New Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler was looking for a home when he initially met with Coach Frank Beamer.
Five years after he emerged as one of college football’s top young assistant coaches, Loeffler’s career was beginning to stall. After spending 14 years at Michigan between playing and then forging a reputation as a quarterback guru, becoming so close with Tom Brady that Brady served as a groomsman in his wedding, Loeffler had become a nomad.
A year with the NFL’s Detroit Lions begat two seasons working under Urban Meyer at Florida, which preceded a successful one-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Temple. This past season, Loeffler was hired to fill the same role at Auburn, and the Tigers embarked on a disastrous 3-9 campaign.
In his head, Loeffler, 38, knew none of those stops was like Ann Arbor, Mich., where he first discovered the brand of power football he’ll bring to Blacksburg, Va. So you can imagine his relief upon meeting Beamer, whose offensive philosophy is nearly “identical” to the one former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr championed, according to Loeffler.
“I thought this was a perfect, perfect fit for what I believe in,” added Loeffler, who was introduced as Virginia Tech’s new offensive coordinator last week. “I’m really looking forward to finding a guy that’s 18 years old in high school and starting from scratch and developing and grooming him exactly how you want it, because it doesn’t happen overnight.
“The bouncing, I’m ready to sit for a while, and I’m ready to go back and do what I did in Ann Arbor.”
Carr was recently reminded of Loeffler’s best work during his days as the Wolverines’ quarterbacks coach when asked about Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas. In 2002, Loeffler also inherited a quarterback coming off a disappointing season.
Former Michigan signal-caller John Navarre threw 14 interceptions in his first 17 games as a starter before working with Loeffler, who was a scholarship quarterback at Michigan before a rotator cuff injury cut short his playing career. The next two seasons, Navarre had 17 interceptions but improved his accuracy and threw 45 touchdown passes, leading the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl as a senior.
Carr said it’s Loeffler’s classroom work that set him apart from other coaches his age. He embraced the nuances of the game, showing an ability to process formations and tendencies from the moment he arrived on campus as a player. Carr noted that Loeffler’s meetings can be so detailed, his quarterbacks have no choice but to come prepared.
“When I hired Scot, I needed a guy that could really help John Navarre realize his potential and he did a great job,” Carr said. “If you want to be a great quarterback, he’s a guy that can help you develop your abilities.”
The Hokies certainly hope so after Thomas regressed in his second season behind center, throwing 16 interceptions and completing just 51.3 percent of his passes. Loeffler has spent a considerable amount of time since his hiring watching film of Thomas, and he concluded the flaws that hindered the redshirt senior are easy to fix.
Loeffler also knows well that Thomas is out for redemption in 2013, because he’s in the same situation. At Auburn in 2012, Loeffler’s reputation took a hit when the Tigers finished No. 118 in the country in total yards and Coach Gene Chizik and his staff were subsequently fired after the regular season.
“I think he has a bad taste in his mouth, as well as I do,” said Loeffler, referring to Thomas. “I didn’t have a great year last year and nor did he.”
Loeffer has declined to discuss the specifics of what went wrong, but did note that for the first time in his coaching career, he took the Auburn job even though Chizik was the only member of the staff he had previously met.
Beamer said he was convinced last year was an anomaly for Loeffler after speaking with more than a dozen head coaches in college football and the NFL during his search for an offensive coordinator.
“There’s something when you add new ideas and new people and new personalities,” he noted. “I think there’s a freshness there.”
But it was the familiar style of play Loeffler offered that made him most attractive. In search of a power running game and a return to prominence after the worst season Virginia Tech has seen in 20 years, Beamer found a kindred spirit who’d been looking for a place like Blacksburg all along.
“He’s probably, in a former life, been an offensive linemen, I think, because he has a lot more of the temperament and maybe some of the personal habits of an offensive linemen,” said new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who came to Virginia Tech from Auburn along with Loeffler.
“But he coaches like an offensive line coach does. He’s very demanding and he gets after the guys. I believe wholeheartedly in his ability as a coach and a coordinator. I’ve been around some great ones, but this guy has more football knowledge than anyone I’ve been around.”