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February 13, 2013

Beamer shakes up staff

By: Jimmy Robertson

Longtime head coach brings aboard three new assistant coaches

From left to right: Jeff Grimes, Frank Beamer, Scot Loeffler, Aaron Moorehead.

Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer has taken conservative approaches with the Tech program over the years, preferring a stable approach that has produced steady winning results.

But a 7-6 season and inconsistent performances on offense prompted a bold move just a few weeks ago by the Tech coach, who will be starting his 27th season in Blacksburg.

Beamer stepped outside of his comfort zone with a staff shakeup rarely seen in these parts, hiring three new coaches and changing his offensive coordinator. The 66-year-old coach hired Scot Loeffler to be his new coordinator, while also naming Jeff Grimes and Aaron Moorehead as the new offensive line and receivers coach, respectively. Beamer moved Bryan Stinespring, Tech’s offensive coordinator for the past 11 seasons, out of the coordinator’s position, but convinced him to stay on as the tight ends coach and added recruiting coordinator to his title.

The three new coaches take the spots vacated when receivers coach Kevin Sherman left to go to Purdue, and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain and Curt Newsome left to pursue other opportunities.

“Change is not easy for me,” Beamer admitted. “At the same time, you’ve got to do what you think is right for your overall organization, and that’s what I’ve done in this case. I really liked the people I had, and I really like the people I’m bringing in. Both (sets) are good people and good coaches, but I think with different personalities and so forth, these guys can bring freshness to the organization.”

Loeffler, a 38-year-old Michigan graduate (Class of 1996) who played quarterback for legendary Lloyd Carr, comes to Tech after spending this past season as the offensive coordinator at Auburn. In 2011, he spent the season at Temple as the coordinator, and the previous two seasons, he worked as the quarterbacks coach at Florida, where he tutored Tim Tebow. In 2008, he worked as the quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions, and from 2002-07, he worked as the quarterbacks coach at Michigan, his alma mater.

Loeffler’s offense last season at Auburn struggled, and the Tigers, as a program, finished 3-9. That prompted a coaching change, with the administration firing Gene Chizik. Neither Loeffler nor Grimes were retained by new coach Gus Malzahn.

But Loeffler has enjoyed much success at other stops. In 2011, Temple finished 39th nationally in scoring offense (30.6 ppg) and seventh nationally in rushing offense (256.5 ypg). In 2009, his quarterbacks at Florida led the nation in pass efficiency. Also that year, the Gators finished second in the SEC in passing offense. Tebow left Florida with five NCAA, 14 SEC and 28 Florida records.

“I think you deal in what’s real. The people I talked to were overwhelmingly positive,” said Beamer, who listed John Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, Lloyd Carr, Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Bobby Bowden, Mark Richt, David Shaw, Bruce Arians, Jim Tressel and Steve Addazio among those he consulted before naming Loeffler the coordinator. “I think you’ve got to take in what’s real. Are you a good coach? Is he what you’re looking for or not? I’m thoroughly convinced that I’ve got three excellent guys here.”

“I think it’s perfect,” Loeffler said of joining the Tech program. “I grew up in a program almost identical to this one. Every time I see Coach Beamer, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is like talking to Lloyd (Carr).’

“Any time you can be a part of a place that has that type of head coach, that has that type of tradition, that wins and does things the right way and graduates players, you run and you stay as long as you possibly can. So I’m ecstatic to be here.”

Loeffler, who has worked with Tebow, Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Drew Henson and John Navarre – all of whom play or played in the NFL – takes over an offense that struggled much of last season. The Hokies finished 81st nationally in scoring offense (25.1 ppg), 79th in rushing offense (145.9 ypg) and 81st in total offense (376.8 ypg).

