Well, it’s good-bye, I suppose. I was planning on writing this little letter at the end of the regular season; but it’s just as good to get it done and finished. I guess that you really did end up being the guy who followed “The Guy”. It wasn’t like that at the end of 2016, though. You started out on fire with a ton of hope, good community relations, and a basically healthy, but struggling and sadly average team. They were enthused with the new coaching talent, and focused on winning something, anything. You brought a big, fast read option quarterback with you from your Memphis recruiting tree, and Jerod Evans ended up being the spark plug that drove you to ten wins in 2016, and a major bowl victory over Arkansas in one of the most frustrating but exciting games in the last 10 years.
Then the wheels fell off, first one, and then more.
Look, this isn’t to grind it in. Most folks fail at something or multiple things in their lives. I certainly have. Here is hoping that after this rather abrupt mutual parting of the ways, you find something in yourself to learn a few things.
First, don’t hire your friends for critical positions that may require dismissal and replacement. Brad Cornelsen is not a good Quarterback coach (if he doesn’t like that fact, the proof is in the pudding). The QB room was a disaster the entire 5 and half years, here. He most definitely didn’t live up to the “skilled, innovative Offensive Coordinator” thing. In fact, he was the albatross around your neck that doomed your tenure.
Secondly, pick a style of offense that fits the personnel that you have and can recruit. There were dreams of an East Coast Air Raid in 2016, those turned into a Bowling Green Read-Option staffed by players not suited for the job, and you beat the tar out of four quarterbacks in four years, and lost your two best recruits for the job Quincy Patterson was a natural at the R-O as it was run in 2016. Hendon Hooker was a potential Air Raid passer with good pocket mobility. But you hung 3 basic pass plays around both of their necks that neither was good at or suited for. In short, your offense didn’t work and won’t, in the future, unless you choose which one to implement.
Thirdly, get a PR person to help you with your community relations and recruiting presence. Someone who would push you to work harder at the critical General Manager functions that you just didn’t seem interested in performing. Haven’t you noticed that big league college football head coaches are NOT X’s and O’s guys. They are recruiters, salesmen, hand-shakers, hale fellows well met in the living and locker rooms of recruits. Because the game of being a successful Division 1 Power (3) college coach is marketing, not football. The assistants do the football, and your assistants weren’t all that good at the big picture, either – some are better than others. Your starting hits were Vice and Shibest. Maybe with a better OC starting after 2017’s failure you’d still be the Hokies’ HC, but somehow I don’t think so. I think you lack a taste for that aspect of the ‘game’.
Finally, you need to do a better job of adjusting and learning on the fly. Your game plans and in-game adjustments were often so predictable amateur computer gamers could line up better plays. We saw that with the 2017 Clemson game. They had no real QB, and didn’t run their defense the way that you planned that they would. But you didn’t adjust to those changes to take advantage of them, and you admitted as much in the post-game press conference. That might have been your ultimate tell. It was eventually your complete undoing.
I sincerely hope that you land on your feet. Maybe you should do something else in football for a while. Go be an OC for a lower tier team that needs an experienced coach but can’t afford one. (One hint… do that from the sideline, face to face with your players). Use an assistant to scope plays and call down ideas and concepts. Look like you care. Some of us know that you do, but not many folks could tell.
Learn from this and good luck in your future endeavors.