1998-2011 were supposedly the "Glory Years" of Va Tech football, the only "bad years" were 2012-2015 and then in 2016 we had 10 wins again, won the ACC Coastal, almost upset Clemson in the ACCCG, and then came from behind to beat Arkansas in the Belk Bowl (so hopefully no more Belk Bowl predictions that we got almost yearly during the "bad years").
For the coaching changes Beamer made, the completion of the Beamer Barn and Loeffler and Shane being pretty good at recruiting what years was the "bad recruiting" taking place? I know the 2014-2017 classes have been top 25 with the exception of 2016 when Beamer left but we were #40 right in front of Tom Herman and Houston at #41. So I will not complain about recruiting due to Houston, Memphis, and Western Michigan finding ways to win as of lately (ECU, Toledo, Temple, and USF as well).
It's my personal opinion that the defense was always consistent, special teams for the most part were consistent, and the offense was what killed us, and mainly the coaches that coached the offense before Fuente and co. arrived. 2013 could have been a 10 win year (the defense was definitely dominant) and we had 2 or 3 close losses that were due to missed field goals. Our losses were never that bad in the down years, we mainly beat ourselves and that was true even of our losses during the first season of the Fuente Era. We played Western Michigan in 2014 and easily beat them and they made a New Years 6 Bowl Game, we beat Ohio State that same year and they won the CFB NC. Miami beat us bad in 2014 because we were killed with injuries by that point. But I feel we have always had the talent and the opportunity to win every game.
If Houston can win with their classes (granted Texas has a lot of talent) and Memphis could win with their recruits why can't Va Tech be better than those teams have been lately?
2012 losses- Holmes (supposed to be our #1 RB was arrested and the offense went down and I doubt he was a stud at RB anyways) 17 pt loss to Pitt, 3 pt loss to Cincinnati, 14 pt loss to UNC, 21 pt loss to Clemson, 18 pt loss to Miami, 8 pt loss to FSU. We beat Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl by 3 and that includes OT...abysmal season, some coaches had to go!
2013 losses- Alabama win by 25 pts, Duke win by 3, Boston College win by 7, Maryland win by 3...field goals cost us against Duke and Maryland with a safety getting beat by BC costing us, but a Duke and Maryland win would have given us a 10 win season. UCLA beat us by 30 in the Sun Bowl.
2014 losses- ECU win by 7, GA. Tech win by 3, Pitt win by 5, Miami win by 24, BC win by 2, WF loss by 3. If we had the offense we have now with capable coaches we would have won all but Miami but that score could be different at least, sadly we did beat OSU who won the CFB NC and Western Michigan who just went to a New Years 6 Bowl Game and loss to Wisconsin by 8. 2014 we went to the Military Bowl and beat CIncinnatti.
2015 losses- OSU win by 18 (after Brewer injured), ECU win by 7, Pitt win by 4, Miami win by 10, Duke win by 2, UNC win by 3. We beat Tulsa in the Camping World Independence Bowl.
Alabama, UCLA, Miami, Clemson, and OSU are the only severe losses during this time and they definitely out-recruit us, but we can still play with them and beat them, Alabama we haven't beaten recently but it is possible. 38-7 in 1998 was when we last beat Alabama. But I look at all these close losses and I believe the current staff could have had a game plan to get at least enough points for us to win the game and the ugly losses could have been not so bad.
I think with the talent we have at the skill positions and on both sides of the ball unlike in 2012 and the capable offensive coaches unlike 2013-2015 (I leave out 2012 because of what those coaches did in 2011 and prior) Va Tech could have their glory days ahead of them and not behind them. Was it just bad coaching or bad recruiting also that gave us that awful 2012 season (which we still made a bowl game and won) and at what point did that awful recruiting catch up to us?