Virginia Coach Mike London has hired Texas-El Paso assistant Jeff Banks to fill the role of special teams coordinator and running backs coach, according to the sports marketing firm that represents Banks.
Though an official announcement has not been made by either Virginia or UTEP as of Monday morning, Coaches Inc. announced the move on its Twitter account and subsequently updated Banks’s biography on the company’s official Web site.
Banks has spent the past 10 seasons at UTEP and will take over a Virginia special teams unit that caused London and fans alike considerable headaches over the past three seasons. The Cavaliers were the worst team in the ACC in both punt returns and kickoff coverage during the 2012 campaign.
As a result, London announced safeties coach Anthony Poindexter would relinquish his duties as special teams coordinator when he decided to fire four other assistant coaches from his staff after Virginia stumbled to its second 4-8 season in three years. Banks would be the first hire London has made since instituting those changes.
Banks was highly successful at UTEP, coaching several prolific running backs and orchestrating one of the top special teams units in Conference USA.
In 2011, the Miners had the best special teams unit in the league, ranking first in the league in punting (40.5 yards/kick), second in kickoff returns (26.3 yards/return), third in kickoff coverage (44.4 net yards per kick) and seventh in punt returns (10 yards/return). UTEP rated fourth nationally in kickoff returns and sixth in net punting. In 2009, tailback Donald Bruckham broke a 60-year single-season school rushing record when he finished the season with 1,594 yards.
Banks held a similar position at Idaho State from 2001 to 2003 and began his coaching career under Coach Mike Price at Washington State. In addition, Banks was a punter for Price at Washington State, where Virginia executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver used to work.
Coaches Inc. also represents London, linebackers coach Vincent Brown, cornerbacks coach Chip West and former running backs coach Mike Faragalli.
But the early returns on London’s coaching staff shake-up, which he indicated in a statement wasn’t entirely his choice, had not been encouraging, particularly on the recruiting trail. This past weekend, offensive lineman Brad Henson of Toms River, N.J., became the first Virginia oral commitment to switch allegiances after telling the Web site Inside Carolina he had committed to North Carolina following an official visit there.
Henson, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound three-star prospect according to the major recruiting services, had been recruited by former Virginia tight ends coach Shawn Moore. But Henson isn’t the only one taking another look around the recruiting landscape because of the assistant coaching turmoil in Charlottesville.
Defensive back Tim Harris of Varina High outside Richmond told Rivals that he will take official visits to both Virginia and North Carolina next month. Harris, whose lead recruiter was former defensive coordinator Jim Reid, orally committed to the Cavaliers last April. London reportedly visited with the four-star cornerback prospect to ease his concerns immediately following Reid’s dismissal.
All-Met defensive lineman Donta Wilkins of Potomac (Va.) High will also take official visits to North Carolina, Michigan State and Virginia, according to Rivals, after orally committing to the Cavaliers back in June. In addition, three of Virginia’s recruits at Fork Union Military Academy – defensive back Malcolm Cook, defensive lineman Tyrell Chavis and defensive end Max Valles – have indicated they are also exploring their options at this point.
Either Reid or former recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach Jeff Hanson were the lead recruiters for all of them.