December 10, 2015
Beamer, Hokies start prepping for return to Shreveport
Hokies addressed an array of topics at Thursday's news conference
VT football news conference Head coach Frank Beamer quotes

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech football program held its third bowl practice, as the coaches put the team through the paces on Thursday morning, and the day also marked a pre-bowl news conference in the players’ lounge.

Numerous topics were addressed, as the Hokies get ready for the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Some of those topics included the opponent (Tulsa), head coach Frank Beamer, incoming coach Justin Fuente and retiring strength coach Mike Gentry.

Here are some bullet points from the news conference:

• Beamer talked a little about his memories from the Hokies’ first trip to Shreveport, which happened in 1993 and resulted in a win over Indiana – the Hokies’ second bowl win. Of all the memories that stood out, he said the friendliness of the people stood out the most.

“What I remember about that is how friendly the people were down there and how gracious they were,” Beamer said. “I’m sure it’s the same way in that part of the country still, so I think our players and our fans have something to look forward to in that regard.

“I want to finish this thing in a good way, but we’ve got to go play well. Tulsa can throw the football. Any time you can throw the football the way they do, you’re always dangerous. We’ve got to get ready for that.”

• The game obviously concludes the career of Beamer, who announced in November his plans to retire at the conclusion of the season. But the players aren’t getting caught up in that or the location where the bowl streak started.

“We’re excited about it,” kicker Joey Slye said. “It’s a little different of an experience, but I don’t think it’s a pressure situation. It’s another bowl game, and Coach Beamer is taking it like another bowl game. That’s kind of trickling down to the rest of the players. We’ve got business to do, we’ve got business to handle, so let’s go out and handle business.”

• Slye made 21 of 28 field-goal attempts during the regular season and 34 of his 35 extra-point attempts. He made 8 of 9 between 30 and 39 yards and 12 of 15 from between 40 and 49 yards. But he missed all three of his attempts beyond 50 yards.

“A little disappointed,” Slye said of his season. “There are some kicks l wish I could take back. But I’m also happy in that I had some longer field goals, and I was consistent between 30-39 and 40-49. It speaks to what I did over the offseason … I’m starting to get more consistent. It was a nice sophomore season and hopefully I can carry it over to the bowl game.”

• Incoming head coach Justin Fuente has been to a couple of practices just to observe his future team, but for the most part, he has been out recruiting. A couple of players have caught up with him for brief conversations, including fullback Sam Rogers, and Rogers offered his assessment of his soon-to-be coach.

“I talked with him the other day after practice for a little bit,” Rogers said. “He seems like a great guy and seems like he’s going to be a really good coach for us. We’re really excited to have him. He seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy, but he really cares for his players.

“Just looking at the Memphis players reactions after he told them that he was leaving, there was nothing but respect for him, and that’s the kind of stuff you want to see. Players loved him, and I’m sure we’re going to love him here.”

• Tech quarterback Michael Brewer is looking forward to being on the field against Tulsa, where his high school teammate, Conner Floyd, is a wide receiver. Floyd has caught 44 passes this season.

“We talked on the phone right after they came out with all the bowl games,” Brewer said. “It’s cool. We started this thing in high school, and even before that. We grew up third or fourth grade playing football together. He was always my receiver. I was always his quarterback. It’ll be fun to end our careers together on the same field.”

• Tulsa, like Tech, comes into the bowl game with a 6-6 record. While the Golden Hurricane has scored a bunch of points, they have struggled on defense, allowing no fewer than 21 points in any game this season.

“They’ve played a lot of teams that throw it around, and they’ve had some issues stopping that,” Brewer said. “We’ll kind of break down the field and see why that’s the case and make some adjustments on what we want to do.”

On defense, the Hokies need to be ready. Tulsa averages nearly 36 points per game and more than 500 yards per game, a number that ranks 14th nationally.

They remind one Tech player of a team that the Hokies played earlier this season – and lost to.

“They kind of remind me of ECU, just the way they play,” defensive end Ken Ekanem said. “They’re up-tempo. They pass the ball a lot, but also will hit you with the run. They’re pretty explosive. I’m looking forward to trying to shut them down.”

• Tech quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler talked about freshman quarterback Dwayne Lawson today. Lawson played just 36 snaps from scrimmage this season, and Loeffler offered some insight into Lawson’s development.

“He’s got as good of talent as anyone I’ve been around,” Loeffler said. “He reminds me of the guys that I’ve coached that are in the NFL.

“He needs to take the next step, though. There’s a reason he didn’t play this year. He needs to take the next step of being the entire package. We have a saying that 75 percent of the quarterback position is between your ears. He has the capability. He can learn. He gets football. But it’s all the little things he needs to improve on to be the guy.

“He needs to take the next step in being the buy, being the quarterback. That’s not an easy deal. You’re on a job interview 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He’s a wonderful kid, but he needs to learn all the great things that great quarterbacks do. Does he have the capability? Absolutely, he does, but he needs to take those next steps.”

• Tech announced Tuesday that Mike Gentry, the associate AD for athletic performance and a man many feel is responsible for the Hokies’ rise to prominence, is retiring. Several of the coaches and players praised Gentry’s contributions to the school.

“I'll say this: Mike Gentry has had as big an impact on this program as anybody that has been in this building," defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "What he means as far as his toughness – and everybody understands the physical part of what he does in the weight room – but the mental part of it, the mental toughness, the mental strength, the attitude, the demeanor … that's all Mike Gentry. That was our foundation. And that's back to him."

Tech continues its bowl preparation Friday and will practice at various points throughout next week before leaving to go to Shreveport on Dec. 23.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter and on Instagram @vthokiefootball Instagram

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