For years, Virginia Tech fans have been clamoring for changes to the Hokies’ offensive staff.
In 2012, they finally had some company -- from within the program.
“I didn’t really want to come back to a place where I wasn’t going to progress and be getting prepared for the next level,” said quarterback Logan Thomas, who chose to return for his senior season instead of leaving early for the NFL draft.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who has had one of the most stable staffs in the country during his tenure and has always been reluctant to make changes, finally called an audible and hired three new assistants following the worst season the program has seen in 20 years. The highest-profile change was the hire of former Temple and Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler for the same position, but equally as important were the hires of former Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and former Stanford wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead -- two position groups that were at the heart of the Hokies' struggles last year and lacked physicality. Embattled offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, the main target of the fans’ wrath over the years, has been reassigned to recruiting coordinator, and he will continue to coach the tight ends.
By Virginia Tech’s standards, it was a monumental makeover. Not since 2006, when four assistants were hired, has Beamer made such sweeping changes to his staff. As Virginia Tech begins spring practices on Wednesday, those within the program are confident they were not only the right moves, but also necessary ones in order for the Hokies to get back to the top of the Coastal Division standings.
“It wasn’t lack of confidence in the guys we have, we just didn’t pick up enough first downs," Beamer said. "We punted the ball too many times. We needed a shakeup a little bit, in my opinion.”
Beamer's son, running backs coach Shane Beamer, called the offensive staff overhaul “a huge deal.”
“He’s big on continuity, and visibility, and there are a lot of coaches who make changes for the sake of change, and he’s not like that,” Shane Beamer said of his father. “He understands that stability is a big thing in this business, but at the same time, he told us as a staff before the changes and he told us as a staff after the changes that at the end of the day, he has to do what’s best for Virginia Tech football. All of us certainly feel like that’s what he did in this instance.”
The running game, which finished No. 79 in the country, will be the priority this spring, but every position on offense is in need of improvement. The Hokies were No. 81 in the country in scoring offense last year at 25.08 points per game -- its worst output since 2008. Beamer said he will meet with his new assistants this afternoon to go over their impressions of the program after watching film.
“They went over all our video,” Beamer said. “I’m going to meet with them to go over what they’ve seen, what they think, what they want to do, that type of thing. When you come into a situation, you want to study personnel, No. 1, and look at how things were done, what was good and what we can do better.”
There is plenty.
After eight straight seasons of at least 10 wins, Virginia Tech fell hard and fast last year. The Hokies finished 7-6 and had to win their final two regular-season games to become bowl eligible. Finishing the season with three straight wins, though, was a big positive for a program in search of something to smile about.
“It was a tough year, but I really am proud of our football team, our program,” Beamer said. “We were sitting there at 4-6, not many people were writing positive things. We had to win the last two to get to a bowl game and then we won the bowl game. Last year, the way the players and coaches hung in there and toughed it out, stayed together, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. In some ways, you’re more proud, in certain ways, than some of those 10-win seasons. Every year is different and kids are different, but I appreciate that.”
The momentum from the end of the season has carried into the offseason. The players and coaches said there has been a better focus, and a determination to prove that last season was the anomaly. Last week, Virginia Tech had winter conditioning workouts at 6 a.m. every day. Beamer said it was some of the best practices the team has had, and that the players fought through tired legs and bodies.
“I told the kids the other day I want this to be the toughest football team we’ve ever had here at Virginia Tech,” Beamer said. “When you sit back and evaluate, there’s a mental toughness and physical toughness I think is important to winning.”
And winning at Virginia Tech is very, very important, especially to Thomas, who didn’t come back to finish 6-6 this fall.
“It’s the most important thing in my eyes right now,” Thomas said. “I’ve never been one to settle for anything less than perfection. That’s what we always strive to do here. It’s ingrained in us -- a Coastal Division championship and an ACC championship is definitely what we want.”
This offseason, Beamer was willing to make the changes to help them reach those goals.