We’re days, if not hours or minutes, from learning Frank Beamer’s most important decision in 20 years. Virginia Tech’s iconic football coach has made countless choices since – strategic, staff, recruiting, discipline – but none that will resonate like his impending hire of an offensive coordinator.
This staff makeover, which also figures to include assistants to coach the offensive line and receivers, is not as critical as the changes Beamer made following a 2-8-1 season in 1992. Those hires included defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian and offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle, and set the Hokies on a course to unimagined success and saved Beamer’s job.
Two decades later, Beamer, 66, is approaching retirement, and his program is reeling from a 7-6 season that was its worst since that 1992 faceplant. If Beamer is to return Tech to serious national contention, then he’s got to get this hire right.
Such gravity is not lost on Beamer, who, from all indications, concluded during the regular season that the combination of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and play-caller Mike O’Cain no longer was tenable. That’s among the reasons – red tape and the preference to avoid firings are others -- that the search has lasted far too long to suit impatient fans.
But with junior quarterback Logan Thomas facing the NFL’s Tuesday deadline to declare for the draft, I sense Tech is very close on a deal. In fact, the deal could well be done, and we simply don’t know.
We do know that Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, the preferred choice, interviewed and withdrew from consideration. He’s set to interview for the New York Jets’ OC job, according to CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman.
Might Beamer make one final pitch to Hamilton? Hey, never hurts to ask, but good luck competing with the NFL, especially given Hamilton’s past in the league with the Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears.
Former Auburn and Temple OC Scot Loeffler, and ex-Oklahoma and Kansas OC Chuck Long also interviewed. My educated hunch is that Loeffler impressed the Hokies’ staff more, but after following more searches than I care to count, I always suspect the unknown, a candidate that hasn’t emerged in media or on message boards.
For example, reporters covering Virginia’s basketball search in 2009 never mentioned Tony Bennett until the day the Cavaliers hired him from Washington State. Fans on message boards were similarly off target.
Colleague Norm Wood and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach report that Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo declined to interview with Tech, which makes perfect sense. Bobo is a Georgia graduate, and the Bulldogs have a big-league quarterback returning in Aaron Murray.
Technically, Beamer has no staff vacancies, but Purdue’s website shows an athletic department email for Hokies receiver coach Kevin Sherman. O’Cain has surfaced as a candidate for the head-coaching position at Charleston Southern, a natural fit for a South Carolina native with previous coaching stops at The Citadel and Clemson, the latter his alma mater.
Offensive line coach Curt Newsome appears to have a standing invitation to rejoin Mickey Matthews’ staff at James Madison, where he worked before going to Tech seven seasons ago. In fact, Pete Roussel of coachingsearch.com and Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch report that Syracuse offensive line coach Greg Adkins, a former colleague of Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer at Tennessee, could be headed to the Hokies.
Though Stinespring’s tenure as offensive coordinator is done, he’s likely to remain on staff, perhaps as tight ends coach and/or recruiting coordinator.
This much is certain: No Beamer decision, not the staff changes of 1992-93, not the suspension of Marcus Vick in 2006, has been as anticipated. And when his choice is revealed, the vetting among Hokie Nation will be unprecedented.
But fan and media critiques will be tame compared to the task ahead: revive a stagnant offense, connect with returning players, install the system during spring practice and prepare for a 2013 season that begins against two-time defending national champion Alabama.
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