- - Monday, December 24, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — A trip to Florida hasn’t moved the Virginia Tech football program away from rumors that changes will be made to the coaching staff after this week’s bowl game.

But Tech’s players and coaches insisted Monday that all the internet-fueled speculation isn’t distracting them from Friday’s matchup with Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

“It’s a coach’s life,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said before the Hokies’ practice Monday at Thunder Field, next door to the Citrus Bowl.

Virginia Tech struggled through a 6-6 season, winning its final two games against Boston College and Virginia just to become bowl eligible for a 20th straight year.

An inconsistent offense was a key reason for the Hokies’ worst record since 1992. A featured tailback never emerged, quarterback Logan Thomas struggled with his accuracy, the wide receivers were erratic and the offensive line didn’t mesh into a dominating group.

“We weren’t consistent a lot of the season,” said Thomas, a junior who could leave early for the NFL if he is projected as a first-round pick. “Missed throws or missed blocks here and there, which really killed drives and ended up killing games.”

Thomas‘ completion rate fell from 59.8 percent in 2011 to 52.6 this year. His interceptions jumped from 10 to 14.

Tech is currently tied for 79th in the nation in scoring at 26.1 points per game and tied for 72nd in the country in total offense, averaging 391.8 yards per outing.

And the Hokies saw their streak of eight straight 10-win seasons come to an end.

Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain said he doesn’t know if there will be coaching changes in the offseason, but said he likes the make-up of the current staff.

“I can’t answer that question. I really can’t,” O'Cain said when asked if he expected a shake up. “I hope it’s not. I hope it’s the same. I enjoy the camaraderie we have. I believe we have a great staff, work hard, are very compatible, work together. There’s, I think, a great rapport with our players, but you just don’t know until it happens.”

Stinespring, in his 20th year as a full-time Tech assistant, said he’s spent every day since the regular season ended either recruiting or preparing for Rutgers, not wondering about his future or the future of his fellow coaches.

Like the coaches, Tech’s players said they’re aware of the rumors.

“Obviously, you hear it but you don’t even think about it, for real,” Thomas said. “You got to deal with what’s here now. I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world. I love them all. They’re the ones who made me come here, made me want to come here.”

For his part, coach Frank Beamer, the man who would have to pull the trigger on any changes, said it’s not a topic he’s discussed with his players or the current staff.

“We haven’t talked about it,” Beamer said. “All we’ve talked about is this bowl game and Rutgers.”

Beamer altered his coaching staff after the 2010 season, adding his son, Shane Beamer, and Cornell Brown to the group and pushing Billy Hite and Jim Cavanaugh out of on-field coaching assignments.

Might another overhaul be looming?

“In our profession, that’s always in the back of your mind, unfortunately,” O’Cain, a Tech aide since 2006, said. “It’s just a part of the profession. There’s nothing we can do about that. If it happens, it happens. There have been rumors probably since I’ve been here about that. So you just take what happens and if you don’t like it, that’s part of the profession. It’s happened before.”

Currently, Stinespring is the Hokies’ offensive coordinator and coaches the tight ends and tackles, while O'Cain coaches the quarterbacks and calls the plays. Shane Beamer is the associate head coach and works with the running backs. Curt Newsome coaches the offensive guards and centers.

Despite patching together an adequate-though-unspectacular offensive line this season, finding a way to replace four starters from the 2011 team and then surviving the loss of junior center Andrew Miller to an ankle injury, Newsome is among the most mentioned candidates to be replaced.

Tech will have to replace both offensive tackles next season. Right tackle Vinston Painter and left tackle Nick Becton are both seniors.

Read more about the Hokies at TimesDispatch.com



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