Posted on: April 18, 2011 5:06 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
There have been several reasons to keep your eye on spring practice in Blacksburg. The defending ACC Champions have been adjusting to live without Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor, with touted signal-caller Logan Thomas getting adjusted to the new position. You have the storyline of the explosive David Wilson assuming a running back position that was shared for most of the 2010 season. You have a defense that will be looking to reload and bounce back from a season that was uncharacteristic at times for the Bud Foster era.
But what about the search for a starting punter?
The open compeition on the special teams unit includes Scott Demler, Ethan Keyserling, Grant Bowden, Connor Goulding, and starting wide receiver Danny Coale.
Coale broke out last season for the Hokies, finishing second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. But with the position open, Coale has expressed serious interest in getting back into the kicking game.
"I was just kind of thinking to myself there wasn't a set punter," Coale said. "There has been (a set punter in the spring for Tech) in the past. I've punted in the past and I really enjoy it. Punting is something I love. I've done it since I was little. My dad taught me how to do it, so once I kind of realized there's an opportunity, I wanted to try it and give it a shot. It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it at some point. I don't know."
For three seasons at Episcopal High School, Coale took care of both the kicking and punting as well as being the primary return man for both. Coale may not be the primary man for the job, but he has just as much college punting experience as the rest of the compeittion (none). He has always fooled around punting before practices, but this spring is the first time he has taken the opportunity seriously.
"Everybody asks if I'm serious, and I am," said Coale explained recently. "I'm completely serious. I don't know if I need to get a punting shoe or what I need to do to let everybody know I'm serious. Maybe the one-bar (helmet cage design) across the front."
I don't think that adding Coale to that aspect of special teams will have any "Beamer Ball" mystique, though it doesn't hurt to have that talent stuffed away on your roster. Coale may be serious, but he is obviously utilizing this opportunity to have a bit of fun as well. As a senior, Coale will need to be one of the leaders of a young offense - as well as a big play threat for Logan Thomas. Last season Coale stepped up down the stretch for the Hokies, pulling in a 40+ yard reception in 4 of the final 5 games. When things get tough for the first-time starter, he will need Coale to get out of tough spots.
If he can't, then Coale might have to stay on the field to punt. Not exactly the "win-win" Frank Beamer is looking for if you ask me.
Posted on: April 5, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:32 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Virginia Tech , who started spring practice on Wednesday.
With turnover at several key positions, will the Hokies be able to fill the holes and successfully defend their position atop the ACC?
After Virginia Tech started last season with losses to Boise State and James Madison in a five day span, the college football world was ready to file the 2010 Hokies into the "bust" category. But when the Hokies fell from the spotlight, they dug down and pulled off an 11-game win streak that finished with their fourth ACC Championship in seven years. As the Hokies lifted the trophy in Charlotte under a monsoon of oranges, head coach Frank Beamer spoke about the character and fight of a Hokie squad that refused to quit. At season's end, eleven players were named to either the first or second all-conference teams, and senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor was crowned the ACC Player of the Year.
But as the Hokies are preparing for 2011, things look a little different in Blacksburg. The Hokies bring back 12 starters from 2010, including five of those all-conference selections. But many of the names and faces that helped bring in three ACC Championships in the last four years are now gone, leaving those positions open for the next crop of headline-grabbing Hokies in 2011.
The most noticeable and arguably most important transition is at the quarterback position. With Taylor gone, the signal-calling responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas. Don't try to hit Thomas with questions about "filling Tyrod Taylor's shoes," because the 6-foot-6 245 pound quarterback wears size-18. Thomas has spent the last two years in meetings with Taylor, watching what he watches becoming familiar with quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain. Recruited by some as a tight end that could see the field right away, Thomas opted to bide his time waiting behind Taylor. His arm strength has been praised by anyone who has watched him throw, and his reported 4.6 40-yard dash makes him just as much of a threat running the ball as Taylor was before him. If Thomas can get in a rhythm with his receivers and improve his accuracy, he could prove to eventually be just as much of an offensive threat at Taylor was in 2010. He knows the history of quarterbacks under Frank Beamer, and Thomas appears to understand the importance of that leadership quality. On the first day of spring ball, he was asked if he had a mental checklist of things to improve.
