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There are times in life when things happen that require serious devotion and deep introspection. As a sports fan and a writer, these things tend to happen to me quite often. But not since I began watching Virginia Tech football have I felt the urge to go into depth this much. To try to uncover all of the issues and provide logical, reasonable solutions for the fan who is taking it even harder than me. So don't jump off that ledge my fellow Hokie fan, or at least not before you read the Gobbler Country Manifesto.
First off, I need to address an issue. In my What To Watch published on Friday, I predicted the Bearcats to win and took heat for the prediction. After the game was over, and my prediction held true to the exact point spread, I still took heat from those who said I should've had more confidence in the team to start with. All I can say is, I promise I did not do it to be spiteful or to make a point. I have a responsibility to pick what I THINK is going to happen, and NO amount of personal attacks are going to make me pick the Hokies to win when I don't believe it to be the case. I have a responsibility to do that and to not be simply a typical sports fan homer. I made the pick based off of watching every Virginia Tech play this season, sometimes more than once. Picking the Hokies to lose was more about their deficiencies to date than Cincinnati's strengths and how they looked against Pittsburgh.
To question my dedication to the Hokies and my craft, and the many hundreds of hours I spend a year covering Virginia Tech sports is akin to sacrilege to me, and is one thing I will not tolerate, especially when it is being hurled at me or the site in a continually abusive manner. Trolling is one thing, but bullying is another, and as I have stated before, I will not let the reputation of this site be dragged through the mud by a bully. Now, on to the game and the state of the Hokies.
The Cincinnati Game:
The Hokies are certainly a more talented team than the Bearcats by my determination. When the season began, many Hokie fans wouldn't have been fretting over who would win, but instead how lopsided would it become? Even going into the game many predicted the Hokies to win. They were touchdown favorites in Vegas. But based on what happened on the field, it was a game Tech shouldn't have won. For those who would chalk it up to a lucky catch, or a few detestable calls by the officials (no matter how suspect they were), they are simply misappropriating blame to a select few plays and not the entire game. The Bearcats beat the Hokies all over the field for the majority of the game, not just on one play and not just when the referees failed to do the job they are paid to do. Any result other than a Virginia Tech loss would have been a stolen one.
@gobblercountry Wonder if that crew among NFL replacement refs.— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) September 27, 2012
@gobblercountry also weired how officiating could've arguably cost us all 3 of those games— Eric Lyons (@EricLyonsODLA) September 29, 2012
The Hokies put together two 1st downs in the first 25 minutes of the game, were fortunate to have stopped a Cincinnati fake field goal attempt (as it was only short by a number of feet), and were the beneficiaries of a Kris Harley interception that immediately put them in the red zone. They were out-gained by nearly 100 yards, a margin that was much greater before the madness at the end. At halftime the Hokies had 69 yards of offense and 57 penalty yards.
The Hokies converted on less than 33 percent of their 3rd down plays, and also missed a scoring chance in the red zone when a play after a Martin Scales touchdown was called back due to holding, Logan Thomas overthrew Randall Dunn who tipped the ball sky high, allowing Arryn Chenault to make a masterful interception. Tech turned the ball over 3 times to Cincinnati's 2. Most importantly, Tech lost the time of possession battle again, but I was astounded to see that it was by a mere 20 seconds, their second-best result this season. They have only won the time of possession battle once, a week ago against Bowling Green.
So to say the Hokies lost to a lucky catch or several officiating blunders (no matter how grievous), is just inaccurate.
Putting an end to coach speak escape ropes:
Here is the biggest issue afoot for the Hokies: Frank Beamer is in denial as Roanoke Times columnist Aaron McFarling so eloquently pointed out. In his post-game interviews, Beamer rattled off the following quotes when asked about the team's slow starts:
"I thought we played pretty good defense. I thought we had 'em scouted out pretty good and played good defense."
"What I look at is I thought we got better as an offense tonight. I thought we made some plays and were sharp in the second half. I'm going to take that and build on it."
After reporters were unsatisfied with his circling around the questions so much that a seasoned politician would be proud, they correctly did their jobs and asked him a THIRD time, this time posing it in a way that inquired if changes needed to be made. Beamer responded simply by saying this:
"No. We prepared hard. Our players did. Our coaches did."
