BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s coaching staff is complete.
Coach Justin Fuente announced James Madison assistant Ryan Smith as the team’s new defensive backs coach. Smith spent the 2019 season as JMU’s safeties coach and pro scout liaison.
The Dukes reached the FCS title game this season with one of the top defenses in the country. They ranked third in scoring defense (14.9 points per game allowed) and first in total defense (264.7 yards allowed). Smith’s safeties accounted for 11 of the team’s 17 interceptions.
Smith previous stops include two seasons coaching defensive backs at Elon (2017-18) and two years as a graduate assistant at Penn State (2015-16) under James Franklin. He replaces former Tech defensive backs coach Brian Mitchell, who was let go after the end of the regular season.
Mitchell had coached Tech’s defensive backs since 2016.
“I’m honored to accept this opportunity to coach at a place like Virginia Tech,” Smith said in a release. “I grew up admiring the Hokies playing hard-hitting defense and being opportunistic on special teams. To have an opportunity to help carry on that tradition under Coach Fuente is truly a blessing. I can’t wait to be on the sideline at Lane Stadium and feel the passion of the fans as Hokie Nation starts jumping.”
Smith’s in-state ties — he’s a William and Mary alum who grew up outside Fredericksburg — were an important factor for Fuente. Smith graduated from William and Mary in 2014. He had 47 tackles with one interception and 10 pass breakups in 12 starts as a senior.
Fuente added fellow Virginia native and famed Hokies alum Darryl Tapp to the staff last month.
“As a collegiate player he was groomed for a future in our profession by head coach Jimmye Laycock at William and Mary,” Fuente said in a release. “He played the cornerback position for Coach Laycock and he was born and raised in Virginia. Ryan has grown at each stop of his coaching career and he’s earned the opportunity to join us at Virginia Tech. He’ll be a good fit with Coach Hamilton and the rest of our defensive staff.”
Smith inherits one of the best starting defensive back tandems in the ACC with both Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller returning.
Farley was voted first-team All-ACC with 16 passes defended and four interceptions. Waller was an All-ACC honorable mention with 10 pass breakups and three interceptions. Pro Football Focus, an analytics website, had them as the highest-graded corners in the conference with a minimum of 200 snaps (Farley at No. 1 with a 90.3 grade and Waller at No. 2 with 84.5).