I’m out of town this weekend at a wedding in Charleston, S.C., which means I’ll be taking in a tour of Fort Sumter later this morning. (And if you think I’m not psyched about that, you don’t know me very well).
Nevertheless, the mailbag will continue. Here are some more questions I got this week. I apologize if I didn’t get to everyone’s questions. There were a lot this week.
If you missed Part I, you can get to it here. Now for the questions …
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Who looks to be the leading candidates to be the starters at the WR and TE positions? (D.J. Coles being the one given.) – Chris Hall
At tight end, I still think Ryan Malleck is the guy the Hokies expect to develop into the starter. He had some hiccups last year where things didn’t quite come together, but he’s still the combination of speed and strength that Tech coaches have talked about wanting. That said, there’s plenty of competition. I’m curious to see what converted defensive end Zach McCray looks like out there. When he made the switch last fall, it was like he was given a new lease on football life. We’ll see if that carries over to the spring. Darius Redman, Duan Perez-Means and Dakota Jackson are all intriguing prospects too. If offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s comments are any indication, Tech will use more than just one. “Love the tight ends,” he said in January. “Playing with tight ends on the field, causes as many major problems with defensive alignment. If you saw how New England played with the two tight ends they had, the defense was never right. They couldn’t get nickel people on the field. You never knew if they were in run sets, pass sets, what have you, because of the diversity of the tight ends. But we’ll play with what we have. If we have great tight ends, we’ll play with them. If not, we won’t. But in a perfect world, yeah, I like tight ends a lot.”
At receiver, you’re right, Coles is a given. After that, there are a lot of question marks. I think Demitri Knowles started to show by the end of the year that he could do more than just run a go route, although he’s still a work in progress. Of the returning guys, Kevin Asante should get a good shot. Tech will need redshirt freshmen Joel Caleb and Josh Stanford to step into more prominent roles this year. Stanford was expected to play last year but a knee injury led to a redshirt. Caleb, who transitioned from quarterback, needed a little more polishing at the position. They will have the spotlight on them in the spring, for sure.
In the past I’ve heard it mentioned that Frank Beamer limits his assistant coaches to the media. They do less interviews post game, for example, than other schools. Will this continue with the new assistant coaches? – Mike Scollick, Columbia, Md.
I don’t expect anything to change in that regard. I do find it a little odd how infrequently we get to talk to assistant coaches after home games, although the explanation we get is that they have recruiting obligations to tend to with players who are visiting the game. (My response would be: you don’t have 10 spare minutes in there somewhere?) Auburn, for instance, where I was before this, did a pretty good job of making, at the very least, coordinators available to the media after every game. To be fair, Tech does that when we’ve requested it on the road. Bud Foster was available after the North Carolina game and Mike O’Cain after the Cincinnati game, for instance. But that’s not the case at home games, which is a shame. It just means we have to find out what the assistant coaches were thinking until Monday and Tuesday.
During the games, why is there no one sitting with Logan Thomas, looking him in the eye, and giving him encouragement or advice? It seems most everything is done by phone. I realize this is big-time football, but most other teams I see on TV have a coach talking face to face with their quarterback.
I know this is old news, but why did Seth Greenberg let the Curry family get away? Their dad was a real hero at VT and both sons are extraordinary talents. Can you imagine the publicity, as well as financial support, they would have given us? I did not like the way Seth was fired, but I am glad he is gone. Johnson is a good coach and will take us to new heights. – Nancy B. Bowser, Roanoke
I always thought it was odd last year that Thomas didn’t have someone on the sidelines that he could look in the face and talk to between series. In 2011, Bryan Stinespring was down there. But Stinespring went up to the booth with O’Cain last year, leaving Thomas on the phone most of the time. A lot of NFL teams operate that way, but for developing QBs at the college level, there’s probably a calming influence to having somebody down there to talk to you face-to-face. Loeffler was a press box guy at Auburn to start but quickly moved down to the sideline. The reason? To be a calming influence for a young quarterback. (Sidenote: it didn’t work real well.) I’m not sure yet how exactly he’ll operate at Virginia Tech.
As for the Greenberg-Curry saga, he’s never going to live that decision down. Yeah, in hindsight it was the wrong move. But every other major Division I program made the same wrong move. He ended up at Davidson for a reason. I’m not sure the entire backstory of Curry’s recruitment, and from the sounds of it, there are conflicting reports about when Greenberg offered and how enthusiastically he pursued Curry. Certainly, Greenberg’s time at Virginia Tech would look a lot differently — and probably still be going — if he had taken a shot on Curry. Again, though, that’s easy to say in hindsight.
1. What is VT’s linebacker situation looking like this upcoming year?
2. Which players do you expect to switch to the LB position this year/spring to provide VT with more depth?
3. The depth at linebacker is already thin, and in my opinion, VT also seems very undersized at the inside LB position. Do you concur?