McFarling's reply in his article was spot on:
"Well then. Nobody expects Beamer to bash his players or his staff, but at least an acknowledgement that the starts are unacceptable seems appropriate."
McFarling's analysis of Beamer's post-game remarks and the team's penchant for not showing up until after half is near perfect, so there is no point in trying to one-up him. What I will do however, is expand upon it.
The most obvious problem to me with what Beamer says is the comment about the players and staff preparing and trying hard. I get that. I don't doubt that, and if it is true I absolutely respect that. But there is a disconnect there. What they are doing is not working, no matter the efforts of both the players and the staff. One of the most important lessons in life is learning from one's mistakes so that they do not continue to occur. There is something to be said about a person who despite the results never changing, will continue to bang their heads into the wall to see what happens and expects different results.
So if in fact the Hokies' coaching staff and players are trying their absolute best, then the problem is not their effort. The question is, are they wearing themselves out by trying so hard at the wrong thing (i.e. banging your head into the wall)? Despite their best efforts, are they wasting their hard work in a system that was UNintentionally designed to fail? Or is this just coach speak, designed to cover the inadequacies of his staff and players, to shelter them and prevent them from receiving the criticism they are due? Or as Aaron McFarling suggested, is Beamer so attached that he is actually in denial about the existence of a problem at all?
That last possibility is the most frightening, however unlikely it may be. Coach speak is sometimes hard to break down and analyze. Sometimes it's authentic, and others it is applied as a means of misdirection, to completely throw the media and the fans off the scent that they were on to. Beamer has shown a tendency over the years to deflect all criticism and close ranks at the time of a crisis, basically putting an umbrella over everyone who played a part in whatever it was that elicited the criticism.
But in a way, that kind of activity is cancerous, not just because it alienates the fan base/media and essentially tells them that they think we're stupid and we didn't see what we just saw. It didn't happen. They probably have seriously looked into that Men In Black memory erasing device before for just that purpose. It is also cancerous because it reinforces the message to the coaching staff, no matter what they do, their jobs are safe, and Beamer will not railroad them or call them out for their inability to do their jobs (as he shouldn't, at least not in public), but he also should not try to conceal the presence of a problem when it so very obviously exists.
Beamer has said on several occasions, one of which stands out in my memory (after the 2008 ECU debacle) that criticisms of Bryan Stinespring by the Virginia Tech fan base were a very small minority, just before reaffirming Stinespring's status as safe. I thought that was outrageous for THEN, but that sentiment still exists today, precisely because of coach speak:
I am not trying to put this guy out there to make an example of him, but I do think that what he said is telling. He may actually really believe these things, but I think it's likely he has been conditioned to believe them as a result of coach speak. The reason I put parts of our conversation in this post is to show that people like this do exist, even today, in the Virginia Tech fan base. That conversation was after the Hokies loss to Pittsburgh earlier this year.
But as I have experienced both in person and in my time with this blog, the contingent of Virginia Tech fans who feel negatively about Bryan Stinespring and the job he has done as the offensive coordinator is the OVERWHELMING VOCAL MAJORITY, and those who feel positively about him and his performance are akin to, percentage-wise, Holocaust deniers. If in fact what Beamer said about Stinespring in 2008 was the case, why would he ever feel the need to address it? How would he have even heard about it? Why would he bother to dispel a rumor if it were so far from the truth? It's because he knows exactly how strong and persistent that majority is; a majority that has sent e-mail petitions to the university thousands strong requesting Stinespring's termination, that has created AT LEAST two sites dedicated solely to the objective of removing Stinespring and has forged several profitable and popular novelty t-shirts to that effect.
Coach speak is NOT popular with the majority of Tech fans, Beamer's answers are NOT perfectly fine for the majority of Tech fans and the majority of Tech fans do NOT like what he has to say after a game. This is reality. I provided just a few of the many interactions of fans on Twitter to that effect over the last few days:
@gobblercountry in addition consistent slow starts point to lack of preparation and coaching. Enough of the "give the other team credit bs".— Casey Cavanagh (@CaseycVT) September 30, 2012
There is nothing that the vocal majority can do to end coach speak. It will always happen, at Tech and everywhere games are played. All that can be done is to hope that the media continues to do their jobs the way they did this past weekend, by not letting coaches get away with dodging questions and continuing to persist until they get an acceptable answer, and for fans, continuing to voice your opinion, whether it be disapproval or approval, for what Frank Beamer says when the Hokies lose.
