Justin Hamilton is the new safeties coach

Just moments after Nix is announced as leaving for Ole Miss, Hokie Sports announces former DB/RB/everything Justin Hamilton as safeties coach.

Fairly limited coaching experience but a familiar name, hope it works out.

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"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."


As a senior defensive back in 2005 he posted 35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions, helping lead the Hokies to its second consecutive appearance in the ACC Championship Game

Could we at least get our news releases to be factually accurate? There was no ACC Championship game in 2004 as there were only 11 teams in the conference. BC didn't join until 2005.

Maybe we won the first one by default

The 2004 game between us and Miami was a de facto ACCCG, IIRC.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

That's right, the winner of that game was going to clinch the ACC title that year. So it was in effect a championship game.

That 2004 team still rates as maybe my favorite Virginia Tech team ever. There were a LOT of Hokies all-timers on that team (Bryan Randall, Eddie Royal, Will Montgomery, Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi, just to name a few).

The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me.

My favorite memory from being there was the stadium blaring Enter Sandman just before Miami's final drive. They needed to drive the field and get a touchdown to win. Either a Hokie got into the sound booth, or the person there had no idea the reaction it would get from Hokies.

We all got louder. The team on the field jumped and got the Hokie fans there pumped. Dorsey had no clue how to handle the team and the crowd going crazy. Ahhh...memories.

I think you mean Brock Berlin. He shit up his back the last two times he played VT.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

I do. I forgot Ken Dorsey had moved on at that point.

Yeah if it was Dorsey that game might be different.

Wow, I did not know/remember that about Enter Sandman being played at that game!

When I first read your post I thought maybe you had gotten confused about where the game was played. But they actually played Enter Sandman in Miami? Hilarious!

The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me.

True, but the "second consecutive appearance" is where the whole thing just goes to shit.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

Well, it wasn't a "Championship" game, per se, but the de facto Championship game in Miami certainly was a fun one.

The ACC championship game ended up being the final VT game. If VT won, we won the ACC, if Miami won, they won.

There are champagne corks popping in the French household. It would be difficult for me to have a lesser opinion of a coach's ability to teach a position than the opinion I have of Nix after a year's worth of film versus the same guys last season. When you add Hamilton's performance at the recruiting events, his pedigree, and the fact that he was smart enough to immediately be solid playing the position after learning two other spots, I think this is a big win and much needed change. I wish they had made this choice in the first place to have some continuity in the room, but better late than never.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Now that I have said this, watch Newsome figure out a way to hire Nix at EHC. Vomit.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

If French likes it, I like it.

The hire checks every box that a program without top tier resources needs, especially with a defensive system which teaches the safety position very differently than at most schools. It may not pan out well, but I think the odds of this being a successful venture are much greater than I ever expected for the Nix hire. And Nix under-performed against those already low expectations.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I have to wonder how many of those long runs against us would have been limited to "medium " runs, or less, had the safeties been right last year?

A fair number of those long runs were likely because the safeties didn't have the correct gap fit. That's imperative in Foster's scheme and IMO with a top-tier VT safety a lot of them would've been 5-yard runs.

TL;DR: you're right.

There would have been at least 6-10 runs that went for touchdowns that would have been 10 yard runs if the safety is where they should be based on the force/spill executed by the edge guy (provided they make the tackle.) But those 6-10, the safety took themselves out of the play.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I still have nightmares of us vs Pitt this year. Every run they had seemed like it went for a TD. Or at least 40 yards.

Nail on the head. This is exactly the big deal of this hire. I couldn't agree more - institutional knowledge, passion for the school, dynamic personality, culture fit and ambitious in a good way. All of these traits together are hard to find - when you find them you gotta find a spot.

Home run. Go Hokies!

If I remember right, he didn't switch to safety until his senior year. Along with Brendon Hill, Hamilton made one of the most successful transitions from one side of the ball to the other that I've ever seen.

That 2005 secondary was big, fast, aggressive, smart, and could knock your teeth out.

The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me.

Just ask Hunter Cantwell.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

He roams the Earth, searching for more tampons to push into his nose to try to stop the bleeding.

Click here to destroy wall.

