Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 30, 2014

‘Beamer ball’

Virginia Tech coach back in Bluefield

BLUEFIELD, Va. — It had been five years since Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer had been in Bluefield.

He was back on Wednesday evening, serving as guest of honor at the Virginia Tech Orange and Maroon Caravan at Fincastle on the Mountain.

“We were just talking about it on the way over, what a pretty area it is, and it is beautiful,” Beamer said. “I knew it had been a while since I had been here, I didn’t really realize it had been five years.

“It is good to be back. I have always enjoyed this place, it is a beautiful golf course, a beautiful part of the country, good folks, good people so one of my favorite stops.”

One of his other favorite places to be is in Charlotte, N.C. during the first weekend of December for the ACC championship game. It has been two years since the Hokies have reached that point in the season, and Beamer yearns to get back there.

“Absolutely, that is what you start out working for,” Beamer said. “Our kids are working hard. I really like this group of players so we are going to see how much progress we can make.”

Beamer, who is entering his 27th season at Virginia Tech, answered a plethoria of questions from a small gathering of media before taking part in the Caravan proceedings.  

He was also prepared to answer similar questions from the assembled audience, estimated to be around 150 loyal Hokies’ supporters.

“I will share our accomplishments academically because we have a great track record as far as graduating our kids,” said Beamer, on what his plans were for the evening. “I will share with them how many games we have won in the last few years because we are very high in that regard as far as across the country and some of the other things that are going on within the program.

“Then I try to answer a few of their questions. I don’t like to get up here and talk about something they have no interest in, and let them get a question in.”

The primary topic of conversation for Virginia Tech is the replacement for Logan Thomas at quarterback. Mark Leal, who struggled mightily in the Hokies’ loss to UCLA in the Sun Bowl. is back, and is one of five candidates for the position.

“He is handling it fine, he came back from the bowl game and didn’t play very well when he came in there. He realized that, he faced up to it, he competed well this spring, he gives us some things,” Beamer said. “He had some good plays, he had some plays that weren’t so good, but he is the guy that has been the backup for a while so he has got the best grasp of the position just because of his knowledge of being there.”

Other candidates include Christiansburg product Brenden Motley, true freshmen Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin, and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, who will join Durkin on campus when the first semester of summer school begins.

Beamer was asked about Brewer, who seems to be the popular choice among the Virginia Tech fan base to claim the position.

“The thing in his favor is he has played in games, that means a lot at the quarterback position,” Beamer said. “Knowing that he started at Texas Tech, you know he can throw the football and I think he can.”

Brewer played at Texas Tech for Tommy Tuberville, who has since left for Cincinnati, but Beamer spoke to Tuberville about him on Tuesday.

“He got hurt, lost his starting position and could never get it back,” said Beamer, of Brewer, who had thrown just 58 passes in limited playing time in two years for the Red Raiders. “Tommy was very high in his praise of Michael. He and Chris Durkin are to be there the first semester of summer school so we will see.

“We are going to give them the opportunity and put out there the guy that we feel like gives us the best opportunity to win, and we need to make some decisions.”

Beamer made the statement following the spring game on Saturday that decisions on the starter and top backup needed to be made early in August.

“It is such an important position that I think it is in everyone’s best interests to make some quick decisions, it might be more of a gut feeling than anything else,” Beamer said. “We will see, I think from a talent standpoint you see where they are, mental standpoint see where everyone is and then make a decision from a leadership standpoint, which guy is it.

“That is a big question going into the fall.”

That isn’t all. The Hokies have been known for producing talented tailbacks, but Thomas led Virginia Tech in rushing two years ago, and Trey Edmunds did last season, but still had just 675 yards on the ground.

Beamer is looking to find three backs to carry the load, which could include true freshman Marshawn “Juice” Williams.

“Marshawn came in there in January and had one really, really good scrimmage and then the others I thought he showed he had some unusual ability,” Beamer said. “I think what we have got are a lot of good running backs, now we need to get the very good, excellent, great, whatever, and to get about three and that is where we have got to go.

“Running backs, all of them are good athletes so there is somewhere else they can play if it is not running back.”

Virginia Tech will open its season on Aug. 31 with a visit from William & Mary, followed the next week by a visit to Ohio State, which will be ranked among the top 10 teams in America.

“I think it is a great trip for our fans,” Beamer said. “I enjoy those kind of games, I enjoy coaching those kind of games, they have got their quarterback back and we don’t, I think that is a big, big plus there.

“We have got them up there this year. I have never been in the ‘big house’, I look forward to that, and then they come to our place the following year, I think it is going to be a good series for us.”

Ohio State returns Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller at quarterback, which will be a tall task for any foe, but Beamer likes what the Bud Foster-coached defense can put on the field.

“The good thing is we are fast. We are not particularly experienced and you worry about that a little bit, but I thought we made great strides this spring,” Beamer said. “The good part is we are starting out with some talented, fast kids so now it is up to us how much we improve and how quickly.”

Still, what Virginia Tech is most interested is the ACC. While Florida State and Clemson are expected to compete for the top spot in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, the Coastal is wide open.

“I think so, I don’t think there is anyone that has got it just overwhelming favorites,” Beamer said. “We are going to get in there and see how good we can get.”

The ACC does boast the current national champion after Florida State ended the SEC’s run of seven straight titles, a big step for the league.

“There is no question, I think the more times you win at the highest level the better it is for your league,” Beamer said. “As you get one team up there that achieves that, I think all the other teams are trying to match it so I think it is uplifting for the whole conference.”

Beamer is a proponent of the College Football Playoff that will begin this season with the top four teams chosen by a committee of 13 members, with those clubs meeting in a three-game format to choose a national champion.

“Back when we played Auburn in the Sugar Bowl (in 2004) and Tommy Tuberville was the head coach and they were undefeated, that is when I decided we need a four-team playoff,” Beamer said. “Generally if you going to get four teams you are going to get the best team in the country. Eight would be perfect, that is just too many games to play, but at least four.

“Auburn, that year, they were undefeated and didn’t get a chance to play for the national championship and they were good enough to play for that so I think we are on the right track.”

Beamer arrived at Fincastle after having a meeting with his team, helping to motivate them toward improvement in the offseason, which has now begun, with much of the focus now on strength and conditioning coach Mike Gentry.

“We met as a team right before I came over here and I told them, really this is the time of the year that they determine how hard they work, how many hours they work,” Beamer said. “Usually during the season when school is in session you can only be involved so many hours a week, right now it is who wants to be the best.

“I told them, you really see their intentions by how they come back in the fall and we have got to come back a much stronger, bigger team than we are right now. I expect a lot of hard work and Coach Gentry has got them now, and we will see how much progress they make in that regard.”

Beamer, who is currently the winningest active Division I coach in America with 266 wins, understands how vital such functions as the one on Wednesday in Bluefield is to the Virginia Tech program.

“It is really a very important part,” Beamer said. “We wouldn’t have the program that we have unless we have supportive people and I think to get to their home towns and say thank you, that is what it is all about.

“I look forward to it. I enjoy these meetings and see different people that support us, I look forward to tonight.”

—@bdtonline.com or Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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