Shane Beamer has some buddies who were coaches at Auburn last year, so he had some sense of the intensity new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes would bring to the practice field.
“They told me, talking about Scotty and Jeff, that they’re like Jekyll and Hyde on the field and off the field,” Beamer said.
After one spring practice, that was apparent. The mild-mannered, button-downed men who spoke calmly at the their introductory press conference in January were nowhere to be found at what was a lively practice Wednesday.
While it was only a preliminary look at what things will be like — the media only had 40 minutes of open viewing time Wednesday — Loeffler, Grimes and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead‘s more fiery approach appears to represent a departure in style from their predecessors Mike O’Cain, Curt Newsome and Kevin Sherman, who were more restrained on the practice field.
“It’s good,” Beamer said. “Jeff and Scot and Aaron, they don’t sugarcoat things. They’ll tell you what they’re feeling. Players and coaches both.”
Loeffler, in particular, was animated throughout the practice, stepping in to correct every small detail he didn’t feel was right — from completing fakes at full speed to using proper throwing mechanics to making sure the cadence of the play-call was to his liking.
“The Scot you saw in the [January] press conference is not the Scot I’ve seen in meetings, not the Scot I’ve seen at 6 a.m. workouts,” Beamer said. “He’s different. He’s not maniac out there losing his mind, not knowing what he’s saying. He’s very under control. But he brings an intensity and a sense of urgency to this offense. … There were certainly some tight rear ends amongst the players and coaches a little bit too. He’ll let you know how he feels. And that’s good. We need that.”
Loeffler had particular interest in making sure Tech huddled correctly. He had someone record audio of the huddle to make sure the quarterback’s voice inflections were correct.
“He wants us to be perfect,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. ”You don’t want any little thing to go astray. That’s what’s going to make us better as a team. No loose ends. … As coach [Frank] Beamer says: take care of the little things, big things will happen. [Loeffler is] a preacher of that as well.”
Some of Grimes’ personality came out at the press conference with his “tip of the spear” comments about the offensive line, referencing a toughness he wants to instill in the group. In graduate assistant Ryan Pugh, whom he coached at Auburn, he had an aide well-versed in that style.
“I think anytime you want to establish a mentality, it’s got to become a part of the culture,” Grimes said. “And in order to do that it’s got to be something that’s talked about every day, all the time. It’s got to be at the front of their minds.”
Although he didn’t coach with Loeffler and Grimes before, Moorehead seems to fit right in with their mentality. Receiver D.J. Coles confirmed an offseason story that had been making the rounds: Moorehead scheduled a pre-dawn meeting with receivers. A few arrived late, so he canceled it and told everyone to come back the next day one hour earlier, threatening to push it up even earlier if anyone wasn’t on time again.
“That’s just getting us right,” Coles said. “You can’t take it lightly. You’re going to be on time and do things when they’re scheduled. If not, then there’s going to be consequences. And that’s what it was. It’s saying, you’re not going to take advantage of him.”
Everything seems to be connected to Frank Beamer’s stated goal of making this the toughest Virginia Tech team he’s coached. So far, the assistants have bought in.
“If we want to have the toughness that we want to have as an offense, we need to demand that,” Moorehead said. “Right now, we’re trying to establish that toughness, establish that all those little things that we’re emphasizing in meetings, we’re going to carry it over to practice. And if you don’t do it, we’re going to jump your butt for it.”