Saturday, December 13, 2008

Deep Thoughts with Mad Jay

I'd like to invite you into my head for a bit while there's a break in Hokie football action between now and the Orange Bowl. Scary thought isn't it? Well, excuse the mess, but I will keep most of the doors closed and stay on the topic of football. These are the things that I'm spending most of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping hours) thinking about on this off-weekend for college football.

1) I was wondering how on earth the Hokies were going to fit more than 15 scholarship players in the 2009 recruiting class onto the roster when that's all the room they had heading into this season. As of Friday they already had 19 verbal commits and are still actively recruiting 5 other players for this class. It has started to clear up however. Derrick McCoy from the '08 class doesn't look like he's going to ever suit up in a Tech uniform. WR Ervin Garner transferred. One of the Edwards brothers in the '09 class who committed, has since changed his mind and the other will grayshirt along with probably two or three more Hokies to count against the 2010 class. Then of course there will be one or two who don't actually sign on Signing Day. And then there's the head scratcher - Hunter Ovens. 

2) Someone was advising Hunter Ovens poorly. Unlike Ervin Garner (who would never have started at Tech since the entire lineup at WR is made up of freshmen), Ovens would have been a redshirt sophomore at whip next season, behind two redshirt seniors. He would have had two years to be the starter beginning in 2010 on a nationally recognized defense. And he just announced this week that he is transferring to go to LIBERTY with Ervin Garner?!?! He had two years to get bigger (he was only 6', 205 lbs but would have been 215-220 lbs by the time he was going to start) and he was already plenty fast running a 4.6 40 yard dash this spring. I keep hearing this baseball stuff getting thrown around as an excuse for him to leave, since the Hokies weren't letting him commit to baseball and football and told him he had to choose. Listen, I don't know Hunter Ovens and never spoke to him, but if he's a lock to play baseball and be drafted, he could have just joined the baseball team at Tech. What I do know is that he certainly has no chance to play in the NFL at this point and that's a door that would have remained open if he would have stayed. That said, it does free up another spot for the 2009 recruiting class, so we're moving on.

3) There are 3 players from the 2007 Virginia Tech offense - Eddie Royal, Duane Brown and Josh Morgan - who have started in the NFL for at least one game this season as ROOKIES. One other is on a practice squad (Justin Harper) and Branden Ore was NFL talent, but he had some serious off-the-field issues. With that level of offensive talent the Hokies were still the 100th best offense in the country. This year they only fell 7 spots (to 107). I have more to say about the offensive coordinator later on, but stop and think about that for a minute. What level of talent must this offense have to only drop 7 spots from the NFL-laden offense in 2007? I look at the 2008 offense and I see 4 players with NFL starting potential on it - Tyrod Taylor, Sergio Render (if he pulls his head out of his ass), Greg Boone and Jarrett Boykin. Neat stuff.

4) Unfortunately the offensive coordinator issue must be addresed. There's been a lot of buzz in Blacksburg over Billy Hite's comments defending Coach Bryan Stinespring in an article from the Roanoke Times. To quote Hite - 

"I personally think it's bull[bleep] what he's gone through this year. Bryan Stinespring is a hell of a football coach, and we've won 10 games the last four years with him as our coordinator, and we have a chance to win 10 again this year. Tell me another coordinator in the country that can say that besides Texas and USC?"

I respect Coach Hite defending his friend and colleague, and so it is with that due respect that I say to him -"Good luck repeating those words WHILE I CRAM THIS HUGE EMPTY NATIONAL TITLE TROPHY CASE DOWN YOUR THROAT!!!!!!!"

You see I've had another one of those moments of clarity when the whole murky picture becomes suddenly clear. What has happened to us, my Calm and Beloved Reader is called a "bait and switch". The national title trophy case was a brilliant stunt executed by Athletic Director Jim Weaver. How do you raise money for a huge stadium expansion and cover the rising costs of coaching salaries? You tell the fans that this is what we need to take it to "the next level" and the funds come flooding in. Tied in with joining the ACC, it has made for a very merry Christmas for our friends in the Hokie athletic department.

