It didn't take Alabama long to take advantage of its wide receivers on Monday night - and it's former Virginia Tech assistant coach Holmon Wiggins who aided their progress this season.
Crimson Tide quarterback Matt Jones used a lot of his weapons on their opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter against Ohio State in the CFB title contest.
Involved in that first drive was Alabama wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, a senior who had 105 catches going into Monday. He worked this season under wide receiver coach Wiggins, who had the same role with the Hokies from 2015-18.
Smith thanked Wiggins for "helping me day in and day out, watching film, making me a better player" when he accepted the Heisman, according to New Mexico paper.
Ohio State Coach Ryan Day was a quarterback at New Hampshire and threw for 238 yards against JMU in 2001, according to the Dukes' athletics communication staff.
"This is why you come to Ohio State - try to win a national title," Day told the ESPN audience before the game Monday.
Besides Wiggins, there were several other Virginia ties to the game.
The associate head coach and defensive line coach for the Buckeyes is Larry Johnson, the former coach at T.C. Williams High in Alexandria.
Last year he coached defender Chase Young, who was a rookie standout this year for Washington of the NFL. Eight future first-round picks in the NFL have played for Johnson.
“I’m a relationship guy and I think in order to get the best out of your players you have to develop relationships,” Johnson said on the Ohio State athletic website. “I’m also a teacher. I like to teach the basic fundamentals of football. I want guys who are fundamentally sound and have the ability to play fast and to play relentless.”
Johnson was at T.C. Williams in 1992-93 and also coached high school football in Maryland. Another football coach at T.C. Williams brought fame to the school: the late Herman Boone, who was portrayed in the movie "Remember The Titans" by Denzel Washington.
Two juniors linebackers from Virginia with Ohio State this season were Teradja Mitchell of Virginia Beach and K'Vaughan Pope, from Dinwiddie High.
Mitchell is a product of Bishop Sullivan Catholic in Virginia Beach and was one of the top linebackers in the country in high school. Pope played in five games and has two tackles for the Buckeyes prior to the game Monday.
The safeties/special teams coordinator for Ohio State is Matt Barnes, who was a coach at West Virginia Wesleyan in 2010-11.
Wiggins was with the Hokies from 2015-18 and worked with Cam Phillips, who became the school leader in catches and receiving yards. Phillips, part of the practice squad roster briefly for Carolina this year in the NFL, and Young of Washington are both products of powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High in Maryland.
Alabama associate head coach/running backs Charles Huff was a captain for the team at Hampton University in southeast Virginia in 2005. Alabama line coach Kyle Flood is a former assistant at Delaware of the CAA and Hofstra, a former CAA member which dropped football about 12 years ago. The game ended too late for this edition. For more, check dnronline.com.
JMU Men Add Games
The JMU men's basketball team will now play on Saturday at Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association, with the schedule adapting due to COVID-19 reasons in the league. JMU will now host the Tigers in Harrisonburg on Jan. 27. JMU and Towson were originally slated to play Jan. 3 and 5.
Due to the pandemic, Coach Mark Byington said it has been hard the past year to have in-depth talks in person about social protests but some of those discussions have taken place. "I think everyone was in shock," he said Monday of the reaction of his team to the events in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
JMU Women: No Takers
Sean O'Regan, the head coach of the JMU women, put out on social media a call for an opponent for a midweek game this week. "No takers," he said Monday. The Dukes are now slated to play this weekend at Elon but O'Regan will not make the trip since he tested positive for the virus last week. "This thing is scary," he told the media Monday, though he is symptom free.
ODAC Policy For Fans
The Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Presidents Council endorsed a conference policy that will prohibit spectators at any ODAC indoor athletic event for the upcoming spring campaign, the Forest-based league announced Monday.
"Decision-making throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on the health of the individuals within the ODAC's athletic arenas and a safe return to competition. Enacting this policy will allow campus administrations to control athletic environments as we collectively work towards a return to play," the statement said. "This decision affects all conference indoor sports including basketball, indoor track & field, swimming, and volleyball. ODAC leadership will continue to monitor the landscape surrounding the pandemic. Should any changes be made to the spectator policy, updates will be conveyed thru conference office and member institution communication channels."
Bridgewater and EMU, members of the ODAC, both begin play in basketball later this month.