Logan Thomas is still our quarterback:
Not surprisingly, after another sub-par performance by Logan Thomas, there was a lot of clamoring for him to be benched.
@gobblercountry anybody think Leak should be the quarterback and put Thomas as a TE?— Trevor (@TrevorSGreene) September 22, 2012
Not since his first loss as a starter against Clemson a year ago have those sentiments been so vocal or so widespread. After all, Thomas did put up the greatest statistical season for a Virginia Tech quarterback in school history a year ago, and he entered the season as a dark horse Heisman candidate. He was projected by some draft experts as the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. 20 NFL scouts and GM's came to the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game to see HIM play, and it wasn't to see him at tight end. Logan Thomas' future is as a quarterback, and it is as the quarterback of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
I understand the frustration in the fan base regarding Thomas' performance, and even I myself have been completely stunned and baffled by it. It's not like Thomas' play is just a little below where it was a year ago. The difference is 180 degrees. He looks exactly like he did, as a converted tight end playing quarterback, through the first five games of last season. It feels to fans as if we were sold a bill of goods. Like Thomas' performance over the last nine games a season ago was not real, or if that Thomas were off somewhere playing that level of football in an alternate universe, while we're stuck watching the Thomas of old.
When something doesn't go right on offense, the quarterback is often the scapegoat, and that is part of the problem here. Thomas is the head of the offense and is therefore responsible for the ultimate success or failure of the unit, no matter the play-calling, blocking, running game, or the receivers' ability to get open and catch the ball. That thought process has conditioned us to see Thomas in an unfair light. Despite his knack for big-game comebacks or late drive magic, Thomas has been overburdened by our offense, and too much responsibility falls on him. I still think he is unflappable late, unfazed by the pressure of late game situations. But there is a gigantic difference between knowing you need to make a play and knowing you need to make EVERY play. That is what I think has caused the biggest drop-off in Thomas' play. That is why early in the season on the read-option, Thomas took seemingly every carry even if it wasn't the best decision. The offense needs to get back to a point where Thomas can sit back there and make plays, knowing that all he has to do is his part and the results will be favorable.
There is a possibility I'm wrong though. I would say it may even be as much as a 50/50 chance. After all, Thomas' poor play has occurred for long enough that we now have to wonder was what we saw down the stretch last year the real Thomas, or is what we saw at the beginning of last year and this year the real Thomas? Which is the aberration? In Thomas' 19 starts at quarterback, 10 have been average or worse and nine have been above average or spectacular. That's troubling. But then again, nine games, almost an entire season, is not a small sample size. Even if Thomas' run of great play were aberrant, the law of averages suggests that his play would return to Earth sooner than it did.
I have nothing against Mark Leal. I hope that in either 2013 (if Thomas recovers to put up dazzling statistics over the last eight or nine games of the season and forgoes his senior year to enter the draft) or in 2014 that he is ready to assume that starting role, and I will be nothing but happy for him. But there is a reason 20 scouts were there for Thomas and not for Leal on opening night, and it is not only a reflection of playing time. For as much NFL talent as this coaching staff has produced, I trust their evaluation of the two quarterbacks. After all, as talent evaluators, they are some of the best in the business, which is why the Hokies had the greatest positive differential between Rivals.com's recruiting rankings and actual rankings from 2002-2010. That is not to say that there is not a point where if Thomas were to continue to struggle, even more than he is now, the coaches should not at least give Leal some more reps. But for now, and until it is certifiably proven otherwise, Thomas gives the Hokies the best chance to win at quarterback.
