In contemplating the expected moves that would have Tom O’Brien coaching the Virginia tight ends, my first thought was that the Cavaliers’ coaching staff will be overloaded on the offensive side of the ball.
Then, I was reminded of a recent conversation with a college head coach whose experience was on the defensive side of the ball.
“Since my background wasn’t on offense,” he said. “I wanted to make sure, if I was overloaded anywhere, it was on offense.”
Mike London came to Virginia with a background on defense but his first UVa staff included a first-time Division I-A assistant (Bill Lazor) as coordinator, a graduate assistant (Ron Mattes) as offensive-line coach and a first-time college assistant (Shawn Moore) as receivers coach.
Granted, the Cavaliers have done some good things offensively, most notably passing for more than 3,000 yards in each of three consecutive seasons, a first. But, it was a team that lacked a consistent running game this year and failed to score more than 17 points in six of 12 games.
It makes you wonder why defensive coordinator Jim Reid and D-line coach Jeff Hanson got the axe, but that’s a different story.
Lazor, entering his fourth season as coordinator, will oversee an offense that includes O’Brien, a former UVa offensive coordinator before stints as the head coach at Boston College and N.C. State; Scott Wachenheim, entering his fourth season as a UVa assistant and third as O-line coach; Jeff Banks, who will assume the running backs and special-teams chores he had at UTEP; and Marques Hagans, who will be a full-time assistant for the first year but was the primary receivers coach last year.
With the addition of another offensive coach, O’Brien, it appears more likely that head coach Mike London will coach the front four on a defensive staff to be headed by Jon Tenuta, formerly on O’Brien’s staff at N.C. State. Returnees will be Vincent Brown (linebackers), Anthony Poindexter (cornerbacks) and Chip West (safeties).
West, in all likelihood, will be the recruiting coordinator, a position previously held by Hanson.
Critics would ask how London could serve as a position coach and also handle such head-coaching duties as calling timeouts, a problem in the season finale against Virginia Tech, but I’ve got to believe that’s where O’Brien comes in.
If you can get a guy like O’Brien, who might have been a good head-coaching choice for UVa over the years if the timing had ever been right, you do what you can to make it work.
Plus, O’Brien once presided over a Boston College staff that included London, so it’s not like they don’t know each other.
O’Brien turned 64 in October and owns a home in Charleston, S.C., to which he was more than willing to retire. He didn’t have to work, which speaks to the regard he has for Charlottesville and the UVa program.