Well, it’s official. With the hiring of Galen Scott, all of the slots for the official 9-man coaching staff are full. The coaches, are, as follows: Head Coach Justin Fuente, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Brad Cornelsen, Offensive Line Coach Vance Vice, Running Backs Coach Zohn Burden, Wide Receivers Coach Holmon Wiggins, Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster, Defensive Backs Coach Torrian Gray, Linebackers Coach Galen Scott, and Defensive Line Coach Charley Wiles, and Tight Ends and Special Teams Coach James Shibest. To quote ESPN writer Ivan Maisel’s December 4th 3-point Stance, this is going to be a ‘fascinating social experiment’. You’ve got a lot of new blood coming in, and a surprising amount staying.
First thing you notice is that Shane Beamer is not listed on this staff. My surmise is that this is kind of a message that he needed to get more experience as a head coach or as a coordinator for serious consideration for this job. He didn’t seem to impress many as the running backs coach during his stay at Tech. Whether the running back rotation was actually all his choice or not is a matter of speculation, but suffice it to say that didn’t show well for him regardless. And even previous to the emergence of Travon McMillan as the workhorse back of the Hokies team for now and the future, he hadn’t done a great job of developing any of the talent under him. JC Coleman had consistency issues and Trey Edmunds- through no fault of his own or of Shane’s- was injured, along with the majority of the rest of the backfield. I’m not sure how much chicken salad could be made of what was a poor situation, but suffice to say little was made. His recruiting efforts here at Virginia Tech have been mixed. Adonis Alexander is listed as his, as are Augie Conte, Nigel Williams, and Jonathan McLaughlin, and we’ve yet to see what Raymon Minor can do, but after that you’re looking at a list of non-contributors (many not his fault, in my opinion): Holland Fisher, Cequan Jefferson, DJ Reid, Jerome Wright, CJ Reavis, Shawn Payne, Joel Caleb, Deon Clarke, Desmond Frye, and Jack Willenbrock. Again, while there are external circumstances beyond his direct control, it doesn’t commit well to his resume at the school. And he’s still a running backs coach and is a year younger than the new head coach. I think the message was a subtle ‘you’ve got work to do’, and he’s now on his way to Georgia to jon Kirby Smart's staff. I wish him luck.
Second thing to notice about this staff is that the age average has lowered, and it’s more minority-represented. It does end some of the ‘Tech has a coaching staff of old white guys’ line that I had heard a lot in recruiting articles about how our school faced a lot of negative recruiting in the past years. Negative recruiting works, otherwise teams wouldn't be doing it. Beamer's retirement leaves Tech with a much lower negative recruiting impact in certain areas, even if it grows larger than others. For example, the rant against Beamer at Tech could have been that he was ‘old out-of-touch white guy that has no idea how to succeed in the modern game, and by the way, hasn’t made an official visit to an athlete’s home in two years, hasn't won 10 games in four years, and can't get people into the NFL’. For the longest of times, Frank, trying to be a class act, avoided the negative recruiting game, but avoiding something doesn’t make it go away. Now the line about Fuente will be ‘He’s some country bumpkin from out of the area. His defenses at Memphis weren’t great- and Foster’s haven’t been great recently, either. Oh, by the way, he’s 26-23 in the past four years and who knows how well he’s going to do at Virginia Tech because he only coached in the AAC, and maybe only one of the players he coached there gets drafted’. Probably some more grimy-smeary stuff in there but you get the basic gist. We trade one set of recruiting trouble for another, but I think that with a younger staff- especially if they succeed on offense- the Hokies might be more palatable to players on more levels. That could very well help move Tech from the bottom of the top-25 at best in recruiting to the teens. That's ambitious, considering Tech’s track record, location, and conference. It’s going to be hard to beat LSU, Florida, Alabama, Miami, Clemson, Georgia, Texas A&M, USC, Ohio State, Auburn, Michigan, and Florida State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Baylor. Yes, that’s who you’ve got to compete with in recruiting (for the most part) to win anything significant. So get out there and get to work, guys. We’ve got a lot of ground to move up from our current ranking of 40th on 247 and 45th on Rivals. And while I like our guys and think they’re underrated, this tweet from SB Nation Recruiting head Bud Elliott kind of explains where exactly we’ve got to get to in order to win a national championship:
50% 4/5-star recruits L4 is the standard for a national title. Clemson is close at 47%. Bama at 78%. Oklahoma and Michigan State NOT close.— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) January 1, 2016
In our current class we’ve got not a single consensus (across the four main recruiting services) 4-star recruit. Again. Time to go out there and get to it. Protip- you can see who Fuente and the staff are interested in pretty easily by going and looking at who they’re following on Twitter. Oh, as an extra note, before I say anything else, let me make this perfectly clear:
DO NOT TWEET AT OR CONTACT RECRUITS.