Go back to our bread and butter on offense:
Whether Frank Beamer will admit it or not, the offense has problems. The offensive line has failed to generate any push in the running game for the majority of the year, and Logan Thomas has continually been pressured, often not allowing him time to find open receivers. Through the first four games, it was bad, but not historically so. It merely mirrored the offenses of 2006-08 for the Hokies. But on Saturday against Cincinnati, that changed. The offense was on pace to set records for futility in a modern game at Tech. As I mentioned above, the Hokies had 69 TOTAL yards at half, and had accrued 57 penalty yards as well.
What is most puzzling to me, and hopefully to some of you too, is that the 2010-2011 Tech offenses were a turning point in my mind. Stinespring/Mike O'Cain rarely made a really terrible call, and as a result, those two teams were the top-two offenses statistically in school history. So why is it that we dove off the deep end? How is it that, even in losing our top-two receivers in school history, one of our best ever running backs and four starters on the offensive line, that we could look THIS bad!? That question would seem to answer itself, if only it were the complete account of our personnel. What we returned was a record-setting quarterback, three senior receivers that had a wealth of experience and production and four offensive linemen with considerable experience. Even with those losses, it wouldn't have been outlandish to think we would have only taken a few steps back. In regards to the offensive line, the coaching staff even posited that talent-wise, they eclipsed last year's unit.
As the tweet below suggests, I think we should go back to our bread and butter:
@gobblercountry simplify the offensive calls early so we can get a rhythm. I counted an avg of 2 players movement before snap way too much— James McCormick (@JMcCor24) September 30, 2012
What is our bread and butter? Running the ball up the middle three consecutive times? Well, not so fast. Actually, literally not so fast. The hurry-up, no-huddle offense has served to negate one of our biggest advantages historically: time of possession. Simply look at Beamer's record when the other team wins the time of possession battle and you will realize the supreme importance of that statistic in relation to the Hokies' success.
The no-huddle offense is predicated on catching the other team off-guard, which the Hokies have not been doing, and the expectation of getting a first down, something they have also not been doing. When Tech continually goes three-and-out but runs no time off the clock, a tremendous stress is put on the defense. Seven of the Hokies eight first half possessions lasted less than two minutes, and the one that lasted longer was 2:53 and resulted in a punt. Imagine being a defensive player in that situation. As soon as you get off the field to sit down, maybe grab a quick drink and talk with your position coaches about the last drive, you're getting right back up to go out onto the field again.
Furthermore, the Hokies need to stop running plays into the ground. Wide receiver screens are predicated on catching the defense off-guard, and when Tech runs double-digit wide receiver screens, the likelihood that they will be successful is decreased each time. It's like running a trick play multiple times...which Tech did on three consecutive plays against Cincinnati. Tech was fortunate that two of the plays worked, because ordinarily, the results aren't that good in those situations. It's much easier to stop something that is expected. I am not opposed to running reverses with Roberts and Davis, provided they are effective and don't inhibit the normal flow of the offense. In other words, as long as they are run sparingly. The same is true of the wide receiver screen. At least in that department, the results support my argument 100 percent. The Hokies have run two or three TRULY successful wide receiver screens this season out of more than 30 attempts.
So simplifying the playbook is a good idea. Stick to what the offense is good at doing. Read option hasn't worked as well as it did in 2011 to date, but the traditional option has worked every play but once when the Hokies ran it. Some of the off-tackle draw plays with Holmes against Cincinnati were really working well later in drives when the defense was tiring. Running crossing routes instead of deep routes (always a criticism of Stinespring) more often will help the Hokies keep possession and likely improve Thomas' accuracy, as most of his passes have been intermediate-deep balls where he had to air it out. Lastly, ditch the no-huddle, and even run less of the Pistol formation if it is the culprit of the offensive line's woes (though I don't believe it is). The most important thing is controlling more of the clock, and without more of the ball, the Hokies will continue to struggle on offense and subsequently, on defense too.
The defense isn't as bad as it seems, but it's not as good as advertised:
Coming into the year, most analysts thought this would be a top-10 defense, and certainly a top-25 unit. Every Hokie thought it would be a top-10 defense. Heck, even the coaches compared the defense to some of their best defenses in school history on paper. Bud Foster's goal for them was 13 touchdowns, one per regular season game plus a potential ACC Championship game. Five games into the season, that goal is all but a dream. A completely farfetched dream as it turned out, as Tech has allowed 11 touchdowns through five games.
