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Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.

Pitt mourns passing of Chris Doleman following ‘prolonged and courageous battle against cancer’

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The extended Pitt football family is grieving the loss of one of its own.

Late Tuesday night, it was confirmed that Chris Doleman, 58, had passed away following “a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer.” Two years ago this month, Doleman had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Doleman played his college football at Pitt from 1981-84.  From the school’s release:

Doleman finished his college career third all-time at Pitt with 25 sacks, a total that still ranks eighth nearly four decades later. He played in the Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta bowl games, while helping the Panthers earn three Top 20 finishes, including a No. 2 ranking in 1981 and No. 9 finish in 1982.

As a senior, Doleman was elected a Pitt tri-captain with linebacker Troy Benson and offensive tackle Bill Fralic. In addition to his immense athletic gifts, the 6-foot-5 Doleman also set a standard with his desire and relentless play.

The late Foge Fazio, Doleman’s defensive coordinator in 1981 before serving as head coach from 1982-85, said: “Sometimes we’ll stop the game film just to point out to the team Chris’ desire and hustle to get there.

In December of 2018, Fralic passed away at the age of 56.

“I had only been at Pitt for a few months when I first met Chris and he could not have been more supportive and enthusiastic about the University of Pittsburgh,” said Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi in a statement. “It was obvious that he took great pride in being a Panther. I remember we had him as our honorary captain when we played at Georgia Tech one year and he was so energetic with our kids. You know he wanted to put on that Pitt helmet one more time. Our deepest sympathies to the Doleman family. His passing is a great loss for all of us, but his memory and legacy, on and off the field, will never be forgotten.

The fourth-overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Doleman was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Third Oklahoma State WR in a week enters transfer portal

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It’s been quite the past handful of days for the Oklahoma State football receiving corps.

On Twitter a week ago Tuesday, Tyrell Alexander announced that he has decided to transfer from the Oklahoma State football team and “reopen my recruitment process.” The wide receiver would be leaving Stillwater as a graduate transfer for his final season of eligibility.

Two days later, teammate and fellow receiver LC Greenwood entered the portal as well.

Tuesday, another of Greenwood’s and Alexander’s receiving teammates at OSU, C.J. Moore, announced on Twitter that he too will be entering the transfer portal.

“God has a different plan for me,” Moore wrote. “Please respect my decision.

A four-star 2018 signee, Moore was rated as the No. 26 receiver in the country. He was also the No. 5 player in the state of Oklahoma regardless of position. More to the point, Moore was the highest-rated signee in the Cowboys’ class that year.

Despite that recruiting pedigree, the 6-5, 175-pound receiver failed to even remotely live up to it on the field. He played in one game as a true freshman and took a redshirt. In 2019, he totaled 81 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions in five games.

It’s likely that Moore will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS school. That would then leave him with two seasons of eligibility beginning in 2021.

Moore, Greenwood and Alexander are actually the second, third and fourth wide receivers to leave the Oklahoma State football team this cycle, joining Patrick McKaufman.  Like Moore, Greenwood was a four-star recruit, albeit in 2017.  Alexander was a three-star signee in 2016.  McKaufman came to OSU from junior college.

All told, a dozen Cowboys have left the program.

Tight end Grayson Boomer was another of those transfers.

Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence co-favorites in latest odds to win 2020 Heisman Trophy

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We’re nearly three full weeks into the college football offseason, so what better time than the present for some 2020 Heisman odds?

Shortly after suffering the first loss of his collegiate career, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was listed as a 7/2 favorite to claim this year’s Heisman Trophy. Right behind Lawrence was Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at 4/1.

In the updated 2020 Heisman odds released by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Fields and Lawrence, both true juniors, are list as co-favorites at 4/1. No one else is really all that close, with Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler coming in at 12/1.

Interestingly, new Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman, who transferred in from Wake Forest this month, is one of two listed at 14/1. The other is also a quarterback, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger.

The shortest odds for a running back are Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, who surprised many observers by returning to the Cowboys for his senior season, and Clemson’s Travis Etienne, who surprised most observers by staying with the Tigers and returning for his senior season, at 20/1.  The last two decades, just three running backs have won the Heisman.  The last player at that position to claim the most prestigious trophy in collegiate sports was Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015.

The two quarterbacks expected to replace 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow and 2018 Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, LSU’s Myles Brennan and Alabama’s Mac Jones, respectively, are both at 25/1.  One 2020 signee, though, will have some say in the Alabama competition.

Arizona safety Xavier Bell enters transfer portal

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If you had the Arizona Wildcats football program as the next school to feel the portal’s sting, collect your winnings. Or something.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Xavier Bell has taken the first step in leaving the Pac-12 school. An Arizona Wildcats football official subsequently confirmed that the defensive back is in the NCAA transfer database.

A redshirt sophomore, Bell will be leaving the Wildcats as a graduate transfer. That will allow him to use the first of his two seasons of eligibility in 2020 at another FBS school.

Bell was a three-star 2017 signee. The California native was rated as the No. 73 safety in the country on the 247Sports.com composite.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Bell played in 22 games the past two seasons. Of those, 10 appearances came in 2019. During his time with the Wildcats, Bell has been credited with 21 tackles, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. He also blocked a punt in 2018.

Bell is one of a handful of players at his position who have left the program. From Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star:

Arizona hasn’t lost as many players to the transfer portal since the start of the 2019 season as some of its Pac-12 rivals. But four players played safety at one point or another: Bell, Day Day Coleman, Maurice Gaines and Chacho Ulloa.

At the moment, just four Arizona Wildcats football players are listed in the portal.

The development involving Bell comes a couple of weeks after the revamping of the defensive coaching staff was completed.