For most football programs, a 7-6 season would be business as usual. But Virginia Tech is not like most programs.
After Frank Beamer and the Hokies suffered through the team’s worst season since 1992, heads had to roll in Blacksburg.
Quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain, offensive line coach Curt Newsome, wide receiver coach Kevin Sherman are all gone, while offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was demoted to managing the team’s recruiting and tight ends.
Now, new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes join the staff from Auburn, and Aaron Moorehead takes over coaching the wide receivers after a stint at Stanford.
“As a coaching staff we’re not new to this,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “But we do have some question marks on this football team.”
Though the team won’t have to play ACC powerhouses Clemson and Florida State this regular season, big matchups against Alabama, North Carolina and Miami mean the team will have to start answering these questions quickly.
The team could never really find an answer at running back last year, with quarterback Logan Thomas ultimately leading the team in rushing. This year, the Hokies are trying to find some more consistency at the position through a combination of runners J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds.
"I've got a pretty good idea of where our rotation is going to be game one,” said Shane Beamer, running backs coach. “Depending on how our first play is and depending on how we start the game one of those two guys could be in there.”
Coleman started six games last season, but Edmunds is a redshirt freshman, so the exact rotation is hardly settled.
The offensive line the backs will be running behind is equally unsettled. Grimes has experimented with a variety of different lineups through spring practice and fall camp.
"I think sometimes a little bit too much is made of a specific five developing cohesion early on, because chances are you are not going to play with that same five all year,” Grimes said.
The current depth chart lists freshman Jonathan McLaughlin at left tackle and redshirt junior Mark Shuman on the right side. Redshirt junior David Wang is currently at center, while junior Caleb Farris and redshirt senior Andrew Miller are at the left and right guard spots respectively.
However, redshirt juniors Laurence Gibson and Brent Benedict could easily take over at a variety of different positions, and it’s clear that Grimes won’t be afraid to change things up.
“I think there is a lot of value in being able to rotate different guys in there,” Grimes said. “Even during the season, when we are in a situation when I know who my five are going to be, there may be times where I'm shuffling around a little bit."
For all the importance of the running game, it is Thomas’ development that will truly give shape to the offense’s identity.