The regression of a defense that returns nine starters from a year ago, eight of whom have been on the field since the first game of the season, is alarming. The secondary we knew would be a work in progress, but the front seven, thought to be the real strength of the defense, has been a weakness. In fact, it's hard to determine at this point what in fact the weakest unit of the Tech defense is. The defense has only seven sacks through five games, an anemic total. And unfortunately, the statistics aren't lying. The Hokies haven't generated enough consistent pressure to make a quarterback fear them, and as a result, haven't made matters any better for the secondary. Granted Tech has had nagging injuries to important players, but with the depth and talent on the line (thought to be 8-10 deep in the pre-season), many thought the Hokies had the deepest line in the country, and most Hokies felt that with the talent and experience coming back, any injury concerns would be short-lived.
Without the likes of Jack Tyler and Kyshoen Jarrett, who are having All-ACC caliber seasons, it's hard to imagine where the Hokies would be right now. Certainly on the wrong side of .500 at this point. For a defense that was projected to be as good as the Hokies were, it can only be viewed at this point as an absolute and total failure. That's not to say it can't be fixed or improved from here on out, but rather, no matter the adjustments or improvements that could be made, this defense will be seen as underachievers and falling short of expectations.
The mess in the secondary:
Matthew Neal (@mneal25) September 29, 2012
Based on the first four games of the season, many of us were at least leaning towards the conclusion that Antone Exum is not a cornerback. He is a safety. And a damn good one at that. I know that we are paper thin at cornerback, but contrary to popular belief, the Hokies had already thought about shifting the secondary before James Farrow's decision to transfer to Minnesota, and although Exum's name didn't appear among the shifts listed in that article, it was a matter of days before the change of Exum to cornerback was announced.
Exum shined at rover, free safety and even nickelback early in his career at Tech, but since his move strictly to cornerback, he has struggled mightily. Exum, who added weight in the offseason, has been especially susceptible to wide receivers with any kind of speed. Too often they have just blown by him, and that is why, as David Teel points out in his blog, teams like Cincinnati are targeting him.
Having a good player at a position that doesn't suit him does no good. Time and time again that has proven to be the case. Marcus Vick was employed by the Miami Dolphins as a wide receiver. Armanti Edwards (the former Appalachian State quarterback) was drafted by the Carolina Panthers as a wide receiver, and just yesterday recorded his first career reception in three years (according to ESPN). Some people still think Michael Vick would be a better running back than quarterback! I mean if he can't stay on the field now...just imagine.
But I think the most telling example is how former Hokie Kam Chancellor was used at Virginia Tech. Chancellor started out at cornerback, moved to rover in 2007 and looked phenomenal. It appeared like Chancellor would be a more athletic version of his predecessor, Aaron Rouse. But in 2008, amid lack of depth in the secondary, the coaches moved Chancellor to free safety so as to have an experienced player in that role. At face value, the move made sense. The responsibilities of the free safety position dictate a need for an experienced player who can make calls, change coverages and decide where he has to provide help at a moment's notice during a given play. The free safety position is also usually referred to as the captain of the secondary, if not the captain of the defense. But the plan faltered because Chancellor was a very poor free safety. He was being played out of position and his play suffered. Many fans of his play in 2007 seemed to think he was doing a tremendous job in 2008 and 2009 for some reason, and gave him a pass, including his name among the greatest players ever to grace Tech's secondary. The reality however was a stark contrast from those who looked at Chancellor with their heart instead of their eyes.
Chancellor blew more coverages at free safety than any Tech player I can remember since I began watching in the late 1990's (including the 2012 team). He was consistently among the worst defensive players on the field for the Hokies during his two years at free safety. Once drafted into the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks immediately moved him back to strong safety, where a mere two years later he is among the most-feared and talented strong safeties in the game. Why? Because he is at his natural position.
