The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 10: Frank Beamer, head coach
When you’ve been at a school for more than 25 years as Frank Beamer has, there’s a groundwork in place that’s been established over that time for how your program works. That’s not to say that Beamer won’t have a major impact on how the Hokies’ fare this year, however.
There seems to be an assumption that Virginia Tech is on auto pilot, that Beamer is more a CEO of the program than a hands-on coach. And yes, he lets his assistants do their thing, both on defense, where Bud Foster has established himself as an independent-minded coordinator, and offense, where Mike O’Cain and Bryan Stinespring have freedom to run the show.
But Beamer is involved in every facet. It’s his program, after all, that’s won 209 games and seven conference championships in the last 25 years. And all aspects — game planning, situational decisions, recruiting — are run from the top down, with his personal stamp on them.
That’s especially true on special teams, Beamer’s bread and butter, which have lagged in recent years and need a shot in the arm. Beamer paid special attention to the kicking game in particular this offseason, often standing over the shoulder of his punters as they booted balls in practice to make sure they could handle pressure.
But there are larger issues. Usually above criticism, Beamer has gotten his fair share this offseason. The Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan, a game the Hokies dominated on both sides of the ball, left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. Beamer’s poorly timed decision to try an ill-fated fake punt late in the game played a part in Virginia Tech’s demise, a fact no one forgets.
That loss dropped Beamer to 1-5 in BCS bowls all-time, a stat that won’t be forgotten until the Hokies break through on the big stage against a quality opponent (something tells me the 2009 Orange Bowl win against Cincinnati didn’t satiate the fans’ appetite).
And there remains the empty national championship trophy case, a bold stroke of motivation to some, a painful reminder to others. It’s the one thing lacking on Beamer’s otherwise sterling resume and, by his own account, it’s something he’ll pursue for several more years provided he’s in good health.
With 251 victories, Beamer is now the active leader in Division I wins among coaches. His teams have won 10 or more games in eight straight seasons and gone to 19 straight bowl games. You don’t accomplish that without doing a lot of things right.
But it also raises expectations. And plenty of fans yearn to see the Hokies and Beamer take a step up to the next level and be among the nation’s elite. This year, with Logan Thomas and a standout defense, will provide them with another opportunity.
Coming Friday: Both are coming off significant injuries.
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
- No. 16: Cody Journell, junior kicker
- No. 15: Brent Benedict and David Wang, offensive guards
- No. 14: Dyrell Roberts, senior wide receiver
- No. 13: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 12: Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach
- No. 11: Key reserves