QB Coach Mike O'Cain discusses new role as Virginia Tech play caller
Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain made it clear Wednesday that he's ready to handle the increased pressure and scrutiny that will now come as a result of calling plays for Virginia Tech's offense instead of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. And it's not just because of his seven seasons as head coach at North Carolina State.
Turns out O'Cain spent three years (2001-2003) calling plays at Clemson when he was the quarterbacks coach and Brad Scott was the offensive coordinator. In two of those seasons, the Tigers averaged more than 420 yards per game and finished among the country's top 35 teams in terms of total offense.
From that experience, O'Cain said he has a good sense of what's needed to make this new arrangement in Blacksburg work.
"You’ve got to get your ego out of it," said O'Cain, who like Coach Frank Beamer on Tuesday emphasized that Stinespring ultimately made the decision to switch play callers. "A lot of times egos get in the way and there’s a power struggle and I don’t feel that way. This wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted. It wasn’t something that I didn’t want, but it wasn’t something that necessarily wanted. I’m here going about business just the way I’ve been for the past five years. ...
"Leave your ego at the door and go do what’s best for this football team and what’s best to help you win. Whoever makes the call, it really doesn’t make a rat’s rear end who makes the call as long as the call is made and we’re out there being successful."
O'Cain said the team actually first discussed having him call plays back in 2008, again because he may be able to better understand the quarterbacks because he's watching film and critiquing them every day. But at that time, the staff decided it wasn't the right time.
With a new quarterback this upcoming season, though, now appears to be the time Beamer and company were waiting on. O'Cain already called the plays for Virginia Tech's two-minute offense this past season.
But even with O'Cain calling the plays during games, Stinespring will still lead the formulation of the game plan during the week and will sit beside O'Cain in the coaches' box during games. Over the past three seasons, O'Cain has been seated next to Stinespring as he called plays during games. Now it seems their roles have been reversed.
O'Cain said he'll particularly need Stinespring's help while calling the running game and creating offensive line alignments. He also said several times Wednesday that he and Stinespring have a "great working relationship" and it's that dynamic that makes O'Cain believe there will be no power struggles over play calling.
"Obviously as a series is going on and we have 30 seconds or 40 seconds to make a play call, get it out there, there’s not a lot of discussion that goes on at that point in time," O'Cain said. "But between series, when our offense is out there on the sidelines, we’re talking about what do we want to do next series. Now when that series starts, the guy sitting beside the play caller usually kind of keeps his mouth shut."
O'Cain said any change in the offensive philosophy will be more the result of a new quarterback than any difference in the play caller. While O'Cain said he won't anoint redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas the starter behind center until after spring practice, he hinted several times that it was Thomas's job to lose.
O'Cain did, however, concede that he'll call plays with "a little different flavor" and that perhaps Stinespring had begun to, "develop tendencies, particularly when you’ve been doing it for [nine] years. Each week over [nine] years, they get a pretty good beat on you. Now a little bit different play calling may just break a few tendencies.”
“I’ve been there before, so I guess I can handle it," O'Cain said of the new spotlight he'll now work under. "Obviously, I don’t think there’s ever been a play caller that wasn’t in the hot seat or didn’t have the hot seat under him. I think, too, that the only way you’re not going to get criticized is if every play scores, so you go in knowing that. Most people couldn’t call a game if they had to, but they can sit up in the stands and criticize the guy calling it. But you understand that and that’s just part of this game. You live with that and go on."
| February 24, 2011; 10:35 AM ET
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