This both disgusting & hilariously true at the same time.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

The most painful part is every time he got annihilated by our defense, they cut to a picture of his mom in the stands with the most horrified look on her face.

I'm waiting for this to become plaid

+20 after two days means it's unlikely

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Safety play was mind blowingly bad last year. The material only thing that changed was Nix. I have to believe his style/philosophy/technique just dod NOT mesh with Bud's. Looking forward to competent safety play that fits the scheme this year.

Related question: Who coaches the whips? LB coach (Bud) or Safeties coach (JHam)? Does this in any way help Devon Hunter's career?

That is a good question. Depending on needs our defense swaps out the whip for the nickel. Are they coached by the same person and if so by whom?

I believe whip is under the safety coach's responsibilities.

Well, it would seem that like Nix's career path our safties regressed. It's becoming pretty clear that his resume reflects his coaching talent vs. a fairly long string of unfortunate events.

Also, didn't we usually have a single DB coach before Fuente?

yes, Safties coach was specifically for Galen Scott. It was also before they added a 10th coach, so I dont think they'll recombine now, but idk.

🦃 🦃 🦃

I wonder how much splitting the coaching of the DBs has affected the defense?

I always felt one of our strengths at DB was how easily we used to move players between safety and cornerback. I would imagine that was because they all had one coach and were even switching it up in practice to learn both positions. Kind of like "walking a mile in the other guy's shoes" to better understand how your roles affect each other.

Maybe it wasn't an issue with Scott. It does seem that something wasn't working with Nix.

I could have sworn that Cavanaugh was safeties coach before he retired.

I believe Cav coached whips and rovers when they were both hybrid positions. Free safeties were in the DB room with the corners. Then Cornell came in and coached just the whips, and rovers became DBs with Torrian. Then whips became linebackers, and I think they're grouped with Bud, so they split the DBs to safeties and corners due to the extra coach.

So... Interesting point.

I went back and looked at the Wikipedia pages for Virginia Tech Football from the first time I could find coaching information (2004) to the last time Jim Cavanaugh is mentioned (2010) and he is listed as coaching the Strong Safeties and Outside Linebackers.

Starting in 2011 Torian Gray is listed as Defensive Secondary Coach (the title morphs over the years but basically equates to all defensive backs). The 2012 and 2015 pages do not list any coaches but I would assume no changes.

I can see how coaching the "outside linebackers" and the strong safeties would be similar due to run stopping duties.

IDK. I guess we're both right.

But... Let's look at some numbers because I haven't done that for a while. What follows is total defensive S&P+, Rushing S&P+ and Passing S&P+ ranking from 2005-2015 with the outside linebackers, then safeties then defensive backs coach in parentheses.

2005: 4,10,4 (Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh, Ward)
2006: 1,1,3 (Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh, Gray)
2007: 3,9,5 (Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh, Gray)
2008: 9,51,2 (Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh, Gray)
2009: 10,42,22 (Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh, Gray)
2010: 31,80,19 (Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh, Gray)
2011: 14,30,27 (Brown, Gray, Gray)
2012: 8,12,16 (Brown, Gray, Gray)
2013: 1,10,4 (Brown ,Gray, Gray)
2014: 11,36,22 (Brown, Gray, Gray)
2015: 18,47,74 (Brown, Gray, Gray)

I guess there's no strong evidence that combining the coaches makes a huge difference.

Maybe it's really about the coaching fit and it's possible Nix did not fit.

I am not sure, but you have to like this:

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

If the safety coaching was so poor we asked the coach to leave I got think this will be good for Devon Hunters development

what does the safety coach have the do with the RBs? semi /s

twitter @smithey_daniel
head scout BSP scouting specializing in north florida/ southern GA highschool football scouting

Every coach (including Hamilton) that was asked at one of the recruiting recap events a few weeks ago said that Hunter would be practicing on defense this spring. The RB thing this past fall sounds very temporary ... basically only happened because Hunter volunteered when the scout team needed an RB due to injury.

