Justin Fuente Named Top First-Year Coach by FWAA

TAMPA – Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and USC’s Clay Helton were named the top first-year FBS head coaches in the nation by the Football Writers Association of America.

Fuente guided the Hokies to a 10-4 record, a victory in the Belk Bowl and a berth in the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game – their first appearance in the league title game since 2011. He was previously named the 2016 ACC Coach of the Year by The Associated Press, the conference’s coaches and media, as well as Athlon Sports. His 10 victories were the most ever by a first-year Virginia Tech head coach.

The ACC’s youngest head coach and the fourth-youngest FBS head coach in 2016, Fuente oversaw an offensive resurgence for the Hokies in 2016 as Tech broke single-season team records for points (490), total offense (6,223 yards) and passing offense (3,660). Virginia Tech’s 31 touchdown passes also surpassed the previous single-season school record of 24.

The Hokies also have continued Tech’s tradition of being opportunistic on defense and special teams in Fuente’s debut campaign. Tech’s defense ranked second among Power Five squads on third down at 27.5 percent and fifth in completion percentage (50.1 percent).

Andrew Motuapuaka returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown in a 52-10 victory over Virginia, marking the 90th defensive touchdown for the Hokies since 1987. The Hokies also registered two special teams scores in 2016, getting an 87-yard punt return by Greg Stroman vs. East Carolina, while Adonis Alexander returned a blocked field goal attempt for a 75-yard touchdown at Duke.

The 40-year-old Fuente joined Virginia Tech after a four-year stint at Memphis, where he orchestrated a remarkable turnaround. After inheriting a program that went 5-31 in the three years prior to his arrival, the Tigers went 19-6 in their final two seasons under Fuente, earning back-to-back bowl appearances.

Virginia Tech capped the season with a 35-24 victory in the Belk Bowl against Arkansas, orchestrating the largest comeback in school history. Down 24-0 at halftime, the Hokies rallied to score 35 unanswered points. The club also rallied from a pair of 17-point deficits at Notre Dame to record a 34-31 victory earlier in the season

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