Spring Football :: Highlights from Wednesday's scrimmage
Welcome to New Orleans where the Hokies have arrived and are ready to roll. All of the equipment, computers, uniforms, office supplies, as well as everything else needed to get ready for a game, are now set up, transforming the Hilton Riverside into Jamerson Athletic Center South.
Go behind the scenes of the Virginia Tech bowl camp here at hokiesports.com, home of the "News from New Orleans" blog. Here, you can find the latest information, practice reports, quotes, blogs, tweets, photos, videos and more as Tech prepares for the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 against the University of Michigan here in the Big Easy.
Check back often for all of the latest on the Hokies!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Check back often for all of the latest on the Hokies!.
Tech fans, be sure to check out the game story from a wild (and disappointing) Sugar Bowl game against the Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday. Also, check out the notes and quotes section as well. Both have been posted on the main page of hokiesports.com
Tech fans continued to arrive in New Orleans en masse as the Sugar Bowl match-up with Michigan draws nearer. As for the team, both players and coaches are tired of practicing and can’t wait for kickoff, just over 24 hours away.
The day marked a light one for Tech’s team, as the coaches coordinated a walkthrough for the team at the Superdome later in the afternoon. Tech’s walkthroughs usually consist of going over certain special teams situations and other special situations related to offense and defense. At this point, the game plan has been installed and gone over repeatedly, so there is little to cover.
Tech head coach Frank Beamer’s day began with a press conference at a local Marriott, where he joked with media members about them being out past curfew on Bourbon Street – a reference to a media bash at a place down in the French Quarter. He also addressed more serious issues related to his team and the game.
Beamer said that he planned on going with Justin Myer as the kicker – no great surprise there – and that he also planned on placing Conor Goulding on the dress squad. Goulding, a walk-on kicker from Florida, has never dressed for a collegiate game.
Here are a couple other questions he answered:
• Beamer reiterated his desire to see the BCS go to a “plus-1” system. In this system, the top team in the BCS rankings would play the No. 4 team and No. 2 would play No. 3. The winners would play a week later.
“A few years back, I thought it was gaining some momentum, and I really thought that was a good idea,” Beamer said. “And the reason I thought it was the way to go is when we played Auburn here in the Sugar Bowl, and Auburn was an undefeated team, and there were two other undefeated teams that year. Auburn was good enough to play for the national championship.
“Generally, there are about four teams that really deserve to play for the national championship. Some years there's more. There always would be controversy about the fifth team, but not as much, I think, as the third team.
“And so to me, I think that's the best solution right now, and I understand that it's coming back around a little bit. And hopefully, I'd like to see us go in that direction.”
• Beamer also said he thought bowl games should be played on Jan. 1, or at least by that particular date. That’s been a hot subject between A.D.s because schools are struggling to sell tickets to bowl games after the 1st. Many families can’t take time off from work at this time of the year.
“You know, after New Year's, your kids are going back to school,” he said. “Now here it's the 3rd, and it's a three-day stay with hotels. It makes it a difficult situation to fill the stadiums.
“And I believe in a BCS game, the first thing is the stadium needs to be sold out. But I understand the other side of it, too, the way that TV works. They spread them out. I understand that part firmly, too. But I do think it's an issue. I think it's something that probably needs to be thought out and talked about, and find out what's best for college football in general.”
• Tech’s players and coaches will move to a different hotel this evening to be together and to get away from the distractions of family, friends and fans. Beamer started doing this a few years ago and likes the idea of getting away.
Sunday brought forth a change for the Virginia Tech football team, as practice was moved from the Superdome because of the New Orleans Saints game with the Carolina Panthers. The Hokies instead practiced at the Saints facility in nearby Metairie, La., and it afforded them two opportunities – 1. to get outdoors; and 2. to get off the artificial turf.
The day also marked a rather significant increase in media attention as the game draws nearer. Approximately 30 members interviewed requested players before practice.
Here are a few notes from the day:
• A familiar face attended the Hokies’ practice on Sunday – former offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle, who stopped by to say hello to Tech head coach Frank Beamer and the assistants. Bustle spent this past season as the offensive coordinator at Tulane, but recently landed as the offensive coordinator at Southern Miss under new coach Ellis Johnson.
