CHARLOTTE — Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente is still “putting pieces of the puzzle together.”
With the promotion of director of development Adam Lechtenberg to running backs coach, the offensive staff is tentatively set for 2020.
The defensive staff is far from settled.
Fuente still needs to replace defensive backs coach Brian Mitchell, defensive line coach Charley Wiles and hire a linebackers coach to replace Bud Foster. Both were dismissed in the past week.
There are also plans to add another defensive assistant — to either split up the defensive line or linebackers — in place of Lechtenberg’s player development position that counted toward the team's 10 on-field assistants.
New defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton will be a part of those discussions.
“Justin Hamilton comes in as the defensive coordinator and deserves every opportunity to have success,” Fuente said of the staff changes. “The coaches that are no longer with us I think did a great job and worked hard and we’re very appreciative of their time and effort and their dedication to our program, but again, all the pieces have to fit together. It’s bigger vision and it’s about finding all those pieces and fitting them in there nice and snug. And that’s what we’re in the process of.”
Fuente’s staff had remarkable continuity through his first four seasons with only three staff changes — safeties coach Galen Scott, safeties coach Tyrone Nix and wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins — and he didn’t let go of a single assistant during that time. Scott resigned while Nix (Ole Miss) and Wiggins (Alabama) left for different jobs.
Tech didn’t make any changes after a 6-7 finish in 2018.
While the regular season ended on a disappointing note with a loss to Virginia in the Commonwealth Cup, the Hokies rebounded after a dismal 2-2 start to finish 8-4. They won six of seven games before the finale and nearly upended a top-15 Notre Dame team on the road.
Fuente cited a number of factors in discussing the staff changes.
“I’d say recruiting, player development, teaching, scheme, chemistry,” Fuente said.
When asked how difficult it was to part ways with defensive line coach Charley Wiles, who had been in the same position at Tech since 1996, Fuente made it clear that none of the conversations he had informing staff members of changes were easy.
“That’s part of what we have to do and it’s not taken lightly by me,” Fuente said. “But those are the facts of what we have to do. And it’s not just that one. Every one of them. Our job is to help those guys be coaches. My job is to coach the coaches as well. So when you have to make a change, it is difficult.”
Fuente said the Hokies are “pretty down the road” on assembling the rest of the staff, but the timing of those announcements remains up in the air.
With the remaining staff spending much of the time on the road before early signing day on Dec. 18, it’s also unclear who will coach in the Belk Bowl. Fuente has to decide who to place interim tags on for the game.
“We’ll work through all that, to be honest with you,” Fuente said. “As we go through this, we’ll sit down and get it all hashed out. There’s been a lot going on right now.”