Sunday, August 28, 2011
Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies' new QB will have a steady voice in his ear
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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.