Frank Beamer has called his team young. He’s cited injuries. He’s even gone as far as calling Alabama the best team Virginia Tech has ever played, a statement that had fans of past Miami, Florida State and Southern California teams in a Twitter rage Monday night.
An onlooker might think he was conceding the season opener to the No. 1 Crimson Tide. He made it clear Tuesday that’s not the case.
“We’re not conceding anything now,” Beamer said. “We’re not going down that path.”
Tech’s players, who have heard for months about how big of underdogs they are going to be in Saturday’s game in the Georgia Dome, took a similar stance.
“Maybe it’s my background, coming from wrestling with [Tech] coach [Kevin] Dresser,” center Andrew Miller said. “And one of his main sayings is ‘Never take a backseat to anybody.’ And that’s something I never do. That’s embedded in my heart. In my heart, I’m never going to take a backseat.”
“I don’t think anybody’s really intimidated,” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “Football’s football. I think everybody’s here for a reason. They wanted to play primetime college football. And that’s what this game’s going to be. And everyone’s excited for it. I don’t think I see intimidation in anyone’s eyes. I think I see a dog that’s ready to pounce and to win a game.”
What kind of dog?
“I was going to say a small dog but I didn’t want to make us sound too weak,” Tyler joked.
Point spreads for the game have Alabama favored by anywhere from 18 to 21.5. The Hokies haven’t been that big of underdogs since Miami was favored by 19 in a 1992 matchup. In an odd way, that takes some of the pressure off Tech.
“We’re the ones expected to get beat by 21 or whatever it is, so that makes it a little bit easier in that aspect,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “But I think it will be even. We don’t expect any Alabama team to come out dead or expecting us to be under the radar at all. They’re going to come and give 100 percent. That’s just how they work.”
Thomas wasn’t making any guarantees about the outcome, but he thinks the Hokies will come to play come Saturday.
“I can’t put words in y’all’s mouth or whatever, but I think y’all going to see a different team than you are used to seeing here at Virginia Tech,” Thomas said. “I think y’all are going to be writing about a chance of us having a superior season.”
Here are some more notes and quotes from Tuesday’s press conference …
– There was some initial confusion about the depth chart listed in the media game notes passed out Tuesday. It had Josh Stanford ahead of D.J. Coles at split end. Beamer said that’s not the case. Coles, who has had various stumbles with his knee this August, is back at the top.
The starting punt returner is listed as Kyshoen Jarrett, with freshman Kendall Fuller as his backup. The kick returners are Demitri Knowles and J.C. Coleman.
That’s not an indication that Coleman will be a go for Alabama. Beamer wasn’t biting on that one Tuesday, deferring to the Thursday injury report. He did the same for receiver Charley Meyer, who is nursing a hamstring injury.
– Lest you think Beamer didn’t consider all the teams that Tech has played over the years when making his statement about Alabama being the best the Hokies have ever played, he referenced other great ones Tuesday.
“I think, this is the best team that we’ve ever played and that counts all those Miami teams, and the Florida State teams and Southern Cal,” he said.
– Beamer was asked if getting an early lead against Alabama would be a key to staying in the game.
“I think the lead any time against Alabama would be good,” he quipped.
“I think how the game starts early, that’s important,” he added. “That sets the tone for the game. Taking care of the football, as I mentioned before, that’s critical in this ballgame because they’ve got a way of making putting pressure on you.”
– Miller on Tech trying to get back among the elites in college football again: “I don’t think there’s any other option. I don’t want to be a team that’s a joke, considered a joke in the ACC or the league. I want to be a team that’s going to be competing, that everyone has to watch out for because they know they’re about to play Virginia Tech and they know we’re going to go out there and compete. And they’re going to have to be ready.”
– On a scale of 1 to 10, Thomas says Tech’s offense is in the 8½ to 9 range for being operational after an August of installation.
“I don’t think you ever reach a perfect 10,” he said. “I would say we’re about an 8½ to 9, and that’s just because we’re still kind of young in the offensive stages, but you know as the next couple of weeks come about, I can see us moving further and further up. We’ve just got to keep working and keep getting better. We can be as good as we want to be. We’ve got the athletes and the talent and the want to. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
– Only two players on the team traveled for the 2009 game against Alabama in the Georgia Dome: Thomas and Coles.
“We’ve been trying to give [the rest of the team] an idea of what to expect just because nobody has ever seen how Alabama prepares and how they come out and the type of team they are and how disciplined they are,” Thomas said. “You just try to talk to them and let them know what to expect because it can be a shell shocked, especially with how young we are on offense.”
– Looking for specific goals from Tech vs. Alabama? Thomas said one or fewer turnovers.
“Bama will beat you many different ways, but turnovers are definitely how they do it,” he said. “They thrive off of great field position. That’s how their offense gets it done. We’ve got to take care of the football.”
– Thomas said he watched film of the Texas A&M game from last year, the only game Alabama lost, to see if there was anything he could glean from how Johnny Manziel and the Aggies played the Crimson Tide.
“They took what the defense gave them, but a lot of Texas A&M’s big plays were just Johnny Manziel making plays with his feet and finding an open receiver,” Thomas said. “Two of their last three losses were against scrambling quarterbacks in Johnny and Cam Newton, and those guys being able to make plays down field with things broke down. You’ve just got to stay within the framework and if things do breakdown just use your God given ability to do what you can.”
– Tyler was extremely complimentary of Alabama’s offensive line, which he says can get to the next level well, and running back T.J. Yeldon, who he called a “premier back” who is “good at just about everything.”
“That’s why they’re the No. 1 team in the country,” Tyler said. “But if we want to be the defense we want to be, the No. 1 defense in the country, we have to stop teams like this.”