Fair 61°
    April 25, 2011
    Solid spring by the Hokies should have fans excited about upcoming 2011 season

    Several hours following Virginia Tech’s 2011 spring football game, a group of Hokie fans continued their weekend-long tailgate party outside Lane Stadium.

    “We’re not leaving,” one partier exclaimed.

    “We’re staying here till the season opener!” another buddy shouted.

    Details not withstanding, the group was in a faculty/staff lot, one that is a high-donor parking spot on fall game days. And, oh yeah, the season opener is over four months away.

    But those facts did little to dampen their enthusiasm and passion.

    “We’re gonna stay right here … all summer,” he continued. “Can’t wait for the season to start. Logan was awesome, man!”

    So let the build up and anticipation begin, eh?

    Logan – that would be Virginia Tech’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas – was terrific in the spring game, throwing two marvelous touchdown passes and sprinting for a spectacular 37-yard run.

    “I thought he’d be good,” our long-time radio network analyst Mike Burnop said during the game broadcast. “But he’s better than I thought he’d be.”

    During the course of spring practice, which included three full scrimmages and three ‘mini-scrimmages,’ Thomas was 50 of 91 passing (54.9 percent) for 743 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Keep in mind he was also victimized by several dropped passes during the spring game.

    “He’s done everything he needs to do to become a very good quarterback,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “He learns very quickly. He’s a very smart guy who doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He makes good decisions. He’s everything that you want in your quarterback.”

    The Hokies are replacing ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor, the school’s record-shattering quarterback who led the Hokies to three Orange Bowl appearances and is the school’s all-time winningest QB. And Thomas, with his size 18 cleats, will be the guy to fill Taylor’s shoes.

    “His personality is a lot like Tyrod,” Beamer said. “Great kid, great person. He’s got the right temperament. I think he gives us a lot of the things Tyrod gave us, but he’s 6-6. Some of the throws are a little easier for him because of his height.”

    Thomas has also been brought along gradually in Tech’s program, which gives him a great advantage as he prepares for his first start this fall – Sept. 3 against Appalachian State.

    Remember, Taylor was forced into action during his true freshman season at Tech. He was playing against eventual national champion LSU in Baton Rouge before he ever got his first homework assignment at Tech. Seriously, if you thought freshmen English was a challenge, then try getting away from defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey on a steamy night at Tiger Stadium.

    Conversely, Thomas redshirted his freshman year at Tech, traveled with the team during that year and sat in every quarterbacks meeting in 2009. Then he served as Taylor’s backup and learned during the 2010 season. He’s been brought along at a pace that quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain would prefer.

    As a result, you can see the confidence in his game, and perhaps just as importantly, in his teammates’ eyes. You hear words like ‘special’ and ‘leader’ and ‘poise’ from the guys on the sidelines during the scrimmages. He’s got his teammates’ attention and their respect heading into the season.

    But Thomas isn’t the only one who made his presence felt this spring.

    Beamer challenged his whip linebackers following the Orange Bowl, saying it was time for someone to step up and play consistently at a vital position.

    “G-W [Jeron Gouveia-Winslow] is much better at whip than he was last year, and [Alonzo] Tweedy brings some real athletic ability at that position,” Beamer said. “I think we’ve really helped ourselves there. And with guys like Nick Dew and [Dominique] Patterson, we’re deeper. We’ve got to work out some alignment mistakes and see where their eyes are as a play develops, but overall, we’ve got some real talent there.”

    At backer, Beamer suggests the injuries to Jack Tyler and Bruce Taylor allowed others guys to get some serious reps this spring.

    “Tariq Edwards and Telvion Clark are two good kids who can really run,” Beamer said. “Plus, they look like linebackers.”

    So Tech will enter 2011 hoping for more depth at those two defensive positions.

    Another guy who really continues to be impressive is J.R. Collins, the sophomore from Stafford, Va., who showed a lot at two positions, both defensive end and tackle.

    “He’s an interesting player,” Beamer said of Collins. “We’re definitely going to play him inside [at tackle] some. He has great speed for a tackle, and he’s strong enough to handle that position.”

