Finishing the 2012 season 7-6 doesn't exactly qualify as a disaster for the Virginia Tech Hokies, but those results were nowhere near what fans of the program have come to expect. It was the first time since 2003 that a Frank Beamer team finished a season with fewer than 10 wins, and the Hokies' 4-4 league record was their worst since joining the ACC. Last season was just the third out of the last nine that Virginia Tech failed to win the Coastal Division.
That unusually average season led to a shakeup of Virginia Tech's coaching staff -- the Hokies hired three new coaches, including a new offensive coordinator. The Hokies finished the season ranked 81st nationally in total offense, 81st in scoring, 79th in rushing and 100th in passing efficiency. They were held under 20 points on five occasions. Virginia Tech hasn't had elite offenses in recent years, but the Hokies did rank in the top 50 in total offense in each of the three seasons prior to 2012.
Part of the problem for Virginia Tech was that quarterback Logan Thomas didn't progress the way many expected. Following a solid sophomore campaign in 2011, he threw 16 interceptions and completed just 51.3 percent of his passes last year. If he's able to bounce back in 2013, the Hokies can get themselves back in the Coastal Division conversation.
They're going to need some improvement in a hurry, because the 2013 season gets off to just about the most difficult start imaginable -- the Hokies open with a game against defending national champion Alabama.
Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game date, location: Saturday, April 20, Lane Stadium, 3 p.m. ET
Approximate returning starters: Six on offense, nine on defense. Notable returnees on the offensive side include quarterback Logan Thomas, and running back J.C. Coleman, who finished 2012 second on the team in rushing with 492 yards.
On the defensive side, the Hokies return three players who earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2012: defensive end James Gayle, linebacker Jack Tyler and cornerback Antone Exum. Tyler led the team in tackles last season, while Gayle was second on the Hokies with five sacks. Exum led Tech with five interceptions, but he suffered a major knee injury during the offseason that could affect his play in 2013.
Biggest addition: Though he won't participate in spring drills, consensus five-star defensive back prospect Kendall Fuller is considered to be the third-best cornerback in the class and the No. 31 overall prospect by 247Sports.
Biggest loss: The Hokies must replace linebacker Bruce Taylor, who was an All-ACC honorable mention in 2012, finished third on the team in tackles and led the team with 5.5 sacks. He started 34 games over the course of his career, and his 91 tackles in 2010 was a team-high.
Five players enrolled for the spring semester: cornerback Brandon Facyson, quarterback Carlis Parker, offensive tackler Parker Osterloh, running backand offensive tackle Jonathan McLaughlin. Those players will be able to get a head start on their careers by participating in spring drills and all five are considered three-star prospects. The rest of the Hokies' 2013 class will enroll in time to begin practice in August.
The Hokies added three new coaches to their staff, all on the offensive side of the ball: offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. Loeffler has been coaching in college since 1996, and he spent the 2012 season as Auburn's offensive coordinator. Grimes has been coaching offensive lines since 1998, and he worked with Loeffler at Auburn. Moorehead, who at 32 is the youngest member of the staff, spent the previous three seasons at Stanford.
While the Hokies have a new offensive coordinator in Loeffler, their offense may not look too different in 2013 with the return of Thomas. Loeffler prefers a pro-style offense that's based on the running game. He transitioned Auburn from a wide-open scheme to the pro-style, which didn't work out well in 2012, but he may be better positioned for success is Blacksburg given Virginia Tech's history on the offensive side. A refresher on Auburn's offense last year, for the strong of stomach: