2012 will go down as a year to forget for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
A 6-6 record, including just 4-4 in the ACC, has left much of the Hokies’ alumni and fanbase disappointed, frustrated and eager for change.
It is head coach Frank Beamer’s worst team since 1992, when the Hokies went 2-8-1. That is also the last time the Hokies missed playing in a bowl game. By virtue of winning their last two games, the Hokies did qualify for a bowl this season, most likely the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
Beamer deserves the benefit of the doubt only if he sees the many problems that plague his program and works swiftly to correct them.
The Hokies offense was historically bad in 2012. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and play-caller and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain presided over this unit.
Beamer made staff changes before the 2011 season that were lauded both locally and nationally. He brought in his son Shane as running backs coach, associate head coach and primary recruiter. The move has already paid dividends as many of the players the younger Beamer has been assigned to have committed to the Hokies.
Beamer also brought in former Virginia Tech star defensive end Cornell Brown as an assistant outside linebackers coach. Brown is counted heavily upon in recruiting as well. He is also one of the best and most popular players in school history.
Here are three coaches Beamer must replace in order for the Hokies to improve in 2013 and beyond.
Stinespring has been the Hokies’ offensive coordinator since 2002 and at times has presided over some explosive units. However, as a whole, the Hokies are always a step behind on the offensive end. They’ve relied too much on dynamic athletes at quarterback (Tyrod Taylor, Logan Thomas) and running back (Ryan Williams, David Wilson) rather than a solid offensive scheme.
Before his promotion to offensive coordinator, Stinespring was the offensive line coach. He was pretty good at it, too. The Hokies would often build their offensive line around lesser-known recruits or walk-ons and Stinespring coached them into a good unit.
The offense did show more variety in 2012 with the pistol formation but continued to struggle. Of course the opposition generally expected Thomas to keep the ball versus doing all of the other things you can do out of the formation.
College football, and even the NFL, is in era where the spread offense is all the rage. You don’t have to have the spread as your base offense, but you do need to be able to score points in a variety of ways.
The Hokies, whether it is Stinespring or Beamer, have been stuck in their past ways for far too long. To be an elite program, you need to always be a step ahead of change or show the ability to adapt.
If Stinespring would accept being the offensive line coach only, the Hokies could possibly retain him. However, moving in a different direction entirely is how the Hokies should proceed.
O’Cain has long been regarded as a solid offensive coach. He is a former head coach at N.C. State and was also the offensive coordinator at North Carolina and Clemson. But in that time, how many quarterbacks has O’Cain developed?
Having a talented multi-purpose threat such as Tyrod Taylor doesn’t truly count as development. Players like that often make plays outside the framework of the offense. They possess physical ability that can’t be taught.
Logan Thomas is a terrific athlete for a man his size. At 6’6” and 260 pounds, Thomas runs well. But being that size, Thomas needs to be able to make plays from the pocket, something he has struggled with.
Thomas made excellent strides in 2011 as a first-year starter but failed to take the next step in 2012. He looked good at times; however, his inaccuracy often killed promising drives. He struggled going through his progressions and often locked onto one receiver.
With a player as talented yet unrefined as Thomas is, proper coaching is vital. He has not gotten that from O’Cain. From the outside, it appeared when the Hokies needed a first down, they told Thomas to run it instead of allowing him to throw the football.
Why not work with Thomas on the things he does well while coaching him in the areas in which he struggles? That is what good coaches do. The Hokies can win with Thomas.
The Hokies haven’t had a good quarterbacks coach since Kevin Rogers departed after the 2005 season.
Beamer needs to move away from O’Cain and bring in someone with a strong, recent history in quarterback development.
By the way, has anyone ever seen a situation where the quarterbacks’ coach calls plays while he is seated next to the offensive coordinator?
There is no excuse for how bad the Hokies’ offensive line has been in recent years. They seem to do well in recruiting but the players never pan out.
Newsome, whose only previous college experience was at FCS James Madison for seven years, has struggled developing offensive linemen for several years now.
The Hokies have often recruited tight ends out of high school with designs on making them athletic offensive linemen. That strategy often backfires. Not every former tight end can make the transition as easily as Duane Brown once did.
Vinston Painter, Mark Shuman and Laurence Gibson are some of the more highly regarded offensive linemen the Hokies have signed in recent years. It took Painter his fifth year before he could start. Gibson and Shuman have yet to establish themselves.
So are the Hokies not recruiting well on the offensive line, or are these young players not getting the proper coaching? Each of these three players was viewed as a tremendous prospect at one time or another. Why couldn’t they get on the field and stay early in their careers?
If Virginia Tech is to return to form in 2013, they will need the offensive line to step up. In order to do that, Newsome must be relieved of his duties.