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Oct. 8, 1999

Technically, he represents the newest member of Virginia’s coaching staff, but for many fans offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill is a familiar face on the Cavalier sidelines.

Tranquill was the quarterbacks coach for Virginia from 1987-1990, and he returns to UVa this season after spending the past four years as Michigan State’s offensive coordinator. During his earlier tenure as a Virginia assistant coach, he worked with Cavalier quarterbacks Scott Secules and Shawn Moore. Under Tranquill’s guidance, Moore led UVa to its first ever national number one ranking while finishing fourth in the 1990 Heisman Trophy balloting. With such a successful track record, it should come as no surprise to see him back in the Virginia coaching booth. His recent return to Virginia marks the third time Tranquill has worked with head coach George Welsh. This prior experience makes adjusting to Welsh’s coaching philosophies that much simpler. “Any time you work for somebody a couple of times, you get to know more about them — what they like and don’t like, how they like to practice, and how they handle game administration,” said Tranquill. “That makes it a lot easier than when it is your first time [working with a particular coach].”

No stranger to the game, Tranquill enters his 37th year of coaching this season. He has coached in some of college football’s premiere conferences including the ACC, the Big Ten, and the Big East. In addition, Tranquill spent three years in the NFL as the quarterbacks coach for the Clevleland Browns. While part of the Browns organization, he worked with such noteable quarterbacks as Vinny Testeverde and Bernie Kosar. Even with such a wide variety of coaching experience, Tranquill takes a very simple approach to the game. “The basics of football remain the same at any level or at any school,” said Tranquill. “You have to be able to block better than the opponent, you have to tackle better than the opponent, and you have to throw and catch better than you opponent in order to win.”

Whether it is a college or professional football program, the main goal for both the players and coaches reamains the same — produce victories. When adjusting to a new system, Tranquill often tries to concentrate on the team’s strenghs. His philosopy is to mold the offense around the most talented players. “I think the biggest thing you do is place more emphasis on getting the ball to your outstanding players,” said coach Tranquill. “You organize your system the way you think best suits the team you have and try to figure out ways to get the ball to the players that can make plays.”

So far this season, the Cavaliers have done exactly that. Throughout the year, Virginia has looked to receiver Kevin Coffee, quarterback Dan Ellis, and running back Thomas Jones for big plays. In each of their first four games, Viginia has consistently called on Jones to carry a good portion of the offensive load. In the season opener against North Carolina, he carried the ball 35 times, which matched his career high. Though opposing defenses take extra measures to stop the rushing attack, Jones ultimately finds a way to produce. “He’s done pretty well with all the eight man fronts to this point,” said Tranquill. “If we can throw it to him a little bit, pick and choose how we throw it and how we give him the ball, I think maybe he will be even more effective.”

In order for Jones to become more productive, new starting quarterback Dan Ellis must also continue to improve. When Tranquill rejoined the Cavalier coaching staff earlier this spring, he immediately faced the challenge helping a young quarterback adjust to his role as starter. He did not know how Ellis would react in real game situations, but, after the season’s first four games, the junior play caller has shown a great deal of promise. “I think there is no substitute for experience. I think Dan has the right nervous system — he is always calm and never gets rattled,” said Trainquill. “I think he is just going to keep getting better the more snaps he takes.”

With a maturing quarterback, talented receivers, and one of the nation’s top running backs, offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill has all the components to produce a high scoring offense. Entering tonight’s contest against arch-rival Virginia Tech, the Cavalier offense will get a true test as it faces one of the nation’s toughest defenses. Tranquill’s gameplan of getting the ball to our key players while executing the fundamentals might just be what it takes to keep the Commonwealth Cup at Mr. Jefferson’s University.

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