Blog Entry

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

Posted on: February 22, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:54 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Bryan Stinespring has been a Virginia Tech assistant for 18 years and has been Frank Beamer's offensive coordinator since 2002. If ever Beamer was going to change the latter arrangement, you'd have expected it to come following the 2007 and 2008 seasons, when Stinespring's attack finished 100th and 103rd in total offense, making him public coaching enemy No. 1 among Hokie fans.

But then Tech vaulted to No. 50 in 2009 and 42nd in 2010, and even those numbers don't do Stinespring justice; the Hokies finished 20th this past season in yards-per-play. The calls for Stinespring's job had gotten noticeably less audible. So he was safe for 2011 at least, right? Wrong :

That's Kyle Tucker of the Virginian-Pilot reporting that the Stinepsring era has officially ended in Blacksburg: he's been moved to position coaching with the tackles and tight ends, with Mike O'Cain taking over as the Hokie play-caller. (Curt Newsome will also move from coaching the entire offensive line to just the guards and centers, apparently.)

The news will likely be welcomed by Hokie fans on two fronts: not only is their object of coordinating scorn removed from the play-calling duties, but O'Cain seems like a quality replacement. The quarterbacks coach at Virginia Tech since 2006, O'Cain has several years of experience both as a head coach (at N.C. State) and an offensive coordinator (at Clemson). How much of an improvement he can make in the Hokie offense without the services of Tyrod Taylor remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that he doesn't have the chops to better Stinespring's spotty record over the long haul.

The question remains, though: why now? Why throw this kind of curveball just when it seemed like Stinespring was getting his feet underneath him? The answer probably lies in the departures of Taylor and backfield mates Darren Evans and Ryan Williams; if Beamer wanted to make a change, starting over with a new quarterback and new running backs seems like a better time to do it than in the middle of Taylor's superstar tenure.

So Hokie fans finally get what they want in the coordinator's chair. Now we'll all see if they get what they want on the field.

UPDATE: Though it appears to be little more than semantics -- and the salary/prestige of the title involved -- multiple reports suggest that though O'Cain will definitely call plays for the Hokies in 2011, Stinespring may still retain his "offensive coordinator" title (even as he works prdominantly with the tackles and tight ends).


Since: Nov 7, 2009
Posted on: February 23, 2011 8:51 pm

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

"O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup". Fantastic. I don't know where O'Cain will take the Hokies O, but I already know where Stinespring has taken them; and mediocre is not good enough. Lets hope Hokie fans.

Since: Sep 15, 2010
Posted on: February 23, 2011 2:02 pm

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

I do agree that Stiney's problem is in-game adjustments.  One could argue that any competent OC can game plan, but where the cream of the crop separate themselves is in how well they make in-game adjustments.  The only reason I suggested hiring someone with a slightly different philosophy is for two reasons.  First, it could expand Tech's playbook (by adding new formations, combination of route patterns, play calling tendencies, etc.) that could make Tech more competitive with the elite programs.  Now I am not saying that you necessarily have to abandon the run-first philosophy because, having played center for ten years, I personally love the smash mouth style of football.  However, if a program wants to continue to grow then it must adapt from time to time.  For years Tech has been known as a run-oriented/option team, so defenses would prepare to stop the running game and force Tech to beat them through the air.  If Tech became a more balanced/pro-style then defenses would have to prepare to try to stop both the run and the pass.  The second reason is it would improve Tech's odds of keeping the VA's best athletes close to home and not decide to go to another school.  Now I realize some players either don't meet Beamer's character requirements or don't want to remain close to home, those are moot.  The ones I am talking about are the recruits that Tech heavily targets, but for whatever reason they decide to go to Florida or Ohio State instead.  Eventually losing those caliber of recruits will catch up to Tech on the playing field, if it has not already done so.  Plus, it could open doors to new recruiting grounds (i.e. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas) where Tech gets one or two players every year instead of one once in a blue moon. 

As far ruining the 10-way chemistry goes, sometimes you have to take a step back in order to advance two or three steps.  Right now in terms of the national scene, I see Tech in the same boat as Kansas State was in the 1990's during the Coach Snyder 1.0 Era; one notch below being considered an elite program.  Tech is at a crossroads and it has two choices; it can either be happy with the status quo (winning conferences titles and somewhat competing in BCS bowl games) or it can make subtle changes that puts the program in a better position to compete for national championships.  The one difference I notice between SEC programs and ACC programs is the order of goals that a team wishes to accomplish.  SEC programs usually have these as the top three goals:  1-win NC, 2-win BCS bowl game, and 3-win conference championship (2 and 3 are a given if you accomplish 1).  ACC programs usually have these as the top three goals:  1-win conference championship, 2-win BCS bowl game, and 3-win NC.  It may be a subtle difference, but I think it translates into a huge difference when it comes to game preparation and recruiting. 

Honestly, I would love to see Tech get to the point where the administration was seriously looking to expand Lane Stadium to 80k and it was consistantly soldout (in terms of physical bodies) for home games.  I realize for attendance purposes, the administration considers season tickets sold as a part of the attendance figure even if they don't attend.  However, in this economic climate and not having a large enough fanbase make it feasibly impossible at this time.          