• Beamer said none of his player missed the New Year’s Eve curfew of 12:30 a.m. and that the players have done a great job of making curfew other than the Tyler Weiss incident on the first night. As for himself, he spent his New Year’s Eve getting a massage at the hotel and eating oysters, but he didn’t stay up to ring in the New Year.
“I learned a long time ago that you can get up the next morning, and it’s kind of like SportsCenter,” he said, laughing. “I watched New Year’s in Hong Kong and New York City. I saw it all, so I was good after that.”
• Beamer continues to field questions about the importance of the bowl game considering the criticism for Tech’s selection to play this game. He also was asked if the Hokies have changed their preparations in lieu of the importance of the bowl.
“Not particularly,” Beamer said. “We’ve talked about the importance of playing well. I learned a long time ago. When we first started out, a bowl was a reward for your players, and I think it is because they’ve accomplished something good.
“But I’ve also realized as we went along that the alumni don’t want to just get here to a bowl game, they want to win. They like it a lot better when you win. A lot of our alumni spend a lot of money to come here and watch you play, and we’re going to have a bunch of them down here, and they deserve to see a great effort by this football team.”
• Beamer also addressed the kicking situation. As most know, starter Cody Journell has been suspended indefinitely for an off-field incident and will not play in the game. When asked how the kickers were progressing, Beamer gave a tepid response.
“It’s looking okay,” he said. “[Justin] Myer finished yesterday kicking really well. That’s the key thing right now.”
• The broadcast crew of Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and sideline reporter Holly Rowe arrived in town and came to the Hilton Riverside to meet with Beamer and several Tech players. They spent over an hour talking with quarterback Logan Thomas, tailback David Wilson and safety Eddie Whitley, as they get prepared for the game.
• Following practice, the team returned to the Hilton for lunch and then had the rest of the evening free. In short, this was a light day for news coming out of New Orleans.
It’s a great honor to be given the responsibility of filing the final blog of the 2011 calendar year as your faithful blogger Jimmy Robertson was occupied watching the Hokies’ big basketball win on the road against Oklahoma State and didn’t make it to practice.
The morning started with the first press conference of the week, as defensive coordinator Bud Foster and selected members of the defense – Kyle Fuller, Eddie Whitley, Jack Tyler, Derrick Hopkins and Tariq Edwards – went to a local Marriott to meet with members of the media.
Foster got asked an array of questions. Here are a couple of samples:
· Q: Wonder if you could speak to Kyle Fuller's versatility. You had to use him a lot of different places and seems like he shored things up for you a little bit.
BF: “He has. We have had some injuries at our whip position, which is our outside linebacker, hybrid strong safety type outside linebacker position. And Kyle played it last year at times.
“But this year he was going to be our nickel package player and fit that position. We played him a little bit more than what we wanted to, really. But he's played a lot of positions for us. He's played obviously our corner position. He's played our whip position.
“He has really had a great football season for us. In my opinion, I think he's our MVP. He just made some big plays at opportune times, and some important times and key games for us, and I'm really, really proud of him. He's just one of those … he's just a complete football player, and he's had a heck of a year for us.
• Q: You have a huge task ahead of you with the Michigan quarterback, who is very, very mobile in a lot of different ways. Is it possible, though, to get too wrapped up in trying to scheme for him because it's kind of a multi-headed beast there?
BF: “It is. And Denard [Robinson] has had a great year and is a great athlete and dynamic player with the ball in his hand. And unfortunately, he throws the ball a little better than I want him to.
“We played some guys over the years, the Pat Whites and guys of that nature, when we played them they were dynamic ball carriers, and you want … if you stop the run, then I think you gained a huge advantage. And I'm not for sure that's the case right now. You know, Michigan has an outstanding corps of receivers. They catch the ball. They have a couple of guys that can really stretch the field. And that sets up, if they can run the ball, their play action and ability to throw it down the field.
