One of the lingering questions following last week’s “introduction” of four new Virginia assistant football coaches pertained to the titles given Tom O’Brien and Jon Tenuta.
O’Brien will be the associate head coach for offense and also coach the tight ends. Tenuta will be the associate head coach for defense and also coach the linebackers.
However, there is one difference in their roles. Tenuta also will serve as defensive coordinator but O’Brien will not be the offensive coordinator.
And, based on my conversation with O’Brien, he has no problem with that. O’Brien said that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will continue to draw up the gameplan and call plays.
O’Brien said he will be a sounding board.
O’Brien has been a head coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level for 16 years at a pair of ACC programs, Boston College, which was in the Big East for much of his tenure, and North Carolina State.
He’s been there and done that.
To me, it would have made more sense to have one associate head coach, O’Brien, and two defensive coordinators.
I don’t think there’s been a division of duties yet, but I can foresee O’Brien being on the sideline at games, helping head coach Mike London on matters such as timeouts.
(That’s not intended as a shot. Whether you believe it was London who was at fault for mis-using timeouts at the end of the Virginia Tech game, that is an example of a decision on which O’Brien could or would be consulted).
So, why two associate head coaches?
I’ve got two theories on that. One, there may be a cap on salaries for particular positions and, for the money that it took to get Tenuta, he couldn’t just be a coordinator.
Then, there’s the matter of the position Tenuta was leaving at North Carolina State. He was the associate head coach for defense at State, where he also coached the linebackers. But, he was not the defense coordinator, a position held by Mike Archer, a Virginia assistant in 1991-92.
In fact, it was the title of associate head coach for defense that enabled O’Brien, then the Wolfpack head coach, to hold onto Tenuta after the 2011 season.
Tenuta had agreed to take a job on the staff of new Illini coach Tim Beckman, only to change his mind and re-commit to N.C. State one day later. Tenuta cited the fact that his oldest son had signed a baseball letter-of-intent with N.C. State as his reason for staying, although his son later signed to play professionally in the Kansas City Royals’ organization.
In the end, I doubt the titles will make any difference. Tenuta’s history is that he will be wrapped up in the defense and won’t want to interfere in matters that don’t concern the defense. Personally, I’ve gotten to know O’Brien pretty well over the years and there’s no way this is a power play for him.
The only variable would come if some NFL or college team is able to lure Lazor out of Charlottesville, an overture that has been made in the past. I don’t see O’Brien becoming the offensive coordinator at any point but he’d certainly have a say in any offensive staffing issues.