Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 31, 2013

Loeffler works to fix offense

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — When, not if, the Virginia Tech football faithful complains about the Hokies’ offense in 2013, Scot Loeffler will be the likely target of criticism.    Complaining about play-calling in college football has become as common as another Alabama national championship.

Hey, every coach hears it, even (Saint) Nick Saban.

A few days after A.J. McCarron was picked off on fourth down in the final seconds of a possible comeback against Texas A&M — having passed three times to go from the Aggies’ 6 to the 1 — Alabama Governor Robert Bentley made the comment that he would have run the ball in that situation.

Everyone is an expert, or thinks they are. Even the best coach in college football is going to get second guessed, in many cases by folks who think that first down line shown on television is really part of a football field.

What fans need to realize is that assistant coaches are an extension of the head coach in any sport, no matter what level it is. The head coach is the boss and you do what they want done.

I have written about this before, but when I covered Tennessee, the fans would torture Phillip Fulmer’s offensive coordinator Randy Sanders on the local talk shows — and there are bunches of them in Knoxville — when they were unhappy with the offense, which was any time the Volunteers didn’t get a touchdown, a first down or had to punt.

Yet, Sanders confided in the media that he was simply doing what Fulmer wants. He had a boss and he followed what Fulmer wanted done.

That philosophy eventually caused Sanders and Fulmer to leave, and the football program at Tennessee has never been the same.

Sometimes change isn’t always better, but hopefully it will be for the Hokies, who were harder to watch on offense last season than Norv Turner trying to figure out how to blow another game for the Chargers.

Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer believes in letting his assistants coach, but they know how he wants it done, and newcomers Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead certainly understand that. So do the holdovers, which includes running backs coach Shane Beamer and Bryan Stinespring, the former offensive boss, who is now recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach.

“Our philosophies are very similar, but Scot is going to be in charge,” Beamer said. “Jeff is going to be in charge of the running game with final approval from Scot and coordinate our running game.

“I have faith in these guys and our guys that remain...I think we all can put together the right offense. It is certainly going to be Scot’s call on how we do it exactly. That is the way I have always done it. I just want guys who believe the way I do, and the details of it, I will let these guys take care of that.”

Loeffler shouldn’t have an issue with the boo birds and complaints. After all, he faced the same verbiage last season when Auburn — two years removed from winning the BCS national championship — never settled on a quarterback and the Tigers’ offense ranked 115th in total offense and 112th in scoring offense.

It eventually led to coaching upheaval for War Eagle, and Loeffler went looking for another job.

Virginia Tech’s offense wasn’t much better, but Beamer didn’t seem all that concerned with Loeffler’s problems at Auburn.

“I think you deal with what is real. The people that I talked to were overwhelmingly positive and then when I sat down and visited with him, I certainly was convinced,” Beamer said. “In this business it happens.

“Andy Reid leaves Philadelphia and the next day he is in Kansas City. It is circumstances sometimes, the players you have got. I think you have to take in what is real.

“Are you a good coach? Are you what you are looking for or not? I am thoroughly convinced I have got three excellent guys right here.”

At least Loeffler shouldn’t have a quarterback issue at Virginia Tech, at least the Hokies hope not. Logan Thomas flirted with the NFL, but returned, eager to prove that regression last season wasn’t a trend.

Thomas, at times, was the Virginia Tech offense, even leading the Hokies in rushing, and he doesn’t exactly remind folks of mobile signal-callers like Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton.

Still, Loeffler — who has worked with six quarterbacks with NFL experience in 15 years on the sidelines — sees ‘tremendous upside’ in Thomas. He also understands Beamer’s philosophy to mix the run and the pass, with the run coming first.

“..I think if you are going to be a championship team you have got to be able to do both and that is the way I have always felt,” Beamer said. “There is no question we need to address how we can run the ball better and all three of them (new coaches) are going to be strong in helping us get a better running game.”

Loeffler will mix his philosophy with that of Beamer, which he says is already pretty close to the same.

“The philosophies that have always been here at Virginia Tech is what I have grown up with, particularly during my Michigan years,” said Loeffler, who played for the Wolverines and was a graduate-assistant when they won the national title in 1997. “We are going to play to the strengths of our team.

“Virginia Tech has always played great defense, and they have always played great special teams....”

What the Hokies need now is a better offense, which is why Loeffler is in Blacksburg. He knows it too.

“We need to have an offense that is going to be able to run the football effectively, play-action pass, being productive on third down and obviously in the red (zone) area, scoring touchdowns rather than field goals,” Loeffler said. “There are some things here that Bryan has done in the past in his system that are very similar to what we believe in also.

“I think the marriage between what they have done in the past and what we want to do in the future is excellent.”

That future must also include good players. The Hokies will bring in its newest recruiting class next Wednesday in what is National Signing Day across the nation.

Every coach can agree that good players make good coaches.

“I think all these guys know how important recruiting is,” Beamer said. “If you can recruit well then you can be better coaches in the fall and I think we have some guys that can really help us in that area too.”

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com