Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer talks with reporters about the Hokies’ upcoming season opener at home against William and Mary on Saturday
Opening statement: I’ve been really impressed with William & Mary, not only from a talent standpoint, but from an experience standpoint. They’ve got a bunch of seniors on offense and defense. Defensively, I think they were eighth in the country in total defense last year. Their center, Jones, is a really good player.
I’m impressed with their running backs. McBride is a big receiver and a really big-time player. They are talented enough, and they certainly have our respect. I think if you look at West Virginia last year, it’s tied up going late into the ball game; North Carolina going a few years back, it’s a very close ball game. They play these games a lot and they play well in them. They certainly got our attention and respect. So, we need to get ready and find out where we are. I’m always saying at this time you don’t really quite know where you are, and certainly this year with as many new faces as we’re going to be playing. We’ve got to find our identity so to speak, so it’s a big, big game for us.
Q: Coach, could you just address the running backs situation. We’ve seen a bunch of depth charts. How healthy is Trey and what are you guys doing there?
Coach Beamer: I think Trey has got to work his way back into totally full speed. He’s worked so hard, and he’s the greatest kid ever – great for the football team. He had a tough, tough injury and, as hard as he’s worked, I just don’t quite see the quickness. He had four or five carries Friday, and I was wanting him to break a tackle or make a guy miss, but he’s just got to work his way back. Until then – and he’s going to get some reps – I’ll probably have him on kickoff coverage just to have him involved in the ball game and keep on running him. I think that’s the best way for him to stay active and keep on getting better. J.C. Coleman will start for us, and Mackenzie will be in there, and Joel Caleb will have a role in there as well. That’s how we plan to start out there.
Q: Some of the older players brought up the JMU game in 2010 and sort of the perils of facing an FCS team, do you as coaches have to do that or can you rely on the players who are still aware of that game and their history to get that message across to the younger guys?
Coach Beamer: I think it will be a combination of both. It’s just a fact. Even at different levels of football, they have a lot of good football players and a lot of veteran football players. We’re starting a lot of new guys, so every game is a little bit different. You’ve got to go out and play, and they are certainly capable and we’ve got to be ready to go.
Q: You and Jimmye Laycock go way back to Citadel, working with Bobby Ross. You’ve said that you’ve stayed in touch with him over the years, but in an offseason like this when you know his team is first on the slate, is this the first time in an offseason that you haven’t spent as much time with him just because of the nature of the thing or does that really matter?
Coach Beamer: We usually go with another friend to Augusta and play down there every year. We didn’t do that this year, but it wasn’t because we’re getting ready to play each other, it’s just that our schedules didn’t match up. Jimmye’s a big buddy. We were close down at the Citadel. I’ve always thought he was an excellent coach. You look at his teams and they play hard and smart. They are very well disciplined, so they certainly have our attention. And you think of Kevin Rogers who’s there with him now and used to be here. Kevin Lewis is there. It’s great to see him getting into college coaching. So, they’ve got some guys who know us a little bit but we won’t be friends Saturday, but right after the game we’ll get back to friendship.
Q: When was the final decision made about the starting quarterback and how do you think Mark Leal handled the news that he would be number two?
Coach Beamer: We met with each of them on Saturday before the release. Mark I think handled it great. We emphasized that this football team needs him. He’s always been a great teammate and he’s the same now. He didn’t have a great bowl game but I’m not sure he was ready to play that game. He had watched Logan so many times and never got into the game, then all the sudden Logan is out and he’s in. Keep your preparation and be ready to go ‘cause you never know in this business when it’s your time and you’ve got to be ready for that time.
Q: I know this time of year every team has its kinks to work out, particularly on offense, are there a lot of things that need to be sorted out still or do you feel like they are sorting themselves out at this point? How much more needs to be sorted out in a game like William & Mary?
Coach Beamer: I think when you’ve got a lot of fairly new people in a lot of positions, when you really find out is the game when the stadiums packed and the clocks running for real. So I think we’re going to find a lot about our football team come Saturday.
Q: The previous two seasons, you didn’t have as much opportunity to get your second-string guys in, so on Saturday with a new quarterback and a new offensive line, how do you think you’ll handle that? Do you want to get your reserves in there?
Coach Beamer: I’m just worried about winning the ball game right now. We’ll have the best guys in there who we feel give us the best chance to win. That’s how we would approach this. I’ll tell you this, West Virginia didn’t get a chance to get their reserves in the game last year, nor did North Carolina. You’re in a dogfight and you’ve got to fight for it.
Q: I know you have Michael Santamaria listed as your kicker, is that a close race and do you expect that to be a battle throughout the season?
Coach Beamer: Yes, extremely close. Carson Wise is right there. Slye I think will be our long field goal kicker, maybe our kickoff guy. That’s three really good kickers right there. I think Santamaria has the personality for this. I think he wants it very much and he’s just got to not want it too much. He’s got to go in there and do his thing and his thing is good enough. He’s a good kicker. But I have to tell you, I give Carson Wise a lot of credit. He’s right there close.
Q: This year is 50 years of Lane. As a guy who has spent the larger part of your life here, just give me your thoughts on that.
Coach Beamer: Well, a lot of great moments, a lot of great moments. I realize how fortunate I’ve been to be associated with Virginia Tech and how good it’s been to me. It’s kind of neat that William & Mary was our first game here and here they are 50 years later. I actually played – but you couldn’t call it played … I actually stood on the sideline for the first game ever in Lane Stadium. It was back when they played JV football; a freshman couldn’t play on the varsity squad. But they brought in five quarterbacks – I was a quarterback in high school. So we played Maryland’s freshman. I stayed over there and stayed loose – I was ready to go in at any moment when my name was called, the only problem was my name was never called. So I stood on the sideline for the first game ever at Lane Stadium and I questioned: did I make the right decision to come to Virginia Tech. Many years later: yeah, I made the right decision.
Q: Could you address the competition at offensive tackle? You end up losing two guys to injuries, how good or uncomfortable are you at that spot?
Coach Beamer: The next tackle is going to be [Wade] Hansen. He moved over from defense, he’s athletic but he hasn’t played there very much but he wants to and he’s got good ability for that tackle position.
Q: Frank, have you had any opportunities to speak to Bruce Arians about Logan Thomas and how he’s done in the preseason?
Coach Beamer: No, but talking with Logan, he’s a guy who doesn’t have to play this year. He can sit behind what’s ahead of him there and learn and develop. I think he’s with a good team. I think the quarterback coach is good. He and Shane coached together down at Mississippi State. And of course Bruce is there. So I think it’s a great spot to sit and learn and use his talent down the road somewhere. I feel very good about who he is and who he’s with and his ability to have a great pro career.
Q: Wyatt Teller was a guy who a lot of people thought would start on the line this year, is he someone who we might see rotate in?
Coach Beamer: Yeah, he’s going to get in. He’s still learning but he looks the part. We’ve got several offensive linemen who look exactly what you want an offensive lineman to look like. Now we just have to get them playing like you want of an offensive lineman playing. He’s one of them. He’s working hard and before it’s over he’s going to be very, very good.
Q: Could you address how impressive your young wide receivers have been and, specifically, who does Ford remind you of, like a former Hokie who’s played here?
Coach Beamer: Maybe an Antonio Freeman. He makes plays. He’s got some height to him. He’s going to later on play basketball here. When I went down and watched him play basketball I said at the time, ‘there’s been a lot of football guys who want to play basketball, but he’s the first one that I ever thought could play basketball too.’ He’s just a gifted athlete with a great head on his shoulders. He’s smart and he keeps everything in perspective, so I think he’s the real deal.