Sunday, January 13, 2013

2012 Hokies Football - Mad Jay looks back

I started following Virginia Tech football the year I started attending there - 1993. When I chose the school, it was because of its reputation as a great engineering school and I had no idea the football program was in such a shambles, coming off of a 2-8-1 season. I attended every home game my freshman year, had great seats as a student, and saw the Hokies end up going 9-3, winning the Independence Bowl and starting a bowl streak that continues to today.

I was already a huge football fan, so it was easy to turn Hokie football into my religion. And for these past 20 years, I re-arranged my life around VT football games. Spent untold amounts on going to games, ordering them up on TV or the internet and watching them all. The last 10 years were spent watching the team beat its head against a wall because of ineptitude on the offensive coaching staff. In 2011, I finally saw a glimmer of hope on the offensive side of the ball, with Coach O'Cain doing a good job in his playcalling on gameday and Coach Stinespring completely removed from the booth. But that culminated in Coach Beamer throwing the Sugar Bowl away with several unbelievably bad decisions, and I knew that was the end of it for me. I wouldn't risk health nor home, life nor limb for Coach Beamer anymore. Watching Hokie wins was all I was capable of.

So in 2012, I only saw 7 of the Hokies' games. Now you can draw your own conclusions on if my following the team closely had any impact on their record, but either way, thank goodness I chose this course for 2012. The wins were so ugly, I shudder to imagine what the losses looked like. I know it would have done irreparable damage to my health to watch this entire season the way I had watched the previous 20. But since I didn't, I'm in no place to do a position group by position group breakdown of the team. I only saw just over half the games. But there are some observations that are pretty obvious to me, just from watching the wins, including the Rutgers game.

1) I think Coach Stinespring felt emasculated after the 2011 season. He was offensive coordinator in name only, and the only one in college football who didn't call the plays, if the head coach didn't have that duty (like CPJ at Georgia Tech for example). 

As a result, Coach Stiney was determined that 2012 would have his mark on it. So he went to several NFL teams and Texas in order to create some new mastermind hybrid/pistol offense. And not only that, with so many aspects of the offense being new, now he was "needed" in the booth again. The 2011 formula of Stinespring doing the rah-rah thing on the sidelines while O'Cain called the offense from the booth were gone. And from the look of the results on the field, it was an unmitigated disaster. 

The offense was uncomfortable in all aspects. Logan Thomas never looked in rhythm. The running game was a joke, with far too little Martin Scales and far too much shuffling of players for any of them to get into the flow of the game. The playcalling, particularly in the Russell Athletic Bowl, was desperate. If there was any play that even remotely worked, the Hokies would just call that exact same play a second time in a row. Grasping at straws is what it felt like and you could sense that there was conflict in the booth between Stinespring and O'Cain. I understand why Coach Stinespring wanted to change things up from 2011- the offense had success and he was only peripherally involved. What I don't understand is why Coach Beamer the Elder allowed this. 

2) Coach Foster hasn't lost a step. Having watched the final three games of the 2012 season, that looked every bit like a Hokie defense of old. People flying to the ball from all over the field, forcing turnovers and three and outs. The defense only allowed a 22% third down conversion rate, which would have been the best in the nation over the course of a season by more than 4%!! I think it is one of the strangest things that Coach Foster was never given a chance to be head coach of a good football program. He's everything I'd want as that coach if I were an AD.

3) This 2012-13 offseason is absolutely critical. Now that VT has danced so closely with missing a bowl, I think Coach Beamer recognizes how fragile it is. I don't think he wants to step down, but not even he can remain oblivious to the dramatic difference between the level of execution on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The difference has been there for years, but it was easy for Beamer to remain loyal to his friend Stinespring when the team was winning 10 games every year. The incompetence can be overlooked no more. And so the rumor mill swirls about what's going to happen. 

4) Here's what I think should happen - Coach Cav should step down and retire and Coach Stinespring takes that position as Director of Recruiting. Coach Sherman is gone to Purdue to coach receivers. Coach O'Cain and Coach Newsome should take the first job that comes along that they can land. In Newsome's case, a trip back to JMU makes a lot of sense, considering his recruiting ties to the area and the fact that he belongs coaching at that next level down anyway. This frees up a new offensive coordinator to come in and bring in a staff that knows his offense. And it keeps Stinespring in the program as a recruiter which he's good at. Plus he's not going to land a job anywhere else as a coach. This is what I see as a best case scenario and will create a lot of buzz going into the 2013 recruiting class and beyond.

5) Speaking of recruiting, we will have the annual recruiting class breakdown ready to go in early February. This class is shaping up to be yet another very talented class, headlined by the Army All-American Defensive Player of the Year - Kendall Fuller (younger brother of past Hokie Vinnie and current Hokie Kyle). But it also looks light on offensive linemen which would fly in the face of everything Coach Beamer should have learned going through the lean 2005-2008 years. But then again, the entire point of this post has been how Coach Beamer is in a kind of old dog/new tricks situation. How he handles the next 30-60 days will have far-reaching implications on his legacy and the future of Virginia Tech football.

I just hope I get to watch a lot more games next year.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!