“But then the Toussaint kid is really a dynamic player as well. I think if you're focused on Denard, then Toussaint's going to expose you. And he reminds us of a lot of guys. We had a kid, Branden Ore, who played for us and was a dynamic tailback. That’s who he [Toussaint] reminds me of. The same size and same explosiveness, and we've got to do a good job.
“There's two tailbacks. It’s a two-headed beast at tailback, and Michigan, they're physical up front. They have fourth- and fifth-year guys up there. And I think that's one of their strengths is obviously that group and their cohesiveness there.
“And then to have those two guys that are touching the ball a lot, you know, that are breakaway threats every time they have it in their hand, that really creates a problem for defenses.”
A couple of hours following the session with the media, Tech held its “Tuesday” practice at the Superdome, There, Beamer addressed the media for the second straight day, talking about his kickers and the importance of getting David Wilson going among other topics.
“If we can mix it in there, then we’re a pretty good offense,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “If we can’t mix it in there … we need to get him going.”
Other notes from the day:
• Beamer admitted that receiver Danny Coale had attempted a few field goals in practice on Thursday, but said Coale, the Hokies’ punter, wasn’t an option as a field-goal kicker.
“We’ve got him doing enough,” Beamer said.
Beamer later was asked about Coale and his contributions to Tech’s program over the years. The staff found him and invited him to a one-day camp, and after that, Beamer offered a scholarship.
“It kinds of says something about how we recruit,” Beamer said. “We liked him. He wasn’t heavily recruited. You get out there and watch him work, and we offered him a scholarship right out of our one-day camp and he decided to come. After that, it’s been nothing but pluses. There aren’t many guys who can punt in a game and return a punt in a game. Then the big plays he’s had at Virginia Tech … he’s a smart player and he has a good knack for the game.”
• A few injured members of Tech’s team – Bruce Taylor, Antoine Hopkins, Kwamaine Battle and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow – visited a local children’s hospital during practice and took some gifts to the kids. The impact on the kids was profound, just as it was on the players.
• After practice ended around 3 p.m., the players returned to the Hilton Riverside for lunch. Later that evening, they attended a bowl-sponsored dinner and then were free for the evening. Curfew was set for midnight.
After a morning full of position meetings, Tech football players and coaches traveled to the Superdome for their “Monday” practice in preparation for the Sugar Bowl next week.
The big news of the day centered on a walk-on kicker named Tyler Weiss from Spotsylvania, Va. The fifth-year senior missed Tech’s 1 a.m. curfew on Wednesday night/Thursday morning and became the first, and hopefully, last player to be sent to the bus station for the Greyhound experience – a 1-day, 2-hour and 35-minute bus ride back to Roanoke.
Tech head coach Frank Beamer addressed the matter with the media this morning.
“We had curfew,” Beamer said. “We talked about it a lot. He [Weiss] didn’t make it, and we’re going to send him home. That’s about it.”
Weiss’ transgressions wouldn’t be a huge deal in the grand scheme of things except that Tech’s starting kicker, Cody Journell, has been suspended indefinitely for an off-field transgression and is not on the trip. Weiss actually replaced Journell in Tech’s win over Duke while Journell sat out with a quadriceps injury.
Weiss and Justin Myer figured to be in competition this week for the job to replace Journell. Now, Myer gets the job, though Beamer plans on getting Michael Branthover and Conor Goulding ready in case of an emergency.
“We’re going to give Justin a lot of kicks in practice,” Beamer said. “He’s got about as strong a leg as I’ve seen a kicker have. He’s got the capabilities and the maturity to do what we need him to do.
“We’re going to give Branthover some work. He’s a good field-goal guy and Conor Goulding is a good field-goal guy. They just haven’t done it. But we’re going to look at them this week. My plan is that Justin is going to be our field-goal guy.”
When asked if he meant business on this trip, maybe more so than on past bowl trips, Beamer didn’t hesitate.
“We do mean business,” he said. “We talked a lot about how it was important that we play well in this ball game, and we spent an hour yesterday with people from New Orleans about where to be and where not to be. We emphasize that we all needed to be going in the same direction. My kickers aren’t bad guys, but they’ve made bad decisions, and young people will do that.”
