Former Virginia Tech standout J.C. Price joins coaching staff

Adam Lechtenberg, Ryan Smith to take on additional duties for the Hokies

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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Head coach Justin Fuente announced Tuesday that he is adding former Tech defensive tackle J.C. price to his staff as co-defensive line coach/defensive recruiting coordinator. A third-team All-America selection for the Hokies as a senior in 1995, Price was a four-year starter who captained Tech’s 1995 BIG EAST championship team that defeated Texas in the Sugar Bowl. He returns to his alma mater after spending the past nine seasons at Marshall University, most recently as co-defensive coordinator (2019-20).

Fuente also announced on Tuesday that Adam Lechtenberg is adding offensive recruiting coordinator his duties as running backs coach. Fuente indicated the addition of recruiting coordinator designations for Lechtenberg and Price were part of the continued evolution of Tech’s recruiting and player personnel strategy. In addition, Fuente confirmed that cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith will add passing game coordinator to his duties on the defensive side of the ball, continuing his work with defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton in developing defensive game plans and schemes.

While both Lechtenberg and Price will be heavily engaged in the prospect evaluation process, Lechtenberg and Price will now oversee their respective sides of the ball from the coaching side of the recruitment process. The entire coaching staff will continue working in conjunction with director of player personnel Mark Diethorn and his staff to identify and recruit student-athletes who will excel at Virginia Tech and help win football games.

“First and foremost, we’re excited to welcome J.C. and his family back to Blacksburg,” Fuente said. “J.C. played an integral role in establishing Tech’s winning tradition and helping the Hokies earn a place on the national stage. We’re not only adding a coach who owns nearly two decades of coaching experience, but J.C. also brings another talented recruiter to our ranks. He possesses a long history of strong relationships with high school coaches across Virginia, particularly in the 757, Richmond and Northern Virginia. He’ll be great fit with the rest of our staff and I know our players will respect what J.C. has accomplished both as a player and a coach.”

Price served on the Marshall staff as defensive line coach from 2012-17 before being promoted to assistant head coach in 2018 and then being elevated to co-defensive coordinator in 2019. Named the Conference USA Recruiter of the Year in 2015, Price was part of seven Marshall squads that earned bowl berths, the 2014 C-USA championship, as well three C-USA East Division titles.

“I’m grateful to Coach Fuente and Coach Hamilton for the opportunity to coach at a place I love so much,” Price said. “My wife and I are both proud Virginia Tech alums, so the chance to bring our family back to Blacksburg is an incredible blessing. I’m looking forward to working with the entire staff that Coach Fuente has assembled. And rest assured, it’s going to be my distinct pleasure to extol the virtues of Virginia Tech on the recruiting trail. I’ll do everything I can to bring the right kind of young men into our program. Go Hokies!”

Price is married to the former Jenny Root, who was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. A standout for the women’s basketball program, her 1,582 career points still rank as the fifth-highest total in Hokies’ history.

Prior to his tenure with the Thundering Herd, he spent eight seasons as defensive line coach/run game coordinator at James Madison (2004-11). The Dukes won the FCS national title in 2004 and also qualified for the FCS playoffs in 2006, 2007 and 2008. His defensive line was a key reason JMU set an FCS single-season record with 57.0 sacks in 2004. The Dukes also led all FCS teams with 47.0 sacks in 2006. In 2009, he coached DE Arthur Moats, who won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top FCS defensive player in the nation.

Price began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant for Tech from 2002-04. A third-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in the 1996 NFL Draft, he also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals (1996-97) before injuries curtailed his pro playing career. The Dunkirk, Maryland native was a four-year letterman for the Hokies, earning third-team All-America honors from AP as a senior, as well as first-team All-BIG EAST accolades.

Price is one of seven former Virginia Tech players currently serving in full-time roles on Coach’s Fuente’s staff. He joins Justin Hamilton (defensive coordinator/safeties) and Jack Tyler (linebackers) on the coaching staff. Other former Tech student-athletes associated with the program include Pierson Prioleau (director of player development – defense), Corey Fuller (asst. director of player personnel), Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (asst. director of player personnel) and Ryan Shuman (director of football strength & conditioning).

In addition to the hiring of Price, Fuente also elaborated further on the changes the changes he’s made to recruiting and coaching responsibilities on his staff.

“Both Adam and J.C. possess the acumen it takes to not only evaluate talent, but to also forge the relationships with players, coaches and families that it takes to sustain long-term success in recruiting,” Fuente said. “Recruiting remains a team effort between the coaching and personnel staffs. With that said, I thought it was important to recognize the abilities that Adam and J.C. in the recruiting arena, while also elevating their profile and providing additional structure to our process.

“Adam will coordinate with the rest of the offensive coaches on the evaluation and recruitment of offensive players, while J.C. will handle similar duties with the defensive staff,” he continued. “Certainly there will be a continued focus on the state of Virginia, as well as the rest of our regional footprint. And we’re certainly willing to explore other areas of the country, as well. J.C.’s longstanding ties to the 757 region and background as an NFL draftee clearly make him a great fit for this role. Adam has really proven his merit in the recruiting space on the offensive side and has been very tenacious in his pursuit of players from across the country who fit our program.”

Lechtenberg was promoted to running backs coach in December 2019 after previously serving as assistant head coach/executive director of player development. In that role, Lechtenberg worked directly with Fuente in overseeing the program’s recruiting efforts and managing Tech’s roster. The Butte, Nebraska native originally joined the Virginia Tech staff as director of player development in March 2017 and worked on Fuente’s staff at Memphis from 2012-15.

Smith will take on an even larger role with Tech’s defense by adding passing game coordinator duties to his role. The King George, Virginia native joined the Hokies as cornerbacks coach in 2019 after spending the 2019 campaign coaching safeties and serving as the pro scout liaison at James Madison University. In September 2020 he was one of only two ACC staffers to be named to the 30 Under 30 list of rising college football stars compiled by 247Sports.

“Ryan has definitely earned more responsibility with our staff and he continues to display why he has such a bright football future,” Fuente commented. “Certainly we all faced many challenges in 2020, but every time we needed to lean even harder on Ryan last season, he was ready for the moment and rose to the occasion. Our cornerback room and our team improved under his guidance and I’m confident he’ll continue to make a significant impact for us as a coach and a recruiter going forward.”

A 2014 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Smith helped continue the growth of CB Chamarri Conner, who led the Hokies with 81 total tackles last season. He was also credited with the rapid development of CB Dorian Strong, who was named the 247Sports True Freshman All-America Team. Smith played in 22 career games for William & Mary and was a two-time CAA Academic All-Conference honoree.