The annual college football coaching carousel indirectly hit a resounding note with Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer recently, with contemporaries Jim Grobe and Mack Brown, two of his best friends in the business, in the headlines.
Grobe, after several middling seasons, resigned after 13 years at Wake Forest. Brown, after a season under fire, announced Saturday he would do the same following the bowl game after a 16-year run at Texas that included a national championship.
It’s led Beamer to ruminate on his own future lately.
“It just kind of reminds you that nothing is certain about this business,” the 67-year-old Beamer said at the Hokies’ Sun Bowl media day Saturday. “But I’m very sensitive to staying around too long.”
Beamer, who is finishing up his 27th year in Blacksburg, where he’s had 224 of his 266 career victories, will guide Virginia Tech (8-4) into the Sun Bowl against No. 17 UCLA (9-3) on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas, a game he thinks could vault the Hokies into the Top 25 with a win.
But he spoke with some level of reflection about his career and how many years he has left on the Hokies’ sideline Saturday.
“I think you see what’s going on, and it’s just the reality of the business,” Beamer said. “I understand it. I haven’t seriously thought of it, but I’ve certainly thought about it.
“But I feel good about things right now. Our recruiting is going great. I like my coaching staff very much. Things are really very positive right now. Very good.”
It’s been a year of change at Virginia Tech, with longtime president Charles Steger and athletic director Jim Weaver announcing their pending retirements. Weaver has been at Tech since 1997 and Steger since 2000, making for a transition at the top that will require Beamer to forge new relationships going forward.
“I haven’t met very many people that I couldn’t get along with,” Beamer said. “That’s been the case here in the past. It’s been great relationships. And I’d expect it to be that way in the future.”
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who has been on Beamer’s staff since he was first hired as a graduate assistant at Murray State in 1981, says he hasn’t seen much change in the head coach’s drive.
“I still see a lot of energy, a lot of motivation to see this program continue to make the strides that we had,” Foster said.
“… We didn’t have our most talented football team this year, but we still had a chance to win 10 football games, in my eyes. And it’s all because of him and his direction and his enthusiasm and his motivation. And I don’t see that waning much.”
Beamer used his oft-repeated phrase that as long as he has a good quarterback, a good kicker and good health, he’ll continue to coach.
After being worn down by last year’s struggles and 7-6 finish, the offseason overhaul of the offensive coaching staff — and the addition of several outside voices to what had been an insulated staff — seems to have reinvigorated the program and, to a certain degree, Beamer.
“I feel comfortable that this staff, we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Beamer said. “It just takes a little time. It just doesn’t happen right away.”
Foster said the key is that Beamer’s expectations haven’t dropped.
“Nobody wants to go out not being on top, I think,” Foster said. “And I’m sure that coach would like to do that, as long as we’ve got a chance to continue to perform at a high level, I’m sure he’ll be right in the mix of it. …
“The longevity that we’ve had? I don’t know if that will happen again. You just really don’t know. It’d be hard. It’d be interesting to see. Not just here. I’m talking anywhere in the country.”
Here are a few more notes and quotes from Saturday’s bowl media day. I’ll likely expound on some of these topics and more over the next week:
– After having surgery to repair a core muscle injury last month, senior cornerback Kyle Fuller was given the go-ahead by his doctor to be more aggressive in his rehab. His status for the Sun Bowl remains up in the air, although he’d like to play at least one more game with his younger brother, Kendall. Kyle’s missed most of the last five games.
“I don’t want to risk his future,” Foster said, “but at the same time I know he wants to play.”
Fuller was still named a second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation earlier this week, even though he played in what amounted to only seven games.
“It makes a statement about what kind of football player he is,” Foster said. “He was having a great year, was being a great leader for us.”
– Antone Exum (ankle) and Brandon Facyson (shoulder) were both in blue Saturday, although they were participating in drills.
– Beamer said J.C. Coleman is the next guy up at running back, although he mentioned that freshman fullback Jerome Wright could get some looks too.
Joel Caleb and Chris Mangus figure to be in the mix for reps as well, even though Caleb was still in a blue, limited contact jersey at Saturday’s practice because of a quad injury. But Beamer went out of his way to mention Wright, a 6-foot-2, 221-pound first-year player who hasn’t gotten a carry this year.
“The guy has got some natural ability,” Beamer said. “He’s going to get a lot of reps. He’s got to mentally be ready to play, where we have confidence in him from that standpoint. But I think it’s a great opportunity to see how Jerome performs.”
– Beamer said it’s likely that a pair of juniors — safety Kyshoen Jarrett and defensive tackle Luther Maddy — will see what their draft stock might be. He said Jarrett submitted his paperwork to the NFL draft advisory committee and thinks that Maddy did as well.
College underclassmen are allowed to get feedback from NFL scouting personnel of where they might go if they decide to enter the draft early. There’s nothing binding about submitting the paperwork.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster thinks it’s more a fact-finding mission for both, putting out feelers. He said Jarrett is probably slated for shoulder surgery after the season.
“I don’t know if they’re even thinking of leaving,” Foster said. “I think guys are looking to just see where their status is now to see what they’ve got to do to maybe improve that status. If they come back as a mid- to late-round guy, that kind of makes a statement of where they think of them.”
Both were third-team All-ACC picks this year. Jarrett was second on the team with 67 tackles this year. Maddy led all Hokies defensive linemen with 52 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
“I’m hoping neither one of them leave. I think they would both benefit from coming back another year,” Foster said. “There’s no doubt about it. … I’d like both of those guys to come back and be great senior leaders for us.”
– Foster said he never interviewed with UConn for the head coaching job that eventually went to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
– Reflecting on this season, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler thinks the Hokies should be motivated by the games they let slip away this year.
“The fact of the matter is, we let three football games slip away,” he said. “And I think this bowl preparation, we should have a chip on our shoulder. I think this bowl preparation should be an intense, get-after-it week, two weeks, and we need to go play our very best football against a very good football team in UCLA.”
– With recruiting obligations the last week and little practice time, the Hokies have only recently started looking at UCLA film. Loeffler has seen all he needs to in order to know that outside linebacker Anthony Barr is a standout player.
“Mr. Barr is a pretty good football player,” he said, showing a level of respect.