augusta free press news

The top priorities for new Virginia football coach Tony Elliott

tony elliott virginia
Tony Elliott. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

OK, so, we’ve got our guy. Tony Elliott, the offensive coordinator at Clemson, is the new head coach at Virginia.

You, of course, want a coach with at least coordinator chops when you’re looking for a head guy, but you want that knowing at the same time that he’s not going to be calling plays.

The coordinators that he hires are the ones who call plays, set the scheme, recruit to it, game plan. The position coaches work with their guys.

You have grad assistants, quality control, strength and conditioning.

The first priority for Elliott, then, is working the phones to get his staff together. We’re being told that he’ll be trotted out in front of the media early next week; it would be nice if he had his hires as much done as possible by then.

Next priority: Brennan Armstrong, who has put his paperwork in to get an eval on his NFL Draft stock, but that isn’t the only threat here.

The advantage Elliott has to keep BA in Charlottesville is impressing upon him that he can succeed in whatever system he wants to go with on offense.

Elliott has used a more balanced approach at Clemson, a lot of 11 personnel, a more traditional running game, which may actually be to the advantage of Armstrong, assuming he returns for a grad-senior year.

It’s not hard to expect Elliott to want to hire an OC who will play offensive football the way he has played it at Clemson.

Which might be a good thing for our guy BA. anybody-can-line-up-anywhere approach of Robert Anae isn’t something you see at the next level. Elliott has Trevor Lawrence and DeShaun Watson in the NFL after running his offense.

If Armstrong can be made to see that, it gives you a chance to keep the wideout corps together, as much as possible, maybe the linemen who put their names in the transfer portal decide that the grass isn’t greener, and you build from there.

The next coach has a chance, if the core of the offense stays together, and improvements are made on defense and special teams, to win eight or nine games next year, and what a great start to a new tenure that would be, right?

If BA is out, it’s a rebuilding job. You’d likely see Elliott hit up the transfer portal for a QB to compete with Jay Woolfolk for the starting job, and unless he hits a home run there, Year 1 is a big question mark.

Next up is re-recruiting the Class of 2022, which signs next Wednesday. History suggests half of the kids who do eventually sign will still move on after a year or two, but the guys who stay will be key contributors as fourth- and fifth-years in 2026 and 2027.

More short-term, you need to re-recruit the leftovers from the Mendenhall regime, starting with Armstrong, but really, from there on down.

We’ve already seen some key guys enter the transfer portal – Olu Oluwatimi, a Rimington Trophy finalist; Bobby Haskins; Noah Taylor.

Get those guys back, keep as many of the rest from leaving as possible, then work the hell out of the transfer portal, where the focus will be retooling the defense. Mendenhall leaves behind a roster on that side of the ball that is suited to play the 3-3-5, which wasn’t working. There’s a big-time immediate need for linemen and ‘backers who can plug and play right away.

Longer-term, Elliott needs to focus on building ties with high school coaches in Virginia. I wrote last week about how poorly the Mendenhall staff did in recruiting Virginia – landing just two players total from the Rivals Top 10 in the state in the last six classes, getting just 9.2 percent of the total snaps on offense, defense and special teams in 2021 from in-state recruits.

Gotta make this a priority, along with engaging the donors, now that the Board of Visitors has given the go-ahead on the long-awaited football ops facility, which looks to be on schedule to be online sometime in 2024, after getting approval from the BOV at its meeting this morning.

The final long-term project involves energizing the fan base. We couldn’t get 50,000 to a home game this year with Notre Dame and Virginia Tech on the schedule, and haven’t sold out a game since 2008.

Virginia played well at home under Mendenhall, but it wasn’t because there was a tremendous home-field advantage.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press