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Virginia Tech adds assistants to defensive side of the ball

Tech All-America defensive end Darryl, former Minnesota head coach joining Hokies

Wes McElroy
December 13, 2019 - 4:27 pm

Fuente adds Tapp, Claeys to Virginia Tech coaching staff 

Tech All-America defensive end, former Minnesota head coach joining Hokies


BLACKSBURG – Head coach Justin Fuente announced Friday that 2005 All-America selection Darryl Tapp is returning to Blacksburg to serve as a defensive assistant coach. Regarded as one of the top defensive ends in Hokies’ history, Tapp was selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by Seattle, beginning a productive 12-year pro playing career. 


Fuente also confirmed that he is adding Tracy Claeys to his staff as linebackers coach for the upcoming campaign, taking over those duties from longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster who will retire from coaching following the 2019 season. 


“We’ve wanted to find a way to bring Darryl Tapp back into our program for some time,” Fuente said. “If there is one former player who I’ve consistently heard Bud Foster use as an example of what it means to play defense at Virginia Tech, it’s Darryl Tapp. I know Coach Hamilton feels the same way about Darryl. He’s spent the past two seasons at Vanderbilt and Central Michigan preparing to take the next step in his coaching career. With his ties to the 757 region and his NFL experience, Darryl will be another great addition to our staff.” 


The Chesapeake, Virginia native prepped at Deep Creek High School and came to Tech as a player along with Justin Hamilton and were part of the same class that helped the Hokies win the 2004 ACC Championship. Tapp served as a special teams quality control coach at Vanderbilt in 2019 after beginning his coaching career as a defensive quality control coach at Central Michigan. He also interned with the New Orleans following his NFL playing career. 


“It’s great to be coming home to Virginia Tech,” Tapp said. “I always dreamed of playing at Virginia Tech and being drafted in the NFL. Both of those dreams became realities. Then as my playing days were coming to end, I knew I wanted to eventually get into coaching. In the back of my head, I thought how cool it would be if I ever got a chance to coach at Virginia Tech and share all the lessons I’ve learned over the years. I’m grateful to Coach Fuente for this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started with he and Coach Hamilton.” 


Tapp recorded 10.0 sacks, 14.5 TFL and forced three fumbles during his senior campaign when he earned first-team AFCA All-America honors and was a second-team AP selection. As a freshman in 2002 he scooped up a blocked punt and returned it for a touchdown in a 21-9 win vs. Virginia. He finished his collegiate career with 187 tackles (94 solo), 21.5 sacks and 40.0 TFL to go along with 78 QB hurries. Tapp was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2018.   


In 12 NFL seasons, Tapp played in 165 regular season games (39 starts) and participated in six playoff contests. He enjoyed stints with Seattle (2006-09), Philadelphia (2010-12), Washington (2013), Detroit (2014-15), New Orleans (2016) and Tampa Bay (2017). He accumulated 331 tackles (261 solo), 53.0 TFL, 29.0 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and two INTs with one TD. In 2015, Tapp was the Mike Utley Spirit Award recipient, an honor presented annually by the Detroit Lions to the player who exhibits tremendous spirit, desire, dedication and work ethic.


He and his wife, Tiffany are the parents of two children, Taylor and Darryl II (Deuce).  




Longtime defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys joins Hokies’ coaching staff

Former FBS head coach will coach linebackers for Tech beginning in 2020 


Claeys posted an 11-8 record with back-to-back bowl victories as head coach at Minnesota after taking over the program in November 2015. The Clay Center, Kansas native originally joined the Minnesota staff as defensive coordinator in 2011. He most recently served as defensive coordinator at Washington State. Prior to his stint at Minnesota, Claeys spent three seasons at Northern Illinois (2008-10), seven years at Southern Illinois (2001-07) and two campaigns at Emporia State (1999-2000), serving as defensive coordinator for all three schools. 


