Bruce Feldman of CBS officially broke the news on Loeffler's hiring via Twitter on Monday night:
Va. Tech has hired former Auburn asst. Scot Loeffler as Hokies new OC, a source just told CBS.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 14, 2013
Though Feldman only reported the hiring Monday night, I had it from a good source that Loeffler was officially offered the job last Saturday, and that his visit to Blacksburg was to iron out the details. It was also a peculiar announcement from a Beamer-led staff that usually likes to have all its ducks in a row before going public with anything, considering that former (and current at the time) Offensive Coordinator Mike O'Cain had not been fired according to this article by Mike Barber of the Richmond Times Dispatch. Though the announcement of Loeffner's hiring was not officially made by Virginia Tech about the hirings of Grimes and Moorehead until Friday, the same source that gave me that scoop helped us to be the first to break this:
According to source, rumor is Loeffler hired Saturday. Aaron Moorehead for WR coach and Grimes at OL. He must be putting his staff together.— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) January 14, 2013
And several hours later, Twitter was ablaze with rumors of Moorehead as Tech's new wide receivers' coach, albeit erroneously called Moreland by several bloggers/media types. But since Loeffler was officially announced first and holds the highest profile position of the three, we'll start with him. Here's a link to the official press release.
Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler
Loeffler previously held posts as a quarterbacks coach at Central Michigan (2000-01), Michigan (2002-07), the Detroit Lions (2008) and Florida (2009-10). He also maintained the title of quarterbacks coach at both Temple and Auburn during his stints as offensive coordinator. He also served as a graduate assistant, working with quarterbacks at his alma mater, Michigan, from 1996-1999.
Loeffler has coached several high-profile quarterbacks over his career, including the likes of Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Drew Henson and John Navarre. While that list is Michigan heavy and seems ancient to a lot of college football fans of today, those were all pretty good quarterbacks of their time.
Loeffler's hiring caused some debate amongst the Virginia Tech fan base. While there are some that will gladly say that they were okay with anyone who was not Mike O'Cain or Bryan Stinespring, others have argued a number of reasons as to why he wasn't a good hire, foremost his track record as an offensive coordinator. Loeffler's coordinating résumé only contains two spots (each a one-year stint), and at 38, may not be ready to take over a Virginia Tech offense that sputtered a year ago after the best two statistical years in team history in consecutive seasons (2010-11).
In fact, Loeffler's offense at Auburn a year ago was so woeful that it finished No. 115 out of 120 FBS teams nationally in total yards per game (305), far worse than the Hokies No. 81 ranked offense that produced 377 yards per game. Loeffner's offense also ranked No. 112 in scoring offense with 18.67 points per game (31 spots lower than the Hokies), No. 78 in rushing offense (one spot higher than the Hokies) and No. 112 in passing offense (58 spots lower than the Hokies). That said, it has been well documented that Loeffler didn't have a great deal of talent to work with on the offensive side of the ball in Auburn's offense a season ago, at least not what we'd expect from a team like Auburn. He also was batting players recruited to play in his predecessor's (Gus Malzahn) offensive system.
Here is a critique of Loeffler's decision-making on October 11th from the Auburn blog The War Eagle Reader:
"The Loeffler Question – What the Heck are We Doing?
Here is a simple question: What is Auburn trying to do on offense? We all see what the results are. But what is Auburn’s offensive identity supposed to be? You would think after watching every play of every game that we would all know this by now. We thought Loeffler was hired as a "run-first" guy but we are actually throwing the ball much more than last season. (The actual breakdown shows more run plays than passes, but when you account for all the scrambles and sacks, the numbers are much more even.) And the constant rotation of players and seemingly random play selection at times doesn’t allow anyone to get a rhythm."
Unfortunately, those critiques if correct are very similar to the pitfalls that prevented the Hokies 2012 offense from reaching its full potential (not having a clear offensive identity, throwing the ball way too often and misusing personnel). But, in his only other stint as an offensive coordinator (2011 at Temple), the Owls finished No. 7 nationally in rushing offense with just under 257 yards per game, No. 116 in passing offense with just under 127 yards per game, No. 63 in total offense with 383 yards per game and No. 39 in scoring offense with just under 31 points per game. While the passing stats still wreak to high heavens, I highly doubt the combination of Chester Stewart, Chris Coyer and Mike Gerardi would make any OC look good from a passing statistics perspective. In fact, under the direction of mostly Chris Coyer this season, Temple fared even worse in that department that it did under Loeffler in 2011. So appearances can be misleading. Likewise, the 2012 Auburn Tigers threw for 143 yards fewer than the 2011 team despite player one fewer game, giving them a higher average per game by a yard, and that is without returning the 2011 starter. So he is certainly not the worst offensive coordinator in the game. He has also proven his worth as a recruiter (although there is no indication of what his role at Virginia Tech will be in that department), landing huge prep players like Jordan Reed at Florida and Ryan Mallett at Michigan.