“I was writing down some goals today for the spring," Thomas explained. "Just get command of the offense, get used to my players, more familiar with the playbook, get great accuracy and just get the team to feel more comfortable with me and how I play, just get the respect from the coaches and everyone around. It’s written down in the first page of my playbook.”
Virginia Tech will also suffer from the loss of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Both running backs had stellar freshman seasons, with Evans being named the Orange Bowl MVP at the end of the 2008 season and Williams earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2009. Last season was the first time that both backs saw the field at the same time, which combined with David Wilson's emergence made for one of the most dangerous backfields in the conference. But in that system with three all-conference caliber running backs, the responsibility was evenly spread week in and week out. With Evans and Williams taking their talents to the next level, Wilson must carry a significantly larger load in the Hokies backfield.
The junior from Danville, VA was one of the Hokies' all-conference selections for his work as a return specialist. Wilson led the ACC last season averaging 26.55 yards per kickoff return, and ran back two for touchdowns. Even sharing snaps at running back, Wilson displayed his "home-run" potential. Wilson broke at least one run of 15 yards or more in eight different appearances last season, averaged 15.6 yards per reception as a dangerous threat in the passing game.
If Wilson can maintain that level of production consistently, he will easily become one of the most important pieces to the Hokies' success. The big question for the spring will be how the rest of the depth chart shapes out behind him. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Josh Oglesby (converted from fullback) and Tony Gregory are the only other scholarship players at the position. Wilson not only will have the opportunity to shine in the running attack, it will be expected.
Virginia Tech also is dealing with depth issues on the defensive line. Starters Steven Friday and John Graves have graduated, and Chris Drager has been moved to tight end. Bud Foster's best defenses have been anchored by a solid defensive line that seems to cue turnovers by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Kwamaine Battle will return to the field after tearing his ACL in the second game of the season, as will his replacement Antoine Hopkins. But the Hokies will be putting a lot of faith in redshirt freshmen James Gayle and J.R. Collins to contribute immediately.
But even amidst the depth and development questions, you can't help but feel like the Hokies are still going to contend for the ACC Coastal Division title. Frank Beamer has led the Hokies to double-digit wins in 10 of the last 12 seasons. This is far from the first time he has entered spring practice with question marks on the depth chart, and it will certainly not be his last. Beamer knows what it will take to make a return visit to the ACC Championship Game, and being in contention is absolutely a realistic expectation for Virginia Tech fans.
A quick glance at the schedule for 2011 will show a slate that should work perfectly for a team breaking in a new starting quarterback. Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall will be the first opponents for the Hokies before hosting Clemson and Miami in back-to-back weeks. Their toughest road opponents will be Georgia Tech and Virginia, but those matchups don't come until the last month of the season. There may not be a lot of national hype around this year's bunch from Blacksburg, but it is not unreasonable to think that they could be back in Charlotte for a rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship game in December.
If that happens, you can bet Logan Thomas' size-18's will be ready to do the best Tyrod Taylor impression you've ever seen.
Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:38 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The annual arrival of spring practice means a lot of things in college football, and one of them is the reshuffling of rosters as the first offseason departures become public knowledge. Just ask Virginia Tech, which yesterday confirmed the transfers out of three players, including veteran starting linebacker Lyndell Gibson.
Gibson had amassed 119 tackles over the course of two seasons and 18 starts, but it's not hard to see why he's no longer a part of the Hokie program:
The announcement comes after Gibson's Feb. 5 arrest for allegedly driving while intoxicated.
Frank Beamer declined to comment on Gibson's situation, but he probably didn't need to. He did confirm that redshirt sophomore Tariq Edwards is currently the front-runner for the starting position vacated by Gibson's departure.
Beamer also confirmed that wide receiver Austin Fuller and defensive back Jacob Sykes will be transferring out of Blacksburg at the end of the semester. Neither was expected to be a major contributor this fall.