4. Where do you think DE recruit D. Hand will play college football?
5. Basketball question: Who will be the leading scorer next year on the VT basketball team? – Ward
Woo, that’s a lot of questions. I’ll try to hit them quickly …
1. The inside linebacker spot is pretty thin. Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards are the presumed starters, with Chase Williams as the most-experienced backup. Tech will need redshirt freshmen Devin Vandyke and Deon Clarke to come on. The whip spot is even thinner. Ronny Vandyke will be the top guy. Behind him, Dahman McKinnon should be back for spring ball after resolving his hit-and-run charge this week.
2. I don’t know if there are really any candidate to make a switch. You would have thought maybe Trey Edmunds, if the running back situation wasn’t as dire as it was. But with Drew Harris’ status in limbo, Tech obviously needs Edmunds there (perhaps another incoming freshman, Jerome Wright, will end up at linebacker, but he’s listed as a tailback coming in). Rover and whip linebacker have had some shuffling between the two the last few years, but the Hokies aren’t exactly swimming in rover depth either.
3. Yeah, there aren’t a lot of linebackers on the roster right now. There’s been some attrition. Remember, Telvion Clark would have been a senior this year. I don’t know how much size matters at linebacker. Tyler might not be huge, but he certainly brought ballcarriers to the ground all the same last year.
4. I think Virginia Tech has a chance on Hand, although it’s probably too early to tell where he’ll end up. He’s high on Alabama, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. All those schools are pretty good at recruiting. It’ll be an interesting race to watch.
5. I’d say Jarrell Eddie has the inside track at being the leading scorer. Robert Brown seems too streaky. And Cadarian Raines doesn’t seem like someone you can count on to shoulder the scoring load. That team is going to miss Erick Green, for sure.
1. So I know how you love your Alston Smith references, but here is one that is actually serious. I read a report saying that Alston has been very impressive in the weight room and is one of the workout warriors on the team. Have you heard of any reports on how well his work ethic in the weight transitioned to the field during his redshirt year? Do you see him as a starter before his career is up?
2. I asked this same question before the season began and although Davis came close he still didn’t quite get there. Do you think we have a receiver hit that elusive 1000 yd mark this year? And/or does anyone break that 9 TD receiving mark? If so who do you think will be most likely to take care of business? Also, who do you see being this years Corey Fuller the receiver we all know but haven’t really talked about? Coles and Knowles should be the front runners going into the season but for this question I am going to put my money on Kevin Asante. – Nathan Glover
I’ll say this about Smith: you can’t argue with his genes. Sons of star players usually have a good chance of panning out. I haven’t heard that much about Smith — honestly, I haven’t sought out anyone’s opinion of him this offseason — but I know he is a big kid who has come on after getting a late start on football (he didn’t pick up the game until 8th grade). It seems like if Bruce Smith is your father, you’d pick up a few pointers along the way too.
Coles seems like he’d be the receiver who would have the best shot at that elusive 1,000-yard barrier, but honestly, if Tech gets back to its running roots, you wonder if anybody will catch enough passes to get near that number. It takes talent and opportunity. Had either Jarrett Boykin or Danny Coale been at Tech without the other, one of them probably would have gotten to that mark. But they split the receptions. Coles might have plenty of opportunity this year, as the only really experienced receiver on the team, but I don’t know if he’s capable of getting there. I’d say he has a better shot at the 9-touchdown mark than the 1,000-yard one.
I think you’re right about Asante. I think he was a guy the coaches had high hopes for before last year, but it never really materialized. Then, when he had his shot at the end of the year, he had a toe injury that set him back. He won’t lack in opportunities this year, that’s for sure.
We made good changes to the coaching staff. One of the other areas that needs work is Special Teams. They used to be really special under Coach Beamer. They are more of a liability now versus being an asset. What is the strategy going forward? Will Coach Beamer still control them, will he turn over the duties to someone else, and will we return to having more starters on special teams? Unless constructive changes are made, the tern Beamerball should be retired. – Ben, Greensboro, N.C.
1) What can VT Football do to diminish or abolish the term “Beamer Ball”? The notion and concept was great 7-10 years ago but as of late, nothing has been really special about the special teams. In fact, most teams that play VT try to expose it as the Hokies weakness instead of a strength. They block our punts, run back punts for TD’s, and do fakes and onsides kicks. When the opposition Is successful with their special teams prowess, it appears to really fluster the team and especially the head coach. I was somewhat surprised during the recent coaching changes that Frank Beamer kept this position. Perhaps this spring he will give the reigns to another coach on the staff.