Meanwhile, within the football program and despite all the public hullabaloo over the empty national title case, Coach Beamer knows that as long as the Hokies keep winning ACC championships he can keep his job and keep the heat off his offensive coordinator. Remember that Stinespring is married to Beamer's long time secretary. This is his friend, probably almost like a son to Coach Beamer and the guy can recruit, so Beamer wants to do whatever it takes to not have to fire or publicly demote him. So while the stated goal might be a national title (the bait), the real goal is made clear by the actions of Coach Beamer (the switch).

Think about this - Al Groh had to fire his son Mike as offensive coordinator at UVa this year. There but for the grace of Bud Foster goes Bryan Stinespring. UVa's offensive ranking the past three seasons has been 113, 101, 104. The Hokies' offense has been ranked 99, 100 and 107. The Hokies, however have two ACC titles in that span, while UVa has gone 5-7, 9-4 and 5-7 with three losses to the Hokies. If the real goal of Virginia Tech football was to fill an empty national title case, winning the ACC title twice in three years with one arm tied behind their backs would not be acceptable. 

Let me strangle an analogy here. It's long but I think it gets the point across (and remember we're in MY mind here so I get to try stuff like this). 

It's like a CEO looking at his or her business and saying "Well we've made money every year as a company for the past 5 years. One division is doing great and has made $1 million/year and the other division loses about $500,000/year so I'll just tell the market that management is doing fine and we're happy being profitable every year." That notion is ridiculous and it would just never happen. The head of the terribly performing division would be replaced with someone who could do better. 

Someone might say "Well it's risky making that change, the new manager might do worse". In business that is true, you could always lose more money. But in this case, we are talking about an offense that already finished 107th in the country, meaning that only 13 teams IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY were worse on offense. In fact, the combined record of those 13 teams is 44-98 and none of them have a record over .500. Would a program that has aspirations for a national title truly be content to perform like that on offense? How about over a period of 3 years? Now consider what you think the true goals of the Virginia Tech football program are. 

I will no longer contribute to the hypocrisy. I will remain a Superfan and will always cheer for the Hokies and go to games, but my donations to the athletic program are on hold until they either take down the empty national title case or make a change that convinces me it is truly a goal to fill it. 

5) The Heisman Trophy - Supposed to go to the Most Outstanding Player. The joke is that the trophy doesn't mean that anymore. Hell, the most outstanding player in college football in 2008 (WR Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech) isn't EVEN INVITED TO THE CEREMONY IN NEW YORK. What the trophy really means is the hottest QB or RB at the end of the season on a team in national title contention. It's been that way for a long time and it makes a mockery of the award. Good luck to whichever QB wins the award this year, but this thing has become an entire media monster of its own and I don't even bother watching anymore.

6) The Heisman Trophy is not supposed to be an MVP award, it's for Most Outstanding Player and those are often two different things. For example on the Hokies this year, I felt that the Most Outstanding Player award could have gone to Tyrod Taylor, Macho Harris, Ryan Shuman or Darren Evans. I think I'd give the award to Macho for his contributions to the defense and special teams as well as serving as a decent decoy on offense. But the Most Valuable Player is another thing entirely and I use a very simple criteria to determine this award - if you substituted an "average" player at their position, whose replacement would result in the biggest impact on the team? By that standard, the MVP of the 2008 Hokies was clearly Dustin Keys. 

If you put an average QB (the #60 QB this year in passer rating was Rusty Smith from FAU with 243 yds/game and 22 TD's with 14 INT's) in place of Tyrod, the Hokies would still possibly have won the ACC title. If you put in an average RB, the Hokies would have been a little worse but would still have played for the title. An average CB in place of Macho would hurt but not like the kicker position. Considering the Hokies finished with the closest point differential in the NCAA this season, if Tech would have had an average kicker, they probably would finish 6-6 or 7-5 at best. There's no way an average kicker makes 21 FG's including 3 game deciding FG's, so Dustin Keys was the Most Valuable Player for the Hokies in 2008.

Ok well that was what I've been kicking around. Thanks for stopping by. You don't want to see what else is going on inside here, so I'll escort you to the door. Wait that wasn't the exit, uhhhh..... those are for medicinal use.......nevermind. See you later.