That's not to say that between the three of them, the losses haven't done some level of damage to to Tech's depth chart. But with Bud Foster still in charge of the defense and plenty of talented up-and-comers like Adams still on hand, that damage seems highly, highly likely to be minimal.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:52 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When the news broke yesterday that longtime Virgina Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring had been relieved of his play-calling duties (if not the actual title of offensive coordinator) in favor of Mike O'Cain , the immediate question was: Why now? Stinespring's offense had largely succeeded the past two seasons after largely flailing the two before. If Frank Beamer was interested in a change, why after 2010 and not 2008?
The answer, according to Beamer , was that it wasn't him that wanted to shake up the staff ... it was Stinespring himself:
Coach Stinespring was the guy to decide it, and that's the reason we ended up going that way ...The "Logan" in question here is Logan Thomas, the Hokies expected 2011 starter. O'Cain has been Thomas's quarterbacks coach and may have more familiarity with calling plays for a pocket-passer like Thomas (it's worth noting that Stinespring struggled mightily with the similar Sean Glennon and had much, much more success with Tyrod Taylor), leading Stinespring to ask for the reshuffling (and Beamer to agree).
Beamer would dis agree, however, that the reshuffling is a major change for the Hokies, saying that "it’s not as big a deal as maybe you guys would make it out to be." Stinespring is still expected to be a major part of the Hokie game-planning, and Beamer noted that O'Cain was already calling plays during two-minute drills.
But nonetheless, there's few (if any) more crucial in-game decisions for a coaching staff than offensive playcalls. And for the first time in nine years, those calls for the defending ACC champions will now be made by someone other than Bryan Stinespring. Whether that decision was Beamer's or Stinespring's, yes, it's still a big, big deal.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:54 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Bryan Stinespring has been a Virginia Tech assistant for 18 years and has been Frank Beamer's offensive coordinator since 2002. If ever Beamer was going to change the latter arrangement, you'd have expected it to come following the 2007 and 2008 seasons, when Stinespring's attack finished 100th and 103rd in total offense, making him public coaching enemy No. 1 among Hokie fans.
But then Tech vaulted to No. 50 in 2009 and 42nd in 2010, and even those numbers don't do Stinespring justice; the Hokies finished 20th this past season in yards-per-play. The calls for Stinespring's job had gotten noticeably less audible. So he was safe for 2011 at least, right? Wrong :
That's Kyle Tucker of the Virginian-Pilot reporting that the Stinepsring era has officially ended in Blacksburg: he's been moved to position coaching with the tackles and tight ends, with Mike O'Cain taking over as the Hokie play-caller. (Curt Newsome will also move from coaching the entire offensive line to just the guards and centers, apparently.)
The news will likely be welcomed by Hokie fans on two fronts: not only is their object of coordinating scorn removed from the play-calling duties, but O'Cain seems like a quality replacement. The quarterbacks coach at Virginia Tech since 2006, O'Cain has several years of experience both as a head coach (at N.C. State) and an offensive coordinator (at Clemson). How much of an improvement he can make in the Hokie offense without the services of Tyrod Taylor remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that he doesn't have the chops to better Stinespring's spotty record over the long haul.
The question remains, though: why now? Why throw this kind of curveball just when it seemed like Stinespring was getting his feet underneath him? The answer probably lies in the departures of Taylor and backfield mates Darren Evans and Ryan Williams; if Beamer wanted to make a change, starting over with a new quarterback and new running backs seems like a better time to do it than in the middle of Taylor's superstar tenure.
So Hokie fans finally get what they want in the coordinator's chair. Now we'll all see if they get what they want on the field.
UPDATE: Though it appears to be little more than semantics -- and the salary/prestige of the title involved -- multiple reports suggest that though O'Cain will definitely call plays for the Hokies in 2011, Stinespring may still retain his "offensive coordinator" title (even as he works prdominantly with the tackles and tight ends).
Posted on: February 14, 2011 4:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Sometimes Valentine's Day is about reuniting former lovers, and other times it's about reuniting a father and his son. In the case of Virginia Tech, it's the latter this year. The school announced on Monday that Shane Beamer was leaving his position at South Carolina to return to the Hokies as running backs coach.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to return to Virginia Tech,” said Shane Beamer in a release. “I’ve been gone 11 years and during that time I’ve been around a number of great coaches and great programs and had the opportunity to learn a lot. Now, I look forward to returning to Blacksburg and helping Virginia Tech continue to win championships.
