The Virginia Tech Hokies have announced Brent Pry as their new head coach ahead of the 2022 football season. Pry was previously the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Penn State since 2016.
The past defenses for Penn State have often been nationally-ranked. In 2017, Pry earned his first Broyles award nomination, a year in which his defense finished seventh in sacks per game and scoring defense. The Penn State defense under Pry’s leadership has never ranked below 55th on a national level.
The Nittany Lions defense have had various players advance to the NFL through Pry’s defenses. Some prominent names include Micah Parsons, Yetur Gross Matos, and Odafe Oweh.
It is a return to a familiar home for Pry, who grew up playing football at Lexington High School in Virginia. He also was a part of Virginia Tech’s coaching staff from 1995-1997 as a Graduate Assistant.
Former Virginia Tech coach and Hall of Famer Frank Beamer spoke highly of Pry, “Virginia Tech is getting a great coach and a wonderful fit for our football program in Brent Pry,” Beamer said. “I’m confident that he’ll do a tremendous job as head coach of the Hokies.”
Pry arrives in Blacksburg with widespread praise from many media sources and Virginia Tech fans alike. That being said, how good of a hire is this for the Hokies? Will Pry be the coach to lead the team back to the top of the ACC?
Justin Fuente started off hot during his tenure at Virginia Tech, but posted a 10-11 record since 2020 and saw the end of the Hokies record-holding bowl streak. Pry is looked to take this team back to a defensive powerhouse as Tech was known during Beamer’s and Bud Foster’s tenure.
Is Pry the best available coaching choice for the Virginia Tech Hokies to regain their former glory?
Many expected Tech to sign an experienced head coach, with names like Billy Napier, Bill O’Brien, and Jamey Chadwell often the suitors mentioned. Even candidates such a Iowa State’s Matt Campbell were even hoped for if the Hokies wanted to push for the top of the ACC.
The ACC is a power five conference and with Pittsburgh and North Carolina on Tech’s schedule every year, it will prove to be a challenge for Pry. If he reaches ACC Championship aspirations, Pry will have to take down surging teams such as Wake Forest and Clemson.
Virginia Tech is expected to make a bigger impact recruiting in-state, as Pry has helped Penn State pick talent from the local area. Even Athletic Director Whit Babcock said, “He and his staff will aggressively recruit our region to keep in-state recruits’ home and attract the talent necessary to win championships in Blacksburg.”
The Hokies could have gotten other non-proven coaches like Tom Elliott or Mike Elko, who are famed recruiters for their respective universities and would have either been just as good or better recruiters than Pry.
The problem with Pry is that he could be a ‘needle mover’ for the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies have seen their program fall from grace and hit football Purgatory. A team so used to competing for ACC titles ever since their transfer from the Big East could have used a big name to re-spark excitement in their program.
Fans are showing excitement for their new head coach and players have to be thrilled to have Pry over Fuente. However, if you look at power five schools like LSU, Florida, and USC, all of whom have made large hires during this coaching carousel, the Hokies have hired a lower-tier head coach on paper.
This brings us to a concern for the state of the Virginia Tech Hokies football program. Pry could succeed at Virginia Tech and excel the program to its former glory. On the other hand, he could just as easily struggle like similar coaches in the ACC with no former head coaching experience, like Manny Diaz and Jeff Hafley.
Pry does bring a strong sense of urgency back to the Hokies football team and will look to reinvigorate that culture in Blacksburg. However, this job was going to be a challenge for any head coach hire and will be even more of a challenge for Pry’s first head coaching gig.