Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 12, 2012

Games that count

BLACKSBURG, Va. — High school football teams have scrimmages, and the NFL has preseason games.

College football has ... games that count.

No wonder coaches like Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer are a little uneasy as the first game approaches, knowing when Georgia Tech arrives at Lane Stadium on Sept. 3, that the game is for real.

“I always thought it made sense to have a spring game against another team because you just run out of bodies,” said Beamer, during the Hokies’ media day on Saturday at Lane Stadium. “I thought it would be good to have an exhibition game against another program.

“It has never seemed to be able to get it done, but that is the one thing I think is very, very tough.”

Beamer understands the Hokies aren’t any different than anyone else, but it would be nice to at least work out against a team in another uniform.

“We are all in it together, we are all in the same boat,” Beamer said. “In college, that is the only place where the first place you keep score for real is against your first opponent and you don’t have any warm-up games or exhibition games or a game to get the kinks out.”

Entering his 26th season as head coach at Virginia Tech, Beamer and his staff will be making some key decisions for the Hokies today as the season opener approaches in just 22 days.

Virginia Tech donned the shoulder pads for the first time on Saturday, and will do it in a scrimmage today, with decisions made afterward on which newcomers from a highly-touted freshman class will play this season and who will be redshirted and relegated to watching the games from the sidelines.

“I think practice is going very, very well, I think our practice, our learning, our mind on business has been great...,” Beamer said. “We will come back after that practice tomorrow and try to make some decisions about who do we redshirt, and basically try to get our travel squad down for the Georgia Tech game.

“We have a lot of big decisions to make here in the next couple of days.”

It might be even more important than normal this season. While the Hokies are expected to be loaded on defense, the offense lost just about every starter, including ACC Player of the Year David Wilson at tailback, highly-productive receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin and four lineman.

However, Beamer is pleased so far with the development of several athletes, including the true freshmen tailback duo of Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman, along with returnees Tony Gregory and Martin Scales.

“I think we have got some quality kids, some of these freshmen tailbacks are good,” said Beamer, whose Hokies will benefit from the second year as a starter for quarterback Logan Thomas. “I think our biggest thing at tailback is which three or which four we are going to work with and get them some reps.

“We have to make some tough decisions and that is what these next couple of days are for to make some tough decisions.”

While the inclination might be to throw the ball more with such youth in the backfield and on the line, Beamer doesn’t plan to change the formula Virginia Tech has used for success during his tenure in Blacksburg.

“I think it has always been our philosophy to be a team that can throw the football and be a team that can run the ball,” said Beamer, who is the active winningest coach in Division I football with 251 victories between Virginia Tech since 1987 and Murray State from 1981-86. “There are times you have got to do it, there are times you have got to run, there are times you have got to throw.

“The defense knows you are going to throw it and the defense knows you are going to run it and if you are going to have a really good football team you are going to have to able to do both.

“That has always been our objective is to be that way.”  

While the offense continues to be a work in progress, the defense — long a mainstay among the top programs in the nation — returns numerous starters, and depth from players who missed time last season with injuries.

 Yet, Beamer sees similar potential on offense, including on the line with returnees Nick Becton and Vinston Painter, who do have some experience on the field.

“Defensively we gained some maturity as we went through the season last year, and the offensive line, we lost some starters there, but we are probably as athletic as we have ever been there,” Beamer said. “You take our two tackles, Becton and Painter, and we have probably never been that big and that talented with two tackles.

“To get those guys where they are playing on a consistent basis, neither one of them has started the whole time, but so I feel like the whole football team, we have got work to do...”

With no other opponents to face in the preseason, the Hokies do like everyone else at the college level and work against themselves.

“It takes a lot of good work from your own team, we work against each other,” Beamer said. “Our offense works against our defense a lot in the preseason where you get good work and you are going full speed.

“The offense making the defense better, the defensive line making the offensive line better, it is such an important time to get great work.”

While Beamer likes the talent on the Hokies, he isn’t sure how so many youngsters will respond when the lights are bright and crowd is jumping when Virginia Tech hosts Georgia Tech on Labor Day night.

“Not knowing and not having been there on a nationally televised game on Monday night with the whole country watching you, you just don’t know how those guys are going to react,” Beamer said. “The good part of it is I think we really have some talented kids.

“Trying to get them to a point where they can function and play in a consistent manner, that is the challenge, but you kind of like that.”

Taking advantage of all the practice time will be key as September closes in.

“I have been in situations where no matter how hard you coached you weren’t going to get much better and that is not the way I feel with these kids,” Beamer said. “I feel like they have a bright future and we have to coach them up.

“They want to too. Everybody is trying to do the same thing, I think every practice is important, every period is important, every play that you get is important. You have to approach it that way and see where you are.”

Virginia Tech has won the ACC title four times since joining the league in 2004, and have been to the ACC championship game in five of the seven years it has been played.

As is usually the case, the Hokies are considered a favorite in the Coastal Division to challenge for more hardware in 2012.

It could happen, but Beamer knows there is plenty to do to get to that point.

“We are not a good, good football team right now,” Beamer said, “but we have got the possibility of being a good, good football team.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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