As SB Nation's EDSBS' (or Every Day Should Be Saturday) Spencer Hall said:
"He was, in some part, responsible for the Auburn's fart party on offense, a mismashed series of concepts, desperate swipes at a passing game, and a pro-style run game incapable of not tripping over the legs of its pulling guards. If this sounds like the Virginia Tech offense of 2012, it is not. The Virginia Tech offense was better in every imaginable and quantifiable way, and that is a very, very bad thing out of context."
"What we're trying to tell you, Virginia Tech: Loeffler is the hardest kind of hire to evaluate, and that is an adequate to decent hire. He's in the middle of his career, and runs an offensive system that will have no one confusing the Hokies for Oregon. He'll run the ball, and work Logan Thomas into the run game with the zone read, something he did quite effectively with lesser ingredients at Temple.
It is not a bad hire, and it is certainly not a shoe-knocking hammer throw of a signing, either. It's adequate, and will do nicely enough for what Virginia Tech is under Frank Beamer: a defensive team that scores points through field position and, at one point in the past, through special teams. The Hokies bought a four door sedan because dammit, what would they do with a sports car? Wrap it around a telephone pole like Tommy Tuberville did when he tried to go up-tempo and spread at Auburn? Or whatever the hell the identity crisis is that Mack Brown's having in Austin?
Nah, Frank's fine with the Celica.* Or Scot Loeffler. Whatever the hell you want to call it. It gets them where they want to go, and gives Logan Thomas a reliable way of getting from point A to point B on the football field. It's easy to say a hire is bad or good. It is hardest to explain the average to okay hire, i.e. someone like Scot Loeffler. You'll probably be average to competent on offense this year, and given what happened to Logan Thomas last year, that would constitute improvement."
I would like to file that under harsh but fair. As many Virginia Tech fans will admit (or at least should admit) nobody had ever heard of this guy, or the rumor of his name being involved in the offensive coordinator search before two weeks ago. Also, there was a huge contingent of Hokie fans who were sold on the possibility of either Pep Hamilton of Stanford or Ralph Friedgen (formerly the head coach at Maryland and a close personal friend of the elder Beamer) taking over the reigns of the Tech offense. And although Loeffler was far from the sexy hire that Hamilton or Friedgen would have been (yes, I just used Friedgen and sexy in the same sentence), there is also at least a possibility that Loeffler will not be as bad as either of those two might have been.
To call him a safe hire might be stretching it, as Beamer and co. really seemed to take this search to heart, scouring the college football coaching tree and extending their net in many different directions I didn't expect them to. But likewise, Beamer didn't go out of his way to make a particular risky hire, i.e. maybe someone with a seedy past, a guy who would make a jump to the NFL in no time flat, or a guy who feuded with every coach he had every worked with.
If you ask my opinion, I am relatively happy with the hire. Of course time reveals everything, and this hire may turn out to be the seminal piece in the undoing of Frank Beamer. But I think it is likelier that it will help repair the Virginia Tech offense, at least to a degree, in the short term. And honestly, as Virginia Tech fans, witnessing what we've seen on that side of the ball for many years, can we ask much more than that?
In summation, while Tech may not have landed the home run hires that everyone was squawking about over the last few weeks, please know that in reality, few sports teams ever end up with their number one guy. So these hires accomplish two things: to clear the staff of the coaches who weren't cutting their weight, and to put a guy who is not one of those guys in their place. So to those three guys who are now somewhere else than Blacksburg, thank you and well wishes for the good things that you did in your time with Virginia Tech, but at the same time, good riddance for the overwhelmingly bad things that you did in that time period. At least now Hokie fans can rest easy, knowing that they no longer have to listen to Trevor clamor for patience in the matter and that at least they don't have to put up with the same bunch of incompetent coaches that they have for what seems like an eternity.
Remember to look for profiles of Jeff Grimes and Aaron Moorehead in the coming days and all your major Hokie sports news, all here on Gobbler Country.