They’re kids. Don’t harass them. They’ll go where they want and take what decision they think is best for them. You posting on their profile or prodding them or trying to message them will likely only annoy them.
Third, I don’t expect this to be the end of hiring- by a long shot. Due to the retirement of Mike Gentry, we need a new strength and conditioning coach. The reason Alabama’s Strength and Conditioning Coach gets paid $600,000 a year is because he can do things other official coaches can’t. he’s their conduit to players when, technically, the coaches are supposed to get out of the way. NCAA rules being the byzantine, draconian, nonsensical things they are, coaches that look can still find plenty of obvious loopholes. Coaches and full-time assistants can do some things and not others. Other assistants- part-timers and certain other assistant position coaches and relations coordinators and directors of player development- all have either different rules or no rules governing their contact with players. It’ll be interesting to see how wide and far we’ll go to enhance the coaching staff and our recruiting capabilities.
Fourth, I should mention the other coaches that are out in the cold. Searels isn’t one of them he was hired as the OL coach at Miami, where he reunites with Mark Richt. Loeffler and Stinespring will probably find jobs elsewhere. Maybe at a smaller college or one far away. My father covered this already, and this isn’t a sob story to sell, but the coaching profession is as incestuous as recruiting is, if not more so. I’m not overly worried. From what we’re hearing Fuente’s system is similar to Loeffler’s but simpler in terms of terminology and execution required. I suppose that’s comforting in a way if it helps the players get accustomed to the new playbook. As for Stinespring, it’s going to be a bit edgy in the fact that he was one of our better recruiters- and from what everyone says, a decent guy- that Virginia Tech has had. Yes, he wasn’t cut out to be an offensive coordinator, but the tight ends were always underutilized, not terrible and terribly coached. Insofar as those two things go, Stiney did his job fairly well. Coming from a guy that called for his head as an offensive coordinator, I suppose I’ve come to appreciate what he did do, rather than complain about what he couldn’t. Lefty...well, you've heard me gripe enough about Loeffler. Let's not go there again. I'm in a hurry to forget it.
Fifth and final point, It’s time to move on and move forward. We’ve got an infusion of new blood and we’re entering a new era. We’re connected to the past, sure- for better and for worse. Yes, it brings us consistency, and Foster, Gray, and Wiles have proven to be some of the best coaches on our team for a long time. But Foster is going to have to go back to the drawing board after a couple of seasons where some of the talent hasn’t panned out and his scheme has been beaten by the ‘go long’ offense so often, and been ripped to shreds by rushing quarterbacks. Torrian Gray still has problems with his defensive backs not turning around for balls- and while faceguarding is legal in college, it makes it a lot easier for refs to call PI in this officiating climate. Charley Wiles has to figure out why his defensive ends were absent much of the year, and Zohn Burden needs to decipher why none of the wide receivers behind Ford and Phillips developed at all. The defensive staff needs to get together and figure out how Galen Scott fits into the middle of this- especially since he’s got the biggest fix job of all. Scott has to evaluate his talent on the fly and replace two linebackers next year- hopefully making their play matter more. Shibest needs to find a new punter, since AJ Hughes is a graduating senior. Cornelsen and Fuente need to settle on a quarterback- Jackson, Lawson, Motley, Evans, Durkin, or whoever else he’s giving a shot to. Vice has to figure out who he wants where- OL positions shift like sand in the desert when new coaches with new needs and systems come in and put their imprint on things. It’s obvious between new commitments TJ Jackson and Demetri Moore it's obvious that he’s interested in taller, larger linemen than we’re used to. Burden needs to figure out how to coach and handle running backs for the first time in his career. Wiggins has a crop of brand new receivers coming in behind two of the more interesting- and at least one of the best- receiving talents in the ACC. With Ford? Maybe in the country. How do they all fit together?
But there’s a lot of time that this can be worked out. Officially? Fuente only took full possession of his job this Monday. We’ve got time before the spring practice and the spring game, time before fall practice, and we’ll see how this all works out against Liberty. But for now? The coaching staff is the most interesting story going in VT Football.