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With Virginia Tech open, which coaches make sense?

The Hokies need a new leader to recapture the glory of Frank Beamer. Who makes sense?
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Through one of modern college football's most enduring and successful runs, Frank Beamer illustrated the top-end potential – and reality – for Virginia Tech football.

The Hokies tried to perpetuate, or recapture, those winning ways when Justin Fuente was hired away from the University of Memphis six years ago this month.

After initial promise, the relationship never worked out for Virginia Tech, and Fuente has been dismissed from atop the program two games prior to the completion of his sixth season.

Where does Virginia Tech turn to revive its football program, as the Atlantic Coast Conference appears destined for significant change in the coming weeks and, on the field, already is seeing change this season with Clemson in pursuit rather than in command?

FootballScoop dives into these candidates that sources throughout college football believe have direct interest in the position or are likely to be among those the Hokies' brass vet:

BILLY NAPIER, LOUISIANA: He wins. Billy Napier just flat-out wins. And he does so with an on- and off-the-field approach beyond reproach.

With previous stints under college titans Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, and a better than .750 winning percentage atop the Cajuns' program, Napier knows precisely how to build and, thus far, sustain an excellent program.

Those are two critical elements that make Napier an absolute frontrunner for the post; here's another one: Napier recruits well, develops well and understands the path back to immediate contention on the field via the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Louisiana has paid Napier handsomely, and Napier has in the past rebuffed multiple offers from Southeastern Conference schools because of fit.

This seems like a potentially great fit for the Cookeville, Tennessee, native.

JAMEY CHADWELL, COASTAL CAROLINA: Eight times already in his relatively young coaching career, Chadwell is the author of a winning season – and he's shown an ability to develop at the game's most important position, quarterback. Grayson McCall, though injured, has been a phenomenal player for the Chanticleers.

Here's another plus for Chadwell: He's found success in the Carolinas, an area absolutely critical for the Hokies to recruit if they are to return to being an ACC factor, sooner rather than later.

Chadwell plays an exciting brand of offensive football and also has put together a strong staff in Conway, South Carolina, that's headlined by defensive coordinator Chad Staggs.

Chadwell's been in the playoffs at the NCAA Division II and Football Championship Subdivision levels.

Like Louisiana with Napier, Coastal has made financial commitments to keep Chadwell, but the school likewise knows Power 5 opportunities are going to await as long as Chadwell keeps winning at an elite level.

HUGH FREEZE, LIBERTY: A few years ago, Tech couldn't have gotten Freeze because he was absolutely lighting up the SEC and seemed poised to have his pick of opportunities.

But trouble ensued, and Freeze has steadily put things back together atop the Liberty Flames program that's experiencing unprecedented success with Freeze at the helm.

He understands big-time, Power 5 football from a head coaching perspective from his work at Ole Miss, now knows the lay of the land in Virginia and has an excellent eye for talent evaluation – especially at the quarterback position.

Freeze is long removed from his past troubles, and the “big-time” school that eventually hires Freeze will get rewarded with a coach who's a winner. Freeze's career shows double-digit win totals by Year 2 in each of his stops, including Liberty.

MARCUS FREEMAN, NOTRE DAME D.C.: The Fighting Irish defensive play-caller and 2020 Broyles Award finalist, Freeman is, unquestionably, among the game's next head coaches.

Does that happen in this cycle? The next one? It's hard to say, but Freeman is on that track.

Here's the thing: From his playing days as a star linebacker at Ohio State to his path through the ranks coaching in college football, Freeman continues to carve a reputation as a phenomenal leader, meticulous planner and relentless recruiter.

From a military family, Freeman also fosters camaraderies and discipline within his charges. He's just in the first year of his deal at Notre Dame, and the Irish defense continues to battle injuries including to All-American safety Kyle Hamilton.

Yet, consider this: Notre Dame's defense is sitting on eight-plus quarters of not allowing a touchdown.

And Freeman the person? Well, he's just a couple weeks removed from taking over the Irish scout team during preparations for Navy and routinely dons a 'WOPU Nation' T-shirt on the practice field to honor the Golden Domers' walk-on players.

BILL O'BRIEN, ALABAMA O.C.: O'Brien, like Freeze, has previous Power 5 coaching experience. His work at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the ouster of Joe Paterno remains one of the absolutely brilliant coaching jobs in the past 20 years.

O'Brien also owns a strong run atop the Houston Texans' franchise – before he sought a bit too much power with both general manager and head coaching duties. The Texans flamed out, and O'Brien became yet another star-studded coaching reclamation asset for Saban and the Tide.

Alabama isn't putting up the insane numbers it did in previous years with Lane Kiffin and then Steve Sarkisian calling the plays, but it is in position to make another run to the College Football Playoff with a first-year starting quarterback.

O'Brien's strengths are offensive football and organizational structure, two elements needed in Blacksburg.

MIKE HOUSTON, EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates' head coach owns tremendous success in the Commonwealth from his run atop the James Madison program, and he's continuing to make an impact at East Carolina.

The Pirates are 4-2 in the American Athletic Conference and 6-4 overall, fresh off an overtime-win at Memphis, which has knocked off both Mississippi State and SMU this season, among others.

But here's the thing on Houston: he's a flat-out winner. In 11 seasons as a head coach, Houston is responsible for just three losing campaigns.

He likewise won a national title atop the James Madison program and played for another one as his team won 37 games in just three seasons.

CURT CIGNETTI, JAMES MADISON: The 60-year-old Cignetti knows the region well, having played quarterback at West Virginia, coached at Pittsburgh and North Carolina State under Chuck Amato as well as being a member of Nick Saban's original Alabama staff in Tuscaloosa.

In 11 seasons as a head coach, Cignetti has never had a losing season.

He's taken James Madison to the FCS title game, the semifinals and has them poised for a national seed and another enduring postseason run.

TONY ELLIOTT, CLEMSON: The Tigers' offensive coordinator hasn't generated the same buzz this year with Trevor Lawrence running the Jacksonville Jaguars' offense, but in the past calendar year, Elliott's been a candidate of interest in searches at Auburn, Tennessee and, most recently, TCU.

KEEP AN EYE ON ... DAVE CLAWSON: The Wake Forest coach is a model of remarkable consistency and experiencing a break-through campaign in Winston-Salem. Clawson also owns winning history in Virginia from his time atop the Richmond Spiders program.