The architect of Virginia Tech’s most prolific offenses attended the Hokies’ Sugar Bowl practice Sunday.
Rickey Bustle coached under Frank Beamer from 1987 to 2001, with a brief hiatus to South Carolina in 1994. His son, Brad, is a graduate assistant at Tech this season, working as a video specialist for the defensive coaches.
The elder Bustle’s appearance surprised Beamer and his staff, and the affection among them was obvious as Bud Foster, Charley Wiles, Curt Newsome, John Ballein, and Frank and Shane Beamer swarmed Bustle.
Last week, Bustle, 57, accepted the offensive coordinator’s position at Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi under new coach Ellis Johnson, the former South Carolina defensive coordinator, who replaces Larry Fedora, the new big whistle at North Carolina.
Bustle left the Hokies to become head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he compiled a 38-56 record in nine seasons before getting fired in 2010. This season he coached quarterbacks at Tulane here in New Orleans.
That was an odd experience as Bob Toledo, the head coach who hired Bustle in June, resigned in October midway through the Green Wave’s 2-10 season.
Bustle endured similarly difficult seasons early in Beamer’s tenure. But as Tech’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator from 1995-2001, he enjoyed two Sugar Bowls and two seasons with Michael Vick under center.
The 1999 Hokies, with Vick as a redshirt freshman, led the nation in scoring with a school-record 41.4-point average. They were fifth the following season at 40.2.
Tech finished 11-1 both seasons, losing the ’99 national title game to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
Bustle said he and Vick exchange the occasional text, though “that rascal keeps changing his number.”
“I’m really proud for him,” Bustle said of Vick’s NFL comeback from jail time. “He’s a good young man, made mistakes, and I hated that for him. When you get with the wrong people, sometimes those things happen.”
Bustle is joining a Southern Mississippi program that just completed its finest season. The Golden Eagles went 12-2 and did Virginia Tech a huge favor by upsetting previously undefeated Houston in the CUSA title game.
Had the Cougars prevailed, they would have bumped Virginia Tech out of the Sugar Bowl and relegated the Hokies to the Chick-fil-A.
Bustle said he and Johnson have never worked together but are long-time friends and fellow South Carolina natives. Former Clemson head coach Tommy West will coordinate Southern Miss’ defense.
Bustle played at Clemson, and West tried to hire him as the Tigers’ OC. But Bustle said working for Beamer and with his staff trumped the lure of his alma mater.
Brad Bustle was born in 1987, his father’s first season at Tech, and remembers traveling to the 1995 and ’99 Sugar Bowls. He played offensive line for his dad at Lafayette and plans to remain a graduate assistant at Tech next season.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” Brad said of coaching. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
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