Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Recruiting at heart of Beamer shaking up staff

They wanted better players.

When you get right down to it, that's what all of this was about. Forget titles. Forget professional shifts. Forget salaries. Forget quotes about how the quarterbacks coach knows the quarterbacks, so that's why he'll be calling the plays.

Let's call this series of Virginia Tech football changes what it is: a recruiting overhaul.

The Frank Beamer we once knew is gone. Not sure whether to clap about this or cry. On one hand, nobody will miss the press conferences in which Beamer defended the indefensible, those days where he said "all is well" on offense when we knew he was trying to take us for fools. For much of the past eight years or so, we've only needed to look at the stat sheet and see that all is, in fact, not well on offense.

So that's one change. Mike O'Cain will be calling the plays next year instead of Bryan Stinespring, Beamer's longtime lieutenant. Even if Beamer says this was Stinespring's decision -- really? -- this is big news around here, something a lot of Tech supporters have been requesting for some time.

But there's more. A lot more. There's the Shane Beamer hire, which happened last week. That one became a whole lot bigger Tuesday. On Tuesday, Frank named his son the associate head coach. He just kind of slipped that in there among the other announcements, like a chef putting a whisk of garlic on the tortellini. Oh yeah, by the way, if anything happens to me, my son's in charge.

This is the laugh-or-cry part. The Shane Beamer hire, in itself, was a great tactical move. The younger Beamer is a proven ace on the recruiting trail. Tech needed to get more aggressive on this front, so it did.

But associate head coach? That's the title Billy Hite -- he of more than three decades on the sidelines in Blacksburg -- used to hold. Why not a let a guy such as Bud Foster assume that role?

"I think people on your staff, you could always say, 'Well, it could be that guy,' " Beamer said, when asked about that specific position and that specific Foster possibility. "But why shouldn't it be someone else, too?"

OK, so it's not a TOTALLY different Beamer. We'll still get answers like that, which are less than great.

It should be Bud. Let's clear that up right now.

In all, though, the new Beamer has some assets. He's got spunk. He's got ambition. And more than anything, he's got the guts to tell his pals that this is how it's going to be.

The first move to bring in Shane was a good one. Look, we could all see the signs. Florida State is recruiting well. So is Clemson. So is North Carolina. So is Virginia. Something had to be done, and Beamer just so happened to have a major string he could pull -- namely, fatherhood -- to bring an ace recruiter from the South on staff.

The casualty was Hite, a great soldier for the program but one of the first to admit that he doesn't do a lot of recruiting. His move to administration will keep him close to the program and snug to Frank. Makes sense.

The Cornell Brown move? Interesting. People usually use the word "interesting" when they're not quite sure what to say, and that's the case here. Brown adds youth and diversity to the recruiting staff, but we'll have to withhold judgment on this one as far as how it will influence the actual acquisition of prospects. The man he replaced, Jim Cavanaugh, was a decorated recruiter. Guess we'll see.

The offshoot of the O'Cain-to-play-caller move is this: Stinespring will go back to recruiting the Tidewater area. For a man who's always earned respect on the prospect-nabbing trail, this can't be a bad thing.

This is a seminal moment in Tech history, and you can thank Stanford. The second half of the Orange Bowl was either the greatest moment in the history of Tech football or the worst. We won't know the answer until several years from now.

But there's one thing we do know: Frank Beamer wanted more horses. And to that end, he made himself a new man.

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