What is also clear is that Donaldven Manning, originally thought to have an advantage over the typical true freshman because he enrolled in January and participated in Spring practice, is nowhere near ready to play. I don't want to harp on him too much for his mistakes (which have been plentiful), because after all, having to play him this much this early is not ideal, but if he is going to be on the field, it cannot continue to create a situation like Tech suffered in their first few games, where he played a part in every blown coverage when he was on the field. Donovan Riley, another freshman who has seen spot duty, is also not ready to play. When Fuller went down against Pittsburgh, and periodically against Cincinnati, the Hokies had two cornerbacks on the field that opposing teams wanted to exploit in their gameplan. That is telling. If the Hokies were to suffer a long-term injury there, it would be absolutely crippling.
Further complicating the issue of shuffling the secondary, Boye Aromire, a true sophomore who the Hokies were counting on for depth at both safety positions, transferred early in the season after being passed on the depth chart by Michael Cole. Cole has gotten his first action this season as a redshirt-freshman, and his time has significantly increased in the last three weeks. He's had his moments of very good play, but has also been victimized by taking bad angles, blowing coverages and missing tackles.
The only solution I have for the secondary's issues is this: reshuffle the secondary so that two players who are struggling at their new positions can play the positions where they are most comfortable and likely to succeed. What I would propose is to move Detrick Bonner back to cornerback, a position he played almost exclusively (on defense) in high school and to move Exum back to safety a position he played almost exclusively on defense in high school (as Kyshoen Jarrett has excelled at rover so far). Free safety is also the position Exum excelled at a year ago, leading the Hokies in tackles and being one of the most consistent performers on the entire defense.
This may be an extreme suggestion to some, but consider two things: One, the Hokies are already 3-2, and there are plenty of on-field changes that need to be made that don't involve firing coach ______, and two, again, these moves reflect moving these players back to their natural positions where they have prospered in the past. Just because Bonner and Exum spent the spring, fall and five games of the season at their new positions doesn't mean they forgot the coverages and techniques they learned to make them successful at the other positions. They may be a little rusty at first, but I would take rusty over a debacle any day, and that's the state the secondary is currently in.
I have rarely ever criticized the Virginia Tech coaching staff's decision to change a player's position, and when I have, I have usually been proven wrong. But clearly, this experiment has not worked. What do the Hokies lose by trying something that logically fits: playing players where they are most comfortable/apt to do so. What do they gain by staying the course? The defense has to be able to get off the field, and if opposing coaches and quarterbacks know how to exploit the Hokies, that won't happen.
The recruiting angle:
Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) September 30, 2012
Mike Farrell is right about the 2014 class in Virginia, it is loaded, and if the Hokies want to be players for some of The Commonwealth's top prospects, they can't let this season continue to get away from them. Just this week we heard about how one of the Hokies' first commitments of the 2013 class, safety Holland Fisher is visiting Alabama and potentially some other schools as well. Imagine being a four-star prospect, one of the highest ranked players in the nation, committing to a school in-state, being wooed by Alabama and receiving a pitch from Nick Saban somewhere along the lines of, "We won't lose to Pittsburgh or Cincinnati." On second thought, strike that, because there would never be a need for Nick Saban to articulate to a player that they would never lose to Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. It wouldn't need to be said.
Still, the point remains. The Hokies lost Korren Kirven to the Crimson Tide on Signing Day because they were able to offer him more. So what's to keep other top prospects from The Commonwealth from pursuing out-of-state powers like Alabama? Especially when the Hokies are seemingly widening the margin of the two programs by losing to Big East schools?
I can't blame players that take that route if this is all Virginia Tech is able to offer them. With the advent of Twitter and nationwide audiences for every game, teams must always be on their best behavior so to speak, or else they risk taking a hit in recruiting. Whether the Hokies will be able to close strong, or more importantly, hold on to the players who are already committed to them, is yet to be seen. All I can say is if it were me, (well, a me that wasn't madly obsessed with Virginia Tech football), I would begin to look elsewhere.
Why the season isn't over:
@gobblercountry we're done— Mark Owens (@MarkOwens5) September 30, 2012
Sorry to disagree with you Mark, and probably a lot of the Virginia Tech fan base, but I don't think this season is necessarily over or that we're necessarily done. Despite doing irreparable damage to our at-large BCS hopes, the Hokies have still not lost to an ACC team, and if they avoid losses against North Carolina and Miami, they could very well still represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. Beyond that? Well, let's just say at this point, even being a placeholder for the Coastal in the ACCCG would be a nice surprise.
