Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies' new QB will have a steady voice in his ear

BLACKSBURG -- For a program that so values stability, Virginia Tech made significant coaching changes this offseason.

In   came youngsters Shane Beamer (associate head coach/running backs coach)   and Cornell Brown (outside linebackers coach/assistant defensive ends   coach). Out went veteran assistants Billy Hite and Jim Cavanaugh, to   administrative roles.

Head coach Frank Beamer orchestrated the   overhaul primarily to beef up recruiting. The changes will have a   long-term effect, the success or failure of which we   won't know for years.

The move that will affect the   Hokies the most right now? Quarterbacks coach Mike   O'Cain taking over the play-calling -- and not because   the Hokies plan to change their M.O.

"The average person sitting   in the stands," O'Cain said, "I don't   think will see a bit of difference between our offense last year and our   offense this year."

Maybe not, but they'll notice   the new quarterback. And despite all the legitimate optimism about Logan   Thomas, despite all the strides he's made already, the   reality is this: His need for effective coaching only gets greater from   here.

And O'Cain is exactly the man to provide it to him.

Thomas   has never suffered through adversity on the football field. Not major   adversity, anyway. He won league titles in sandlot ball. He won in   middle school. He won in high school.

It's fair to wonder how he'll handle that first high-profile slip.

"I   think he'll handle it fine, because of his personality,"   O'Cain said. "He's not an up-and-down   person in his life. He's even-keel. He gets excited when   things go good and he's down a little when things are   bad, but it's not up here and down here."

You know   who else that quote describes? O'Cain himself. The   56-year-old South Carolinian has a calmness about him that almost belies   his profession.

For Thomas, that's the perfect   voice to have in his ear, because it'll sound a lot like   the ones he grew up with. Gentle. Caring. Instructive.

"Logan   wouldn't take to a lot of people hollering at him," said   Cliff Thomas, the quarterback's grandfather. "That   would turn him off, I'd imagine. I think   O'Cain is a lot more deliberate. If he's   got something to say, he probably doesn't holler at him. I   haven't seen him in action, but I'd   imagine he doesn't holler at him. He talks to him   intelligently, and Logan responds that way."

You can believe   Beamer when he says the switch in play-callers had nothing to do with   any dissatisfaction with Bryan Stinespring's performance   in that same role. Instead, it's a matter of having the   right personalities match up. It's having one directive   sent to Thomas instead of two or three.

"He knows what I see,   and I know what he sees," Thomas said. "We're on the   same level on that aspect. I don't want to make it sound   bad, but he reminds me a lot of my grandfather in that aspect -- just   how laid-back he is and how he teaches by talking to you and not yelling   at you.

"It's real easy to get along with a guy   that will pull you over, put you underneath an arm, point out there and   show you what he's looking at -- and what I need to be   looking at -- to make you better."

Of course,   O'Cain still would be coaching Thomas even if he   weren't calling the plays. But this way, the messages are   never mixed. The coach who evaluates the play is the same one who   ordered it.

Based on what he's seen thus far,   O'Cain doesn't expect Thomas to screw up   many of them.

"Even in games in a mop-up-role year, he went out   and he did what he was supposed to do," O'Cain said.   "The balls weren't all over the place. He   didn't misread the signals. He didn't get   the snap counts screwed up. He went out and managed the game, so I have   no reason to believe that he won't be good."

If he is, the Hokies will be, too. O'Cain will deserve a good chunk of the credit.

And so will Beamer, who had the foresight to pair two like-minded people, even at the expense of continuity.

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