Who's next at Virginia Tech? Possible successors for Beamer

The cliche goes that you don't want to be the guy who follows the coaching legend.

Well, it's worked out OK for Jimbo Fisher, who has returned Florida State to elite-program status since taking over for Bobby Bowden at Florida State.

Virginia Tech does not have the advantage of the fertile Florida recruiting ground, but it is a program with lots to offer. Longtime coach Frank Beamer will step down after this season. Whomever athletic director Whit Babcock hires to replace the future Hall of Fame coach has a chance to get the Hokies playing for Atlantic Coast Conference titles again fairly fast.

Here are some possible candidates:

Matt Campbell, Toledo. The 35-year-old is primed to make a jump. He speaks the same language as Babcock when he talks about leadership and creating a culture of player ownership in the program.

Justin Fuente, Memphis. When you turn Memphis into a top-15 team, you're pretty much going to show up on all of these lists. Fuente was the offensive coordinator for Gary Patterson at TCU and that has been the most problematic side of the ball for the Hokies.

Butch Jones, Tennessee. Jones really wanted this job so it might be a stretch to see him leave it after three years. Especially considering the way the Vols, despite some excruciating losses this season, are progressing. But Jones worked for Babcock at Cincinnati and he is getting a taste of how impatient SEC fans can be.

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona. The former West Virginia coach is getting a little dose of reality at Arizona this season. The Wildcats are 5-4 after winning the Pac-12 South last season. It's a tough place to sustain high level success. The West Virginia native would be moving closer to home and at 52 could be there for the long haul.

Matt Rhule, Temple. The enthusiastic 40-year-old gets his players to play hard and believe in themselves. The Owls went from 2-10 in his first season to 7-1 and taking Notre Dame down to the wire this season.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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