Asked again about a potential overhaul to his staff, Beamer sidestepped it in a more succinct way.
“We haven’t talked about it,” he said. “All we’ve talked about is this bowl game and Rutgers.”
It’s been the elephant in the room for most of the season. With the Hokies struggling to their worst record in 20 years and the offense being a major culprit, there have been rumors abound about the future of the coaching staff.
Twitter feeds and message boards seemingly have a rumor of the day — all citing ubiquitous, unnamed sources — confident that something will change with regards to the staff’s makeup after the bowl game.
The coaches try to put it out of mind.
“It’s a coach’s life,” said offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, seemingly the target of criticism since he first took over the position in 2002.
“In our profession, that’s always in the back of your mind, unfortunately,” said quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain, who took over play-calling duties prior to the 2011 season. “It’s just a part of the profession. There’s nothing we can do about that. If it happens, it happens. There have been rumors probably since I’ve been here about that. …
“It’s happened before,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t mean to make light of it, because it’s not [funny]. But at the same time, you have to coach and look yourself in the mirror every day and feel like you’ve done the best that you can do. … You have to go out and if you feel like you’ve put your players in as good of a position as you can to be successful.
“And going back and looking, I feel like for the most part, we did that.”
The players have backed the current assistants, despite the rumors.
“Obviously you hear it, but you don’t even think about it, for real,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “You got to deal with what’s here now. I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world. I love them all. They’re the ones who made me come here, made me want to come here.”
- That was just part of tomorrow’s newspaper story. O’Cain summed up the feeling this way when asked if he thought there would be any personnel changes: “I can’t answer that question. I really can’t. I hope it’s the same. I enjoy the camaraderie we have. I believe we have a great staff, work hard, are very compatible, work together. There’s I think a great rapport with our players, but you just don’t know until it happens. You hear things out there. How much of it is truth? You don’t know.”
- As mentioned in this earlier blog post, the Hokies will honor the victims of the Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech shootings with a special ribbon decal on their helmets this week. The decal is of a ribbon that is half green for Sandy Hook and half orange for Virginia Tech. The number 58 is in the center — the combined number of victims in the shooting incidents — with the word “Prevail” written across it. A smaller decal will be placed on the back center of the helmet for the bowl game. “We’ve been through what those people up in Sandy Hook are going through,” Beamer said. “We prevailed in Blacksburg. If anything, it brought us closer and [made us] more determined. The same thing is happening there, where the community is just coming together. It’s a terrible thing to happen, but we’ve got to prevail. We can’t let one person define Blacksburg or Virginia Tech. They can’t let one person define them.”
- There were no curfew violators on the first night in Orlando. Tech’s players had a 1 a.m. curfew, which will no doubt be earlier as it gets closer to game time. Those that miss the curfew know the punishment — a Greyhound bus ride home. Beamer said this year’s ride back to Blacksburg, with stops and transfers, is one day and eight hours.
- Thomas said he hasn’t gotten his paperwork back from the NFL draft advisory board, which gives a grade to underclassmen considering entering the draft. “I’m waiting until after the bowl game to do any factoring, I guess,” he said. O’Cain said he talked with Thomas about the decision after the season. “He felt like he wanted to come back,” O’Cain said. “He feels like he needs to come back. But at the same time, if you have the chance to be a first-round draft choice in this day and time, that’s hard to turn away. So we’ll just kind of wait and see what happens.”
- O’Cain said the rest after the season did a world of help for Thomas, who, as the team’s leading rusher, took a beating from tacklers during the year. “I know the first day we came back and practiced as a team, I know we had some pass skels in there, he talked about how live his arm felt,” O’Cain said. “It’s a cumulative effect. So from one day to the next, you can’t tell that much. But when you’re talking about August to December, how much effect it has on you, then he had about a two and a half to three-week break there, I guess, and came back out there. And both he and Mark [Leal] talked about how their arms really felt good. I think it’s not only the throwing, but it is also the pounding that affects that.”
- O’Cain said he went back through all of Thomas’ errant passes during the year to see if there was a common thread. “It was a combination of things that we’ve talked about before,” he said. “Some of it is his footwork. That’s caused by different things. Sometimes that’s his own cause, sometimes a defensive lineman being free, he wasn’t able to get his feet under him. Sometimes he had pressure on him. Sometimes he hesitated a little bit because the route wasn’t quite where he thought it was going to be or what they were going to do. So it was a bunch of things, but it wasn’t quite one things where you could say, ‘All right, this is what we’ve got to correct.’ I think the biggest thing about Logan is that he comes out and plays with confidence and relaxed and has fun with the game.”
- O’Cain said Thomas wouldn’t admit as much, but he thinks the quarterback put too much pressure on himself early in the year. “Tried to make things happen,” O’Cain said. “You go in there and feel like the burden is on me to make sure that I do everything exactly right.”
- I got plenty of good quotes today about senior fullback Joey Phillips, who has turned his long mane into a mullet/mustache combination that evokes Joe Dirt. He said he also had former pro wrestler Magnum T.A. in mind when he decided to do the ‘do. His thought process before getting his hair cut? “I’ve got to be a real person this time next year. I might as well do something with it,” he said.
- Running backs coach Shane Beamer said Phillips’ look scares his young daughters. Phillips wore some camouflage overalls the other day and had an airbrushed, howling wolves shirt on earlier today that probably looked like this. Still, the former walk-on has a ton of respect from his teammates, who have voted him a captain. More on Phillips in a story later this week.
- Beamer sees this game as a potential stepping stone for next year, noting a big difference between a 7-6 and 6-7 season. “The difference for us is in having a winning season or a non-winning season,” he said. “I think these games are a great step for next year if you can be successful and play well. I think our football team understands that.”
- The only notable injury was to reserve senior linebacker/rover Jeron Gouveia-Winlsow, who was in a green, no-contact jersey and wearing a protective boot after spraining his right ankle. His status for the game is to be determined.
- One last note: cornerback Antone Exum decided to use the $470 Best Buy gift card he and all the other players got from the bowl game on three children from the Bahamas who he met at the store. A few other players got into the gift-giving spirit, giving the remainder of the balance on their cards to a few families trying to finish up some last-minute shopping.