Nationals

Beamer overhauls Hokies' offensive coaching staff

Beamer overhauls Hokies' offensive coaching staff

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has overhauled his offensive coaching staff after Hokies' worst season in two decades.

Beamer announced Friday that he's hired former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to lead Virginia Tech's offense, former Stanford wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead to take over the Hokies' wideouts, and another Auburn assistant, Jeff Grimes, to coach the offensive line. Grimes was Auburn's O-line coach.

The Hokies finished 7-6, in large part because of their inability to run the ball consistently and a regressing passing game. Virginia Tech's streak of eight consecutive 10-win seasons came to end and the Hokies had to win their last two regular season games just to qualify for the Russell Athletic Bowl - where they beat Rutgers 13-10 in overtime.

The moves mark the second major overhaul of Beamer's offensive staff in seven years, and the departures of three staffers brought on during the last one. Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain was fired, receivers coach Kevin Sherman left for the same position at Purdue and Curt Newsome left the program, reportedly to head back to James Madison, although the school has not said if he was fired or resigned.

Bryan Stinespring, the offensive coordinator since 2001 and a 20-year member of Beamer's staff, has been moved to recruiting coordinator. Considered the Hokies' best recruiter, he will also continue to coach tight ends.

The new coaches will be introduced on Jan. 25.

While Stinespring had the coordinator's title, O'Cain has called the plays for the past two seasons.

The Stinespring-O'Cain combination directed a record-setting season in 2011, largely on the legs of NFL first-round draft choice David Wilson at tailback and the arm of emerging quarterback Logan Thomas. Wilson ran for a school-record 1,709 yards, and Thomas had a school-record 3,482 total yards.

But 2012 marked a return to the inconsistency that often prompted Hokies fans to call for change. Virginia Tech finished 81st nationally in both total offense (376.7 ypg) and scoring (25.08 ppg). Thomas had 3,500 yards of total offense, but completed just 51.3 percent of his throws and had 16 interceptions.

Beamer, who is intensely loyal to his staff and often cites the absence of significant turnover for allowing the Hokies to climb the ranks into college football's elite, decided change was in order. He is thought to have interviewed several candidates for the coordinator's job during the past few weeks.

Loeffler, 38, has coached for 15 seasons in the NFL and in college. He was the offensive coordinator at Temple in 2011 when the Owls finished 9-4 and ranked seventh in the nation with an average of 256.5 rushing yards. He moved to Auburn last season, and the inexperienced Tigers struggled mightily. They averaged just 305 yards, 115th out of 120 teams at the FBS level, and were 112th in scoring (18.67).

He has also coached six quarterbacks who went on to play in the NFL, including New England's Tom Brady and Florida's Tim Tebow, who left the Gators with five NCAA and 14 Southeastern Conference records.

Grimes, 44, spent five seasons at Auburn, including the national championship year in 2010, and worked with Loeffler last season.

Moorehead, 32, has been an assistant at Stanford for the past three years.

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Explaining my National League ROY ballot

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USA Today Sports

Explaining my National League ROY ballot

This was tight. Really tight. A category for the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. A category for the Nationals’ Juan Soto.

Sorting through 16 categories showed Acuna and Soto should have split the National League Rookie of the Year award. It also showed me a narrow advantage for Soto, which is why I voted him first, Acuna second and Dodgers starter Walker Buehler third. Once the votes from other members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were added, Acuna won, Soto was second and Buehler was third. It wasn’t close. It should have been.

First, a thought about the general process here: Writers take this seriously. Once assignments for the awards are distributed, we start to talk about them in the Nationals Park press box. Even non-voters hop in on the conversation. Sympathies are relayed to those who have an extremely tight choice, as I did this season and last when I voted for MVP (I’m big in Cincinnati thanks to my Joey Votto selection).

I outline specific categories, talk to opposing players and managers and watch as much as possible in order to come to a conclusion. The only thing easy about voting for ROY this season was the chance to see the leading candidates often since one played here and the other is in the division.

