Shane Beamer poked at the ball with an odd contraption, a boxing glove duct-taped to the end of a long pole, hoping he could jar a fumble loose from his running backs as they high-stepped over blocking pads on the ground.
It was to no avail. A couple times he loosened a player’s grip, but the ball never slipped out of a running back’s hands at Virginia Tech’s first spring practice Wednesday night.
Beamer, who enters his second year at Tech’s running backs coach, got back to the basics in the first spring practice. With ACC Player of the Year David Wilson and senior Josh Oglesby departing from last year’s team, he’s essentially starting over in the backfield, with the top three candidates for carries — Michael Holmes, J.C. Coleman and converted fullback Martin Scales – having not had a college carry.
It’s not surprising then that Beamer spent a chunk of time Wednesday going over the proper three-point stance, making sure everybody’s positioning was correct.
As for the boxing glove on a pole, a ball security drill, he got the idea from an offseason visit with Texas co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Major Applewhite. He commissioned equipment manager Lester Karlin to get the parts from a sporting goods store and put the contraption together in time for the start of spring drills.
“All last year I was always looking for something like that because we were always doing ball security stuff,” Beamer said. “And I was always swatting at the ball and things like that. And that got old real quick. Now, by using the pole, it’s less collision on me.”
It’s for more than just his own safety. Beamer saw a pattern in fumbles last year that he wants to correct.
“We went back and did a study on all of our fumbles last year,” he said. “I think we put the ball on the ground as running backs I think seven times last year. And seven times is way too many. The majority of them, it was good ball security. It was just an arm coming in from the back side that David or Josh didn’t see. And then all of a sudden that knocks it out. So No. 1, that’s constantly putting it in the guys’ heads, thinking about ball security.”
It’ll be a work in progress this spring, with Holmes, a redshirt freshman, the No. 1 guy ahead of Coleman and Scales after redshirting last season in his first year on campus.
“It’s a good experience getting in the flow of the game and just how the plays go by,” Holmes said. “Now that’s helped me, because I’ve learned the plays more and I’ve gotten used to the game. … I can do whatever they want me to do. I’m just trying to do whatever.” (I’ll have plenty more on the running backs in a future blog post.)
For one day at least, the running backs passed the test: no fumbles as a result of the boxing glove pole.
In fact, a few players had such good grips on the football that the pole got stuck under their arms as they ran by, pulling the contraption out of Beamer’s hands a couple times.
“I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get anything out,” Beamer said. “I thought I would. I guess I was being a little too soft today or something.”
One other quick note today: Virginia Tech plans to raise $25,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, which was created to raise awareness and get donations for injured service members. The school will sell camouflage Hokies hats for $8 apiece at several locations around Blacksburg.
Tech will also wear commemorative helmets against Bowling Green on Military Appreciation Day on Sept. 22.
Quick note No. 2: Jonathan Halhide, walk-on linebacker from Palm Bay, Fla, has decided to transfer, according to Frank Beamer‘s website. The redshirt sophomore played three special teams plays last year and even with Tariq Edwards out this spring, was listed as the fourth backer behind Chase Williams, Derek DiNardo and Josh Trimble.