CFT preseason No. 12: Virginia Tech

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2010 record: 11-3, 8-0 (1st, ACC Coastal)

2010 bowl: 40-12 loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl

2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 16th/15th

Coach: Frank Beamer, 25th year; 198-95-2 overall, 46-10 ACC

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Stinespring, 10th year

2010 offensive rankings: 21st, scoring offense (33.9 ppg); 41st, total offense (402.3 ypg); 23rd, rushing offense (198.7 ypg); 72nd, passing offense (203.6 ypg)

Defensive coordinator: Bud Foster, 17th year

2010 defensive rankings: 26th, scoring defense (20.6 ppg); 52nd, total defense (361.5 ypg); 64th, rushing defense (155.9 ypg); 40th, passing defense (205.6 ypg)

Returning offensive starters: 6

Returning defensive starters: 6

Location: Blacksburg, Va.

Stadium: Lane Stadium (grass; 65,115)

Last league title: 2010

2011 schedule: [view]

2011 roster: [view]

2010 statistics: [view]

Snapshot: There are very few things in the game of college football you can truly count upon and rely on, but a 10-win season from the Hokies is one of those. Ten times in the past 12 years, including seven straight entering this season, Virginia Tech has reached the double-digit win plateau. Tech has won outright or shared the ACC/Coastal crown five times in the seven seasons they’ve been in the conference, and this year should be no different despite losing their starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and more than half of their starting defense.

One part of the latter that must improve, however, is the play of the front four. The Hokies were well below average in stopping the run last year, and the youngsters along the line — they could start as many as three sophomores — must match their talent level with on-field production to improve that facet of the defense.

And certainly there will be a learning curve as the Hokies break in sophomore Logan Thomas, but fortunately the schedule makers were very, very kind to the Hokies this year. Tech’s three toughest conference games — Clemson, Miami and Boston College — will all be played in Blacksburg. Their toughest conference road trip? To Georgia Tech, which would actually be the dictionary definition of anti-tough. Or, perhaps, the rivalry game at Virginia, although that should be nothing more than a tune-up for the first weekend in December, which should include yet another trip to the ACC championship game and a shot at going to a fifth BcS bowl in eight years.

(Writer’s note: Look at that, an entire mini-preview of Virginia Tech and there’s nary a mention of the embarrassing loss to Div. 1-AA/FCS James Madison… oops, never mind.)

Make-or-break game: Oct. 8 vs. Miami

As far as the Coastal Division is concerned, the Hokies and the Hurricanes — especially considering the troubles brought on by the abrupt coaching change at North Carolina — are clearly the class of what is otherwise a paper-thin group of schools. Thus, this game will very likely determine just who will represent the division in the conference championship game two months later. Being at home will be one advantage for the Hokies; being the better, more talented team will be the biggest advantage, and will allow the Hokies to slide their way into a title game appearance for the fifth time in eight years.

Heisman hopeful: Running back David Wilson

Somewhat buried behind a bevy of backfield talent — alliteration; it’s fun for the whole family! — for the past two seasons, this year will be the junior’s turn in the spotlight as he will be expected to carry a sizable chunk of the Hokies’ running game load. He’s averaged more than 5.5 yards per carry and, with a new quarterback as well as the departure of last year’s leading rusher Ryan Williams, he should far surpass his career total of just under 200 carries. While he’s far from a household name, he should be and very well could be by the end of the season. Whether or not he’ll grab the Heisman voters’ attention remains to be seen.

Postseason projection: Chick-fil-A Bowl

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More signs connecting Charlie Strong to analyst role at Alabama

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At this point, it would seemingly be an upset if Charlie Strong doesn’t land at Alabama football.

In early December of last year, Strong was let go as the head coach at South Florida.  Over the past two-plus months, the 59-year-old Strong has remained on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  There has been speculation, though, that Strong could be returning to Florida and joining Dan Mullens‘ extended staff as a defensive analyst.

Late last week, however, it was reported that Charlie Strong was in Tuscaloosa visiting with the Alabama football coaching staff.  A few days later, it’s now being reported that Strong is expected back in T-Town this week.  Perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to Matt Zenitz of

Nick Saban doesn’t have an opening on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  However, Charlie Strong could conceivably join the Alabama football program as some type of an analyst, ala Butch Jones and myriad others.

Strong has spent the past decade as a head coach.  After going 37-15 in four seasons (2010-13) at Louisville, Strong left to take the head job at Texas.  Three seasons (2014-16) in Austin ended with his dismissal following a 16-21 record.  Strong’s tenure at USF ended after three seasons (2017-19) as well and a 4-8 2019 campaign.

In the last six years of his head-coaching career, Strong posted a 37-37 record.

Prior to that, Strong spent seven years (2003-09) as the defensive coordinator at Florida.  During that time with the Gators, he also coached defensive ends and linebackers.  For four of those seasons, Mullen was UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before leaving to take the Mississippi State job.

