The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: Young Players, Culture Change, And Cole Beck

Jaden Keller
Jaden Keller will help Virginia Tech this season. (Ivan Morozov)

1) A lot of first-year coaches will bias towards younger players to play early because they know they get a pass the first few years and are hoping those players create better success in years three and on. What players and/or positions could you see this bias affect this coming season? – BleedinOandM

Chris Coleman: I personally don’t think Pry will have that bias. What’s most important at Virginia Tech is culture, in my opinion. If there’s anything that the failures of the Fuente era taught us, it’s that. To me, the main pillar of Virginia Tech football culture is that you earn playing time. Your playing time isn’t dictated by how old you are or what your star ranking is; rather, it’s what you earn on the practice field. If you outperform your competition, you play. If you don’t, then you don’t. It’s as simple as that.

That’s how Virginia Tech football was at it’s peak. I can really only think of one incident where it wasn’t that way, and that was Marcus Vick playing a lot in the second half of the 2003 season. Bryan Randall’s numbers were clearly better, and there has been speculation from some in the program at the time that Beamer decided to play Vick because he was afraid Vick was going to transfer. He thought it would look bad if a Vick transferred, so he played him. In two losses (Pitt and BC) that year, the offense was humming along with Randall, and then got stopped dead in it’s tracks when Beamer put in Vick. That’s a perfect example how getting away from your culture can cost you football games.

Pry said this week in Charlotte that Virginia Tech’s best players are also Virginia Tech’s hardest workers. That can be a cliché comment, and a lot of coaches say that, but let’s take him at face value and assume that it’s true. That’s a good thing. That means Pry will be in a position this year to play his hardest workers, and the younger players will see that the hardest workers are earning playing time. That’s a good thing from a cultural standpoint. It sets the standard for the future, which is very important for any new coach.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think some young players will see the field this season for the Hokies. However, I believe those players will have earned it. Jaden Keller got some first team reps at linebacker over Alan Tisdale this spring. That’s not because Keller is a redshirt freshman, but it was because he was performing well. Keller is one of the young guys who I see playing a role on offense or defense this year, though it likely won’t be due to any bias from the coaching staff.

For what it’s worth, yesterday I asked Kaleb Smith, Dax Hollifield and Silas Dzansi to name some young players who the fans maybe had heard of who had a chance to be really good players. Here are some names that got throw out there by one or more of those guys…

WR Da’Wain Lofton (got mentioned more than anyone)
LB Jaden Keller
OT Xavier Chaplin
OL Kaden and Braelin Moore
DE CJ McCray
DE Cole Nelson
CB Cam Johnson
DB (I guess corner or nickel) Elijah Howard
WR Christian Moss
RB Malachi Thomas
RB Bryce Duke

I’d say your average