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Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Will VT staff changes pay off?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

For the first time in five years, there has been a change on Virginia Tech's staff.

For the first time in a long time, there has been significant change.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has restructured his staff, the most significant move being that quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain will now call the plays instead of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. Virginia Tech fans, many of whom have long been clamoring for a replacement for Stinespring, seem ecstatic. It's as if Virginia Tech just beat Stanford in the Orange Bowl, as if the Hokies have automatically morphed into one of the nation's top two teams.

The reality of the situation, though, is this: Virginia Tech still enters 2011 with a rookie starting quarterback, and no staff changes are going to change the fact that he has 26 collegiate passes to his name. Logan Thomas' potential far outweighs his accomplishments at this point. The Hokies also have to replace two starters on the defensive line, they're almost starting from scratch at tight end, and it's the second straight season they need a new starting kicker and punter.

And few, if any, Virginia Tech fans were doing David Wilson-like backflips over this year's recruiting class.

There's also the question of how Stinespring handles this change. Sure, he retains the title of offensive coordinator, but how much weight does it carry if he's not calling the plays? That's like giving someone the title to a new car, but taking away the keys. What fun is it if you can't drive?

On the surface, Beamer's staff changes all seem like good moves: O'Cain's relationship with Thomas, the program's quarterback of the future, will help both of them flourish in their new roles. O'Cain has experience, having been head coach at NC State and offensive coordinator at both Clemson and North Carolina. Shane Beamer, who was hired as running backs coach, will not only help the offense, but he's gained a reputation as a top-notch recruiter. Retaining the knowledge of longtime assistants Billy Hite and Jim Cavanaugh, who moved to administrative positions, will be like having two additional coaches on staff.

Beamer strategically made these changes knowing there's room for improvement. There's one title he's still chasing. Better coaching is half of the equation. Better recruiting is the other half. These moves can help Virginia Tech get closer to bringing it all together, but the Hokies won't make the jump from top of the ACC to top of the BCS standings in one season -- not with a rookie quarterback.

Somehow, Beamer figured out a way to make his staff better without losing any good people. Next comes the tricky part -- figuring out how to make his team better without losing any big games.