Virginia Tech Football: 3 Concerns Facing Frank Beamer Heading into Spring
2012 is a season that longtime Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer would like to soon forget. Sure, his team finished 7-6 and won a bowl game, but when you’ve established a tradition of 10-win seasons, anything short of that becomes a major disappointment.
For years, Beamer has heard from fans calling for him to change the offensive coordinator to someone who runs a more up-to-date offense. Fans see teams around the country routinely scoring 40 points per game or more, and they want the same.
After last season’s debacle of a season, Beamer finally made some much-needed changes on offense, replacing longtime offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring with Scot Loeffler.
Senior quarterback Logan Thomas’ return to school was the best news Beamer received all offseason and should help lessen the growing pains on offense.
The defense should be outstanding with nine starters returning and a host of younger players with experience.
Here are three concerns facing Beamer and the Hokies with spring practice just a few weeks away.
With a talented, veteran defense that is ready to win now, the Hokies will undoubtedly be behind on offense. Fortunately for defensive coordinator Bud Foster and his group, it is something they are used to.
While Logan Thomas’ return was good news for the Hokies, the Hokies will still need to replace six starters on offense. The offensive line as a whole was bad in 2012, but they lost, arguably, their best two players in offensive tackles, Nick Becton and Vinston Painter.
New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will have his hands full with this group. Spring practice is especially important for Grimes to identify the team’s five best linemen moving forward. Grimes would like to have his top five set before summer practice begins in order to gain the cohesion needed for a successful unit.
Who Will Step Up at Wide Receiver?
In 2012, the Hokies had to replace the top two wide receivers in school history. Fortunately for the Hokies, they had three experienced seniors step up and help ease the burden. The drop-off was noticeable but hardly devastating.
The Hokies head into 2013 with a much younger group at wide receiver. Senior D.J. Coles, who injured his knee in the 2012 season opener, was granted a redshirt year and returns to be one of the starting receivers. At 6’4”, 226 pounds, Coles is a big, reliable target that Thomas will count on, especially on third down.
Sophomore Demitri Knowles is the player to watch. Knowles is a big-play threat and finished his freshman season with 19 catches. He is 6’1”, 180 pounds and is still learning to play the position consistently after just starting to play football in high school. He has the potential to be a star.
A host of other freshmen and sophomores will vie for playing time in the spring. Joel Caleb is a name to remember. The Hokies’ top recruit in 2012, Caleb redshirted last season and will have an opportunity to show coaches how much he has grown in the past year.
Who Will Step Up in Antone Exum's Absence?
Virginia Tech just finished up with one of the better recruiting classes in school history, and many of those signed play in the secondary. However, only Brandon Facyson enrolled in January and will be eligible in spring practice.
Senior cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in late-January and will obviously not be available in spring practice. Exum, an all-ACC selection as a junior in 2012, leaves some big shoes to fill.
Fellow senior Kyle Fuller has the spot opposite of Exum locked up, but who will step up in the secondary with Exum out and with Michael Cole’s departure from the football program?
A host of the freshmen signed last month will get an opportunity this summer, but the door is open now for three players entering their sophomore years: Cornerbacks Donaldven Manning, Donovan Riley and safety Desmond Frye.
Manning struggled as a true freshman in 2012. His size will always be an issue as he is only 5’9”, 160 pounds, but he could be a terrific cover guy. Off-field incidents and struggles to pick up Foster’s defense plagued Manning’s first season on campus. He has a chance to get ahead of incoming freshman Kendall Fuller on the depth chart with a good spring.
Riley has good size for the position at 6’0”, 200 pounds. He had one interception as a freshman and showed flashes. Inconsistency did plague Riley, however, as he often seemed lost in coverage and needs to work on his tackling. Spring practice will be the perfect opportunity for Riley to show Foster how far he has progressed from last season.