Other notes from the day:
• Beamer refused to get into the status of Journell for the future. He told reporters that he wanted to let the legal process play out before deciding on Journell’s future at Tech. Journell has two more years of eligibility.
• An article in a newspaper recently made reference to the fact that Beamer is one of just two Division I head coaches in the country to have coached at least 15 years at that particular school (the other was Nevada’s Chris Ault). Beamer received a question about this before Thursday’s practice.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen much any more,” he said. “I think what happens is that money is up there, and people want results quicker. The way news gets out these days, and then you have a lot of people expressing opinions, and they may be right or may not be right. I think it’s going to be hard to last at one place going into the future.”
• Former Tech punter Vinnie Burns, a native of New Orleans, showed up at Thursday’s practice. Burns now lives in Sarasota, Fla., and works as a personal trainer. He came back to his hometown for the game and even shared some insight with Tech’s punters after practice.
• Tech receiver Demitri Knowles, who redshirted this past fall, may become a member of the track and field team once the Sugar Bowl ends. Knowles has terrific speed and ran track at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg.
• After practice, the players and coaches returned to the Hilton Riverside for a late lunch. On Thursday evening, the players headed to a bowl-sponsored bowling outing, and afterward, were free for the remainder of the evening.
Greetings from New Orleans! We welcome you to the first installment of the Sugar Bowl blog, which will be compiled by several people throughout the week as we attempt to bring you the latest on the Hokies’ experiences leading up to the Sugar Bowl game against Michigan next Tuesday night.
The massive Virginia Tech travel party of roughly 250 people made it to New Orleans on Wednesday. The first plane carrying head coach Frank Beamer and the players left Blacksburg at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at the Hilton Riverside, the Hokies’ headquarters for the week, around 11 a.m. The second plane consisted of families and support personnel, and it left Blacksburg at 10:45 a.m., arriving in New Orleans at 2 p.m.
The team consists of 118 players – or all but two players on the roster. Offensive lineman Bruce Benedict, who transferred to Tech from Georgia last January, did not make the trip because of NCAA regulations related to transfers. Kicker Cody Journell also didn’t make the trip. He has been suspended indefinitely because of an off-the-field matter.
The travel party ate lunch at the Hilton, and a little later in the afternoon, Beamer held a team meeting. At that meeting, Sugar Bowl president Paul Hoolihan spoke briefly to the team before giving way to a local police officer, who delivered a Powerpoint presentation on the dangers of New Orleans, and specifically, to the French Quarter.
The officer warned the players (and fans) not to walk past Dauphine Street and to stay between that street and the Mississippi River. He also warned about potential pick-pocketers and debit card scams, telling the players not to withdraw money from ATM’s with large groups of people around. And he spoke to the potential perils that happen to those who get drunk in the French Quarter. In other words, use good judgment and travel in groups.
The head of security at the hotel also spoke to the team and told them that the hotel had more than 200 cameras strategically placed throughout the hotel. There will be a security officer on every floor during the team’s stay in New Orleans. He also told the players that he can do a “lock audit” on every door in the hotel to find out every time a door is opened. If a player attempts to break curfew, he can relay that information to Coach Beamer, if Coach Beamer asks.
“I’m in no mood for distractions this week,” Beamer told the team.
Beamer told the players that any distractions will be sent home. All players were expected to abide by the curfews, or else, they would get to experience the “Greyhound experience” – a bus trip from New Orleans back to Roanoke. The bus trip back to Roanoke takes 1 day, 2 hours, and 35 minutes, with three transfers.
Curfew for Wednesday night was 1 a.m. On Thursday and Friday nights, curfew is at midnight, but the players do get an extra 30 minutes for Saturday night – New Year’s Eve – with curfew set for 12:30 a.m.
Following the meeting, the players headed to the Superdome for their first practice. The practice was brief, and the team will begin regular game-week operations on Thursday. After practice, the team ate dinner at the hotel and then had the rest of the evening free.
Be sure to follow us in the world of Twitter as we'll have quick tidbits, morsels, nuggets and more from practice, the hotel, photo galleries, links and other interesting items. The username is @VT_Football.