But, in the end, nobody looks back to see who you lost to and when (unless they're JMU fans who apparently think the history of our series began in 2010...). Preserving the 10-win season streak would be tremendous at this point (however unlikely it is). But think about what it would say to recruits and outsiders if Tech went from 3-2 to 10-3, or 10-4, or even 11-3. It would be like the 1995 and 2010 teams. Think of how proud you were of those teams. Think of how proud you would be. With the way the Hokies have usually responded to challenges like these, that is not out of the question. It is again, unlikely, and it is not my job to try to inspire you to believe in that right now. That will have to come on the football field.
Course of action:
We had some wonderful responses about the changes that needed to be made:
@gobblercountry champs make changes.— Mr. Whistle Pig (@Mr_whistlepig) September 30, 2012
@gobblercountry this downturn has been looming the past 4 years. This is all Frank Beamer being too stubborn and refusing to accept change.— Casey Cavanagh (@CaseycVT) September 30, 2012
All of those concerns are relevant, and right now it isn't clear to the casual fan what changes should be made, just that by nature, if something's wrong, it needs to be changed. I've already offered my suggestions about how the Hokies could alter their secondary and to slow down the pace of their offense to keep more possession of the ball. But when it comes to coaching changes, I will be mum, because mid-season coaching changes are crippling. Even if the Hokies were to fire Stinespring (which again, DUH they're not doing. Bryan Stinespring's wife after all is Coach Beamer's secretary...unless that has changed over the last couple of years, in which case, apologies all around the the Stinespring gang) or relinquish play-calling duties from either or O'Cain or his natural replacement Stinespring, who would they go out and hire mid-season? Would they call on Billy Hite? Or Shane Beamer? Who would be a BETTER option today? Would their offensive philosophies fit? Would the players be able to learn the new plays/formations on the fly. The answer is almost certainly no.
What is clear though is that those coaches are now auditioning for their jobs. Despite what Beamer says when questioned about the coaches and needing to make changes, he cannot justify keeping the staff intact as is if the Hokies were to suffer a losing record, miss out on a bowl game, or have such a disastrous season that he could not deflect criticism. His ability to do that right now is completely dependent on the Hokies winning enough games to do so.
Those who think Beamer should be fired are still likely a minority, and do not count me among that minority despite everything I have said so far. Beamer has earned the right to leniency when it comes to the Hokies performance, if for nothing other than that he built the program as we know it today. He is not however impervious. There is a point where no matter the significance to our program, he would no longer be a viable coach. That is why the rest of this season is so pivotal for the program. Beamer may still be a ways from the hot seat, but he has set the precedent that for him to fire one of his coaches, they'll have to come through him. If that proviso should continue, eventually, he could take the choice of when to walk away out of his hands. Just remember, after a storied career at Florida State, Bobby Bowden was let go after a 30-22 record over his last four years.
Re-establishing our expectations:
@gobblercountry 7-5 this season.— Trevor (@TrevorSGreene) September 30, 2012
Unfortunately, Trevor is probably predicting a very accurate scenario. Aside from this weekend's challenging game at Chapel Hill, the Hokies have to travel TO Clemson, TO Miami and host the team that finally looks for real in Florida State. So to think that three losses would come out of those games, or who knows, the Hokies have proven vulnerable to upset against out of conference teams. Is this finally the year that Duke gets over the hump against the Hokies? They've played Tech close in three of their last four meetings.
Would any Hokie be happy with a 7-5 season? I'm guessing no, but that is a possibility and we as fans will have to embrace that possibility should it happen. 7-5 ins't the end of the world, though it may feel like it. There are a lot of teams dying to be 7-5. We are not one of them though.
As for Casey Cavanagh's tweet, as well as some of the other feedback suggesting Tech would not win a championship under Beamer, I agree. I will continue to maintain, as I have for years, that the Hokies will not win a national championship under Beamer. It's just not going to happen. And I'm okay with that, as long as we're winning 10-games a year, it's hard to argue with those results. If you feel differently, say so in the comments section.
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