There are still 100 days left until the start of the college football season, but programs from Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth have been active enough to provide gossip material for an entire offseason.
The state's two biggest programs — Virginia and Virginia Tech — have made or are in the process of making cosmetic changes they hope the entire college football world notices after the long, pigskin-less summer is over.
In keeping with the pervasive nationwide theme of our-toys-are-better-than-your-toys among Bowl Subdivision power conferences, U.Va. and Tech will both put shiny new wares on display.
U.Va. already opened a $13-million indoor practice facility named for former coach George Welsh. In Blacksburg, Tech is set to unveil a new scoreboard and video board in Lane Stadium that will be 48.2 feet tall and 108.2 feet wide, making it one of the 10 largest in the nation.
The new indoor facility at U.Va. is open just in time for hotshot freshman running back Taquan Mizzell, while Tech looks forward to beaming the image of coveted freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller all over its new video board. Mizzell was rated one of the nation's top 20 running backs in the class of 2013 by most recruiting analysts, and Fuller was considered one of the top five cornerbacks in the class.
New infrastructure and highly-anticipated new players to show off at both of the ACC campuses in the state only add to the atmosphere of transition prevalent in both programs. Of course, while U.Va. and Tech have had much-publicized staff changes this offseason, they haven't been alone when it comes to shuffling the assistant coaching deck.
That seems like a good place to start, as we take a look at 10 reasons to anticipate the start of the season:
Staff shakeups: Several staffs throughout the Commonwealth surpassed their respective expiration dates simultaneously.
Everyone's a little different. For instance, Bobby Wilder's defensive staffs at ODU have the shelf life of guacamole, while Frank Beamer's staffs keep as long as maple syrup or bourbon.
New faces are everywhere. New offensive coordinators at Virginia Tech (Scott Loeffler), Virginia (Steve Fairchild) and William and Mary (Kevin Rogers). New defensive coordinators at U.Va. (Jon Tenuta), Old Dominion (Rich Nagy) and Hampton University (Bernard Clark).
Tom O'Brien delayed extended family and beach time when he agreed to serve as wing man for Mike London at Virginia. Jeff Grimes replaced Curt Newsome as offensive line coach at Tech, a move more about productivity than personality.
Former Boston College assistant Jeff Comissiong takes over the D-line at ODU, while one-year coordinator Bill Dee moves back to coaching the O-line. Rogers will run the W&M offense and coach quarterbacks and former QB coach David Corley Jr., now handles wide receivers.
Ex-Hampton U. standout Cordell Taylor returns to coach the Pirates' secondary. Former high school coach Glen Ferebee will coach quarterbacks at HU, and coordinator Earnest Wilson now will coach wide receivers.
Upward mobility: One ponderable around these parts the past couple of seasons: How might ODU's go-go offense and quarterback Taylor Heinicke fare against FBS defenses? We'll finally get an answer as the Monarchs face five upper-division opponents in their transition to FBS and Conference USA.
ODU opens at East Carolina (Aug. 31) and Maryland the following week, and travels to Pittsburgh, Idaho and North Carolina later in the season.
When ODU resurrected the program, Wilder had no desire to play FBS "money" games. He wanted the program to gain footing at the FCS level. Thanks to early success, conference realignment and accelerated ambition, the Monarchs are full go, ready or not.
Quarterback carousel: The over-under on the number of quarterbacks at each school to play significant snaps last season in our little corner of the world was about 2.5. Can we expect a repeat?
The Tilt-A-Whirl was particularly full at Hampton and Christopher Newport, each of which used four quarterbacks. The Pirates' season-ending starter, Brian Swain, was a recruited walk-on from Texas.
William and Mary used three, due to a combination of injury and inconsistency — all of whom return next season. Perhaps the most gifted of the trio, Raphael Ortiz, is coming off of shoulder surgery and won't be able to execute Rogers' teachings until summer camp.
Virginia rotated quarterbacks Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims so deftly that Rocco chose to transfer, with just one year of eligibility remaining. The Cavaliers listed four starting "starting" quarterbacks coming out of the spring: Sims, Hampton product David Watford, and redshirt freshmen Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns.
London said that the staff would determine a pecking order pretty quickly, once preseason camp starts. That would be wise, given the Cavs' ambitious early schedule.
Logan Thomas: There's no such carousel in Blacksburg, where Thomas' development under Loeffler provides a fascinating subplot.
Does the massive LT3 (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) progress from the player who showed such promise as a multi-dimensional wrecking ball two years ago? Or is he the young man whose completion percentage dropped last season and who routinely alternated good and bad plays?
Granted, Thomas didn't have nearly the skill position talent around him in 2012 that he did in 2011. But a 7-6 record didn't cut it, prompting Beamer to pink slip QB coach Mike O'Cain and Newsome and reassign OC Bryan Stinespring. Enter Loeffler, who tutored future pros Tom Brady and Chad Henne.
