The Virginia Tech Hokies officially announced the departure of Torrian Gray to Florida today, opening up the defensive backs coach job the day after National Signing Day and a couple days before a big Junior Day for the Hokies. The question that looms is who will the Hokies hire to replace Gray? Here’s a look at who we think could and should be candidates for the job.
Duke CBs Coach Derek Jones
Derek Jones has been at Duke since 2008 and has developed plenty of talented defensive backs along with doing lots of great work on the recruiting trail in the Southeast. Jones is the one sure thing on this list that would be able to get the job done, and would absolutely be a great addition for the Hokies.
As a recruiter, Jones has proven himself time and time again with ESPN’s Jeremy Crabtree calling Jones “the nation’s most productive recruiter.” Jones is very active on social media and has done a great job in the Southeast including this past cycle where he was either a primary or secondary recruiter for 10 Duke commits including 4-star DB Dylan Singleton and 4-star DE Chidi Okonya.
Jones has also developed some talented defensive backs without necessary the same amount of talent coming into Duke as he could get at Virginia Tech with players like Ross Cockrell and Breon Borders developing into high-level cornerbacks in Durham.
Jones has been a big reason for the defensive success at Duke during David Cutcliffe’s tenure along with being instrumental in recruiting for the Blue Devils. With Virginia Tech offering more prestige than Duke and likely a higher salary, Jones should absolutely be contacted by Whit Babcock, Justin Fuente, and Bud Foster to get his interest.
Jones would be a home run get for the Hokies and give them a great recruiter and coach to add to the staff.
Texas DBs Coach Chris Vaughn
Rumors have gone around about Texas DBs coach Chris Vaughn being on the radar for the Hokies. Normally, poaching a coach from Texas wouldn’t make much sense, but Charlie Strong is on very shaky ground heading into next season, and Vaughn may be looking for much more job security.
Vaughn and Justin Fuente have worked together before as Vaughn was Fuente’s cornerbacks coach at Memphis for two seasons before being hired by Texas to be their secondary coach and special teams coordinator. This connection along with the instability at Texas makes Vaughn a candidate for the job to replace Gray.
Vaughn has done a great job on the recruiting trail and helped Texas put together one of the best final recruiting weeks and National Signing Days in the last few years. Vaughn got four players to commit down the stretch despite Texas’s recent struggles including four-star DBs Brandon Jones and Eric Cuffee along with four-star RB Kyle Porter.
Vaughn has also been a recruiting coordinator in the SEC at Arkansas and Ole Miss, and would definitely be a great addition in the recruiting department. Vaughn developed some solid cornerbacks at his stops including Cassius Vaughn while also having highly-ranked pass defenses at Memphis and Texas in 2014.
Chris Vaughn would give the Hokies a great recruiting boost in the long run and likely would recruit all over the South though his familiarity with the Southeast would need to improve. Vaughn is definitely a top choice with Jones
Highland Springs HC Loren Johnson
Loren Johnson is a former Virginia Tech defensive back who played with Torrian Gray and was coached by Bud Foster. Johnson coached briefly at Virginia Tech as a graduate assistant before going to the high school level where he has coached all over the state at Lord Botetourt in the Roanoke area, Stonewall Jackson in Northern Virginia, and now Highland Springs in Richmond.
Johnson has had tons of success at the high school level including his current stop at Highland Springs which is where Clemson DB signee K’Von Wallace and Wake Forest WR signee Greg Dortch. Johnson definitely has the potential to be a good in-state recruiter with his high school experience likely helping him have many good relationships with coaches in the Richmond and Washington D.C. areas.
Going with a high school is a little risky, but Johnson has proven himself at the level and many high school coaches have successfully made the jump including Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris. Johnson has also received support from former Virginia Tech players Dwight Vick, Todd Washington, and Cornell Brown.
Johnson is the riskiest candidate on this list as someone that has been coaching at the high school level for a while, but definitely has the potential to be a sneaky good hire. Johnson should get a shot to make his claim for the job, but Jones and Vaughn should likely be higher on the list than Johnson.
Houston Texas Assistant DBs Coach Anthony Midget
Anthony Midget has a lot of similar credentials to what Torrian Gray had before he was hired as the defensive backs coach. Both were NFL assistants at the time who had previous collegiate experience and played for Bud Foster though Midget has more collegiate experience with stints as the secondary coach at Penn State and defensive coordinator at Georgia State.
Midget would immediately bring a lot of respect from his time in the NFL on the recruiting trail along with familiarity with recruiting in New Jersey and the Washington D.C. after his time at Penn State. Midget’s time at Georgia State may also help him with recruiting in the Southeast especially if he still has some good connections within Georgia.
Midget has proven at multiple stops that he is a pretty good defensive backs coach that has gotten to coach some talented NFL defensive backs including Johnathan Joseph. Midget’s NFL experience also may give him a coaching style to develop defensive backs that NFL-quality skills and maintain the legacy of Torrian Gray.
The two biggest concerns with Midget are the facts that he may not want to leave the NFL, and that he was not known to be as good of a recruiter as Derek Jones and Chris Vaughn last time at the collegiate level. However Midget’s time in the NFL can only help him gain respect from recruits and high school coaches.
Midget may not be the best choice the Hokies could make, but he would be right up there with Jones and Vaughn if the Hokies follow their hiring pattern the last time this job was open and hire a guy from the NFL.