Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

Virginia Tech has found its new co-defensive line coach. 

More importantly, head coach Justin Fuente has found a solid replacement for outgoing Darryl Tapp. Tapp recently left to become the assistant defensive line coach for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. 

That solid replacement is another former Hokie. Virginia Tech great JC Price is set to join the Hokies’ coaching staff. He’ll also be taking on the defensive recruiting coordinator role.

The former Virginia Tech standout went on to be a third-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 1996. Price also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals before injuries forced his premature retirement. 

This is as good of a hire as Fuente could make.

Why?

We’ll tell you.

Another Former Player On The Staff

Let’s start with the obvious. 

Price was there as a player when the bowl streak began. He was a senior on the team when the Hokies were put on the national college football map after a Big East Championship, and a beatdown of Texas in the Sugar Bowl to cap 1995. That connection truly helps.

We’ve seen Fuente take the route of bringing on former Hokies. That was one of his biggest criticisms over his first few years at the helm. 

Justin Hamilton was a nice start prior to 2018 as the director of player development. Of course, he has since been promoted to safeties coach and ultimately defensive coordinator as a replacement for the legendary Bud Foster prior to 2020. 

Tapp followed as potentially Fuente’s best former player hire prior to last season. Jack Tyler was most recently promoted to linebackers coach following the retirement of Tracy Claeys. Pierson Prioleau, Corey Fuller, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, and Ryan Shuman are also former Hokies on Fuente’s support staff. 

Now it’s Price, who is right up there with Tapp as a solid hire among former players. He’s proven himself as a quality college coach with a successful track record, and now he gets to do it at his alma mater. What more can you want if you’re Price?

He’s a Hokie, and that’s what you want. His family members are Hokies, too. Let’s not forget his wife, Jenny Root, is a Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Famer for women’s basketball. Root won the Metro Conference Player of the Year in 1995. 

Now, he gets a chance to win at his roots.  

Geographic Familiarity 

Tapp leaving was a tough blow, but Price softens that a little bit with his recruiting background in the area, and the familiarity with the name around Blacksburg. 

The Dunkirk, Mary. native was previously at Marshall for nine seasons. He served the first six (2012-17) as the defensive line coach. Price was promoted to assistant head coach under former head coach Doc Holliday prior to 2018, and co-defensive coordinator prior to 2019. That’s where he spent the last two seasons. 

Prior to his time in Huntington, Price was the defensive line coach/run game coordinator at James Madison. Price was part of the Dukes’ coaching staff from 2004-11, winning a FCS title in 2004. He was also on staff when James Madison stunned Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in 2010.

He was a graduate assistant before that in Blacksburg. That means Price has never coached more than three hours outside his alma mater. 

High school coaches know his name, and his name will now be magnified with him being at Virginia Tech. 

Of course that’ll help with recruiting. That’ll be his main pressure point in replacing the Hokies’ best recruiter in Tapp. His co-defensive line coach Bill Teerlinck should also help from that standpoint as he comes from an NFL background. 

Likely now seen as Virginia Tech’s best recruiter, Adam Lechtenberg will also help him out as offensive recruiting coordinator. Additionally, cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith should help Price out on the trail in Richmond, Northern Virginia, and the 757. Smith came over from James Madison a couple of years back. Plus, he’s a William & Mary grad, so he’s a Virginia guy. 

Price has the tools in place to be a great coach at Virginia Tech. With the experience he has coming in, he’ll be a great hire for the Hokies. 

Final Thoughts

Most in Blacksburg like the movement of bringing former players back on – a lot. Bridging the gap that had existed between the football program and former players for a couple of years is an A+ move for Fuente. 

For a lack of better terms, it also makes the coaching staff much more “likable”. Fan favorites now fill this coaching staff, and if Virginia Tech gets back recruiting the way it should, this will ultimately be how Fuente turns around a program coming off its first losing regular season in nearly three decades. 

It’s a good start for sure; now, we wait. 

Let’s see how it pans out. For now, bringing on Price feels like a needed major step for the Hokies to get back to contending for ACC championships.