L'efty (which is French for "the efty") said...

While I see your point with regard to the "bait and switch" that may have been perpetrated at VT in order to bring in donations, I don't really see how it is at all any great travesty. The end result has been better facilities and a higher profile program. In the long term, this puts the program in a better position then we would have been without such a "ruse." While we may be hampered by the current coaching ineptitude, having the facilities we do and being in the ACC gives us more of a shot to recruit and compete on a year to year basis, including after Beamer retires. Further, while the failure to restructure the coaching staff may be a huge bungle that is plastered over by the recent conference success, I don't think there's any sinister motive behind it.

MadJay said...

Bah, lefty, you're always the voice of reasoned calmitude (I think I may also have made that word up).

I can only say that you are right that the program's profile has been raised by joining the ACC, but I think we will have to agree to disagree as to the motives behind the empty trophy case. If you look at the stated goals (empty national title trophy case) and then the behavior and actions chosen by Coach Beamer and Jim Weaver, I think you'll see there is a difference there.

Beamer wants to tell everyone how proud he is of the "coaching staff" this year. They won in SPITE of the offense for most of the year. Why is that something to be proud of in your offensive coordinator? Of course take great pride in your defense. Of course take great pride in the work that specific offensive coaches have done (Kevin Sherman and Billy Hite), but the areas that are substandard are obvious and I for one am done supporting it until I see a change is being made. Getting rid of O'Cain would be an acceptable stop gap for me, but the real culprit is Bryan Stinespring and anyone who's watched Hokie football the past 5 years knows it.

Hokie Guru said...

Madjay, as you know, the Hokie Guru might even be more pissed that you about the offense, but he's a liberal when it comes to donation... many athletes might not even go to college were it not for Hokie Club contributions... the Hokie Guru begs you to reconsider. You're only hurting the little guy... the Big Donors love Frankie and as long as they love him, Stiny is safe.

Incidentally, I did not know this, but Stiney was a student of my uncle, the retired chair of the educational leadership and policy studies division at Virginia Tech. How small this world is...

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MadJay said...

Hokie Guru,

There are only two things that would result in Bryan Stinespring being removed as offensive coordinator - a losing season (which would happen if Coach Foster left for a head coaching gig) or the financial well begins to dry up. I can't stand the thought of hoping the Hokies have a losing season so all I can do is withhold money from the program.

However, you bring up a point that I should have addressed in my post more clearly and will do so in a separate post - I'm not just withholding my contribution, I'm sending a letter to Athletic Director Jim Weaver to make sure he knows why. And if any of you decide to withhold the money it is IMPERATIVE that you do the same (meaning send a letter or email to Virginia Tech). We obviously have to connect the dots for the athletic department and make sure they know why we are not contributing to our beloved Hokies.

I know it sounds like a ridiculous argument, but there really is no other recourse if you are serious about wanting the Hokies to win a national title. They cannot do it with this guy as the offensive coordinator. And another season with a top 5 ranked defense going 10-3 with the 105th best offense is not going to lead to any changes at coordinator.

I honestly believe that despite all the lip service otherwise, going 10-3 and playing for ACC titles is really the true goal of the Virginia Tech football program. That is good stuff, don't get me wrong, but at least the athletic department should respect the HokieNation enough to come out and say that and admit that the empty national title case was premature at best and a stunt designed for increasing contributions at worst.

Anand "EhhTee" Trivedi said...

Gents I agree with several of your points.

1) I agree that we've been duped by that empty case. I never liked it in the first place. I always thought it was bad mojo building a case for something you don't have.

2) I agree that it doesn't look like anything will be done as long as we keep winning. Winning ACC titles and squeaking by into bowl games (whether we win or not) is enough to satisfy most so nothing will change.

3) Writing a letter to AD is a great idea, if it's done in force. I, unfortunately, have already sent in my donation for the year so I don't have that option for this year. However, despite the loss of priority points, the loss of my season tickets, and to a lesser degree despite HokieGuru's point about hurting the little guy, I too feel, that if nothing changes I will be withholding my donation and purchase of tickets next year.