I used 16 categories to largely determine my vote. They were as follows: OPS, OPS+, Baseball Reference WAR, Fangraphs WAR, Baseball Prospectus WARP, OBP, WRC+, SB, HR, late-and-close OPS, 2 outs RISP OPS, BB:K ratio, WPA, “Clutch”, WOBA, and an overall defensive mark.

There’s no perfect formula here. But, when looking through those, Soto took nine, Acuna six and one, Fangraphs WAR, was even. That, coupled with Soto doing this in his age-19 season as the league’s youngest player (Acuna was just 20, so, like everything else the leader’s advantage here is slight), and talking to others in the league, prompted me to vote for Soto.

Again, the gaps were minute. Baseball Reference’s WAR formula favored Acuna. Fangraphs had them even. Baseball Prospectus put Soto clearly ahead. Soto was significantly better in late-and-close situations. Acuna was better with two outs and runners in scoring position.

If Soto had a distinct lead anywhere, it was via command of the strike zone, which is currently his premier talent. His walk and strikeout rates were both superior to Acuna. When asked about Soto, opponents and teammates alike brought it up.

However, Acuna is the better defender and baserunner. Points back to his favor.

Soto was intentionally walked 10 times signifying what opponents thought of dealing with him. Acuna was intentionally walked just twice (though his spot in the order has some influence there).

This ping-ponging of qualifications could go on.

What the National League East has is two of the best players in baseball. Not just young players at this stunningly low age, but two of the best. Soto was fourth in on-base percentage and seventh in OPS in the National League when adjusted to be among the qualified leaders (an explanation from Baseball Reference: In order to rank the player, the necessary number of hitless at bats were added to the player's season total.). Acuna was eighth in slugging under the same adjustment.

The 2019 All-Star Game is in Cleveland. Expect both to be there and this to be just the beginning of them being measured against each other.

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Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

The Washington Wizards released guard Chasson Randle Monday. The additional space – the Wizards had one vacant roster slot even with Randle – brings up the question of what the team may do next. For now, don’t expect a blockbuster move.

Head coach Scott Brooks briefly addressed the move ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“He’s a terrific young man, a very good player,” Brooks said of Randle. “Just gives us more flexibility. Who knows what we might do with it. He’s definitely an NBA player.”

Randle, who Washington signed to the active roster on Oct. 30, likely clears waivers, and then would rejoin the Capital City Go-Go, Brooks said. It’s been a back-and-forth scenario for Randle between the Wizards and their G-League squad this season. The 6-foot-2 guard was on the Go-Go roster when Washington’s season tipped off and assigned to the G-League squad at the time of Monday’s release. Randle scored 37 points in the Go-Go’s inaugural game. He did not enter a game for Washington.

The Wizards were forced to add a player by Oct. 30, a date that marked two weeks from the time Washington traded Jodie Meeks to Milwaukee. League rules require a minimum of 14 players on the roster.

That two week timeline applies to the current scenario. For now, the Wizards save a bit on the luxury tax payment by waiving Randle, who was signed to a $1.24 million non-guaranteed contract. Considering he'll likely be back in the building, Randle returning to the Wizards roster is a consideration.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Randle cost the Wizards approximately $239,000 in luxury tax payments. Washington saved approximately $8 million by dealing Meeks.

As Brooks acknowledged, the open spots create greater flexibility.  In wake of the Timberwolves trading disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler to the 76ers, multiple reports at least tangentially mentioned the Wizards’ as part of the mix.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Washington balked at including Bradley Beal. SI.com’s Chris Mannix reported teams are keeping tabs on the 3-9 Wizards in case role players like Jeff Green, Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. become available should the slow start continue.

Randle’s release limits Washington’s backcourt depth, but the top four options are healthy entering its five-game home-stand. In theory two-way contract player Jordan McRae could be recalled from Capital City, but the wing guard is dealing with a groin injury, according to a source. McRae should be available later in the week.

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