Bryan Stinespring is no stranger to the slings and arrows of Virginia Tech fans over nine seasons as the Hokies' offensive coordinator, the arrow on his much-maligned tenure was pointing unmistakably up over the last two seasons: The 2009-10 attacks were arguably the best Hokie offenses since Michael Vick was setting defenses aflame a decade earlier, both averaging upwards of 30 points per game and the latter leading the charge to an ACC championship, Tech's fourth in seven years with Stinespring calling the shots.
If you were head coach Frank Beamer, you might take that as vindication of your patience and loyalty to one of your righthand men through some truly ghastly efforts over the preceding three seasons. The actual Frank Beamer, on the other hand, has seen enough: Per an interview on his official website, Beamer has officially demoted Stinespring and handed play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain, former head coach at N.C. State and offensive coordinator under Beamer at Murray State from 1981-84.
The formal motivation: O'Cain's comfort level with sophomore Logan Thomas, a big (6-6, 240 pounds) pocket slinger expected to take the reins from outgoing senior Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback. "They spend so much time together in the film room, practice field, study sessions, that [O'Cain] just knows what they're thinking, knows what they like, knows what they can do, knows their body language, knows when to attack," Beamer said in the interview. "And it just makes sense, with Logan breaking in, to try and keep things as smooth as possible."
The implicit motivation, as suggested by the Virginian-Pilot's Kyle Tucker: At 63, Beamer is going all-in with Thomas as his last, best shot at a BCS championship before he retires.
No one would have batted an eye if Beamer had made the same bet two years ago on Taylor, a hyped up-and-comer entering his third season at the helm of an offense that had finished 99th, 100th and 103rd in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively. But it looks like a legitimate gamble after last season, when Stinespring's veteran attack was as advertised. It remained a run-first affair, as always, with four different players – Taylor and running backs Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson – combining for 2,600 yards and 30 touchdowns on almost 40 carries per game, good for the No. 2 ground game in the ACC, behind only the triple-option extremists at Georgia Tech.
But the attack really blossomed with Taylor's underrated efficiency in the play-action game: He led the conference in 2010 in passer rating, yards per attempt, yards per completion and completions covering at least 25 yards for the second year in a row, cruising to Offensive Player of the Year honors as the captain of the highest-scoring offense in the league.
That success came opposite unquestionably the worst Bud Foster defense since Virginia Tech defected from the Big East to the ACC in 2004. The Hokies yielded more points (20.6 per game) on more yards (361.5) than at any point since the transition and finished seventh in the conference against the run, a far cry from their usual perch in the top five or ten of the national rankings. Boise State dropped 33 points on Tech to open the season, Stanford unloaded for 40 to close the season, and the better attacks in the ACC seemed to find the Straits of Foster uncharacteristically manageable in between.
The fact is, Tech was a relatively offensive team in 2010 for the first time in recent memory, and certainly for the first time as a mamba of the ACC: Over six years from 2004-09, the Hokies won a grand total of seven games (and lost 15) in which they allowed at least 20 points. In '10 alone, they won six games when opponents scored 20, including the 44-33 win over Florida State in a shootout of an ACC Championship Game.
That night was one of the high points of Stinespring's career as a play-caller. From there, it was on to the second-half debacle against Stanford in the Orange Bowl and now the coaching equivalent of being shipped to the docks, focusing exclusively on offensive tackles and tight ends. (Offensive line coach Curt Newsome will continue to handle the interior positions.) It's a tough business, but how many other scorned coaches have ever appealed by asking their boss to look what they've done for him lately?
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.