Chris Barclay's new job is to help rebuild a William and Mary running game that graduated its Chris Barclay.
The 2005 ACC player of the year and Wake Forest's career rushing leader, Barclay is the Tribe's new running backs coach. He replaces Brendan Nugent, who after five years on Jimmye Laycock's staff has taken a special teams assistant's position with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes.
As Mike Singletary, Isiah Thomas and countless others have demonstrated, outstanding players don't necessarily make quality coaches. But at first blush, Barclay appears an ideal fit.
He certainly knows the position. He rushed for 4,032 yards and 40 touchdowns at Wake Forest and as a senior became the first Deacon since quarterback Jay Venuto in 1979 voted ACC player of the year.
Barclay bounced around the NFL from 2006-08, appearing in four games with the Tennessee Titans and one with the New Orleans Saints. He returned to Wake Forest, earned his degree and worked two seasons under coach Jim Grobe, in 2010 as a recruiting assistant, last season as a graduate assistant on the defense.
Perhaps most important, Barclay knows William and Mary's academic and athletic cultures. That's because they're similar to Wake Forest's.
"I was very thrilled to hear as I sat down with Coach Laycock when I came to visit a couple of weeks ago that how he runs his program is very similar to Coach Grobe," Barclay said Wednesday. "They do it the right way. They win, but they do it the right way. They don't cross the line, and it's very black-and-white. That excited me, because I have the utmost respect for Coach Grobe."
In 11 seasons at Wake Forest, Grobe is 68-67 with five bowl appearances, a remarkable record given the Deacons' bleak history. Grobe is a long-time chair of the American Football Coaches Association's ethics committee, and in 2006 he coached Wake Forest to its first ACC championship in 36 years.
"In a day and age when it seems that integrity is overlooked quite a bit, he's maintained that," Barclay said. "He plays it by the book. He's not going to cheat or bend the rules.
"In that regard, I think there's a lot of carry over and consistency between the two programs because of the head man. Each guy has very similar qualities."
Nugent said leaving Laycock's program was difficult, but that working for Montreal coach Marc Trestman, a former NFL offensive coordinator, "is one of those opportunities, you don't know how often they're going to come along."
Barclay, 28, felt the same about landing his first full-time coaching job at William and Mary. Laycock and Grobe are friends, as are members of their staffs such as the Tribe's Bob Solderitch and Scott Boone, and the Deacons' Brian Knorr and Steed Lobotzke.
"A few phone calls were made, and here we are today," Barclay said of the Wake Forest-William and Mary ties.
The Nugent-to-Barclay transition occurs as William and Mary adjusts to life without Jonathan Grimes, the school's career rushing leader. He ran for 4,541 yards and also set Tribe records for all-purpose yards (7,955) and kickoff return yards (2,289).
"I see all the memorabilia, and everyone talks about what a wonderful player he was," Barclay said. "I've watched some film on him, and he was an outstanding football player. … At the same time, I'm excited about the group that we have coming back. It's a fairly young group, and they're attentive and focused.
"As long as we can show up every day with a willingness to work hard and improve our craft, I think we can be just as productive, maybe even more productive, by committee."
The leader of that committee figures to be redshirt sophomore Keith McBride, who as Grimes' primary backup last season rushed for 281 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. McBride is nursing an ankle injury, but Barclay hopes to "showcase" him in Saturday's spring game.
"He's a great talent," Barclay said. "He's got great size (6-foot, 210 pounds). He runs physical, and is one of our fastest backs. Guys like that, you've got to find ways to get them the ball, get them in space."
Barclay will recruit the Interstate 85 corridor in Virginia and help Solderitch mine North Carolina. He considers coaching his career calling.
"Obviously there's a lot I need to learn," he said. "Things are going about 100 miles an hour right now just going back and forth between human resources and being over here trying to learn the playbook."
W&M spring game
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Zable Stadium, Williamsburg.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times