Potential Virginia Tech WRs Coach Candidates

Potential Virginia Tech WRs Coach Candidates
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Dec 27, 2021

Brent Pry almost has his full Virginia Tech on-field staff in place with 7 assistants announced, Tyler Bowen set to be the next offensive coordinator, and Wisconsin's Joe Rudolph being the top OL coach target.

Pry still has one more spot to fill on his main assistant coaching staff at WRs coach with there being no favorite for the job that's emerged at the moment.

So who are some potential candidates for the Virginia Tech WRs coach? Here are some potential names to watch for the Hokies.

Pittsburgh WRs Coach Brennan Marion

Brennan Marion is a rising star who helped Pittsburgh transform their offense in his first year on staff as WRs coach helping Jordan Addison and the rest of Pitt's receiving corps take their game to the next level. His addition is one of the clear changes that can be pointed to helping Pittsburgh's offense take off and boost the Panthers to an ACC title.

Marion is also well-respected throughout the coaching industry and especially in the Mid-Atlantic including in VA given that he's not only a VA native, but he's also cultivated relationships in this region as a coach. That comes not only from time at Pittsburgh but also his time as the offensive coordinator at Howard and William & Mary

One of the things with Marion is that he has a distinct Go-Go offense that he's developed that marries option and spread concepts. Given his youth and what he's shown, he could be groomed as an offensive coordinator of the future especially given the potential of Tyler Bowen who could be a couple good seasons as an offensive coordinator away from a head coaching job.

Marion would be an impressive pull, but the odds of landing him seem unlikely for Virginia Tech. Part of that is because Marion could be poised to take over the offensive coordinator role at Pittsburgh after the Panthers' breakout offensive season combined with offensive coordinator Mark Whipple leaving to become the OC at Nebraska.

There's no doubt in my mind that the Hokies should make a run at Brennan Marion, but I would be very surprised if he doesn't end as a co-offensive coordinator or even the outright offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh given his rising status in the business.

Update: Reports have emerged that Brennan Marion is headed to Texas to be their WRs coach/pass game coordinator.

Boston College WRs Coach Joe Dailey

Joe Dailey is another ACC WRs coach that would make a lot of sense for Virginia Tech to have as a top target as Dailey has proven himself as a Power 5 WRs coach and has a solid background especially recruiting in the Hokies' footprint that would be valuable.

Any conversation has to start with how Dailey has helped overseen the development of Zay Flowers into one of the best wide receivers east of the Mississippi over the past two seasons. Given that this is the first time Dailey has been a WRs coach in his career, the high level of play from Flowers under Dailey's coaching is definitely a positive sign.

Dailey has regional ties having spent seven seasons as an assistant at Liberty including five as the offensive coordinator while being the QBs coach for all seven. He oversaw the development of some solid offenses at Liberty while also developing some NFL talent as Liberty was starting to make their move from FCS to FBS including NFL WR Antonio Gandy-Golden and former Baltimore Ravens QB Josh Woodrum.

In addition to having ties to the Commonwealth, his connections may go up and down the East Coast at a New Jersey native who has coached in the Northeast at Buffalo and now Boston College. Additionally, he spent his final two CFB seasons at North Carolina after starting at Nebraska which may also help him as a transfer portal recruiter in terms of his relatability. A year at Bethune-Cookman as QBs coach in 2011 gives him some ties to the Southeast so there's no doubt that he should bring plenty of connections in Tech's recruiting footprint.

He's shown that he knows how to execute a plan to keep in-state talent home having been the primary recruiter for Boston College's top 2 WR recruits who are in-state players this cycle so that's also a plus though it's one thing to do it in not as heavily recruited Massachusetts and another to do that in Virginia.

Dailey checks loads of boxes and could also be the type of younger coach that could be developed and grown into larger roles especially if Tech has the success that is hoped under Brent Pry and launches rising stars like Tyler Bowen into head coaching gigs elsewhere that would leave openings to be filled.

Keep an eye on Joe Dailey as someone who would make a lot of sense for Tech to target.

Old Dominion WRs Coach Mark Dupuis

Mark Dupuis is the one name on this list with a direct tie that we know of to Brent Pry having been a grad assistant at Penn State before joining former PSU OC Ricky Rahne as the WRs coach at ODU. While that connection could prove valuable, Dupuis also has proven himself at Old Dominion.

Dupuis saw Ali Jennings almost break the 1,000 receiving yard mark in his first season at ODU after transferring from West Virginia with him and TE Zack Kuntz, a Penn State transfer, playing big roles in boosting ODU's offense and helping the Monarchs reach a bowl game after ODU opted out of the 2020 season.

