After an underwhelming 2-1 start, Virginia Tech made a significant coaching move hiring former Big 10 Coach of Jerry Kill as a special assistant.
While Justin Fuente didn't go into too much detail about Kill's role, offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen made it clear that Kill's first job will be to help fix a stagnant rushing attack.
The move caught almost everyone by surprise but always received praise from many and for good reason. With that said, here's my three thoughts on the major in-season hire.
1. This Timing Makes the Most Sense
If you're going to make an in-season coaching change or addition, a bye week is the best time to do it. Why?
Because teams can focus on themselves without having to worry about preparing for an opponent.
That means that teams can use their bye weeks to assess their roster, their approaches, and their schemes as a whole.
Given the comments from Brad Cornelsen, it appears that Jerry Kill will help them do just that with a focus on the running game. Additionally, Kill benefits from having some familiarity with the roster and the skills VT's main rushers offer, giving him a better ability to analyze the roster. That could be valuable as the Hokies may look at making some schematic adjustments especially on the offensive side.
Additionally, having Kill transition to Blacksburg during a bye should allow him to get everything that he needs to deal with completely settled before getting involved in a game week. Dealing with those non-football things this week should make the transition even smoother given the decreased pressure with not having a game.
2. His Focus Rightfully is on the Running Game
As Brad Cornelsen mentioned, Jerry Kill's focus will first be on how to improve the Hokies' struggling rushing attack.
While VT did show signs of life on the ground in the second half against Furman, that success has beeb a clear exception. Again and again, the Hokies have taken what has been almost the same approach on the ground to almost no avail, putting even more pressure on Ryan Willis.
As our Grant Atkinson mentioned earlier this week, Jerry Kill's best teams were built around strong rushing attacks. That may be best showed by how his 2014 Minnesota team (when he was Big 10 Coach of the Year) averaged over 200 rushing yards per game while his 10-3 2010 Northern Illinois team averaged over 260 rushing yards per game.
Kill not only has a good reputation as a head coach, but it's largely built on strong rushing attacks. Combine that with how he should have some knowledge of the skill sets on the roster from his week spent in Blacksburg during fall camp, and Kill is about as good of an outside choice to try to jumpstart the running game.
3. This Isn't a Short Term, Emergency Move
One of the most notable things with the Jerry Kill move was the fact that the Hokies gave him a two-year deal for $175k per year.
Now that may not seem like a big deal but the Hokies have rarely made more than rolling one-year commitments to assistant coaches outside of Bud Foster. The fact that the Hokies and Kill are willing to make a multi-year commitment says a lot.
First, it shows that Kill is serious about being on the coaching side of things. Not only did Kill leave an AD job at Southern Illinois where he was well-liked but this role is purely within the football program. Combine that with the commitment and it's clear Kill is hoping to be on the football side going forward after health issues bounced him back him forth between football and athletic administration.
Second, Justin Fuente clearly sees Jerry Kill as someone who can help him long term. There's no reason to tie up money beyond this season if Fuente didn't see Kill as a long-term solution, especially since VT isn't Alabama with endless money to throw at analysts and other off-field assistants. It does make you wonder if Kill's role could grow in the offseason and even lead to him being one of the 10 assistants if other changes are made.
Third, the fact that Whit Babcock is willing to make a commitment to a "special assistant" for more than just this year is, in some ways, a vote of trust in Justin Fuente. Think about it, Babcock's approval of this move (and multi-year commitment) should ease any staff worries that a rough start can bring.
Also, recruits can see this as another example that they can believe that Fuente and company will be there when they sign.
Of course, $175k, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that big of a financial commitment and one that could get paid if things went really south. Even if that was the case, it's still possible that Kill could slide into an athletic administration role given his experience at Southern Illinois.
Overall, the contract makes a statement about Kill's commitment to coaching football at Virginia Tech, how this isn't a short term move