BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente announced Tuesday that Ryan Smith is joining Virginia Tech as cornerbacks coach. Smith joins the Hokies after spending the 2019 campaign coaching safeties and serving as the pro scout liaison at James Madison University. He previously spent two seasons as defensive backs coach at Elon (2017-18) and two years as a graduate assistant at Penn State (2015-16).
In 2019, James Madison boasted one of the nation’s stingiest defenses at the FCS level as the Dukes ranked third in scoring defense (14.9 ppg), first in total defense (264.7 ypg) and second in third-down percentage (29.0%) en route to a berth in the FCS National Championship Game. James Madison also tied for seventh with 17 interceptions, 11 of which came from Smith’s safeties unit.
“We’re excited to add another talented coach to our staff in Ryan Smith,” Fuente said. “As a collegiate player he was groomed for a future in our profession by head coach Jimmye Laycock at William & Mary. He played the cornerback position for Coach Laycock and he was born and raised in Virginia. Ryan has grown at each stop of his coaching career and he’s earned the opportunity to join us at Virginia Tech. He’ll be a good fit with Coach Hamilton and the rest of our defensive staff.”
The King George, Virginia native coached a pair of All-Colonial Athletic Association safeties at JMU in Adam Smith and D’Angelo Amos, who both earned first-team accolades. Smith was also a third-team All-America selection at safety, while Amos earned All-America honors as a punt returner. Smith led the Dukes with six interceptions, which was fourth nationally and second in the CAA. Amos had a pair of interceptions, while blocking three kicks on special teams.
“I’m honored to accept this opportunity to coach at a place like Virginia Tech,” Smith said. “I grew up admiring the Hokies playing hard-hitting defense and being opportunistic on special teams. To have an opportunity to help carry on that tradition under Coach Fuente is truly a blessing. I can’t wait to be on the sideline at Lane Stadium and feel the passion of the fans as Hokie Nation starts jumping.”
Smith spent the 2017-18 seasons coaching the secondary at Elon University, where Greg Liggs, Jr. earned second-team All-CAA status and Tyler Campbell was a third-team All-CAA selection in 2018. Liggs and Connor Christiansen were two of the league’s best defensive backs, as the duo were tied for third in the CAA with four interceptions apiece in 2018. Liggs was also third in passes defended (13) and tied for fourth in fumble recoveries (two). Under Smith’s tutelage in 2017 Chris Blair earned third-team All-CAA accolades.
Smith worked two seasons at Penn State, serving as a defensive graduate assistant where he was part of a 2016 squad that won the Big Ten Championship, earned a berth in the Rose Bowl and finished 11-3 overall. Penn State’s defense picked off 10 passes and broke up 60 more in 2015. During his time in University Park, Pa., he helped develop four NFL players in Jordan Lucas, Marcus Allen, Trevor Williams and Troy Apke. Smith spent one season as a defensive graduate assistant at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2014.
A 2014 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Smith helped the Tribe to a 2009 FCS semifinals appearance. As a senior cornerback, Smith tallied 47 tackles, one sack and one interception. In total, he played in 22 games for the Tribe and was a two-time CAA Academic All-Conference honoree. He earned his bachelor’s degree in process management from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Penn State University. Smith is among a long lineage of current coaches who played under Laycock at William & Mary, a distinguished group that includes current NFL head coaches Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) and Sean McDermott (Buffalo).
Smith was two-year letterwinner as a defensive back and wide receiver for head coach Del Smith at The Blue Ridge School. He served as a team captain during his senior season and was selected to the all-state second team as a wide receiver. Smith also captained his prep basketball and baseball squads, helping the basketball team to a state runner-up finish as a senior and a state semi-finals appearance as a junior.
2020 Virginia Tech Football Coaching Staff
Justin Fuente: Head Coach
Brad Cornelsen: Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks
Justin Hamilton: Defensive Coordinator & Safeties
Tracy Claeys: Linebackers
Adam Lechtenberg: Running Backs
James Shibest: Special Teams Coordinator & Tight Ends
Ryan Smith: Cornerbacks
Darryl Tapp: Co-Defensive Line
Bill Teerlinck: Defensive Line
Vance Vice: Offensive Line
Jafar Williams: Wide Receivers
*Includes head coach and 10 full-time on-field assistants