Welcome to another edition of Hogs of the Round Table. You can check out part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here, part six here, and part seven here, and part eight here.
Justin Fuente has had a seat of all temperatures this season, with early season fans wanting him fired, and now fans wanting to extend him. Has Fuente done enough at Virginia Tech to satisfy you? How much credit do you give him for where Memphis is now?
Adam: It seems like he’s been on the hot seat, but the Hokies are 8-3 and he’s 33-18 in four years there. I think Virginia Tech is a tough job right now because Fuente had to follow a legend like Frank Beamer. He gets a lot of credit for where Memphis is today, and that’s one of the reasons Mike Norvell gives so many fans pause. He was also very good as offensive coordinator at TCU before that.
Saul: I don’t get it, but it always seems like he’s on the hot seat! He’s doing well at Virginia Tech. He’s got a solid win percentage there. He took Memphis to places that nobody thought they would go and I think they’re still reaping the benefits of his time there.
Tucker: I love Fuente, and am higher on him than Hokie fans. Like Adam said, it’s never easy to follow a legend of the game, but Fuente has filled in admirably. He’s got a tradition of making good assistant hires, and has won in a place with similar challenges to Arkansas in Memphis. I think he’s done plenty.
What would you like about this hire?
Adam: He’s got Texas ties. He’s from Tulsa, so this would be close to home for him. He’s done fine at Virginia Tech and was fantastic at Memphis.
Saul: Ties to the region, Texas especially. He’s from around here (Tulsa) and I think could do some good recruiting from Oklahoma and Arkansas. He’s got Virginia Tech in good spot and, as mentioned, was fantastic at Memphis.
Tucker: As a guy from Tulsa, I think he’d be familiar with why the Arkansas job is a good, special job more than someone with no ties to the region. While I don’t think it should be a deciding factor, any ties to the area is a positive aspect to me. Add in the fact that he’s recruited the region plenty with his time at TCU and Memphis, and you’ve got a good recipe.
What would give you reservations about this hire?
Adam: This would be a hard sell to fans who have read headlines about whether Fuente’s job is even safe at Virginia Tech. I don’t think he’s a championship-type, high-level coach. I do think he’s a solid coach who would quickly upgrade Arkansas’ position in the SEC.
Saul: It’s gonna be hard to separate Fuente from the “hot seat” designation that always seems to follow him even when he’s doing well. I think that gives him a shorter leash right off the bat, which isn’t fair to him. I echo Adam is saying I don’t know if this is a championship level coach, but I think he’s got more positives than negatives.
Tucker: I don’t necessarily share the same fears as the others regarding a ceiling, but I do wonder about the fears of him being given a short leash. Arkansas needs a new coach who is going to be here for 5 or more years at least, and if we hire someone who is constantly on the “hot seat,” that could plunge the program into even more instability.
Would you personally be happy with this hire?
Adam: I’d be fine with this hire. He’s less risky than some other options, and that may be at the forefront of Hunter Yurachek’s mind. But there are other big names that I would prefer. I don’t think Fuente wins the SEC West anytime soon, but I also don’t think he goes 2-10.
Saul: Yeah, I’d be happy with it. I think he’s very safe, which is fine for now, but at some point we’re going to want more than safe. I think if he can come in and do better than 2-10, he can build from there.
Tucker: I think I’m higher on Fuente than most. I think he’s a great balance of low-risk, high-reward, and he’s done it at enough places that he’s probably not a faker. They say you rise to the level of your incompetence, and while it’s clear that a guy like Chad Morris may be maxed out in incompetence in the American Conference, Fuente has proven that he can do it in the Big 12 as a coordinator, a coach in the American, and a coach in the ACC. That’s a high enough level for me.