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Posted at 7:17 AM ET, 02/23/2011

How coaching changes will affect Virginia Tech football on the field

By Mark Giannotto

In the past two weeks, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer has named a new play-caller for his offense, altered the responsibilities for more than half of his assistant coaches and added two positions to the football program that never existed in Blacksburg before.

And yet when he spoke publicly for the first time about all these changes Tuesday, Beamer tried his best to convince reporters that "it’s just not as big a deal as you guys make it to be." This was not a response to a lopsided loss in the Orange Bowl, he said, or any sort of specific shortcoming in recruiting.

"But I think as you look at it, you make decisions that you think are best for your football program," Beamer said. "I always ask my coaches: ‘Don’t just sit there and do things the way you’ve done them. Don’t do it the same you’ve done it because you’ve done it all these years. Look at better ways of doing things.' And I’m hopeful we’ve made our total staff stronger. There’s pluses, there’s a couple minuses, but I think in the big picture, we’ve made our total staff stronger.”

These past two weeks, though, were very un-Beamer-like, and removed any doubts as to whether the legendary coach is willing to shake things up in his pursuit of a national championship. After making no changes to his staff since 2006, five of Beamer's nine assistants saw their roles changed or adjusted.

And while Beamer will try to play down these moves, they were calculated and involved a lot of thought. Athletic Director Jim Weaver said he met with Beamer four or five times over the past month, and that he had to get approval from Virginia Tech President Charles Steger in order to add two new administrative positions within the program.

More important for the future of the program, Beamer managed to lower the average age of his coaching staff from 50 to 44 years old, while also keeping two of his most trusted lieutenants on the payroll. Not to mention, he'll get to spend the last stretch of his coaching career working with his son.

But the most significant move came Tuesday, when Beamer announced often-embattled offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring would no longer be the play-caller during games. Instead, quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain will inherit those duties, because Beamer believes O'Cain's close relationship with presumed starter Logan Thomas will help the offense.

"I think the primary game play-caller, to me, it kind of makes sense that it's the guy who spends the most time with your quarterbacks during the week," said Beamer, who added that O'Cain already called the two-minute offense this past season.

Beamer insisted several times that Stinespring ultimately made the decision to change play-callers, and that Stinespring will continue to formulate the weekly game plan. Stinespring said Tuesday, "It was a mutual decision."

Stinespring has been the Hokies' offensive coordinator since the end of the 2001 season, and a part of Beamer's staff since 1990. His units have come under fire at times -- especially from 2006-2008, when Virginia Tech's offense finished no better than 99th in the country in total offense. But this past season, Stinespring's offense set school records for points (474) and yards (5,632).

O'Cain, 56, was Beamer's offensive coordinator at Murray State between 1981 and 1984. He also served as the primary play caller at North Carolina in 2000 and Clemson in 2004, but units finished 58th and 110th in the country in total offense. In addition, O'Cain was the head coach at North Carolina State from 1993 to 1999.

In terms of how O'Cain's presence would change Virginia Tech's offense, Beamer said the team would continue to simply try and take advantage of its strengths. He specifically mentioned the Hokies are considering more screen passes this year because of Thomas's height and their plethora of talented wide receivers.

***The other aspect of these changes that Beamer tried his best to shrug off were the perception of ruffled feathers among his newfangled staff.

There was a report that new director of recruiting and high school relations Jim Cavanaugh was disappointed with his new administrative role, off the recruiting trail and out of the coaches' box on game days. Former running backs coach Billy Hite also stepped aside to take a non-coaching, senior adviser role.

"There’s always some good and some bad, but I think both of them have been very positive as far as what they can do to help this football program in the future," said Beamer. "It wasn’t like I didn’t want Billy Hite around or Jim Cavanaugh around. I did want them around. If they weren’t gonna stay around Virginia Tech football, I wouldn’t have wanted to do this.”

Beamer also announced Tuesday that his son, Shane, would take over Hite's role as associate head coach. Beamer said if he were unable to coach for some reason, Shane would run the team "just exactly like I would." Beamer said he wanted to keep that title on Hite, but because of NCAA rules, Hite's new position doesn't allow him to communicate with players if something should happen to him.

Beamer also believed Shane deserved some sort of title because he had been the recruiting coordinator at South Carolina. When asked why defensive coordinator Bud Foster wasn't chosen, Beamer sidestepped the question, saying "you can say it could be that guy, but why shouldn’t it be someone else, too?”

***The only additional major change in terms of next season will be on the offensive line. Stinespring, who was previously in charge of the offensive line, will take over the offensive tackles in addition to his duties coaching the tight ends. Offensive line coach Curt Newsome, meanwhile, will now simply head up the guards and centers.

By Mark Giannotto  | February 23, 2011; 7:17 AM ET
 
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