Justin Fuente has posted a 19-8 record and finished in the top 25 in each of his two seasons at Virginia Tech. He is arguably one of three best coaches in the ACC behind Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Miami’s Mark Richt.
And yet, those distinctions have not earned him a spot as one of college football’s premier coaches. At least not according to CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli.
Fuente was ranked as the 26th-best Power 5 coach in the country in this year’s college football coach rankings. He was ranked as the 34th-best coach in last year’s ranking despite going 10-4 and finishing 16th in the final AP Poll in 2016.
“I’m a major admirer of what Fuente was able to do at Memphis, and my colleagues feel the same way,” Fornelli wrote. “He’s 19-8 in his first two seasons with the Hokies and another strong season will likely put him in the top 25 of these rankings next year.”
Ten ACC coaches rank behind Fuente. Swinney, Richt and Duke’s David Cutcliffe were not on the list, meaning they are ranked in the top 25. Cutcliffe is 59-67 during his 10-year tenure at Duke and has finished in the top 25 once (2013).
Fuente did take over a program that had a lot of success under Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer, but he should also be credited with keeping the machine running smoothly. He has produced on the field and in recruiting. The Hokies brought in the No. 26 class in the country in 2017 and the No. 24 class in 2018.
He has also proven himself to be a terrific coach away from Virginia Tech. Memphis had not had a winning season since 2007 (7-6) when he took over in 2012. In his third year, he led the Tigers to their first 10-win season in program history. In 2015, Memphis won nine games.
Fuente should not need another season to prove that he is a top-25 Power 5 coach. Given his track record, though, it is a safe bet that he will be one on next year’s rankings.