BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech has 2020 signees scheduled to move into their new homes on campus in Blacksburg as early as Thursday morning.
Who will be greeting them at the football offices?
Hokies coach Justin Fuente reportedly interviewed Wednesday for the Baylor head coaching job, which became available when Matt Rhule left to take the same position with the Carolina Panthers.
While Fuente arrived at his office on campus at 7 a.m. with the rest of the coaching staff, it was unclear when his work day ended.
Fuente remains in the mix for the opening, but reports from ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg named LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda a strong candidate, as is internal candidate Joey McGuire, the Bears’ interim coach who has been on staff for the past three years.
The Roanoke Times reached out to a number of Tech’s 2020 signees to see what the coaching staff was sharing about the situation.
Three incoming freshmen who responded said they hadn’t heard directly from the coaching staff about Fuente’s connection to Baylor.
The topic was brought up in a group chat by one signee, and Tech staff members called the reports “rumors.”
There was some football staff news on Wednesday. Tech special assistant Jerry Kill, the former Minnesota head coach who left that job due to health issues, is taking an unspecified job with another Big 12 program — TCU. A source with knowledge of the situation said the two situations are unrelated. TCU coach Gary Patterson reached out to Kill before Baylor’s pursuit of Fuente.
The two Kansas natives developed a friendship as former coaching disciples of another ex-TCU coach, Dennis Franchione. Kill was the best man at Patterson’s wedding.
Patterson replaced Kill as linebackers coach at Pittsburg State and tried to get him on staff as his offensive coordinator at TCU years before Fuente landed the same position.
Kill was serving as the athletic director at Southern Illinois when Fuente reached out to him about joining Tech’s staff. Kill had previously spent a few weeks in Blacksburg during the summer.
“I wanted to talk about everything from the minute details of what he noticed,” Fuente said in September. “I’ve done this before with other coaches — people you know that you can bring in that will tell you the truth. You don’t really want someone to come in and say, ‘Yup, everything looks good,’ and leave. You want somebody that has got the courage and knowledge base to give you good feedback.”
Kill had a 29-29 record at Minnesota, which made three bowl appearances during his tenure, and he was named Big Ten coach of the year in 2014. He stepped down in 2015 for health reasons (complications with epilepsy). He had a brief stint as Rutgers’ offensive coordinator in 2017.
Kill, who signed a two-year deal worth $175,000 annually with Tech, had an open-ended job description.
He was not allowed to work directly with players, but he could still travel to games and be a sounding board for coaches — particularly ones on the offensive side of the ball. He was instrumental in helping make some of Tech’s recent staff hires as well, one of which was Kill’s longtime defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys as the team’s linebackers coach.
Fuente spoke during the lead-up to the Belk Bowl about how pleased he was with the addition of Kill to the staff in the midst of some uncertainty with defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s impending retirement and going through the season with an interim director of football operations.
“Jerry has been a huge help to us to making it through all this transition at once, really been a remarkable resource and huge help,” Fuente said.