Virginia Tech Football: Recapping the Biggest 2014 Offseason News so Far
Between the hiring of a new position coach, the commitments of some prominent 2015 recruits and the developing intrigue at the quarterback position, it’s been quite the 2014 offseason for the Virginia Tech football team.
This offseason might not have been quite as eventful as last year’s when the team replaced the bulk of its offensive coaching staff, but it’s still been a busy one.
In particular, the search for Logan Thomas’ replacement has captured national headlines, even if the staff says it won’t name a new starter for another couple of months.
Even still, the last few months have been eventful for the program. Read on for a quick recap of the news that’s captivated Hokie fans recently.
Exit Grimes, Enter Searels
Frank Beamer probably thought he was done finding new position coaches when he hired the trio of offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes after the 2013 season.
Instead, Beamer found himself on the hunt for an offensive assistant once more this offseason when LSU lured Grimes away to coach the Tigers line in January.
It’s hard to fault Grimes for the move to an SEC powerhouse, but his departure left the Hokies scrambling to find a replacement less than a year after they totally revamped the offensive staff.
Considering that Searels has been with the Hokies for a scant four months, it’s tough to tell what his impact has been on the team exactly.
However, the fact that he was able to retain four of Tech’s five offensive line recruits for the 2014 class is a strong sign—the fifth, tackle Brady Taylor, was likely heading for his hometown Ohio State Buckeyes no matter who coached the Hokies line.
Searels also showed a willingness to shake up the depth chart in spring practice. He shuffled the lineup repeatedly and hasn’t been afraid to get athletic, if unproven, players like Wyatt Teller and Augie Conte into the starting lineup.
Grimes had a definitive vision for the offensive line and recruited accordingly. It will be tough for Searels to come in and adapt on the fly, but his pedigree working for major programs and his early recruiting success seem to be good signs for the Hokies.
Junior Day Success
Beamer has tried to shake up the way the program recruits recently, and the changes have already paid dividends this offseason.
The team held its earliest “Junior Day” ever on Feb. 8, and it was incredibly beneficial for the Hokies’ efforts for the 2015 recruiting cycle.
Tech was able to secure commitments from a pair of major cornerback prospects—4-star Mook Reynolds of Greensoboro, N.C., and 3-star DuWayne Johnson of Washington, D.C.—and make some inroads with others.
Among the attendees were 4-star offensive tackles Matthew Burrell and Austin Clark and 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle. Each player is getting attention from a variety of other major programs, but the fact that Tech made the effort to get them to campus so early in the process seems like a positive for the Hokies.
The staff still has a long way to go with the 2015 class—after all, there are only five prospects verbally committed so far—but the strong Junior Day was a good first step.
When combined with the news that the team will be getting some extra help on the recruiting front with the creation of two new positions on the team, this offseason provided some interesting new steps for the Hokies to take in this area.
Brewer Transfers in
Logan Thomas pretty seamlessly took the reigns at quarterback from Tyrod Taylor three years ago, but things have been a little rockier this time around.
Redshirt senior Mark Leal was a bit of a train wreck in his brief Sun Bowl appearance, giving the coaching staff a little bit of pause before simply anointing him as the team’s new starter for 2014.
This lack of confidence opened things up for the Hokies to pursue a transferring player.
Accordingly, when former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer found his request to transfer to another Big 12 school blocked, he quickly made his way to Blacksburg.
Despite his limited experience, Brewer became a top contender to earn the starting spot as soon as his transfer was announced.
He wasn’t able to participate in spring practice while he finished up his degree at Texas Tech, but he got to campus on May 28 and is apparently adjusting well.
"It’s definitely different, but at the same time, I’ve been doing this (in college) for three years, so I feel like football is football," he told Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times. "There’s not going to be too much that I haven’t seen when I get out there for the first day of practice. Of course it will be a new team, a new system, new everything, but I’ve got a whole summer to prepare for it."
Brewer will have stiff competition from the plethora of other quarterbacks on the depth chart, yet his addition to the roster gives Loeffler another viable option to test out this fall.
To further complicate an already muddled quarterback battle, Leal quickly fell out of contention for the job this spring, even though he was widely considered the frontrunner to be Tech’s next starter.
He aggravated a knee injury before the team’s second spring scrimmage, opening the door for redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley to start with the first team, and Leal never won the top spot back.
Motley certainly didn’t look perfect under center for the Hokies, but he showed confidence running the offense, flashed some good instincts running the ball and displayed decent touch on his deep passes.
By contrast, Leal looked perpetually uncomfortable under center and was consistently inaccurate.
Motley didn’t necessarily do enough in the spring to cement his spot atop the depth chart, especially with Brewer arriving. However, he performed far better than observers expected, making him the top competitor of the veterans on the roster for the starting role.
Leal will likely get lost in the shuffle as Loeffler tries to evaluate not only Motley, but also Brewer and freshmen Chris Durkin, Andrew Ford and Travon McMillian in fall camp.
If Brewer seizes control of the starting job quickly this fall, Motley’s spring performance won’t be very meaningful. But if the transfer struggles to adapt to Loeffler’s offense, everyone will remember April as the month the team found its new starting quarterback.