    Beamer was very excited about the Hopkins brothers [Antoine and Derrick] and Kwamaine Battle at the tackle spots, but said he expects “a freshman or two to help us there” in the fall.

    Two other players who really elevated their games in the spring were Marcus Davis and James Gayle. Davis, who caught two touchdown passes during the spring game, has always had tremendous athletic ability and had a tremendous spring.

    “I told him the other day he’s getting ready to make a lot of money if he keeps it going,” Beamer said during our spring game broadcast. “He’s athletic. He vertical-jumped in the 40s, which is something. He’s taken his game to another level.”

    As for Gayle, he’s an exceptionally quick and explosive defensive end who won the Excalibur Award during offseason workouts. The 6-foot-4, 251-pounder set the defensive ends record in the power clean with a 366-pound lift. He had a 38-inch vertical jump and ran the 40 in 4.45 seconds. Then, he followed that up with six really good scrimmages during spring ball and was named the defensive MVP for the spring.

    What Beamer and his staff liked the most from this spring was the effort and performance of some of his veteran, established players. Guys like Jayron Hosley and Jarrett Boykin are established big-game players, yet they brought great effort to this spring.

    “We had a lot of competition out there this spring,” Beamer said. “In a way, it’s sad because we have to cut 24 guys to make room for the incoming players in August. It’s tough to cut 24 [that’s about 25 percent of the roster], but you have to make room and keep the program moving forward.”

    There are still plenty of question marks to be answered heading into August. Who will be the Hokies’ backup quarterback? Mark Leal and Ju-Ju Clayton both had their moments, but Leal seemed to have the better spring overall. That will be decided in August. And while receiver Danny Coale showed nice punting skills, it’s possible the Hokies’ 2011 punter is still in high school. Also, other punting candidates can improve dramatically over the summer. Again, that’s a determination for the staff during preseason practice.

    Accurately forecasting the season in May can be dicey, but it looks like Tech will be a better defensive team in 2011 because of overall experience and greater depth up front and at linebacker. Depth in the secondary is a major concern, but Bud Foster’s collection appears to be a better tackling unit and just plain stronger overall than it was last year.

    Offensively, it will be hard to match last year’s output. The Hokies lost the ACC’s player of the year in Taylor and backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams, who declared early for the NFL. The 2010 Hokies led the ACC in scoring (33.9 points per game), touchdowns (59) and yards per play (6.2 per snap). Still with a veteran offensive line and receivers and David Wilson returning in the backfield, they appear to be solid.

    It comes down to Thomas. And judging by what we’ve seen over the past 24 months, he could be very special.

    As you’ve read here before, there are so many good players in Beamer’s program right now. It can lose guys like Taylor, Williams and Evans, and still be one of the favorites in the ACC. In fact, after closely examining the schedules and returning talent in the conference, it would be shocking if Tech (Coastal) and Florida State (Atlantic) weren’t the preseason divisional picks again in 2011, setting up another Hokies-Seminoles title game in Charlotte.

    Regardless, the buildup to the 2011 season will be tremendous during the coming four months.

    As for those Hokie fans who were tailgating in Lot 1 at the spring game, they had vacated their prime party spot by the morning following the game. While they may have exhausted their supply of cold beverages, they should be able to get through the summer with their enthusiasm.

    And they’ll be back – with plenty of company – in September.

    Please follow me on twitter: twitter.com/vtvoice

    Dear Bill,

    For years since you came to Virginia Tech, and then added Mike to your lineup, I have always followed you and Mike at home and on the road. I always carry a small FM radio so I can listen to you. When Tech is on TV, I still listen to you and Mike. It does make you feel at home when we can hook up with you two even in South Florida or anywhere else we travel. I also enjoy your Kroger Reports. I can’t imagine Tech football without you two. Keep up the good work! Bill Eaton, Pearisburg, Va.

    Bill,

    Thanks so much for listening over the years at home and on the road. Mike and I really enjoy what we do and appreciate the great support we get from Hokie fans.