Loeffler didn’t get into specifics of style in the introductory news conference for the new coaches, but did say he believed an offense needed to “run the football effectively, play-action pass, be productive on third down, and in the red area, score touchdowns.” He also looks forward to working with Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and getting him back to his 2011 form. Thomas, who came back to Tech for his senior season after contemplating making himself available for the NFL Draft, struggled some this past season, though a lot of that could be attributed to new and inexperienced personnel on offense, as that group returned just three starters.

“He’s a big, strong guy,” Loeffler said. “Some of the things he does that are difficult, he does amazing. You can’t coach that. There are some things he does that are really hard. There are some things that are easy that I think we can make even easier for him to make him more productive.

“The one thing I’m encouraged about with Logan is that I think he’s going to learn fast. I think he’s a guy who’s hungry. Any time you’ve had some setbacks, you’re hungry. I think we both had some setbacks last year, so we’re both hungry.”

Beamer’s hiring of Grimes as the offensive line coach makes perfect sense, given that Grimes worked with Loeffler at Auburn and thus knows his schemes. Grimes, a 44-year-old who graduated from UTEP (Class of 1991), comes to Tech after a four-year stint as the offensive line coach with the Tigers. His other stops over a 17-year span include ones at Colorado, BYU, Arizona State, Boise State and Hardin-Simmons.

Grimes takes over an offensive line that loses three starters and played inconsistently at times last year. The Hokies’ offensive line has been a source of contention among the fan base over the past several years, and Grimes will be tasked with bringing some on-field consistency to the unit.

“I haven’t taken inventory yet (of what Tech has on the offensive line), and I’m not worried about contention among the fan base,” Grimes said. “What I’m worried about is developing the toughest offensive line in the ACC. That’s something that is hard to measure and is one of those things that you can’t put a statistic with it, but you know it when you see it. That’s going to be my No. 1 goal and approach.

“For us to do the things we want to do on offense, particularly running the football, we have got to have the approach that we’re going to try and dominant the game from the offensive line position. That’s the only way it works. That’s the only way your offense takes a physical approach. We’ve got to be the big brothers of everyone else on the offense. We’re the tip of the spear, so to speak. If we do our job with the right approach and right mindset, then I think the other guys will follow.”

Moorehead – the youngest member of Tech’s staff at 32 years old – moves into the role as the receivers coach. The 2003 Illinois graduate spent five seasons in the NFL playing with the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning, and winning a Super Bowl ring in 2006. In 2009, he worked as a graduate assistant at New Mexico before moving to Stanford, where he has worked as an offensive assistant for receivers the past three seasons.

“We played these guys (the Hokies) three years ago in the bowl game (the Orange Bowl), and you just saw what athletes they had,” Moorehead said. “They had athletes all over the field. The quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) was obviously a very good player. Anyone who is anyone knows that Virginia Tech has had very good players for a long time. It was an obvious choice for me (to come to Tech). I haven’t had a chance to watch the receivers on tape, but I know we’ve got some good, young, talented players, and I can’t wait to work with them.”

Though they possess a lot of experience, both playing and coaching, the three new hires make Beamer’s staff significantly younger. The three new hires are under the age of 44. O’Cain, Newsome and Sherman were 58, 54 and 44, respectively.

“Not only younger, but taller,” Beamer joked. “Nah, first and foremost, you’ve got to have knowledge. You’ve got to know what you’re talking about, and you can see it quickly if you don’t. But I do think having a good blend of older guys and younger guys connecting with kids in recruiting can help. I feel very comfortable with where we are.

“I think the big thing is ending up with the right guys, and I feel comfortable we have. When I visited with these guys, and some of our other staff members visited with them … I’m a people guy. I kind of connect and get into what you are all about. I think these guys are good stuff, and I think we’ve got the right people.”

The Hokies’ revamped staff will be tested quickly. Tech opens the 2013 season against defending national champion Alabama at the Georgia Dome.

“Oh my goodness,” Loeffler said, laughing. “They (the Crimson Tide) do a great job and have great players. We’re going to go in there. We’re Virginia Tech now. Let’s go play. Let’s roll out the ball and go play.”