BLACKSBURG, Va. — Not long after Virginia Tech concluded its worst season in 20 years with an ugly 13-10 victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Coach Frank Beamer sat down with offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring for a meeting both had been dreading.
Rampant speculation about the future of Beamer’s offensive staff was the main story line during bowl season, and even Stinespring realized what was coming next. Though he didn’t agree a new direction was necessary, “I knew that we didn’t play well enough this year.”
“Change is not easy for me. I don’t like change,” Beamer said Friday. “But 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.”
Beamer officially introduced offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead on Friday in the most drastic overhaul of his staff since the Hokies finished 2-8-1 in 1992.
But Beamer has no plans to abandon the run-first mentality that elevated Virginia Tech to longtime success, and it’s why Loeffler and Grimes were so attractive to him. Loeffler, a former Michigan quarterback, learned under former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr, who he noted shares a nearly identical philosophy to Beamer.
Grimes, 44, spoke of “developing the toughest offensive line in the ACC” and will serve as the run game coordinator, although Loeffler has final approval. Freshman J.C. Coleman led Virginia Tech’s running backs with 492 yards, the fewest yards for a team leader since 1971.
The Hokies finished No. 83 in the country in scoring and total offense in 2012.
“I think the marriage between what they’ve done in the past and what we want to do in the future is excellent,” said Loeffler, 38.
Both Loeffler and Grimes were on Auburn’s staff this past season when the offense finished 115th in the nation in total yards. When asked about those struggles, Loeffler said he learned from the experience but declined to go into specifics. Beamer was convinced it was simply a one-year blip after speaking with a wide range of pro and college coaches during the coaching search.
Loeffler’s first task will be correcting some of the accuracy issues of starting quarterback Logan Thomas. Stinespring informed Thomas in early January there would be changes to the offense, and Loeffler met with Thomas the day before the Lynchburg, Va., native made his decision to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season.
“The things he needs to work on, you can fix quickly,” said Loeffler, who has tutored future NFL signal callers like Tom Brady, Chad Henne and Tim Tebow as a quarterbacks coach at Michigan and Florida.
Loeffler’s contract calls for him to earn $150,000 annually until June 30, 2014, when his buyout with Auburn runs out. Virginia Tech will then pay him $400,000 annually through the 2015 season. Grimes will earn $150,000 until June 30, 2013, at which point his salary jumps to $265,000. Grimes, who earned more than $400,000 at Auburn last year, is also due a $50,000 retention bonus if he’s still on staff as of Jan. 1, 2015.
Beamer’s top choice to replace Stinespring was reportedly Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who recently accepted the same position with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. But out of those conversations, Beamer heard about Moorehead, a former graduate assistant at Stanford who signed a two-year contract worth $150,000 annually. It also includes a $50,000 retention bonus in 2015.
The new coaches replace former quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O’Cain, offensive line coach Curt Newsome and wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman. Beamer said he “convinced” Stinespring that he should stay in Blacksburg as a tight ends coach and the program’s new recruiting coordinator after 11 years leading the team’s offense.
Stinespring also agreed to a reduced salary of $300,000, down from the $362,230 he earned in 2012. But even Beamer conceded, “it’s kind of an unusual situation” to keep his former offensive coordinator on staff with his successor.