    Bill,

    Longtime listener, but first-time writer. I read a lot of comments on message boards and hear Hokie fans talk about our ‘total offense’ and ‘total defense’ over the years, especially about Coach Stiney and our offense. Then, I hear Coach Beamer answer that ‘wins’ are the only stat he is concerned about. I can hear coach Beamer’s answer before the words come out of his mouth (Haha!).

    But did you know that, last year, the Miami Hurricanes led the ACC in total offense and were third in total in defense? (By comparison, VT was fifth in total offense and seventh in defense). So at least statistically, Miami was FAR superior to Virginia Tech on both offense and defense. Yet the Hokies finished the season undefeated in the ACC. Miami finished 7-6 and fired its coach. I think we should give the ’Canes the STAT CHAMPIONS banner. Just sayin’. Mike Thomas, Springfield, Va.

    Mike,

    Thanks for pointing that out. I double-checked your numbers, and you’re correct. Going by some of the numbers, the ’Canes were really good last year (total offense and total defense.) They just had too many turnovers, untimely penalties, missed field goals, etc. But that offensive line and those backs are REALLY impressive. In fact, if you polled the 12 head coaches in the ACC and asked them “what ACC team has the most talent right now?” the answer might be the Miami Hurricanes. And it might be a unanimous answer.

    Bill,

    No question, but a comment. Just reading your March 15 Kroger Roth Report made me realize I needed to change some of my business practices to get more current. Having younger folks do some of these things is not acceptable. Please keep my name out of it, but there is a lot more than ‘football smarts’ to Coach Beamer and it taught me a really valuable lesson just reading your article. I am 60 years of age, but just learned a valuable lesson and I hope it is not too late. Name withheld by request, VT class of 1972.

    Thanks for your note. Yes, there is much more to Coach Beamer than ‘football smarts.’ His impact on his players, his staff, and those of us who have worked with him over the years is immeasurable.

    Bill,

    Wonderful articles! I was wondering your thoughts on ACC expansion. If (WHEN) leagues like the SEC or Big 10 decide to expand, can we expect them to pluck away Maryland, Clemson, Pitt, Syracuse or Rutgers? That might be the demise of quality ACC football and tradition of strong academic schools (the likes that the ACC would join forces with the remainder of the Big East). How sweet would it be to go proactive and bring in Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers and ND? Okay, ND might be a long shot but imagine the quality of football, conference security, the money and the prestige. Oh, and ACC basketball wouldn’t be too shabby with that lineup as well! I couldn’t imagine Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers not joining. What is the downside of this move? Dave Kowal, Hampton.

    Dave,

    Thanks for your note. First, you’re assuming that the Big Ten and SEC will go beyond 12 members. While that might happen some day, when a league gets to 16 members or more, it actually creates a logistical matrix. Rivalries disappear, the sense of collegiality evaporates, and the basketball tournament bracket looks like ... well ... some giant erector set.

    The ACC just signed a 12-year contract with ESPN that nearly doubled its current deal. That financial security is going to make it hard for any current institution to leave.

    Furthermore, while all the models and articles forecasting Big Ten expansion focused on potential revenue from television households and cable subscribers in New York (Rutgers/Syracuse, etc.) for the Big Ten network, in the end, that league added Nebraska as its 12th member. There are only 1.8 million people in Nebraska, so the bottom line for the Big Ten presidents was ‘institutional fit,’ not television sets.

    To be honest, ‘contraction’ might be the model of the future, depending on how the Big 12, now with just 10 teams, performs. That league will have full round-robin scheduling in football, basketball and other sports, is more geographically sound than others, and doesn’t have to split its television dollars 12 (or more) ways. When it comes to the perfect number of schools for some leagues, 10 may be the new 12.

    Dear Bill,

    I really enjoyed Mike Burnop’s interview with Corey Moore during the spring game broadcast. I didn’t know he was back in Blacksburg. What is Corey doing these days? I miss hearing about him. Gina, Roanoke, Va.

    Hi Gina,

    Corey is an undergraduate advisor in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at Michigan State University. Moore, who was the two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year during his playing days at Tech, had his jersey No. 56 retired last year. He said he watches every Tech game and plans to come back as often as possible to see the Hokies in person.

    For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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