I had a chance to sit down with Frank Beamer Friday to talk about a variety of subjects. Part of the Q&A ran in today’s paper, but since space isn’t an issue on the Internet, here’s the entire thing.
Follow me on Twitter.
Have you been able to move on from the Sugar Bowl loss or is that one that sticks with you?
“This has been tough. I think the fact that we played really well, I thought we were well-prepared. The thing revolved around a couple plays. Just the way the whole game came about, how much effort our coaches and our players put into that game, and you know, to not quite come out on the right end of the score, it was tough.”
Was that loss harder to take than the Orange Bowl loss to Stanford the previous year?
“Yeah, I think so. I was really proud of the way our kids played. They played hard and just a couple plays in the game kind of turned it around. Looking at it, you go back and look at your decisions and when we went for it on fourth-and-1 [in the second quarter]. … And then going for it on fourth down [in the fourth quarter] … really, we had worked on the rugby kick for like three weeks with Danny [Coale]. And he was good because he’s an athletic guy and he makes good decisions out there. And it worked good [in practice]. And I kind of wanted to go for it, then I said maybe we should punt and pin them, because we’re playing good defense. And then this was kind of the in-between choice, because if they’ve got it covered we’re going to kick it and if for some reason [they] don’t have it covered, we could pick up the first down. But that one didn’t work. You go back and think about your decisions and if they work, they’re great, and if they don’t work, it’s not so great.”
Can you second guess yourself at all on the fake punt call in the fourth quarter? Do you wish you had either simply punted the ball or gone for it with an offensive play?
“It was kind of the one that gave us options. We practiced it. What we said here was for the last three ballgames, anytime it’s less than 5 yards, fourth and less than 5, we’re going to rugby kick it. And the situation hadn’t really come up. So we had practiced it but hadn’t done it in a game. So I thought it was a good in-between choice. In other words, you’ve got Danny Coale making a decision and you’ve got a chance to get the first down if they don’t cover it. And if they do, you’re kicking the ball.”
Did you ever seek an explanation from the ACC or Pac-12 officials for the replay reversal of Coale’s overtime catch/non-catch in the end zone?
“It’s my understanding that the ACC has talked with the people out there. I’ll let the people at the higher level talk about that.”
Do you still wonder how they overturned the call?
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any question. I think that probably the consensus of thoughts is that that should have never been overturned. I think that’s probably the way it’s thought of.”
Is it odd looking back at the game that if one of those plays goes the other way and you win, the season is seen in a different light?
“Well, it’s just a tough loss. And I think you’ve got to get to the positives of the things. And that is our kids were well-prepared, they played great, we were invited to the Sugar Bowl as an at-large team, never had been done before in the ACC, that it’s four out of five years we’ve gone to a BCS bowl, and there’s no question that we need to do better when we’re there, but the fact still remains that we made it there. It’s been tough, but I don’t think you can dwell on ‘what ifs.’ That game might be … the most ‘what if’ game I’ve been involved with. But I think we’ve got a lot of good players coming back and good people, so we’ve got to move forward.”
Do you feel like it was a missed opportunity?
“There’s no question. That game meant a lot to us. That’s like I said, we put a lot of hard work into it and just didn’t come out on the scoreboard.”
There was a rumor out there that you declined your $75,000 bowl bonus. Is that true?
“They gave me that money and I gave it back to the administration to put back into operations.”
What was your reasoning behind that?
“Well, I’m just going to leave it at they gave it to me, I gave it back to put it back in to football operations here.”
Virginia Tech had two things go against it on National Signing Day last year, with quarterback Lafonte Thourogood decommitting and choosing Vanderbilt and five-star linebacker Stephone Anthony picking Clemson over the Hokies. How important is it to finish this year’s class strong?
“Well, I think you’re dealing with 18-year-old kids and sometimes the decisions don’t go the way that they’re supposed to go. But yeah, the bottom line is what kind of class do you have and does it help you continue on. And then the other side of it too is you want people at Virginia Tech to be at Virginia Tech. But there’s no question that it’s important. I think we’re on the verge. We’ve got a really good recruiting class going and if we can finish it off, I think it’d be outstanding.”
Has recruiting changed in your 25 years at Virginia Tech or is it just the attention people pay to recruiting?
“I think the knowledge people have of recruits is so much greater, all the recruiting services. I just think there’s so much more information out there about recruits, and these recruiting services can talk to recruits when we can’t. So there’s just a lot more information out there.”
