BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech football team met with more than 100 members of the media from all over the state and the Mid-Atlantic region on Saturday morning at Lane Stadium as part of the program’s annual Media Day. A brunch was served and Mike Gentry, Tech’s assistant AD for sports performance, and coordinators Bud Foster and Bryan Stinespring addressed the media. Afterward, head coach Frank Beamer and Tyrod Taylor both participated in press conferences in the South end zone.
Lots of matters pertaining to the Tech football program were addressed during these press conferences. Here’s are few notes:
• Beamer understands that the season opener against No. 5 Alabama in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome is an important game. But he continues to downplay the significance of the game on the overall season.
“I told the players in the first team meeting that if we win it, it doesn’t make our season, and if we lose it, it doesn’t make our season,” Beamer said. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s like starting the season with a bowl game and you hope you end the season with a bowl game. But the other side of it is that it won’t make our season either way.
“I go back two years ago when we got beat by LSU in our second game. We came back, and I believe we were ranked No.4 in the BCS rankings – you guys can check me on that. And No. 2 and 3 lost [that weekend], so we were ready to go to No. 2, but LSU jumped us because they beat us so badly.
“My point is whatever happens in that game [the Alabama game], there are a lot of games left to play. Whatever happens, we’re going to put that game in perspective for the rest of the season.”
• For the first time in a long time, the Hokies appear to be solid on the offensive line, and in fact, line coach Curt Newsome hopes to be able to rotate seven or eight guys along the front. In past years, the Hokies have struggled to piece together a consistent unit. But Beamer likes what he sees out of this current group.
“I’m hopeful we’ll play more consistent and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to play more people,” he said. “I’ve said this before, but for whatever reason, we’ve gotten behind in our offensive line. We’ve missed on some kids and some guys didn’t work out. Whatever reason, we got behind, but we’re catching up. We’re more athletic and we’ve got some good, tough guys in there now, and that, I hope, leads to playing more consistent.”
• Special teams came up and Beamer perked up when addressing the topic. He thinks he can get this squad back to blocking punts and kicks in the manner that previous squad’s have. The Hokies haven’t blocked as many the past few years, but an abundance of tall, long receivers – who make good punt blockers – has Beamer excited.
“I think we’ll have our best Pride and Joy team this year,” Beamer said. “I plan on having Marcus Davis there and Xavier Boyce and Jarrett Boykin. Maybe D.J. Coles. These are all 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 guys who are athletic. In blocking kicks, the faster you can get from here to there, and with guys with longer arms, you’ve got a chance to block some kicks.
“Then those guys block people in open space all the time as receivers and that’s what you’re doing on punt returns. So I fully expect to have our Pride and Joy [punt block/return team] ever here at Virginia Tech.”
Davis, a redshirt freshman from Virginia Beach, Va., told reporters that he welcomed the opportunity to play on that team.
“I’ll do anything for the team,” said Davis, a 6-foot-4, 231-pound specimen. “If it means putting my body on the front line, that’s what I’ll do. I think I’d be good in that role. I have a passion for the game and it’s something I like doing.”
Also, if he plays freshman Logan Thomas this season – Thomas is currently the No. 3 quarterback – Beamer plans on taking a close look at the 6-6 Thomas on the Pride and Joy team as well.
• Speaking of Davis, it doesn’t appear as if he’s going back to quarterback any time soon. He worked out with the receivers all summer and he likes the position, and while Tech’s staff has left open the option of moving him back to quarterback, they agree he needs to be on the field because his talents can help the team immediately.
“I wouldn’t say it’s done, but right now, I’m putting it behind me,” Davis said of quarterbacking. “I want to focus on one position and get the little things down to get myself better for that position and to produce.”
• Current starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor told reporters today that he recently had a phone conversation with former Tech quarterback Michael Vick, who is trying to put his off-the-field problems behind him and get back into the NFL. The two of them discussed the upcoming season.
“He told me that this was a big season for me and just to go out there and have fun,” Taylor said. “Not put too much pressure on myself. He told me to go out there and play like I’ve been playing since I was little.”
• Taylor spent a portion of this summer (early July) at the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., and said the three days there was invaluable. He got to meet both Peyton and Eli Manning, and their father, Archie.
“It was great to be out there and to see all the top guys around the country,” Taylor said. “It was great to talk to Peyton and Eli and Mr. Archie. I took a lot out of the camp, things that I brought back and can talk to my guys and help us with our games.”
• Gentry spoke to the Hokies’ work in the summer strength and conditioning program this past summer and pointed out tremendous performances from several players, including Taylor, Danny Coale, Jake Johnson, John Graves, Blake DeChristopher, Ed Wang, Kam Chancellor, and of course, Demetrius Taylor, who ranks as one of the best strength and conditioning athletes in the program’s history.
Taylor, a 6-0, 274-pound redshirt senior from Virginia Beach, Va., earned Super Iron Hokie honors and broke the program’s all-time record in the push jerk, which is lifting weight from the ground to over one’s head. His 410 pounds established the new mark. His bench press of 475 pounds ranks seventh on the all-time list. Overall, he also holds four lifting records for a defensive tackle. He and Greg Boone have earned Super Iron Hokie honors more than any other Tech football player in history.
“Personally, I think strength is an attitude,” Taylor said. “If you want it enough, you can do it. That, to me, is it.”
His performance wasn’t shabby for a guy who spent the first summer session at home.
“I worked hard when I was home,” Taylor said. “I worked with my cousin [Ian Scott, who is with the San Diego Chargers] and got a lot stronger. I knew what they expected. I knew I had to be a leader and come back in shape. I knew they’d be watching to see if I came back in shape since I went home.
Now, he hopes to get more playing time in his final season as one of the backups at defensive tackle. He has not started a game in his career at Tech.
“After this spring, I put myself in position to get more reps,” he said. “I still need to work on my footwork. But I think I showed the coaches that they can trust me.”
• Defensive coordinator Bud Foster had the best quote and the funniest quote of the day.
He raved about defensive end Jason Worilds and made a rather lofty comparison when talking about Worilds.
“This is a heckuva statement I’m going to make,” Foster said. “But to me, he’s a combination of Darryl Tapp and Corey Moore. He’s got the size of Darryl and he can move like Corey. I think he could be one of our special players here.”
Tapp currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks, while Moore won the Nagurski and Lombardi Awards in 1999 and played for both Buffalo and Miami in the NFL.
Moments later, Foster talked glowingly of Cordarrow Thompson, who enjoyed a solid year last season in his first as a starter. Thompson, who once weighed 340 pounds, got his weight down to 305 before last season and has stayed that weight.
“At one time, gravy used to be a beverage for him,” Foster said, sparking laughter.
• Finally, the Hokies went through a two-hour practice following the media session. Of note, tailback Darren Evans and offensive lineman Sergio Render dressed in blue jerseys and saw limited action. Evans crumpled to the ground in Friday’s practice with what most feared was a torn ACL in his left knee. But it turned out to be a knee sprain and he should be back to full strength in less than a week. Render is nursing a sore lower back, and he, too, should be back soon.
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