That was actually Strong’s fourth stint with the Gators.  From 1991-94, he coached defensive tackles (1994) and defensive ends (1991-93).  He also served as outside linebackers coach from 1988-89.  Strong began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at UF in 1983-84.

Strong was also the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for four years (1999-2002) before moving on to Gainesville that fourth time.  In between the third Gainesville stint and his time in Columbia, Strong was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame from 1995-98.

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow will likely be highest-paid non-coordinator in college football this year

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For Vince Marrow of Kentucky, it paid to be wooed by Michigan State.

After an initial denial, Mel Tucker reversed course and left Colorado to become the Michigan State head coach. Not only will Tucker be doubling his salary in East Lansing, but his salary pool for assistant coaches will be nearly double what he had to work with in Boulder as well.

Marrow was one of the assistants Tucker had hoped to bring to Michigan State, wooing the longtime Kentucky coach and close friend into his new fold. Instead, he opted to eschew the chance to move to Michigan State and remain at Kentucky.

In a non-coincidental move, UK Monday released the details of a new contract agreement signed last Thursday by Marrow. Per that new deal, Marrow, who is tight ends coach while also serving as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach, will be paid $900,000 annually as part of the three-year contract. This past season, Marrow was paid $600,000 in guaranteed compensation.

With Mike Yurcich ($950,000) taking over as Texas’ offensive coordinator after spending 2019 as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and Sam Pittman ($900,000) leaving as Georgia’s offensive line to take the head job at Arkansas, Marrow is currently the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football. That statement is based on the USA Today coaches salary database.

Marrow will also have a salary on par with UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and slightly above the $875,000 set for defensive coordinator Brad White.

The 51-year-old Marrow has spent the past eight seasons at Kentucky.  He was retained when Mark Stoops took over the Wildcats in November of 2012.

Chris Creighton puts finishing touches on Eastern Michigan staff with three additions

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Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton is ready to go to work with a new staff finally put in place in Ypsilanti. On Monday, Eastern Michigan formally announced the additions of tight ends coach Brandon Blaney, cornerbacks coach LaMarcus Hicks, and quarterbacks coach Mike Piatkowski. A few role adjustments on the staff were also ironed out for the upcoming season.

Blaney joins the Eastern Michigan staff after spending the past two seasons as an offensive analyst for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Blaney also has NFL coaching experience as an assistant with the Tennessee Titans and he previously coached at Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Youngstown State. For Creighton, it was a long time coming to be able to land Blaney on his coaching staff.

“I have wanted to work with Coach Blaney since the late 1990s,” Creighton said in a released statement. “I am thrilled that it has worked out for him to join us here at Eastern Michigan. He has been successful at so many different levels. His expertise and genuine care for our players will serve us well.”

Hicks joins the Eagles program after two years at another MAC program, Bowling Green. Piatkowski comes to the program from his most recent job at Indiana, but he has a history with Eastern Michigan. Piatkowski was a graduate assistant on the coaching staff at EMU in 2016-17. Piatkowski also played for Creighton at Drake.

As for returning members of the coaching staff, James Patton is taking on the role of run game coordinator while retaining his role as offensive line coach. Fred Reed will move from coaching the cornerbacks to coaching the safeties, now that Hicks will take on the cornerback coaching. Special teams coordinator Jay Nunez will now also be in charge of coaching defensive tackles.

Eastern Michigan will begin spring football practices on March 10. The Eagles are coming off a 6-7 season that ended with a loss to Pitt in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Mel Tucker bringing OL coach Chris Kapilovic from Colorado to Michigan State

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As is typically the case any time a head coach moves from one school to another, he is bound to take some assistants from his previous stop with him. Mel Tucker appears to be doing just that as he puts together his coaching staff at Michigan State. Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic is reportedly making the move from Boulder to East Lansing to remain a part of Tucker’s coaching staff.

Football Scoop and Buff Stampede each reported the news of Kapilovic following Tucker to Michigan State on Monday afternoon. As reported by Football Scoop, Kapilovic turned down a couple of offers to join the coaching staff at Auburn and Missouri this offseason with the intent on remaining in Colorado with Tucker. But once Tucker had his sudden change of heart regarding the vacancy in East Lansing, the situation changed for Kapilovic as well. And with those SEC offers no longer being options, a move to the Big Ten may be just as lucrative. It was certainly lucrative enough for Tucker, of course, and Tucker’s coaching staff should be set to receive better pay compared to the pay that was being offered at Colorado.

Tucker has already retained two holdovers from the coaching staff assembled by former Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Ron Burton opted to stay at Michigan State as a defensive line coach after nearly leaving for Indiana (Indiana has just filled the vacancy Burton was slated to occupy). Mike Tressel, who was Dantonio’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (and was named the interim head coach following Dantonio’s retirement), is also staying in East Lansing.