Since Virginia Tech publicly announced their decision to part ways with Justin Fuente last Tuesday, the Hokies have seen plenty of names linked with them with plenty of rumors out though not a lot of concrete rumors, leaving room for plenty of speculation.
There have been numerous names linked with the jobs so here's a look at the latest on three coaches in regards to their status on the coaching market at large and relative to Virginia Tech.
Could It Be Virginia Tech vs. Florida for Billy Napier?
Billy Napier was at the top of my initial list of potential candidates for Virginia Tech after there had been rumors nationally previously that he would be a name to watch. Tech's move weeks before the end of the season seemed to also be a move to potentially ward off TCU making a run at Napier which, if that was the plan, may have worked since TCU is now likely to hire SMU's Sonny Dykes.
Since then, the Napier rumors to VT have not been quieted whatsoever, but another job opening has seemed to create talk that there may be a two-program battle to land Napier with Florida.
There have been plenty of big Power 5 names rumored as potential candidates for the Florida job but Gators AD Scott Stricklin also seems to have lots of interest in Napier likely in large part to how he has built Louisiana in a similar manner to what Nick Saban did at Alabama, someone whom Napier spent six years on staff for.
Those rumors seem to be growing louder with Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and The Athletic, one of America's most connected CFB reporters, even openly talking on Twitter about a potential Virginia Tech-Florida battle brewing for Napier.
What we’re hearing on the Hokies search: Va. Tech has some interesting options; competing with UF and maybe some others for Billy Napier; Jamey Chadwell; and a strong group of assistants that include Mike Elko, Joe Moorhead and Marcus Freeman. https://t.co/AI27mHWmwc— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 24, 2021
Napier is undoubtedly the top Group of 5 coach east of the Rocky Mountains and likely across the country this coaching cycle and is clearly an in-demand name for good reason given his pedigree and success. If Napier is indeed the top target for the Hokies and Gators, Whit Babcock will have to try to use their greater stability and patience plus their easier path to a conference title and playoff spot in the ACC Coastal compared to the Georgia-dominated SEC East to their advantage.
Charles Huff Responds to Virginia Tech Talk
Marshall head coach Charles Huff has been a rising name for many in large part because of the fact that he is a proven elite recruiter who has loads of DMV ties being from Maryland and playing his college football at Hampton. Additionally, his first year as a head coach has gone well with Marshall at 7-4 one win away from reaching the Conference USA Championship and Huff currently having the clear top recruiting class in C-USA according to 247 Sports.
Huff has also received some high praise as someone worthy of consideration for the job because of his success and because of the fit he could be including from the Washington Post. Huff also made my initial list of potential candidates in large part because of the fact that he seemed to clearly fit a lot of what Whit Babcock stated he's looking for.
That's led to plenty of speculation with Huff responding to it recently.
Here is Charles Huff’s response when asked if he had read the Washington Post story suggesting Virginia Tech should attempt to hire him pic.twitter.com/ORACpmkgZh— Tom Bragg (@TomBraggSports) November 23, 2021
That is kind of a soft denial of anything specific with any school for Huff, but also not the kind of hard denial that makes you think either he or his agent haven't had any sort of communication with VT or other openings, or that he isn't at least intrigued by the opportunity at VT should Babcock reach out if he hasn't.
Huff isn't the first coach who's been asked about speculation related to the Virginia Tech job with Wake Forest's Dave Clawson being asked about it previously and responding to it with somewhat of a soft denial as well.
Charles Huff remains a coach to keep an eye as a potential candidate for the Hokies' job though it remains to be seen if he is a serious name to watch for the job or not.
Hugh Freeze Lands New Deal at Liberty
Hugh Freeze had been rumored as a potential candidate for the Virginia Tech job given the success that he had at Ole Miss and now at Liberty plus the fact that he's built lots of in-state connection during his current tenure with the Flames. Freeze wasn't seen as a top guy in part because of his past NCAA issues that create lots of hesitation even with the fact that his time at Liberty has gone smoother so far.
However, you can rule out Freeze now as he has reportedly landed a massive extension at Liberty.
News from @ClowESPN: #Liberty coach Hugh Freeze to receive a new contract at the school through 2028, per sources. Will be paid an average of more than $4 million per season. Freeze is 25-10 at Liberty.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) November 24, 2021
That contract will make Freeze the highest paid Group of 5 coach to my understanding and is a clear statement that it's going to a really big SEC job to get him to leave Lynchburg most likely.