2) Will the new offensive line Coach Grimes be able to recruit actual guards And Tackles and not just a few high school tight ends that take 2-3 years to develop into a guard or tackle. VT needs to recruit offensive lineman that can contribute in 1-2 years, not projects that take 3-4 years and having only 1 year of eligibility once they become adept at their respective position.
3) Will Loeffler have a free reign to do his job without any interference from Stinespring? Will Loeffler be in the press box during the game or on the sidelines? Will VT have to make a visor for him with a VT logo or will he wear a hat? Appears to be a visor guy!
4) How often are Cavanaugh and Hite at practices? Were they truly sent to the “office” or do they still evaluate and participate on the field during practices. Those two have forgotten more than most have tried learning.
5) Do you think Jim Weaver has lost touch with the fan base? Is he the main reason VT is perceived as a football school only? Is Weaver approachable for you to speak to him as the VT scribe for the Roanoke Times or is he abrupt and evasive? – Mike Wilson
Another flurry of questions. The first one and the first part from the second questioner overlap, so I’ll hit them together.
1. I believe the term “Beamer Ball” (I never know whether that’s one word or two) will be with Virginia Tech for as long as Frank Beamer is around and longer. Say what you will about the team’s recent special teams showings, it’s the brand that he established long ago and the one that still gets referenced on TV all the time. (And if you think national TV folks will adapt the label associated with Virginia Tech football anytime soon, you’re sadly mistaken.) It needs a boost, yes, but Beamer is still the guy in charge and will continue to be. I don’t see him giving up special teams duties. Not after this long. I think Tech made some strides in turning around the “Beamer Ball” slide last year, although there were still too many major gaffes to consider it completely fixed. I don’t know if you’re ever going to see the Hokies block five or six kicks in a season again, though. Teams are prepared for it, and it doesn’t seem to be a priority in Tech’s special teams packages anymore.
2. I think this notion that Tech only recruits tight ends and converts them to linemen is way overblown. Yes, it happened a couple times. If you’ll remember, the best linemen Tech has had in the past decade (Duane Brown) was a converted tight end. But I’m looking at the roster now and I don’t think any of the guys are converted tight ends. I think what Jeff Grimes needs to find are linemen who have that physical mentality that he’s trying to instill. He mentioned it at the introductory presser: some guys have it; some guys don’t. He’s had a pretty good track record of finding guys that have it, though.
3. I’m not sure if Loeffler will be a sideline or booth guy yet. He did both at Auburn. But I think this “interference” that everyone worries about from Stinespring is unfounded. Loeffler’s the offensive coordinator. Stinespring is the tight end coach. Those guys have that designation for a reason. If Beamer was satisfied with the offense’s direction under Stinespring, he wouldn’t have stripped that title from him and overhauled the offensive staff.
4. Cav and Hite are at practice, but they’re just observers. In fact, that’s usually when I chat with them the most is between the practice fields during open sessions, because they’re not on the field doing anything anymore.
5. Every time I’ve requested to speak with Weaver, he’s gotten back to me, so yes, he’s available. I don’t know if I’d say he’s lost touch with the fan base. I think he made a miscalculation with requesting not to have a Thursday night game this year and probably has received some backlash because of it. But I think the AD gets blamed for a lot of things out of his control. The league schedule, for instance, is out of his control. It’s not his fault Tech doesn’t play FSU or Clemson this year or that the Hokies get Georgia Tech coming off a short week (and given that the Hokies have had extra time to prepare for the Yellow Jackets in the past, this seems like it’s just a matter of things evening out). I think it’s a fair point to question how he’s managed the basketball programs. Both hires were made from within the program, essentially, with the Greenberg/Johnson switch coming at a time that was not helpful in recruiting. Both teams are in last place in the ACC. That’s not a great track record, especially for programs that had pretty good promise just a few years ago.
Do you think the offense is once again doomed to a 100 plus total offense ranking or will Logan provide solid play along with his new O-line and hopefully an emerging tailback to get us back to the 50 to 75 range? – Jack, Raleigh
For as bad as Virginia Tech was last year on offense, it only ranked 81st nationally. So it’s not like the Hokies hit lows offensively like they did in 2008 (103rd), 2007 (100th) or 2006 (99th).There are plenty of question marks about the offense (o-line, receiver, running back), but there are some talented players who could step into those spots, plus the Hokies have quarterback Logan Thomas, who can make up for a lot of shortcomings, despite his struggles last season. Short term, I don’t think you’ll see a huge improvement next year. The line will need to come together and a featured back needs to emerge for the Hokies to show a marked improvement (although a slight bump wouldn’t be out of the question, simply for the fact that there’s new voices leading the group). The bigger question is what Loeffler and Co. will do long term. That means recruiting the right types of players who can work in their system and be that physically overpowering, mentally tough group that can impose its will on a defense, something Tech hasn’t had in a while. As usual, it’s impossible to predict the future.