You made a lot of coaching changes to the staff last year. Do you have any changes in store this year or will it remain the same?
“Right now we’re working hard to finish recruiting here. I don’t have any plans along those lines, but all my thoughts have been along recruiting.”
Do you sit down each year and assess the coaching staff and how it worked together the previous year?
“I think there’s a time for that. But right now is recruiting time.”
How do you think the operation worked last year with Mike O’Cain calling plays and Bryan Stinespring still contributing to the weekly game plan as offensive coordinator?
“Well, I thought it worked well. [Looks at sheets with facts on them]. We were ranked third nationally in time of possession. We were one of 13 FBS teams to finish with 3,000 yards passing, 2,500 rushing. We threw to 14 different receivers. First time we’ve had two receivers catch over 60 balls. David Wilson had the single-season rushing record with 1,709 yards. Logan Thomas had the single-season school record for total offense, pass completion. I mean, there’s a lot of good things about our offense.”
Do you feel like the offense reached its potential last year?
“I think in a couple of games we would have liked to have played better. But I thought Logan Thomas came along and played great throughout the year. And I thought that thing worked well. And we had a lot of people who were very productive.”
I don’t know how much you hear from fans or see on message boards, but there is a lot of criticism about the offensive play-calling. Do you hear things like that? And if you do, what is your response?
“Well, there were a lot of successful plays here, if you go back to the stats. I think so much of that goes back to if it works in the game, it’s a good call, and if it doesn’t work in the game, it’s not such a good call. I think most people have an opinion as you look at a game about the play-calling. But most of it gets down to basically was it successful or not successful.”
What was it like working with Shane?
“It was good. I think he’s a good coach and I think he works hard at recruiting and I think he’s got good ideas. I think he’s got a good future in the profession.”
Do you have to set any rules when your son is on the coaching staff?
“I don’t think there are rules. You just kind of understand. And he doesn’t want me to treat him different than any of those other guys. I can tell you. So no, he knows how it needs to work. And I know how it needs to work. So I don’t think that’s an issue.”
So you can have the same kind of on-field arguments with him as other assistants?
“Well, I don’t usually argue on the field. If I’m going to argue, it’s usually in my office. We’re going to come in here and talk. I’m not usually one to argue on the field with any of our staff.”
You mentioned some ideas that Shane brought on the recruiting front (writing letters to recruits before every meeting was one). Has he brought other stuff in that has been unique to what you have done at Virginia Tech in the past?
“I’ll say this: I think he’s extremely detailed as far as how he recruits and how he corresponds and what he does with recruits. I think he’s very detailed in that regard.”
When you made the move last year to bring Shane and Cornell Brown on staff, you said it wasn’t to get younger. But does it help to have two guys in their mid-30’s on the staff as recruiters?
“Yeah, I think that sometimes that helps. But I think the big part of it is working at it, being detailed. Where I thought it worked out good was we were able to keep Jim Cavanaugh here and was able to keep Billy Hite here. So that’s what I thought made the whole operation I thought better.”
How has that new role worked for Cavanaugh, overseeing all of recruiting but not being on the road?
“I think he’s done a good job. He’s a knowledgeable guy, he knows how to recruit. I think he can help these other guys. So I think it has worked out well.”
Moving on to scheduling: there’s been some talk of a potential Labor Day game against Georgia Tech at home. Would you be open to that?
“I’m not sure the scheduling part, where that is right now. That’s probably better for [athletic director] Jim [Weaver] to answer that.”
Overall, though, would you been opposed to playing that kind of game with such short rest before the following week?
“The one thing that I think that you want is for the game to be at home. When you’re the visiting team and you’re not getting in here until early the next day and trying to get ready for another game, time-wise it hurts and rest-wise it hurts. And if you’re going to do something like that, you want that next game at home.”
Is it beneficial to have that kind of showcase game when no other games are on TV?
“Yeah, I think any time you can get on national TV and do well, it’s a plus. Our Thursday night games have been big around here. And they’re great, because you’re the only game on for the most part. And recruits are watching and fans are watching and whatever. The important thing is to be successful there.”
Would it be strange to play a conference game that early? You usually complete the non-conference schedule before getting to the ACC.
“I think it goes different ways. Florida State and Miami used to open up, I believe. I think in most cases you’d rather play your non-conference games. I think the ideal setting is you play your non-conference games first and that’s your exhibition season and get to your conference games and try to have your team as good as it can be when you start playing conference games.”
