This has been a year of transition for the football program at Virginia Tech. I looked at some top tier programs, and identified some common characteristics that make each of them consistent winners. College football is a sport where the guy at the top can make an incredible impact. The two best coaches in college football are Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, in that order. Then there a bunch of second tier guys including Les Miles, Jim Harbaugh, Dabo Swinney and the like. The most precipitous drop is from the second tier to the third. The third tier coaches include folks like Mark Richt, and others that have been successful, but no rings. I'm not certain where Justin Fuente fits in this landscape as of yet, but time will tell. With this in mind, here are five things Virginia Tech must do to return to prominence.
#1 The Head Coach Must Have Longevity To Build Culture
Every year about this time it seems Nick Saban is headed to Texas, and every September Saban is leading the Crimson Tide onto the field. I'm not sure the "Saban to Texas" rumors will ever completely die, but the trophy case in Tuscaloosa is packed. Saban talks often about systems and processes, and these don't get installed overnight. Lots of people were calling for Frank Beamer's head after year 3, and that worked out pretty well.
#2 The Team Must Totally Own Their In-State Recruiting, and Exploit Other Areas
Why do you think satellite camps are such a hot button issue? Nobody wants Urban Meyer or Jim Harbaugh poaching "their" talent. Virginia Tech needs to sew up the commonwealth. No exceptions. No 4*'s go to Tennesee (*cough* Eric Crosby). When the state is locked up, start the pipelines to Florida and Texas. Florida not only leads the nation in tank tops sold, it also is arguably the most talent rich area in the United States.
#3 Compete Every Single Year For An A.C.C. Title
It is beyond difficult to reach the College Football Playoffs without winning the conference. Outside of a fluke or an insane turn of events, you must win your conference. Virginia Tech will not win the A.C.C. every year. We have to have a chance to win the A.C.C. every year. We have to be in the conversation. Paul Finebaum stated on his show that Virginia Tech is no longer nationally relevant. To some degree this is true, however winning will change that discourse quickly. The A.C.C. is improving daily, so the task is only getting more difficult. Fuente and Co. are going to have to find a way to be in it on the last week of the season.
#4 Virginia Tech Needs A Signature Win Every Season
This year Virginia Tech has a great national stage to make an impression with the Battle At Bristol. Beating Notre Dame would be a huge statement as well. These games would indeed be signature, but upsetting a top 10 A.C.C. team would have the same effect. Signature wins create national buzz. Signature wins inspire the fan base to be more supportive. Signature wins turn programs around.
#5 Hold Serve At Home, Win Most Road Games
Virginia Tech's record at home the past two seasons have been abysmal. The once feared Lane Stadium is becoming just another stop on another team's schedule. The reputation Lane earned was twofold. It is loud. It is is intimidating. Coming into Lane on a Thursday night was chill inducing. Back that up with a solid, formidable team and it was a recipe for domination. Put a .500 team in Lane Stadium, and all the theatrics in the world won't help them beat Miami and their ilk.