I'm glad I read this post before clicking on the one(s) about Nix leaving. Made my day brighter.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

You need to TKP harder. Nix leaving and JHam replacing him has been more than a rumor for days now

"I'm too drunk to taste this chicken" - Colonel Sanders via Ricky Bobby

Normally I would have been TKPing harder, but it's been a crazily busy semester for me.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I haven't been TKP'ing hard enough. Why is this hire a good one? Does he recruit well? I thought this guy came from VMI, no? He isn't even from the 757 area. Just trying to get a feel for everyone's excitement. Is it just his ability to coach better than Nix was able to (ability to relay Bud's concepts better)?

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

Recruiting = yes.
Experience with Bud's scheme = yes.
Can't be worse than Nix = yes.

Bud and Nix responses make sense; however, how is he a recruiting win? I'm not a skeptic, just trying to gain an understanding on how he's a good recruiter?

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

Young, relates to current players well, NFL experience and has been a S&C coach, a DC and support staff.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

NFL experience = YES

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Recruiting = great potential but unknown

Definitely net positive over Nix but I'm going to wait to anoint JHam a good recruiter

True but he got rave review from the TKP board at the NOVA event at the end of January. It seems like he is very outgoing and is great to talk to. Best of all, Hamilton is a Hokie through-and-through. He did whatever it took during his time in Blacksburg and donated to the university too. IMO, he's EXACTLY the kind of guy that we want selling Tech to recruits.

That said, you are correct that I am getting ahead of myself in saying he's a good recruiter. But I am very excited about the tools he can bring to the task.

IMO, he's EXACTLY the kind of guy that we want selling Tech to recruits.

100%. Looking forward to seeing what he can do

So, in other words a real 1st in last out type of coach??

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I've heard he's a real gym rat.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

Reasons for optimism:

  • Former player who has worked his way up the coaching ranks.
  • Familiar with Bud's scheme (played multiple positions in it), which hopefully translates to an improvement over Nix
  • He has a really charasmatic personality that has been on display at fundraising events - most believe this should translate well to recruiting (although he is hardly a 'proven' recruiter).

Twitter me

B19, this helps a bunch, I now recall a comment here or there about his charisma at fundraising events. Guess we'll see if it translates to the recruiting trail.

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

I agree on all points.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

  • Good with the Mommas.

But not TOO good

Not VMI, he's a Hokie.


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Excellent news, IMO. Losing Nix is probably, as mean as it sounds, addition by subtraction. Hopefully Hamilton can get the safeties and LB linked up properly in 2019. BTW, Andy Bitter already has a full article about it on The Athletic for those who subscribe.

Haven't tried The Athletic yet; is it worth it?

they have a promo for 2.99 a month. ive only had it for a month but I pay more than 2.99 for hulu and ive NEVER watched a single thing on it and had it for 2+ years lol ive already read numerous articles on the athletic and not just covering the hokies.

twitter @smithey_daniel
head scout BSP scouting specializing in north florida/ southern GA highschool football scouting

I've been trying to cancel my hulu subscription for the last 5 years. At this point I'm just applauding them because I am functionally incapable of getting it to actually cancel, so I've just accepted my fate.

Allegedly changing mailing address to california is the silver bullet of cancelling all sorts of subscriptions

Danny is always open
23 can't read

Yes. AB has put up some really good content lately, including deep dives/postmortems on the past 20 years of recruiting classes, a deep dive into the Drew Harris story, and some other really good takes. Additionally you get a lot of other good content from other writers - Max Olson had a really good piece about how Charlie Weis fucked up Kansas (when he left they had less than 40 kids on scholarship!), Bruce Feldman had a good signing day piece, Stew Mandel has a bunch of good pieces, etc.

TL;DR - Worth it.

Twitter me

It's restored my faith in journalism. I follow multiple teams, they have some good stories that span leagues if you want larger picture items. Some of the best money I spent last year for sure.

Short answer : Yes.
Long answer : I got it for $2.99/month on a deal. If you search the web and edit the URL you can get yourself a nice discount for the first year. There are so many good articles that I'll probably even renew at full price if I have to pay full price. I'm a big hockey fan and the scouting by Pronman (such an unfortunate name these days) and Wheeler are worth it, plus a the feature articles on players are excellent. A lot of the pro football teams do film breakdowns like French does. The Athletic and TKP are the only subscriptions that I have.

