BLACKSBURG, Va., — New Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler earned his stripes as a coach working under Lloyd Carr at Michigan, where brick walls surrounded the practice fields and secrets were the norm. Already, some of those tendencies have surfaced in Blacksburg.
Earlier this week, a video of Virginia Tech’s closed scrimmage was removed from the athletic department’s Web site minutes after it was posted. On Saturday, following the team’s final scrimmage, no individual statistics were released, a departure from past protocol. Loeffler, meanwhile, has kept his answers to questions noticeably brief when talk turns to anything specific with reporters.
It seems, though, Coach Frank Beamer doesn’t want it any other way as the team gets ready for its season opener against defending national champion Alabama.
“What we do against Alabama shouldn’t be public right now,” Beamer said. “Our game plan vs. Alabama shouldn’t be a public thing right now.”
The Hokies are keeping things close to the vest with just a week remaining before their high-profile season opener, hopeful an offseason that featured the introduction of a new offensive staff will also add an element of surprise when Virginia Tech takes the field in Atlanta.
Though Loeffler’s scheme remains a work in progress – according to statistics released by Virginia Tech, the Hokies’ offense allowed five sacks and gained 25 rushing yards on 23 carries in Saturday’s scrimmage – Beamer was quick to point out that “looking at our offensive film from last year wouldn’t serve [Alabama] a big purpose, other than personnel.”
When asked about Loeffler’s desire to keep his plans under wraps, new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes even joked, “That’s above my pay grade.”
“You do have an advantage early on when an opponent hasn’t had an opportunity to see what you’ve been working on,” added Grimes, who worked with Loeffler at Auburn last year. “Obviously Alabama knows certain things about us, but the rest of it is probably left unsaid at this point.”
Grimes, though, was willing to reveal his starting offensive line, unveiling the group by posting a picture on his Twitter account. As expected, redshirt senior David Wang (Stone Bridge) will be the team’s center and redshirt senior Andrew Miller will slide to right guard this year. Junior Caleb Farris will start at left guard. The trio has a combined 36 starts
But the Hokies will debut two first-time starters at offensive tackle against the Crimson Tide, with freshman Jonathon McLaughlin getting the nod at left tackle and redshirt junior Laurence Gibson at right tackle. McLaughlin will be the first true freshman under Beamer to start at either tackle position in a season opener.
“Any time you’re playing a young guy you don’t know for sure how he’ll respond, but really that applies to anybody who hasn’t really played before,” Grimes said. “You know, a guy like Laurence who hasn’t really had any game experience, you don’t know how he’s gonna respond, either, in a pressure packed environment, against a great opponent, with a crowd that’s decidedly Alabama, I’m sure.
“It’ll be a challenging environment for all those guys, but at the same time I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jon’s mentality. I think he’s a competitor and I think he’ll rise to the occasion.”
Beamer admitted to feeling “nervous” about the prospect of so much inexperience along the offensive line, but he did get some encouragement from senior D.J. Coles Saturday. The wide receiver “looked like his old self, about the first time I’ve seen him where I thought he’s looked like a guy that [can] catch it and juke,” Beamer said.
Coles has been hobbled at times during training camp because of a lingering knee injury that forced him to take a medical redshirt last season.
Note: Beamer announced that linebackers Josh Trimble (O’Connell) and Derek DiNardo, as well as wide receivers Charley Meyer and Willie Byrn, all of whom came to Virginia Tech as walk-ons, have been put on scholarship.