While he's had on-field success, his recruiting prowess shows loads of promise especially as ODU has 3 of their top 4 2022 signees being three-star WRs or likely WRs per 247 Sports. That includes 757 standout Ahmarian Granger showing positive signs that Dupuis is building up some strong 757 connections that Brent Pry knows Tech needs.

Additionally, he knows the value of the transfer portal and almost certainly played large roles in ODU landing Jennings and Kuntz last offseason along with former Georgia WR Trey Blount, a 3* transfer by 247 and former four-star recruit at UGA.

Now Dupuis is definitely a risk but early signs are promising and he definitely would understand both the rigors of Power 5 football from his time at Penn State and also the type of program Brent Pry likely wants to build. Dupuis may not be a frontrunner but he is a sleeper to keep an eye on.

Liberty Co-Offensive Coordinator/WRs Coach Maurice Harris

Maurice Harris has an intriguing blend of Power 5 experience and footprint recruiting time that makes him a potential name to watch in a search for the Hokies.

Harris played a big part in helping Liberty take off over the past few years alongside Hugh Freeze as the Flames have produced some strong offenses with Malik Willis and company. Depth has been a big characteristic of Liberty's passing offenses as the Flames had 3 receivers with 500+ receiving yards this season after having 7 different players with at least 200+ receiving yards the previous year.

Prior to his time at Liberty, Harris was the TEs coach and recruiting coordinator overseeing some strong recruiting classes for Hugh Freeze during his time there. His personal recruiting reputation is also very solid as he's landed several big time four-star recruits over the years including guys like Van Jefferson.

Additionally, Harris developed some talented tight ends including Evan Engram during his time at Ole Miss with Engram being known for his receiving skills above all else.

Now there are some questions with Harris as his ties to the Hugh Freeze Ole Miss era with its recruiting scandals definitely aren't going to be easy for Tech to stomach. Additionally, Harris' regional ties are somewhat limited to the past few years though given that Liberty is his most recent stop, that alleviates some of those concerns.

Would Harris jump at Tech and leave Hugh Freeze who he's spent almost a decade with? Probably to get back to Power 5 football should the Hokies offer that opportunity but that's likely not a 100% guarantee.

Kentucky Quality Control Assistant Jovon Bouknight

Jovon Bouknight is an intriguing name as he has been a WRs coach for a decade with while spending 2019 and 2020 as the WRs coach at Oregon and Kentucky. However, he was demoted to the quality control role due to an off-the-field incident which we will get into in a second which could hold Tech back for the time being.

Bouknight has an interesting background having been at Utah State for almost a decade to start his career which included some time as the pass game coordinator and co-offensive coordinator. He made the Power 5 jump in 2019 at first to Texas Tech and then to Oregon coaching WRs for the high-powered Justin Herbert-led offense that reached the Rose Bowl and had a fairly deep receiving corps.

One area where Bouknight has proven himself well is as a recruiter of the transfer portal as he played a large role in landing Nebraska standout Wan'Dale Robinson last year and likely played a large role in helping Kentucky bring in Tayvion Robinson. Bringing in Wan'Dale Robinson to pair with Josh Ali helped reinvigorate the Kentucky passing offense this past season and proved to be a big reason for the turnaround. Throw in Tayvion Robinson and you see how Bouknight understands the value of the transfer portal and can execute.

Now part of why Bouknight came onto my radar is the fact that he has been followed recently on Twitter by reported offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen. Once again, I don't want to read too much into Twitter, but there's no denying he's an intriguing candidate.

Now there are a couple things that may not make Bouknight a fit. First is the fact that he has been a western guy most of his career outside of the past two years at Kentucky which may not fit well in terms of recruiting.

Second is the fact that Bouknight was demoted this offseason because of a DUI and speeding incident where he pled guilty to speeding while the DUI charge was dropped. I won't get too much into it as there is more from the Courier-Journal in Kentucky with Mark Stoops' comments in August when the demotion was announced and another here from the Courier-Journal about some of the case details for Bouknight that shows there's a whole lot more to the story which may be why the DUI charge was dropped.

There will be questions given that if Bouknight, who's contract runs out after this season, becomes the top target, but I'm for second chances with people who appear to learn their lesson from their mistakes and Bouknight seems worthy of that here should Tech pursue him. The on-field coaching resume is also solid though the lack of East Coast recruiting ties may make Bouknight not a fit.

Ohio State Offense Quality Control Keenan Bailey

Keenan Bailey has been on Ohio State's staff since 2016 working as the assistant WRs coach with Brian Hartline for the past couple years before spending time with OSU's QBs in 2021. Bailey was also the go-to off-the-field assistant on offense for the Buckeyes in 2020 when assistants were out due to COVID whether that was Ryan Day to give some extra help at QBs or Hartline leading to Bailey being the WRs coach for a game.