“I’m also excited to have the opportunity to be around Coach Hite. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for him and I welcome the chance to learn from him.”
The coach Hite Beamer refers to is Billy Hite, whom he is replacing as running backs coach. Hite has been moved to a new administrative position where he'll serve as an assitant and advisor to Frank Beamer. Hite had been the running backs coach at Virginia Tech for the past 33 years, taking the job under Bill Dooley in 1978. When Frank Beamer took over the job in 1987, he kept Hite on his staff.
Of course, this is not a move motivated by nepotism at all. Shane Beamer has plenty of experience as an assistant throughout college football, and over the last two seasons helped put together a couple of very strong recruiting classes at South Carolina. He helped bring in Marcus Lattimore last season. Odds are that it's those recruiting chops that motivated his father to bring him back to Blacksburg.
Posted on: January 31, 2011 7:10 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Virginia Tech-centric blog Gobbler Country posted an interested study today, examining the breakdown of championship-winning coaches' ages in the modern era of college football. The question raised is "how old is too old," and excepting some obvious outliers, the answer is "younger than you think."
What's even more unsettling to programs with older coaches is the breakdown of championships by age bracket:
Not only is there a precipitous dropoff from the early 50s to 60+, those five titles were won by just three coaches: The aforementioned Bowden with two, Bear Bryant with two, and Joe Paterno -- the three most celebrated coaches of the modern era of I-A football. What's more, Bryant had won his first title at the age of 50, while Paterno won his first at 56. Bowden didn't win his first until he was 64, but that was after six straight top-five finishes in the final poll for Florida State. In other words, each of those three coaches firmly established his national championship bona fides before his 60th birthday, while every other coach who ever hit 60 in the last 50 years was quite evidently past his prime.
It's not really surprising, then, to have seen Maryland jettison longtime head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was 63 at the end of the 2010 and who clearly wasn't about to win a title at such a mediocre football school (no offense, Terps, but let's be honest). Incoming coach Randy Edsall will have just turned 53 at the outset of the 2011 season, and while one might joke that Maryland's only got two seasons of Edsall in his prime before it all goes downhill, it's not as if he's got 15 years in front of him with the Terrapins.
So with all this in mind, here are a few more notable coaches and their ages as of the start of the 2011 season. It would be incorrect to say there's a "new generation" of coaches on the move (seven years or so doesn't really constitute a generational gap) but it's pretty clear that a few of these guys aren't lasting much more than five years -- especially if they're not winning 10 games a year anymore.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 64
Now obviously, not all of these schools are going to win national championships in the next 5-10 years. But by and large, most of these schools do pay their coaches a gigantic salary -- to the point that the expectation of competing on a national level is inevitable. If a coach is struggling in his fourth or fifth year with a program, is an athletic director going to be more apt to fire the coach if he's 57 instead of 47? Is that age discrimination, or common sense?
Tags: Al Golden, BCS Championships, Bear Bryant, Bo Pelini, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Brady Hoke, Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly, Chris Petersen, College Football Coaches, Dan Mullen, Frank Beamer, Gary Patterson, Gene Chizik, Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno, Joe Paterno, Kirk Ferentz, Kyle Whittingham, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, Mack Brown, Mark Richt, Mike Gundy, Mike Leach, Nick Saban, Will Muschamp
Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: January 18, 2011 10:56 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Florida State is an early favorite for 2011 - After dropping back-to-back games to North Carolina State and at home to North Carolina, Florida State looked like they had not completely shaken the consistency issues that have plagued the Seminoles in the last couple of seasons. In order to have a shot at the ACC title, Florida State would need to win out the final month of their ACC schedule. Not only did first-year coach Jimbo Fisher get his team to the ACC Championship Game, but they put up an impressive performance against Virginia Tech then followed it with a convincing win over South Carolina, the champions of the SEC East.
If one of the chief concerns for the Seminoles in 2011 is replacing Christian Ponder, then fans should feel very confident in their chances with E.J. Manuel at the helm. Manuel filled in for Ponder on three different occasions near the end of the season, culminating with his Chick Fil-A Bowl performance that helped seal the 26-17 win for Florida State. Additionally, all three of Florida State's top rushers (who combined collected 1,863 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns) are all returning next season. Florida State not only looks like an early ACC favorite, but perhaps a national favorite as well heading into the 2011 season.