Thomas' three picks in the spring game produced massive gastric distress, but there were mitigating factors: simplified scheme; bad routes; potentially excellent defense across from him; high pollen count; satellite interference with signals.
Speaking of defenses, Thomas will see an awfully good one out of the chute at the Georgia Dome, which should provide plenty of motivation during these 100 days.
Big-time visitors: Virginia's first two guests — BYU and Oregon — are long on intrigue and entertainment, but not conducive to job security for a guy with a sub-.500 record and a retooled staff. But London said he welcomes the competition and exposure. He'll get it.
BYU had one of the nation's better defenses last season and features a great linebacker — remember the name Kyle Van Noy, kids. The Cavs will see a bunch of him Aug. 31.
The University of Phil Knight is a premier program. Though Quack Attack architect Chip Kelly left for the NFL, offensive disciple Mark Helfrich runs the show with a bunch of holdover talent.
Oregon's speed and ability to spread the field, combined with Tenuta's reputation for blitzing and attacking, remind us of a Kelly quote: "The thing that happens when you blitz, the band is gonna play. And hopefully, it's gonna be our band playing, not theirs."
We'll see whose band plays most Sept. 7 in Charlottesville.
New members: It's 100 days until the start of the ACC season (actually, 98 before North Carolina-South Carolina), and 184 days until traditional ACC rivals Pittsburgh and Syracuse meet.
Yup, the Panthers and Orangemen come on board this season. Next year, Louisville becomes a full member, while Notre Dame football plays the role of celebrity guest who shows up at the party for a couple of hours, guzzles Dom and gobbles all of the shrimp cocktail, then bolts before cleanup.
Anyway, Syracuse nostalgically closes the season against Pitt and BC, while the Panthers get the 'Cuse and Miami to close. Expect Big East bro' hugs and late night drunk dials to Mike Tranghese.
ACC credibility: We say this every year, but the conference has a chance to be viewed as more than the WAC with a better TV contract.
Clemson's bowl win over LSU boosted the league rep at the end of last season, and there are ample opportunities to build on that: Virginia Tech-Alabama; U.Va.'s aforementioned games against BYU and Oregon; Clemson versus Georgia and South Carolina; North Carolina versus the Ol' Ball Coach; Florida State and Miami with games against Florida; Pitt-Notre Dame; Boston College-Southern Cal.
CAA redux: The conference that produced three national champions, three national finalists and 11 semifinalists in an eight-year span took a dip in 2012.
Just three teams made the FCS playoffs, and the only team to win a postseason game, Old Dominion, bid sayonara to the league and the subdivision.
William and Mary is coming off of consecutive sub-standard seasons. Mickey Matthews shuffled his staff at James Madison (O'Cain and Newsome came north on I-81) after being informed that missing the playoffs is no longer an option, with the school's renewed commitment and expanded playpen.
Towson was as good as any team in the CAA, but torched its playoff chances by scheduling not one, but two games, against FBS programs. Danny Rocco quickly brought Richmond back to the brink of playoff discussion. Delaware canned K.C. Keeler just two years after getting to the FCS title game.
The CAA added Stony Brook and Albany, quality programs that made postseason in their previous leagues. No telling if they can replace the ghosts of Hofstra and Northeastern.
Level playing field: Hampton U. expects to be out of APR jail and back on equal footing with its FCS brethren.
The Pirates went 3-7 last season, the program's worst record since elevating to Division I in the mid-1990s. The dismal season was a direct result of a young team limited to four practices per week — the punishment due to chronic under-performance on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rating scale. The fifth day each week had to be devoted to academic work.
For a team that started as many as 18 freshmen and redshirt freshmen, and installed a new offensive system, missing a total of 16 practice days through the course of the season was a nearly insurmountable hurdle.
Head coach and favorite son Donovan Rose was given another year. He shook up his staff and aims to make amends.
Captains tradition: Christopher Newport football extends the longest farewell tour since Cher.
The USA South allows the Captains to continue to compete in football because their new league, the Capital Athletic Conference, doesn't field enough teams. USA South officials are working back channels to get a couple of middle schools in Maryland and a truck-driving institute in Delaware certified so that they may be rid of the Captains in all sports forever.
CNU made its ninth NCAA appearance in the program's 12 years last season. Though backing into the playoffs after losing the season finale, and a subsequent wax job at D-III national champ Mount Union, don't seem like rewards.
The Captains again will be in the playoff hunt. They had only 19 seniors on a 122-man roster and could return as many as 13 starters, though projecting a Division III roster in May might be as foolish as assigning point spreads and projections 100 days out.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun