Bud Foster: Virginia Tech defensive coordinator at a career crossroads

bud fosterVirginia Tech defensive coordinator bud foster will be 60 when the five-year extension reported last week comes to an end. What we can extrapolate from that is that Foster is now officially a Hokie-for-Life.

It’s hard to imagine many programs looking for a new coach in five years that will want to hire a 60-year-old. The vast majority of openings are situations where the program needs to be rebuilt from scratch, and you don’t rebuild from scratch with a guy who might not be there past the fifth year on his original deal, and if he is, it’s maybe two, three, at most four years past.

So Foster is in Blacksburg for the duration. Frank Beamer will be 72 at the end of his current deal in 2018, which curiously expires a year before Foster’s extension ends. By that point, the Virginia Tech job might be a rebuilding job. Tech is 22-17 the past three seasons, and needed wins over UVA in regular-season finales in 2012 and 2014 and wins in bowl games to cap those seasons to extend the program’s streak of winning seasons.

It doesn’t look to get any better for the Hokies anytime soon. The 2015 recruiting class is solid, ranking in the Top 25 in the Rivals.com rendering coming into the final weeks before signing day in early February, but recruiting hasn’t been the issue in recent years, with the 2012, 2013 and 2014 classes also ranking in the Top 25, and the 2011 class ranking just outside the Top 25 (#33).

It hasn’t been lack of talent in the two-deep. It’s been largely lack of production on offense, which Beamer tried to address with the hiring of Scot Loeffler as his offensive coordinator in 2013 in an experiment that hasn’t gone well, to say the least.

The move to bring in Loeffler to modernize the offense by throwing the ball all over the field hasn’t fit in with the way Tech football has played for more than a quarter-century under Beamer, with the focus on defense, good special teams and an offense that can turn short fields created by the defense and special teams into points, and otherwise not screw things up.

Assuming Beamer works the duration of his contract through the end of the 2018 season, that’s four years to get things moving back in the right direction to then maybe hand the keys over to Foster to build for another decade or so, or it’s four years for the hole to get dug deeper for Foster to have to claw out of.

jimbo fisher is an obvious example of how the heir apparent can get things turned around in a hurry. After Florida State stumbled to a 30-22 stretch in Bobby Bowden’s final four seasons, three of which saw the Seminoles go 7-6, Fisher has gone 58-10 in the five seasons since, including 39-2 in the last three, with a national title and a 2014 playoff berth among the highlights.

That Fisher was 45 when he took the reins at FSU is probably an important point to bring up here. A better comparison for Foster might be in basketball, when legendary UNC coach Dean Smith stepped down in the 1990s and handed the job over to long-time assistant Bill Guthridge, who in three seasons led the Tar Heels to two Final Fours before joining Smith in retirement.

It helped that Smith left Guthridge with a solid roster to work with those three seasons. Fisher, on his side of things, had a true rebuilding job to do in Tallahassee, which he was able to begin from the inside on Bowden’s staff, but it still took a couple of years before he was able to get his system in place once he took over as the head man.

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out in Blacksburg in the coming years. There are blueprints for how it can work out, but easier said than done to get those blueprints to come to life the way you might want them to.

– Column by Chris Graham

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The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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