“I’m excited to welcome Tracy to Blacksburg,” Fuente said. “Tracy is an outstanding football coach who will serve as another great resource for me, Justin Hamilton and our entire coaching staff. Coach Claeys’ track record as a defensive coach, a recruiter and his longtime association with Jerry Kill were among on the many reasons we wanted him to join us at Virginia Tech. We’re enthusiastic about adding Tracy’s expertise and leadership to our team.” 


“I appreciate Coach Fuente offering me the opportunity to coach at Virginia Tech, a place where there has been such a great history of winning football,” Claeys said. “I’m eager to do everything I can to help Coach Fuente, Coach Hamilton and this staff build on the tradition of tough, hard-nosed football that coaches across the nation associate with Virginia Tech. I’m also excited to continue working with Jerry Kill, who is one of the finest football men I’ve ever been associated with in this game.” 

In his one full season as Minnesota’s head coach Claeys guided the Gophers to a 9-4 record, a 5-4 mark in Big Ten play and a victory over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Minnesota’s nine wins were the most it had earned since winning 10 games in 2003 and were the second most since 1905 when the Gophers also won 10 games.


Minnesota’s defense allowed an average of 22.1 points in 2016, which was the lowest since it allowed 21.9 in 2003. In 2011, when Claeys was in his first year as defensive coordinator, Minnesota allowed 31.7 points, but since then the most it has allowed in a season is 24.2 points. At the conclusion of the 2016 season, the Gophers had held 36 of their last 48 opponents below their scoring average. In 23 of those games, Minnesota held its opposition to eight or more points below their season average and in nine games, the Gophers held their opponents to 14 or more points below their season average. 

During the 2015 season, Claeys guided Minnesota to a 2-4 record after taking over the head coaching duties for the second half of the season. That stint as head coach included a 21-14 win over Central Michigan in the 2015 Quick Lane Bowl. That season the Gophers finished 24th in total defense and 11th nationally in pass defense.


Claeys was the architect of a 2018 Washington State defense that led the Pac-12 Conference in sacks (38.0) and ranked second in tackles for loss (88.0). Under his direction, the Cougars tied for second in the conference in takeaways (23) and finished fourth in total defense (359.2 ypg.). WSU also posted a shutout of San Jose State and saw a Pac-12 best 15 players record a sack. Four Cougars earned All-Pac-12 honors led by defensive lineman Logan Tago who earned second-team honors for the first time in his career. 

In 2008, his first season at Northern Illinois, Claeys and the defensive staff engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in the country, as the Huskies led the MAC in pass defense, scoring defense and total defense. The Huskies finished in the top 20 nationally in three categories – fifth in pass defense, 14th in scoring defense and 17th in total defense. Claeys’ defense topped the MAC and ranked 30th in the country in total defense the following year. The Huskies were also among the top 30 FBS teams in the country in scoring defense that season. 

In 2010, Claeys led a Northern Illinois defensive unit that was ranked No. 14 in the nation and No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 19 points per game. The Huskies were also No. 32 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, No. 27 in total defense and No. 27 in rushing defense in Claeys’ final season.

In his last five years at Southern Illinois, Claeys’ defenses allowed an average of 18.5 points while holding opponents to 14 points or less 21 times, which included five shutouts. In 2007, Southern Illinois reached the FCS national semifinal and its defense ranked as the 10th-best FCS scoring defense in the country and the second-best scoring defense at SIU since 1983. They also intercepted 21 passes to rank fourth in the nation.

In 2004, Southern Illinois led the country in scoring defense, allowing just 13.2 points per game. The Salukis gave up only 101.7 yards per game on the ground while snagging 17 interceptions.

Claeys began his coaching career at Santa Fe Trail High School in 1994. He joined Kill in 1995 at Saginaw Valley State, where he coached the defensive line. Claeys became defensive coordinator at Emporia State in 1999 before taking over those same duties at Southern Illinois in 2001 and Northern Illinois in 2008.

Claeys, who attended both Kansas and Kansas State, graduated with a degree in Mathematics Education in 1994 from Kansas State.