Since: Dec 29, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2011 1:21 pm

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

I think you are mostly correct.  Stinespring's in-game play-calling is much to be desired.  But his playbook is pretty good.  I just think we have the horses now to effectively go back to our offense of the 90s and early 00s that focused on the run and play action.  VT, unfortunately used the pass to set up the run this year and that's no good.  In part it was because the offensive line, however, they couldn't pass block either.  If O'Cain is calling plays, he still reports to Stiney...and that's the problem.  I don't see much changing, but I do hope they give him some autonomy to make the play calls on the spot.

Since: Oct 9, 2009
Posted on: February 23, 2011 10:53 am

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

I don't think fans, and Beamer to a certain degree, think Stinespring still isn't an offensive genius.  He can game plan fairly well but his problem seems to be in making the in-game changes needed.  How many times did we see a run call when it was obvious?  I don't think hiring a coach with a different philosophy proves anything.  What coach in his right mind would take that chance and ruin the 10-win chemisty that exists?  As far as Bustle, at the time of his departure tons of rumors were out there.  I heard everything from he hated the fact that O-line/D-line combo recruits went to Bud constantly to Beamer got tons of credit for Vick and the offense.  I don't knwo what happened but I just tend to believe an oppurtunity arose and Bustle jumped on it while he was hot.

Since: Feb 22, 2011
Posted on: February 22, 2011 10:13 pm

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

Don't know where the reporter gets his info, but this is not a correct story line at all.  Insiders are reporting that Stinespring will remain as OC, but simply move from the booth upstairs back down to field level.  He will remain OC, with O'Cain staying in the booth and relaying info down to him.  That's all.  Stinespring will add tackles to his coaching duities, will resume recruiting in the 757 area code, but will remain OC, doing so from the field, in the same way defensive co-ordinator Foster does.  Co-ordinator at field level, with an assistant upstairs to serve as 'eyes in the sky', which is where O'Cain has been as QB coach.

This was apparently a mutually desired change, possibly even requested by Stinespring and approved by Beamer, than a top-down decision by Beamer himself.  They're just tweeking and fine-tuning, and making a few recruiting duty changes.  You're reading more into this than there is.

Since: Sep 15, 2010
Posted on: February 22, 2011 10:11 pm

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

It will be interesting to see how much "improvement" the offense will really show this year.  I say that because I remember when Bustle was "ran out of town" (encouraged) to take the UL-Lafayette job.  The reason I heard was because there was rumblings at the time that the offense needed to be more progressive.  I was a student at the time, so I am not sure how much of that is true or not.  
However, under the Stinespring Era I didn't notice that much difference in the play calling, formations, etc that was under Bustle.  For example, Tech seems to have good depth at WR.  They may not all be NFL caliber, but they are solid and would force most secondaries to respect them as a potential deep threat.  I don't remember the last time Tech ran a 4 or 5 WR set on offense.  I would have thought with a mobile quarterback last year, Tech would have called at least 1 offensive play when Boykin, Coale, Roberts, and either Boyce/Davis/Fuller/Cole were on the field at the same time.  Even if the offensive line doesn't give Tyrod enough time to read the secondary, all it would take is a couple big runs by Tyrod and that would force the defense to scale back the pressure.  I remember a few times Tech used that formation during the Drunk and MV1 eras with less depth at that position.
I am not sure what to make of the Stinespring Era.  When Stinespring was promoted to OC, he was hailed as an "offensive genius" by Beamer.  Since the offense under Stinespring was basicall identical to the offense under Bustle, I can only draw 1 of 2 conclusions; 1-Stinespring was really not an offensive genius or 2-Beamer was too controling and didn't allow Stinespring the freedom to showcase his talents.  I understand a head coach is controling and wants the offense/defense to reflect his philosophy. However, if you hire coaches that you feel are geniuses then I would think the head coach would trust his coordinators enough to give them the free to showcase their talents.  If the O'Cain Era is identical to the Bustle and Stinespring Era then it would be tough for me not to conclude that the problem may be more with how much control Beamer wants to give the OC.  Unfortunately, the only way to really test that theory would be if Beamer hired someone like Mike Leach or Rich Rodriguez (someone with a completely different offensive philosophy to Beamer) as OC and see what identity the offense takes that year.   

Since: Oct 9, 2009
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:09 pm

O'Cain takes over offense in Hokie shakeup

Wow, Frank is on a roll this offseason.  I don't know if this is the answer for the often-times bad offense, but this wil be great for recruiting.  Word is Stinespring will go back to the Virginia Beach area where he has been a solid recruiter in the past.  Newsome has struggled recruiting there the last several years and Stinespring is easily the best recruiter on the staff.  My only question now is why keep Newsome?  In my opinion, he has been a horrible recruiter and has ruined the offensive line by changing the philosophy.

Still, this is crazy.  For us who have followed the program for years, this is not what Frank Beamer does.  He seems to be giving a serious push for that National Championship!

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