You had a lot of praise for Thomas in his first year. How impressed have you been about how he’s played and what is his potential as a quarterback?
“I think he’s got a lot of potential. And he’s made right for your quarterback. He’s not an up-and-down guy. He’s steady, he’s smart, he’s talented. And I think he’ll only get better.”
When you have a quarterback like that, does that give you a chance in any game?
“I think you better have a quarterback. If you’re going to be successful, you better have a quarterback, the guy who handles the ball every play and pulls the plug every play.”
Based on his numbers in his first year as a starter, does he have a chance to be one of the best ever at Virginia Tech?
“Like I said, I think he’s going to continue to get better and better, so we’ll see where he ends up.”
Have you had a running back situation where there’s been so much uncertainty?
[Back to the stats sheet] “The last three seasons we’ve had three different 1,000-yard rushers. Now you’re kind of going young. But that’s the one position where I can kind of tell you I think if you’ve got skill and you’ve got ability, that’s the one position where not having an experience is not as big of an issue as some other positions. So if you’ve got the skill and you’ve got the ability, then I think you’ve got a chance.”
How hard is it going to be to replace four fifth-year seniors on the offensive line?
“I don’t think there’s any question that the offensive line is probably the most demanding position of working together and communicating and being on the same page. But I do think we’ve got some good offensive linemen and I think this spring is going to have to be a big spring for us to develop those guys.”
Defensively, with all the injuries giving guys experience they normally wouldn’t have had, could this be a special defense?
“You lose a couple. Jayron [Hosley] is a special talent there. And Eddie Whitley I think was special to this football team too. But yeah, the fact that we’ve got some guys coming back and hopefully we’ll be a very steady, very good defense. I would expect us to be. I think with the injuries, our defensive staff did a good job this last year. And those guys, most of them played very well in the bowl game, so I think it kind of makes you say, ‘All right, let’s take the next step.’”
BeamerBall hasn’t produced as many special teams plays in recent years. Have you notice that? And why do you think that is?
“I don’t think we were real good this past year. I don’t think overall we kicked the ball well this past year. And then probably didn’t have as many big plays in the kicking game as we have. But we continue to work on it. I think it all starts with how you kick. And then I think it goes from there. I think you get into more returns with the shield protection, I think more times than not you end up trying to return the ball as opposed to blocking a kick with the three guys back there. So I think that’s kind of entered into it a little bit. And then we were close. We actually tipped a ball in the Clemson game, the championship game, and we got called roughing there. The last ballgame, we roughed the kicker and we were close to blocking it, but we roughed the kicker. And instead of it being a great play, it’s about that much difference [holds his hands up 6 inches apart] from it being a great play and all of a sudden now we’ve got a penalty. But that’s the way kicking things are. It’s big plays in open spaces, but it gets down to details in small spaces. And the roughing the kicker penalty in the bowl game hurt.”
Will that be an emphasis this spring to shore up special teams?
“It’s always been an emphasis around here. I mean, I don’t think anyone puts more emphasis on special teams in the country than we do right here.”
Do you have an idea of much longer do you think you want to coach?
“Not really. I’ve said a couple times, as long as I had a good quarterback and a few play-makers, and your health is good, you can continue to coach. But I haven’t really given a thought to how long. I think it is — how is your health and what kind of team do you have?”
You’ve won a lot of ACC championships, but would your career feel incomplete without a national championship?
“I think things just have to fall in place. You’ve got to be good and you’ve got to be lucky. And by us having played for the national championship, I think you get a good idea of what it takes to win it. I think we’ve been up there, we’ve been knocking at the door. And if you get there enough, it’s going to work out. That’s the way I see it. I think Tom Watson, he’s up there playing for the championship in the [golf] majors and he couldn’t quite get there, he was up there for a while, he’s up there one time and shot a 79 on the last day, but all of a sudden he won one and he won several more. So I think as long as you’re in the running, and we’ve been in the running — I mean, we are the winningest football team since 1995 — and as long as you’re in the running and as long as things work your way, then we’ve got a chance to win the national championship.”
When you went to the BCS title game in 2000, did you think, ‘We’ll be back here?’ Did you cherish how special it is to make it to that type of game?
“Yeah, there’s no question. And our goal is to come back. That’s what our goal is at Virginia Tech, to get back to that national championship game and win it this time.”