You know, in all of the excitement about Frank's retirement; the voluminous ‘thank-yous'; the hashtag campaign for a last ESPN Game Day (if for no other reason to get Coach Corso to wear a better Hokie head); and the last desperate drive to gain bowl eligibility for one more season, and one last time for Frank, we forgot about something.
On December 27th, a mere two days after Christmas, more than a few folks will be out of work, looking for jobs. If these were head coach and executive type positions with big contracts and hefty golden parachutes dangling prime compensation packages that will tide them over until more work can be found I'd feel a tad better about the turn-over. However, more than a few of us have parted company with various employers at inconvenient times. Severance packages usually amount to having the door miss your butt as you exit it, box of pictures, tape, and conference swag in arm.
The jaded among us will say, hey, it's all a part of life. Folks come and go, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes nozzomush. That doesn't make it any less difficult as we see folks getting ready to coach their last games, or do their last sideline gigs. There is still a huge part of most of us who really feel for the folks who are going. Being a Hokie is a special thing, at least that's what we keep telling everyone that it is; so when a family member leaves for other pastures (some green and some not so green, I suppose) it's a sad occurrence.
There is also a tremendous amount of hope, and there will be new blood coming in. Just what is Coach Fuente bringing to the table, and who is he bringing to help set it? We know that Coaches Foster and Gray are staying on the defensive side of the ball, but the offense looks like it's going to be completely changed. Let's take a look at the Ins and Outs of the staff changes and get an idea of who we have joining the family, besides just Coach Fuente.
We know that the core of the new Fuente centered coaching staff will be James Shibest (Special Teams) and Holman Wiggins (Wide Receivers or Running Backs). You can see the Hokie Sports for their official biographies instead of me dredging up the same stuff and slamming it into foot noted quotes.
Of course Fuente is being a bit cagey so as not to disrupt the Memphis Tigers Bowl game prep and game play but there will be two more coaches from Memphis trading in their Blue and Silver/Gray(?) gear for Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange. Vance Vice has been officially announced by the Tech Athletic Department as the new Offensive Line Coach.
I addition to Vice, though not officially announced yet, is Brad Cornelsen being mentioned as the new Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach by more than a few sources. While Vice seems to be a lesser experienced hire, though Memphis's O line performed pretty well over his short tenure, Cornelsen looks like he might be an interesting addition to the mix. In their last arrangement, Fuente and Cornelsen teamed up to be a sort of collaborative "Co-Offensive Coordinator" in the Memphis system. It looks like he's going to be flying on his own as OC for the Hokies. Also for continuity on the offensive side of the ball, Hokie Receivers coach Zohn Burden will be retained to coach the running backs. It's also good for the Hokies because his recruiting experience in the Hampton Roads Area is something that the team really needs to keep.
That's all fine and good. Most Hokie fans are pleased that there will be new blood, fresh air, different methods and perspectives coming to the offense. We'll be talking about those folks and all of the new efforts to build the 2016 and beyond Virginia Tech Hokies back into a top 10 football program.
We also know that Coaches Foster, Gray, and Wiles are going to stay at their respective positions. There needs to be some change on the Defensive side of the ball, and a new head coach with some program adrenaline should really pump up the efforts to land some larger linemen and more appropriately sized linebackers for the foreseeable future. It is going to be interesting to see how Coach Fuente deals with being a 4-2-5 Defense instead of a 3-4-4, but since Foster and crew haven't had a true 4-2-5 for the last several seasons rebuilding that awesomely flexible defense into a top 10 powerhouse presence in NCAA football might ease that mental transition.
Lost in the excitement, however, is the reality that real people with real families and homes are going to face some difficulties and transition this holiday season. We have had our beefs with the offense over the last five years. It has been frustrating and difficult. We should temper our enthusiasm for change with the understanding that those coaches put forth their best efforts, and this time they just weren't able to make it all work. We here at Gobbler Country wish them well. We hope that they land on their feet in places and positions that they will take the best lessons learned from their tenure at Virginia Tech and find new things to make themselves better coaches for young men to follow.
So, December 27th, (really, December 31st since Memphis is playing Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl) the big transition will begin. There will be a break for New Year's parties and even some farewell events for the departing old staff (sometimes there aren't those sorts of efforts but I hope the parting is handled with class - please.) There is one man retiring, Associate AD Dr. Mike Gentry who has been with the program for nearly as long as Coach Beamer. That's a long time and a testament to how great an experience working for Virginia Tech and Hokie Nation can be.
What it is time for, though is to allow the departing personnel the dignity of not speaking out of school or behind their backs. Come 2016, the Virginia Tech Hokie Football team is going to turn a new page in the long history of the program. We all should strive to do the same thing.
2016 begins the Justin Fuente Era of Virginia Tech Football. Let it be a great and storied one!