that as well should he be offered by them. Additionally, there's always a possibility that all of the talk is smoke, but I have a good degree of confidence that Tech's interest is legitimate here for Campbell, and that Campbell is a top target.

We'll see though if it turns into anything or not.

Notre Dame DC Marcus Freeman

Marcus Freeman is considered a rising star in the business and it probably comes as no surprise that Freeman is definitely in that next tier after Matt Campbell.

Freeman checks the fit boxes not necessarily in a regional sense but because of the fact that Freeman is known for great defense that plays with the type of intensity, toughness, and aggressiveness that resembles a Virginia Tech defense. He's also considered a rising star across the board with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly even saying that he'd love to see Freeman be the guy who replaces him whenever he decides to retire and/or leave Notre Dame down the road.

Freeman has also established himself as a really good recruiter who has done a tremendous job on the trail at Notre Dame. While there may be some concern that he isn't recruiting all the same areas he would as the VT head coach, there's no doubt that he has the ability to do so especially since Notre Dame recruits largely nationally anyway.

Clemson OC Tony Elliott

Tony Elliott was one of two names that I heard mentioned last year along with Luke Fickell if Virginia Tech would have moved on from Justin Fuente then. Unsurprisingly, Elliott's name has come back up and while he wasn't in the top tier this time, his name is definitely in that next tier that most of this list occupies.

It's been a tough year for Clemson's offense, but they've found their rhythm recently with 30+ points each of their past 5 games which should be seen as a positive for Elliott and his ability to adapt and get his offense back on track. Additionally, Elliott has a strong reputation from before this season as a tremendous offensive coach who maximized some very talented offenses that featured guys like Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and more.

Elliott has also proven himself to be an extremely good recruiter and should be able to immediately come in and have great comfort recruiting many of the areas that a Virginia Tech coach needs to recruit especially the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.

Tony Elliott's stock may have taken a slight hit this season, but he remains a very intriguing candidate worthy of plenty of consideration for the Hokies.


Marshall HC Charles Huff

Charles Huff is also in that next tier with Freeman, Elliott, and a couple others after a solid 7-5 first season at Marshall that ended with a tough loss to Western Kentucky.

While it wasn't spectacular for Huff, he's shown that he can be a good head coach to go with his status as an elite recruiter that has shined through from his time at Penn State, Mississippi State, and Alabama, and now with Conference USA's best recruiting class by far at Marshall.

One thing that seems to be a plus with Huff is that he understands the importance of a head coach being a CEO-like role especially in modern college football where recruiting and roster management have become just as important as development and scheme.

Huff is definitely a guy who seems to check off a lot of the fit boxes from being a well-established recruiter including in the Mid-Atlantic to having some good head coach experience to being a Maryland native who played his college football at Hampton.

Huff definitely checks plenty of boxes that Virginia Tech looks for, but we'll see if it ends up being him or not.

Former Florida HC Dan Mullen

Dan Mullen's name hasn't come up much, but Mullen is someone in my view and others who should be someone that Whit Babcock at least considers even if it might be unpopular among some segments on the fan base for various reasons.

Prior to this season, Mullen had loads of success at Florida with 2 10+ win seasons followed by an SEC title in his third season just last year in 2020 before finishing 8-4 after losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Before then, Mullen had elevated Mississippi State from arguably the worst job in the SEC West to a consistent winning program under his watch.

Mullen's comments on recruiting raised some concerns, but the fact is that Mullen recruited fairly well at Florida with 3 top 12 classes prior to a weaker class this year before getting fired.

I'd be very surprised if it was Dan Mullen though I think Whit Babcock should at least consider the former Florida and Mississippi State head coach.

Coastal Carolina HC Jamey Chadwell

Jamey Chadwell didn't make my first list moreso because I'm personally not high on him in terms of an analysis perspective, but Chadwell appears to be in that tier 2 of targets who may be coming into focus.

Chadwell has had three successful tenures as a head coach in the Southeast starting at North Greenville who reached the Division II QFs in his final season followed by to FCS Playoff appearances at Charleston Southern with 2 conference titles and then back-to-back 10+ win seasons in years 3 and 4 at Coastal Carolina with a co-Sun Belt title last year. Additionally, Chadwell has had to recruit many of the same areas that Tech normally does and should have great comfort recruiting many of the areas that Tech needs to recruit.

However, the thing with Chadwell that holds me back from being sold on him is the fact that he hasn't spent a single season at the Power 5 level and while his offense has been very successful at the Group of 5 level, you wonder if it can be translated up to the Power 5 at a high level. Additionally, Chadwell is definitely a character and while some have great success like a Lane Kiffin, others can prove to be a flash in the pan when they get to the highest level.

Chadwell does remain a name to keep an eye on though.


Alabama OC Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien's name still continues to pop up though O'Brien seems to be linked with lots of openings as he looks to become the latest Nick Saban Coaching Rehab coordinator to land a job elsewhere.

O'Brien has had a fascinating several years and has great experience with two of the coaching greats of our time in Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Additionally, O'Brien did a really good job steadying the ship at Penn State after the massive NCAA penalties for two seasons there before a roller coaster of a time with the Houston Texans that saw some great early success but crumbled by the end.

O'Brien has had some great tools to work with and there's no doubt that he's helped Bryce Young become a Heisman contender in his first year as a starter though he also hasn't won over a lot of fans among Alabama supporters which may not be the best of signs. However, landing a guy with his type of experiences including some good CFB head coaching experience definitely has some intrigue.

Keep an eye on Bill O'Brien though if it were to be him, it probably won't happen till next week.

Penn State DC Brent Pry

Brent Pry may be the Hokie connection on this list as Pry was a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech from 1995-97 under Frank Beamer and Bud Foster. Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and ESPN's Adam Rittenberg both mentioned Pry as a name to watch this morning on Twitter as Pry seems to start to have some traction.

Beyond the Hokie connections, Pry is a longtime assistant who has been a high level defensive coordinator for over the past 2 decades at Louisiana in the early to mid 2000s followed by Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt, and Penn State since 2010.

He's also a proven developer especially at his focus position of linebacker during his career developing stars like Micah Parson, Zach Cunningham, and more at Penn State and Vanderbilt while also coaching up players like Charles Tillman, Dontari Poe, Ike Taylor, and more throughout his coaching career whether as the coordinator or position coach.

There have been many comparisons of the similarities between his defense to the Bud Foster defense which definitely boosts the fit portion of this beyond the ties to the rise of Virginia Tech in the mid to late 1990s.

One under-the-radar thing with Pry is the fact that he has proven to be a very good recruiter including in Virginia where he was the primary recruiter for Penn State landing five-star LB Brandon Smith out of Louisa HS in Virginia, but also as a main recruiter for numerous other big VA targets including Devyn Ford and Yetur Gross-Matos.

Brent Pry may not have been on the radar of many, but there's a lot of boxes that he checks in terms of the fit from his Tech ties to his defensive prowess to his regional recruiting success in the areas Tech will need to recruit. Keep an eye

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