Friday, February 5, 2010

assistant coaches: defense

Way back, I said I'd offer up some kind of writeup on the coaching staff beneath Mike London once they were all officially in place. That time is now. Today, a quick study on each of the defensive coaches, and then sometime next week, the offensive side.

Defensive coordinator: Jim Reid

I have no idea what the difference is between an assistant head coach and an associate head coach - probably none at all - but Jim Reid, besides being the chief defense dude, is officially the latter. The guy's been around. He started his career by rising all the way from graduate assistant to head coach at UMass, and he coached Richmond and VMI as well.

His head coaching record appears spotty at first blush (he has a losing record), but there are mitigating circumstances, the biggest one being: it was friggin' VMI. That's a no-win situation there. Pun intended. At Richmond, he did very well until his last few years, but UVA fans can no doubt sympathize with the reasons: the meddling administration cut down the number of scholarships he had at his disposal.

He did well enough at Richmond that he almost got himself hired here at UVA, and probably would have been if George Welsh hadn't retired. It makes for a nice little circle from when Reid was sent to shadow Welsh around some 20+ years ago to learn the coaching ropes. Welsh said Reid's defense gave him fits, which must have some ring of truth to it given that Al Groh's first UVA squad needed a missed extra point to beat Reid in 2001.

If nothing else, you have to appreciate what this hire says about the honesty of the coaching staff in place. It's an interesting dynamic because Reid was London's boss once upon a time. London has proclaimed his willingness to depart from the Groh tradition of heavy-handed micromanaging, and Reid for his part believes that the coaches he hired worked "with him, not for him." London's willingness to hire an old boss whose pinky finger has more head coaching experience than London will have in five years, and Reid's willingness to leave a cushy NFL job and work under someone he once directed, speak to the truth of these statements.

Fun fact: Welsh wasn't the only opposing coach to praise Reid's defenses. His counterpart at Villanova called games against Reid's Richmond defenses "bloodlettings."

Defensive line/recruiting coordinator - Jeff Hanson

Hanson is one of the cadre brought over from Richmond along with London, and it's not the first time London has hired the man. Though Hanson spent 28 years at Richmond, it was London that brought him in for his third stint in 2008. Hanson's never been a head coach or even a coordinator, and has also never coached in the I-A ranks before. However, Hanson was London's assistant head coach for two years at Richmond and would have been the acting head coach if for whatever reason London wasn't available.

It's just a little bothersome that Hanson has never coached at the highest levels before despite bumming around the I-AA ranks for a full 38 years. What Hanson does bring to the table is a high degree of familiarity with his bosses - he's already worked for both London and defensive coordinator Jim Reid in the past, at Richmond, and the (caution: annoying corporate buzzword follows) synergy that that brings is comforting. The job of recruiting coordinator is largely administrative and carried out in the offices, not on the recruiting trail, and the major difference between his old job and this one is that I-A recruiting has a much more national scope than I-AA recruiting does. Other than that, his skills should translate over seamlessly.

Fun fact: Does not actually put on the foil before every game.

Linebackers - Vincent Brown

And just when you think you've gotten rid of the Bill Parcells coaching tree at UVA. Back in the day, Brown was a top-notch linebacker for the Patriots for - yup - Bill Parcells for a couple years. He got his feet wet coaching for - yup - Parcells again, this time with the Dallas Cowboys, first as an intern, and then, he must have made some kind of impression, because he was brought back for a year as the Cowboys' inside linebackers coach. No doubt due to the well-known Groh-Parcells connection, Brown spent 2007 as a grad assistant right here at UVA, and then was brought to Richmond when London left to coach there.

Brown appears to have the makings of a real up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. Just one internship in Dallas and no less a personality than Bill Parcells gave him an actual NFL coaching job - probably under some supervision, but still. Just one year working with Mike London at UVA and he was promptly offered the linebacker job when London got his chance at Richmond. Occasionally, people voice some concern that London has turned our coaching staff into Richmond, version 2, but Brown can't really be lumped into that - he's a London guy more than a Richmond guy, and his NFL experience is a major asset. He's inexperienced, but he's made all the right impressions so far.

Fun fact: When Brown took the ballsy step of asking Bill Parcells for a coaching job, Parcells made him chill out for a year to make sure he actually wanted to coach.

Cornerbacks - Chip West

Like Hanson, West is in his first I-A job (unless you count having been a grad assistant at WVU.) Being a Hampton native, he fills the role here of the resident celebrity recruiter in the crucial 757 area, and London makes no secret of his having been hired in part to do just that. West also has the distinction of being on the first coaching staff of the reconstituted ODU football team, where he just happened to have been assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator. Quality coaching credentials, although as always there's a smidge of doubt about taking those skills to the next level. Still, personality is personality, and West is here to recruit and the fact that he's only being given half a position to coach (a typical coaching staff has one coach for the DBs, not two) underscores that.

Fun fact: Being a black guy named Chip puts him into automatic consideration for the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.

Safeties/special teams: Anthony Poindexter

Oh come on, look, if you don't know about Dex, I'm afraid we're going to have to put the training wheels back on your UVA fandom.

What you really need to know about this is that I am not at all convinced London would have brought back Dex given his druthers. Along with Bob Price, Poindexter was one of the holdovers from Groh's staff tasked by the administration to keep the program from falling totally to pieces while they conducted the coaching search. The reason I'm not really convinced London actually made the call to keep him is because 1) he wasn't the first choice for special teams coach and 2) he had half his positional responsibilities shifted to Chip West. It seems odd you'd do that latter move to someone you fully intended to keep around. I could be completely, 100% wrong on this, it's just speculation.

Fun fact: Poindexter once played football for the University of Virginia Cavaliers.


Mike London has worked in some capacity with each and every one of these coaches, including West, with whom he's never been on a staff but did work a few recruiting camps. Al Groh was an outstanding defensive mind, but thanks to a little continuity with Poindexter and a lot of familiarity between these coaches, there shouldn't be much of a step down, if any, from previous years. There's an extremely heavy state-of-Virginia slant - all of them have spent huge portions of their careers in the state, and experience at half the D-I football programs in the state is represented on the defense alone. Jim Reid should prove to be an excellent choice as defensive coordinator in all facets: he's got the certificates on the wall, he's got the seal of approval from no less an authority than George Welsh, and he's not likely to seek out another job for quite a while. There's a nice mix of experience and up-and-coming energy on this defensive staff, and it won't hurt that London is a defensive guy himself. The defense is in good hands for the coming seasons.

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