I hopped on pretty early to the Athletic train and it's now a constant go to for great daily content for me. They are constantly expanding and come out with some interesting new article ideas all the time. They are also very pro advanced statistics if you're into that sort of thing especially for baseball.


excellent hire. love it.

I will never forget Hamilton donating $50K to the 4/16 fund after being a 7th round pick. He had signed a 4 yr deal for $1.6M, without considering the structure is $400k/yr, so he handed over 12.5% of his salary that year. NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed, so this was not frivolous cash for a big time baller. I am more than happy that he is joining this staff, guy loves Virginia Tech and I have no doubt he will do everything he can to make Tech football the best it can be.

Local news article

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

Excellent! And now we wait for his role to be filled. Please be D Tapp bringing a present with him

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

Now if we can bring Justin Harper to coach the receivers....oh but he didn't coach at Illinois State...Ouch...:)

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

And neither did Hamilton so maybe we can start a new trend: Must be named Justin.

His son is named Kam.
Just saying.

We can call him Kam Ham.

I like it.

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

I'm making a bold prediction. This is a big lean forward, but i just see a certain alignment happening that just makes sense. Justin Hamilton has the skill set, drive, and love for VT to be Bud Foster's heir apparent. He executed and knows the key parts of Bud's schemes (learned them incredibly fast and understood them quickly). He came to be a part of VT staff at a time when defensive turmoil was happening and he is a key piece to the puzzle to fix some big problems - problems he knows instinctively how to solve.
I've been nervous that with Bud's contract ending after next year that he may be ready to retire. JHam needs more time, and with these staff changes maybe Bud stays a bit longer to mentor a guy he knows gets his schemes and can help cement Bud's legacy as one of the best DCs in college football history.
I know this us a huge reach, but I just have this feeling.....

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

I agree with everything you said except.... if fuente is still the head coach there is NO guarantee that he wants to continue to utilize buds defensive strategies, fuente had no choice when he came in, you cant just move on from one of the best there is, he was forced to inherit bud and buds schemes. fuente may envision a totally different style of defense and if bud retires fuente may want to implement his own defensive strategy and guys to do so leaving all of our ideas of who the next DC should be moot. We all know VT to be a certain kind of defense and its hard to imagine a world that we aren't that attacking, hard hitting, man coverage, turnover producing, getting after the QB, type defense, but there was a time not to long ago that we didn't think we would ever see the day that we were not a power run, hard nose, punch you in the mouth offense either.

twitter @smithey_daniel
head scout BSP scouting specializing in north florida/ southern GA highschool football scouting

I disagree that Fuente was forced to retain Bud. If Fuente hadn't wanted Bud, Galen Scott would have been our DC. (And how fucked would we be right now?)

Fuente meet with Bud specifically because he wanted to work with him, if he felt their coaching styles and philosophies were compatible. Bud is still here because Fuente wanted him to be here. Period, full stop.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

It's not that he didn't want Bud. It's that once Bud is gone he might not want to keep the same defensive scheme without Bud running it. Those are different things

Yeah I was replying specifically to:

he was forced to inherit Bud and Bud's schemes

Nobody forced Fuente to retain Bud.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

Depends on what you think forced means:
Whit: "Justin this is Bud, the best DCs you will ever have the chance to work with, you graduated from the same school, and the fan base loves him. Now you can hire whomever you want but think about this and don't tell me i'm trying to hire a fucking moron as HC."

*may not be an actual quote

Justin Hamilton has the skill set, drive, and love for VT to be Bud Foster's heir apparent.

Is it impossible to think that Torrian is still the smart money for the DC spot (especially if becomes a DC somewhere else)? How bad is Fuente's and Gray's relationship right now?

Really like the pick -- Hokie alum, great playing experience, etc.

I don't care that he doesn't have a ton of coaching experience, J Ham knows what Bud's system needs from its safeties inside and out. (Emphasis on inside.)

No ill will to Nix, but he was a poor fit here. Maybe he would have learned the system, but I'm glad we don't have to wait and see.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

So does Hamilton now perform a miracle (as he did as a player) and convert Hooker to a safety before next season?