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Grading Virginia Tech's Offensive Coaching Hires and Shuffling

Pry Bowen Holt NSD 23 From VT

Virginia Tech's offensive staff shakeup is official as the Hokies have hired Maryland's Elijah Brooks to be their RBs coach and former Cincinnati assistant Ron Crook to be their OL coach. That has led to Stu Holt shifting from RBs to TEs and Tyler Bowen coaching QBs for the first time in his career.

So were these good moves or not? Here are my thoughts.

Tyler Bowen: OC/TEs to OC/QBs

If you're a regular reader of the TLP, you know that I didn't like the idea of moving Tyler Bowen to a position he's never coached before.

That fact is being lightly shaken off by some, but the fact of the matter is that an offensive coordinator coaching QBs for the first time at the Power 5 level is extremely rare. For reference, there are only 2 current OCs who did not coach QBs or play the position prior to coaching QBs for the first time as a Power 5 OC: TCU's Kendall Briles and Iowa's Brian Ferentz. Briles isn't even a great comparison as he was a pass game coordinator before getting the OC/QBs role at multiple stops before TCU.

The only comparison in this experience regard is actually Ferentz. Now to be clear, I think Bowen can absolutely do a much better job than Ferentz, but moving to Bowen to coaching QBs feels in a small way like a fantasy football room. Yes, it seems like a safe bet that analysts Jeff Carpenter and Brian Crist will have a significant role here, but Bowen still is ultimately the guy in charge of the room and has 0 experience coaching those guys which goes beyond just technique. Just because you're the OC doesn't mean you're the best guy to coach the QBs.

Some will argue that for an offensive coordinator to succeed, he needs to be coaching the QBs. If that was true, then why are the full-time OCs at highly successful and/or big time programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, LSU, USC, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Baylor, and NC State all led by OCs who aren't also the QBs coaches.

Bowen has coached the OL before as a successful OC at Fordham and at the Power 5 level at Maryland. You're telling me that he couldn't take on the OC/OL role well after having experience doing so previously.

Yes, the timing complicates things for finding coaches but Tech also just poached the Maryland RBs coach for the same position and have the title of pass game coordinator available along with big parts of their staffing budget given Joe Rudolph's departure. You're telling me that an available coach like Brandon Streeter would be out of reach to get $600k as a pass game coordinator and QBs coach. What about a young rising name like JMU QBs coach Tino Sunseri or W&M OC/RBs coach Christian Taylor who has coached QBs previously including current NFL QB Reid Sinnett out of San Diego.

I was leaning towards giving this a D because I like the Brooks hire a ton, but moving an OC who has never coached QBs into that spot at the Power 5 level simply doesn't happen. I'm not saying Bowen is going to fail at this and I hope this grade looks like the ultimate "Freezing Cold Takes" post, but I think this is a bad idea and if this offense struggles again this year, this move is likely to be a big reason why.

In my view, this is not a move by Brent Pry that sets his staff up for success the best regardless of the timing.

Grade: F

Elijah Brooks: RBs

This is my favorite move of the 4 for the Hokies as Brooks is a proven coach and recruiter of the DMV who may be an upgrade in some ways for this staff. Brooks has only been coaching college football for 4 years after leaving his head coaching gig at DeMatha Catholic yet has already produced multiple NFL Draft picks and appears to have a future one for Maryland in Roman Hamby after he earned All-B1G Honorable Mention honors as a redshirt freshman.

Brooks also should have loads of recruiting ties in the DMV from his time at DeMatha that did help the Terps keep some big time talent in-state including now NFL DB Nick Cross. Combine him with Bowen going into those loaded private schools in that area and Tech has a chance to take more steps forward in the Washington DC-Baltimore region on the recruiting trail.

The one reason why this isn't an A hire for me is the fact that the domino effect has led to putting a first-time Power 5 offensive coordinator at a position he's never coached before. This isn't about the fact that Brooks bring a lot to this staff, but the downhill effect of what this move, along with filling OL externally despite having someone who has coached the OL at the Power 5 level on staff, does.

Overall though, I'm a big fan of the Brooks hire with what he brings both as a coach and as a recruiter in the DMV.

Grade: A-


Stu Holt: RBs to TEs

I'm not crazy on churning guys around after simply one season in a position room, but Stu Holt has a good pedigree in the tight end room and should be able to slide into that room effectively. There's also some pass-catching skill training that has some overlap which makes it easier along with the fact that he should remain heavily involved in the run game side of things.

Holt has helped developed multiple quality tight ends at multiple spots with his most notable TE being former WKU and Pro Bowler TE Jack Doyle. He also was coaching TEs at Louisville prior to coming to VT and played a big role in the development of Marshon Ford.

Holt's recruiting ties both from his Appalachian roots and his time at Louisville and WKU fit well with some of the tight ends Tech is recruiting this cycle including Cameron Clark out of TN and Gavin Grover out of OH.

This move always made sense if you were going to shuffle things around and he has a solid reputation prior anyway to make you feel good about this move.

Grade: B

Ron Crook: OL

This hire was almost certainly to be underwhelming given that few OL coaches have the pedigree and reputation that Joe Rudolph. However, that doesn't mean that Ron Crook isn't a solid hire because he's proven himself to be a solid offensive line coach even if he may not bring the same reputation as Rudolph brought.

Crook was at South Dakota this past season following 5 years at Cincinnati and when doing some research on when Crook left Cincy after the 2021 season, it seems like the new OC most likely wanted a different guy that would fit his scheme better. If it was because of coaching, well then I'm not sure what he was thinking since Crook had 6 All-AAC First Team linemen in his 5 seasons. That's quite good to say the least.

Crook isn't known as a great recruiter, but he has proven to be solid and should help replace some of the Rust Belt (OH, WV, western PA) recruiting ties that Joe Rudolph brought to the table given that he has spent almost a decade of his career at Cincinnati and WVU, and is a WV native.

This isn't a home run hire, and the grade gets docked a tad because of the dominoes that have Tyler Bowen coaching QBs for the first time in his career. However, I do think the Crook hire is a solid one that would be seen more highly if he was the first hire on the OL and not Rudolph.

Grade: B

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