2. If Russell Wilson is done, he went out in style - Russell Wilson was assumed to be as good as gone by many at the conclusion of the 2010 season. The junior quarterback has already been drafted by the Colorado Rockies, is engaged, and would be able to graduate in May if he chooses to do so. But after N.C. State's 23-7 victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl, Wilson hinted that he may have interest in playing football professionally as well.
"I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL one day, and I want to be a starting second baseman in Major League Baseball one day," Wilson said to reporters after the game. "No matter what, I work my butt off every day to try to be the best and that's my mindset."
The January 15 deadline to declare for the NFL draft has come and gone, and if Wilson decides he wants to rejoin the Wolfpack after participating with the Rockies in Spring Training he will still have that option. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker did the same thing heading into the 2010 season with the Tigers. However, if Wilson decides to join the Rockies and start cashing in on his baseball career, he will wrapped up his college football career with a nearly flawless 275 yard, 2 touchdown, 0 interception performance that earned him Champs Sports Bowl MVP honors.
3. Virginia Tech can't shake the big game curse - The Hokies have been incredibly dominant in the ACC since joining the conference in 2004, but they have struggled to match that superiority with big-time wins on the national level. Virginia Tech has won the conference title four times in the last seven years, and appeared in four of the six ACC Championship Games. But against teams ranked in the top 5 nationally, the Hokies are 1-27 all-time and 1-19 during Frank Beamer's tenure in Blacksburg. Many figured that the Orange Bowl would be a chance for the Hokies to shake the stigma of failing to perform against top teams, and at halftime it looked like they might have a chance to pull the upset.
But in the second half Andrew Luck picked apart Bud Foster's defense while Stanford held Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense scoreless while the Cardinal ran away with the 40-12 victory. However, it is important that Hokies fans don't dwell on the failures against the top 5 heading into 2011. With the kind of turnover Virginia Tech is expecting on both sides of the ball, defending their conference title will be a difficult task on its own.
4. ACC Coastal dropped the ball - This is more of a season-long lesson, but the ACC Coastal continued to be the less impressive division through the end of the bowl season. In the preseason polls, there five ACC teams in the Top 25, with four highest ranked teams (Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina) all coming from the Coastal Division. Not only did the balance of power appear to shift towards the Atlantic Division during the season, the bowl records from the postseason also indicate that the Atlantic may be the superior division.
Coastal teams went 1-3 during the postseason, with only North Carolina squeaking out their double overtime win over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. The Atlantic, on the other hand, saw Florida State, Maryland, and N.C. State all pick up impressive victories in their bowl games. With the talent that Florida State and Maryland are bringing back, it would be surprising to see the media side with a new division heading into the 2011 season.
5. Ralph Friedgen left Randy Edsall a winning squad - Friedgen had an emotion al final game as Maryland's head coach, as his team bludgeoned ECU 51-20 in the Military Bowl. The players dedicated the beatdown to their head coach on his way out, capping off an impressive finish to the season that saw the Terps climb one game away from an ACC Championship Game appearance. But the time has come and gone for Ralph Friedgen fans to be upset with his dismissal from Maryland. Former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall has been hired, and the Terps are moving forward. What Friedgen did leave was a young and talented Maryland squad that will be a real threat in 2010. Edsall was a safe hire for athletic director Kevin Anderson, and the former Huskies head coach brought in some firepower with offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.
The last couple seasons have not been pleasant for Crowton, catching the blame from LSU fans for an offense that ranked near the bottom of the SEC in 2009 and 2010. But he saw his most successful season in his first year with Matt Flynn under center, and Terps fans will hope that a talented quarterback like ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O'Brien will recreate that success of the 2007 LSU offense under Crowton's direction.
Tags: ACC, ACC Football, Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder, Clemson, Colorado Rockies, Danny O'Brien, EJ Manuel, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Gary Crowton, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Jimbo Fisher, Kyle Parker, NC State, NFL Draft, North Carolina, Ralph Friedgen, Randy Edsall, Russell Wilson, South Carolina, Stanford, Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, What I Learned, What I Learned Bowl Edition