Virginia Tech’s official website released a statement on Sunday morning Hokies have promoted safeties coach Justin Hamilton to defensive coordinator. Hamilton, a former Virginia Tech player, returned to Blacksburg in 2018 as a director of player development on the defense.
He was promoted to a full-time position last offseason, coaching safeties. Hamilton began his coaching career at UVa-Wise in 2010 as a strength and conditioning coach for two years. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2011 and spent three seasons in that position.
In 2014, Hamilton accepted a position at VMI to coach outside linebackers and also operated as a co-special teams coordinator. Hamilton spent the 2017 season coaching inside linebackers for the Keydets before returning to his alma mater.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente had this to say about Hamilton and his promotion, via Hokie Sports.
Justin has earned this opportunity to lead our defense and our football team. 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.
In addition to Fuente’s comments, the Hokies also released a statement from the legendary Bud Foster, the man who Hamilton has the unenviable task of replacing in this role.
I couldn’t think of anyone better to continue our tradition of Virginia Tech defense than Justin Hamilton. 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.
Foster continued in his praise for Hamilton and it sounds like he will play a major role in helping Hamilton succeed in this new role.
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.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.
It sounds like the Hokies felt Barry Odom, their presumed No. 1 target, was going to take the Memphis head coaching job, and quickly moved to Plan B. We know there are many in Blacksburg in the football building who were high on Hamilton and his coaching future.
This feels like too soon on many levels. The Hokies—and especially Fuente—needed to knock this hire out of the park. Perhaps, they did. Hamilton must be an aggressive and impactful recruiter for this move to be a slam-dunk hire. Foster will certainly be there for him in regards to game-planning and the day-to-day chores of being a big-time defensive coordinator.
Buried deep in the press release was that Fuente also announced running backs coach Zohn Burden and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell would not be returning to Virginia Tech in 2020.
I would expect more news about this hire in the coming week. The Hokies will add another experienced coach to team with Hamilton and a name to watch is former Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys. He is a close associate of Jerry Kill and while he would be a terrible choice to replace Foster, he could be an excellent sounding board for Hamilton.
We will follow this story throughout the week and will have the news on any and all coaching hires for the Hokies.
Congratulations and good luck, Coach Hamilton.