It’s officially National Signing Day, but head coach Justin Fuente used Wednesday’s press conference to discuss a number of topics within the program, primarily the new additions and roles on his coaching staff.
Last week Darryl Tapp was lured away to the NFL by the San Francisco 49ers when he was named the team’s assistant defensive line coach. Tapp’s time in Blacksburg quickly came to a halt.
“Obviously losing Darryl was a tough situation for Darryl and a tough decision, but just so many factors lined up for him, and it had been a goal for him for some time,” Fuente said. “Awfully proud, and I know our players are proud for what he did in such a short time here, his contributions to Virginia Tech and this opportunity for him.”
Tapp leaving did open the door for another Virginia Tech legend and All-American to enter the fold. Yesterday, Fuente and Co. announced the hiring of JC Price to fill the co-defensive line coach opening on the staff. Price, a four-year starter and captain of the 1995 team, spent the last nine seasons at Marshall University.
“He’s obviously got connections in the state of Virginia,” Fuente said. “He’s worked on the defensive line. They were very good on defense at Marshall last year. A seasoned veteran. Obviously with ties to Virginia Tech, both he and his wife, were standout student athletes here.
“I have known JC a little bit prior to this. We’ve always opened up our [recruiting] camps to Marshall, and JC came to those. I knew pretty quickly that JC would have interest in coming back to Virginia Tech. I don’t know if it was anybody championing JC as much as us trying to define the parameters we were looking for. We welcome JC Price back to Virginia Tech. Awfully excited about this opportunity.”
Price will also be taking on the role of defensive recruiting coordinator while Adam Lechtenberg added offensive recruiting coordinator to his duties. The announcement yesterday also noted that Ryan Smith would take on a passing game coordinator role in the defense.
“Excited to do that and to give some titles to Adam and Ryan,” Fuente said. “All three of those types of titles that came out were earned. I’m not a believer in giving titles without actual responsibility.
“To have JC and Adam help us coordinate the recruiting effort on their respective sides of the ball, especially with it being as virtual as it is now with opportunities to get people together on Zoom and so on and so forth. It’s a productive way to go. Obviously letting Ryan, who has worked hand and glove with J-Ham in coordinating the defense, he deserves this opportunity. It’s been well-earned. I think it’s a fantastic compliment to him and how we all feel about him and his potential.”
This is the first time that Fuente has given those distinct duties of offensive and defensive recruiting coordinator. It’s much needed now in the evolving recruiting landscape across college football, especially when on-campus visits are still prohibited.
“There needed to be someone else in that room who wasn’t [an offensive or defensive coordinator] that kind of could help facilitate that side of the ball in a group effort,” Fuente said. “It is a little bit more now than just every Saturday and Sunday you’re hosting a junior day and kids are going to be on your campus. It’s just not how it’s working. It’s more ‘we’re going to be on this Zoom at 6 o’clock on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week for these couple guys’, and I felt coordinating that with our recruiting staff was the best way to be more efficient.”
There was another coaching move on the Virginia Tech staff earlier in January. Linebackers coach Tracy Claeys stepped down and retired from football after one season with the Hokies.
Jack Tyler was promoted to the position, continuing his rapid ascension in the coaching ranks. Tyler was a grad assistant for the 2017 and 2018 seasons before spending the last two years as the defensive quality control coach.
“Obvious call. Obvious choice,” Fuente said. “Jack has a bright future in this game. You don’t want guys who pine to be the coordinator. You want guys that prepare and understand the big picture of things. Jack is one of those guys. He has a bright future in this game. Ryan is the same way. They can see the big picture. I don’t usually make those decisions that quickly, but this was a slam dunk, no brainer. I’m glad he stuck around, and he’s an example of hard work and perseverance paying off with this opportunity.”
With Price and Tyler joining Hamilton, there are now three former Virginia Tech players on the defensive side of the staff.
News and Notes
Fuente announced that seven “super seniors” would be returning to the program to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility. They are Emmanuel Belmar, DaShawn Crawford, Devin Taylor, Changa Hodge, John Parker Romo, Tyree Rodgers and Keondre Ko (walk-on).
The added experience there along with the pieces that were on display last year has Fuente excited for what the team can accomplish.
“Quite honestly, I expect this team to be good,” Fuente said. “We have guys coming back at every position. I’m awfully excited about the potential of what we can do.”
Fuente did also announce two position changes. Lakeem Randolph will be moving to the backer position while Derrell Bailey will change sides of the ball to become an offensive lineman.
“Lakeem Rudolph is going to move to the boundary or backer position,” Fuente said. “He’s just outgrown the safety position already. Derrell Bailey is moving to offensive line. We’ve got a bunch of DB’s that we’ll have to figure out as we go through it.
“[Bailey’s] just an offensive lineman. That was for Derrell’s long-term benefit. After being here for a little while, he’s got a chance to be a very athletic offensive lineman.”