Asked to describe his football team in one word, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer answered, “Developing.”
Considering that the Hokies have just five seniors on defense (not in the starting lineup, but in the entire two-deep); considering that, on offense, freshman scored all but six points in the squad’s 34-9 season-opening win against William & Mary (and those aforementioned six points came on a fourth-quarter touchdown); considering they played a total of 10 true freshman in that victory; and considering they have a new starter at quarterback (and he’s not the signal caller who came out of the spring as the projected number one)?
Well, given all that, Beamer’s word choice might not only be considered appropriate, but an actual understatement.
The overhaul was considered necessary after the program’s worst two-year win total (15) since 1991-92.
Not included in the makeover is Beamer himself, who is in his 28th season and just signed an extension that has him under contract through 2019. Also, there’s Bud Foster, architect of the Hokies defense, who is likewise in his 28th season.
Given that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that defense is one of the foundations of the Hokies identity. Even as they struggled last year, Virginia Tech was fourth in the nation, only allowing 283.6 yards per game. They didn’t give up even that many in their season opener, just 193 yards and three field goals, no touchdowns.
VT plays a 4-2-5 scheme that makes life difficult on opposing quarterbacks. Since 2000, no FBS team has more interceptions, and there are 7 current Hokies players who have registered a pick.
Some of the leaders of this year’s D include sophomore defensive back Kendall Fuller (6 career interceptions), whose brothers Vincent, Corey and Kyle all played or are playing in the NFL. There’s senior free safety Detrick Bonner (4 career interceptions). He’s already been named one of the Hokies game captains for the Ohio State kickoff. Up front at defensive tackle, Luther Maddy had 13.5 tackles-for-loss last season.
The offense is where the bulk of the remodeling took place. Shai McKenzie is a freshman who ran for 106 yards, a touchdown and an average of 11.8 yards per carry last week. Receiver Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges both caught touchdown passes last week. They’re both freshman.
Their 6’0″ tall quarterback, Michael Brewer, is actually a graduate student, but even he is new to Virginia Tech, and new to this style of offense. He transferred in from Texas Tech. Both the Red Raiders and the Cavaliers of Lake Travis High School had him playing from shotgun rather than from under center.
One other player to keep an eye on is receiver Willie Byrn, also an Ohio State game captain.
Of course, when you talk “Beamer Ball,” you’re generally referring to excellence on special teams. Virginia Tech struggled in that category last year, but if Beamer believes his club is developing, this is an area where he would have concentrated on their development.