Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente has promoted safeties coach Justin Hamilton to defensive coordinator, per a press release from the school this morning. Per the press release, running backs coach Zohn Burden and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell will not be returning. Sources tell TSL that Burden and Mitchell will not coach in Tech’s bowl game.
“Justin has earned this opportunity to lead our defense and our football team,” Fuente said. “Everyone in our program has a great deal of respect for him and his abilities. Coach Foster has reiterated to me on several occasions that Justin is ready for this next step in his coaching career. I feel the same way and am convinced he’s exactly the right fit for this role at Virginia Tech. Coach Hamilton is a talented coach and recruiter with a deep passion for both the game and Virginia Tech. He possesses a great knack for connecting with our players. His voice carries tremendous weight on the field and in the locker room because he’s worn that helmet and experienced many of the same things the young men in our program are going through.
“Just as importantly, Coach Hamilton exemplifies the Hard, Smart, Tough mantra that is so important to us at Virginia Tech,” Fuente continued. “Nothing was ever handed to Justin Hamilton, he’s had to earn everything. I respect his work ethic and roots in this region very much. Coach Hamilton and I both understand the legacy and tradition of Lunch Pail Defense that Coach Foster and generations of players have established at Virginia Tech. Justin has been, and certainly continues to be a big part of that. There’s no way to replace a man like Bud Foster. What we need is a coach, a teacher and a talent evaluator who can help our current team continue to succeed, while recruiting the right kind of young men to join our program in the future. There’s no question in my mind that Justin Hamilton is the right man for the job.”
Hamilton played for Virginia Tech from 2001 through 2005, lining up at running back, wide receiver and free safety during the course of his career. He went on to have a short NFL stint with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.
“I’m honored, humbled and beyond excited about this opportunity,” Hamilton said. “I appreciate the faith and trust that Coach Fuente has placed in me. I understand and appreciate the responsibility that comes with this position. I was raised in this game by Frank Beamer and Bud Foster. Virginia Tech football will always be part of my identity. No one can ever fill Bud’s shoes, but we are going to strive to play tough, aggressive defense just like we always have here at Tech. I’m indebted to Coach Fuente to get to continue coaching at a place I love very dearly. We’re going to do everything we can to uphold the Virginia Tech standard on the defensive side of the ball.”
Hamilton native spent four seasons at VMI prior to returning to Blacksburg in 2018. He worked as VMI’s inside linebackers coach in 2017 after a three-year stint coaching outside linebackers. He also served as co-special teams coordinator for his final three seasons with the Keydets. Hamilton joined VMI after serving as defensive coordinator at UVA-Wise from 2011-13. He also spent time as a strength and conditioning coordinator at UVA-Wise in 2010-11. He was a defensive assistant at Virginia Tech in 2018 before being elevated to safeties coach in 2019.
Hamilton will continue in his role as safeties coach while also assuming defensive coordinator responsibilities. That means Virginia Tech will be in the market for a new linebackers coach to replace Foster.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better to continue our tradition of Virginia Tech defense than Justin Hamilton,” Foster said. “Justin embodied our team-first mentality as a player and did anything and everything we ever asked of him. He was a gritty player, and he’s exactly the same way as a coach. He’s fought and competed for every opportunity he’s earned in the coaching profession, and I respect the way he’s approached it from day one. When we brought Justin back to Virginia Tech, in the back of my head I was hoping that I could help groom him to someday become a defensive coordinator. While I didn’t know when or where that opportunity might come, I’m thrilled that it’s happened for him at Virginia Tech.
“When Coach Fuente asked whether Coach Hamilton was ready, my answer was, ‘Absolutely, he’s ready. He’s a guy who will evolve, learn and get better from every experience,'” Foster continued. “I know Coach Fuente didn’t have to ask my opinion, but when he did it just confirmed what we were both already thinking, that we had the right man already in the building to carry the torch for the Lunch Pail Defense. I couldn’t be more proud of Justin and I’ll continue supporting him and the Hokies in any way I can in my new role away from the field.”
TSL will have more on this move in our Monday podcast, as well as in upcoming articles throughout the week.