There may not be a lot out there on Bailey given that he's been an off-the-field for Ohio State for six seasons, but he's worked his way up the pecking order there and earned a spot on the 247 Sports' 30 under 30 list this past offseason.

Now it is a risk bringing in a guy who has never been an on-field assistant for his first time in that role at a renowned Power 5 program like Virginia Tech, but Bailey checks a lot of the boxes. Additionally, he knows what top tier football looks like and has played a role in Ohio State's development of numerous big time talents including Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and more.

He's proven himself in terms of his coaching ability and he seems like someone who should know at this point what it looks like to recruit big time talent having been able to play a role even if not on the road. That includes when Ohio State has reached into Virginia in recent years landing standouts like TreVeyon Henderson and Tyleik Williams who have both already been highly successful for the Buckeyes.

Bailey may not seem like a spectacular hire given that he isn't currently an on-field assistant, but he might have one of the highest ceilings of those on this list and is one of the off-the-field guys that would be worth taking a risk on.

Western Kentucky WRs Coach Josh Crawford

The odds that Josh Crawford is even a candidate may be low, but Crawford played a valuable role in helping Western Kentucky have one of America's best passing attacks through his development of WKU's star WRs and showing that he should get some Power 5 looks and not just OC Zach Kittley who is headed to Texas Tech.

In his first season at WKU, he coached up the star WR duo of Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley who were the only pair of receivers to both have over 1,400 receiving yards in the country. For reference, the only other team in the country to have two other receivers with at least 1,100 receiving yards was Alabama. Additionally, Sterns is headed to the NFL while Tinsley has already transferred to Penn State showing that those guys are considered legit because of their talent not just because they had a talented QB throwing them the ball in Bailey Zappe.

His success also has helped him become one of five finalist for the FootballScoop WRs Coach of the Year, another sign of his rising prominence as a WRs coach. He also was elevated to co-offensive coordinator after the departure of Kittley along with two other assistants for WKU, another sign of how good of a coach that he's proven to be.

Now part the risk with Crawford is the fact that he's only been an FBS assistant for one year after being an assistant at various Georgia high schools for over a decade. However, Crawford built up a strong reputation in Georgia coaching up guys like Darius Slayton plus Power 5 receivers in Jaheim Bell, LeMeke Brockington, and Kiel Pollard. He also coached at some renowned Georgia programs like Colquitt County, Lee County, and Valdosta that all have produced Power 5 talent.

There have also been plenty of talented coaches who spent long periods early in their career at the high school level before making the jump to major college football and having lots of success including Gus Malzahn, Chad Morris, and Joey McGuire, the new Texas Tech head coach.

Georgia is an important part of the Hokies' recruiting footprint and having someone that engrained in the state's high school football could be a big boost there.

Crawford may be a risk given that he's only spent one season at the FBS level, but he's proven to be a very good WR developer and should be able to do well on the recruiting trail especially in Georgia given his decade plus there as a high school coach.

He may not end up at Tech, but don't be surprised to see Crawford as a Power 5 WRs coach either in 2022 or 2023 at the latest.

Florida WRs Coach Billy Gonzales

Billy Gonzales is the lone guy on this list currently looking for a job after the dismissal of Dan Mullen with most assistants including Gonzales not being retained by Billy Napier. Gonzales has proven to be a Power 5 caliber WRs coach and Brent Pry would be crazy not to reach out and evaluate whether Gonzales would fit at Virginia Tech.

Gonzales has been at a Power 5 program since 2005 with stops at Florida, Illinois, LSU, and Mississippi State during that period. He was the WRs coach at all those stops with Gonzales holding the titles of either recruiting coordinator, co-offensive coordinator, or pass game coordinator in every season except his first season at Mississippi State in 2013.

His coaching acumen as he's overseen at least part of the development of several future NFL wide receivers including guys like Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr, Reuben Randle, Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Kadarius Toney, and more.

Recruiting is a priority for Brent Pry at his staff with Florida being an important part of Tech's footprint once you go outside of Virginia. Gonzales has proven himself to be a big time recruiter especially in Florida with an extremely impressive group of talented recruits that he's been involved with including Kaiir Elam and Jon Bostic leading a long, long list of four-star recruits.

Additionally, Gonzales has won some major recruiting battles in Virginia most prominently early in his Power 5 career when he was the primary recruiter for 757 star and future long-time NFL playmaker Percy Harvin.

Gonzales has a strong reputation as a WRs coach and as a recruiter and with him being available, it would be wise for the Hokies to take a look and see if he fits Brent Pry's vision, and if they can land him