The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
When: every Monday from 7:00-8:30
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Tech Sports Tonight (football season only)
Monday, October 28, 2002
With a few hard fought Big East Games under its helmet, the Hokie football team heads into the stretch run facing a formidable November schedule. The weather may continue to cool down, but the callers and their questions are getting hotter as the offensive play calling and stadium issues were popular topics of discussion. In what promises to be an exciting finish to an already great season, the Hokie Hotline was on the air. Bill Roth took your calls and hosted Hokie Head Football Coach Frank Beamer. Also joining tonightís Hotline was Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring.
Bill started off the Hotline with the news of the day. The Hokies held on to the #3 spot in both the ESPN/USAToday Coaches Poll and the AP polls. The new BCS poll came out on Monday and the news was mixed. The Hokies slipped to 6th in that poll. The good news is that the Hokies have the 2nd toughest remaining schedule out of all the BCS unbeatens, behind N.C. State.
Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespringís segment
Coach Stinespring stepped into the line of fire early and often during his segment, and he was fine with that since he stated that it comes with the territory. Bill started by asking him his opinion of the offensive play in recent weeks, directly referring to the 7 turnovers in the last 7 quarters of play. Coach Stinespring immediately credited the defense with their play in recent games, as turnovers by the Hokie offense have created a short field for the Hokie defense to protect. He then poignantly stated that he could have done some better play calling in the Temple game. When asked by Bill to Coach Stinespring to clarify his statement, he directly stated he would have called the second half of play against Temple differently than he did.
Bill asked Coach Stinespring if an 8-0 team calls more conservative plays than a team that is struggling to win ball games and has nothing to lose. He felt that this is the case due to the fact that the Hokies are playing for a conference championship and major bowl bid, while many teams have little but pride to play for at this time of year.
The talk shifted to something near and dear to all folks who call Blacksburg either their Alma mata or home: the weather. The current forecast is for a game time temperature of 30 degrees and some sort of precipitation. Bill asked if this would affect the play calling. Coach Stinespring joked that, after all the clamoring from fans for a more pass oriented offense, the Hokies would run the ball. He did say that wet conditions can cause problems when it comes to handling the football due to its added weight. He alluded to the Florida-Tennessee game several weeks ago in which a favored Volunteer team, playing at home, lost in a rout to the Gators in wet conditions.
Andrew in Roanoke Rapids, NC was the first caller of the evening and asked about getting the ball to the receivers more. Coach Stinespring stated that they threw the ball 20 times in the Temple game and was pleased with the play of the receivers. He pointed to the solid play of r-Junior SE Ernest Wilford, r-Sophomore FL Richard Johnson, and r-Freshman FL Justin Hamilton. He also credited Wide Receivers Coach Tony Ball with this unitís development since spring practice.
Pam in Culpeper emailed a concern about the teamís recent 3rd quarter struggles. Coach Stinespring shared her concern. Bill stated that the play action pass to r-Junior FB Doug Easlick was a definite bright spot during the third quarter of the Temple game. The story in Sundayís Roanoke Times alluded to the practice given to this play early in the week as the team prepared for Temple. Easlick joked that he so rarely gets the ball, that it was useless to practice the play. As Hokies everywhere saw on Saturday, practice makes perfect.
Dave in Roanoke called in with a comment about "The Walk". He stated that while Coach Beamer has been disappointed in the fan turnout for "The Walk" in recent weeks, fans may be disappointed in players that wear headphones and sunglasses and offer little or no fan recognition. Coach Stinespring joked that he hasnít coached "The Walk" in recent weeks. He did offer that there is a 5-minute wrap up meeting before the players participate in "The Walk" which is the last meeting between coaches and players before the game, which may result in a more intense attitude from the team.
Jim in Bluefield, WV called in with a complaint that Virginia Tech has the only major football facility in the southeast which does not allow re-admittance if you choose to leave during halftime. Bill took issue with this, stating that NFL facilities do not allow a person to re-enter a stadium without a new ticket due to increased security measures. Jim continued to debate the issue stating he believed Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver wasnít worried so much about security, but about increased concession revenues. Bill challenged Bill to call back next week and address the issue with Mr. Weaver, as he will be Billís first guest on that Hotline.
Jim in Midlothian called and asked when Hokie fans would get to see FL Richard Johnson throw a pass, which continued the thread of opening up the Hokie offense. Coach Stinespring did say they attempted this play in the Texas A&M game, and it resulted in a pass interference call in favor of the Hokies. Jim then asked about the rash of penalties and turnovers which have plagued the Hokies in recent weeks. Coach Stinespring stated that the offensive line must do a better job in blocking down lineman during option plays, which resulted in Sophomore QB Bryan Randallís fumble on Saturday. He also stated that at least one of Randallís interceptions, notably the pass he threw on side of the field nearest the Hokiesí bench (or the West side), was a result of Randallís competitive nature. He stated that Randall had intended to simply throw the ball away, but then saw Ernest Wilford sprinting down the sidelines. He forced the pass and the defender made a nice play. He also stated he wanted to see more patience out of the offense when the first down play goes for little or no gain.
Bill addressed the issue concerning the struggling offensive line play by asking if his guys were better pass or run blockers. Coach Stinespring did say that most of the lineís success has come on the running side of the playbook. He did say that it is a breakdown in basic fundamentals that is hindering the pass protection, but believes this will get better in short order.
Some quick hits from Coach Stinespringís portion included the following:
Charley from Christiansburg asked where Senior TB Lee Suggs would go in next yearís NFL draft. Coach Stinespring said he would take him #1 if the choice were his.
Jim from Roanoke stated he disagreed with Hokie fans that were looking for style points out of the offense and all that mattered from here on out was winning. Coach Stinespring agreed and added that the team concept is alive at Virginia Tech.
Robin in McCoy called in with concerns about the slick playing surface and the inability for our tailbacks to cut cleanly on Saturday. Coach Stinespring observed that the Owls had no problem digging into the soggy turf. He did say that one of his big linemen, Senior OT Anthony Davis, did a full split on Saturday and that this is a move a 300 pound lineman really shouldnít attempt. Davis left the game with an injury and field conditions will improve for Saturday nightís game.
Les from Roanoke called in asking if we would see both of our all star tailbacks in the backfield at the same time. Coach Stinespring had plenty of accolades for Suggs and Jones, but joked an on-field debate may ensue over who would run the ball and who would handle the blocking assignment.
Ed in Lynchburg called in suggesting, like so many other fans, more of a passing oriented offense in future weeks. Coach Stinespring replied that Saturday nightís game would be a "4-quarter war" and asked the fans to get to the stadium early.
Coach Stinespring canít even escape the second guessing of his play calling in his own home. Showing class and a true sense of humor, he told the story of dinner at his home Sunday evening. As his family sat down for a nice family gathering, his wife told him she was going to ask him to "pass the potatoes," but knew he had enough problems with passing as it was.
Head Football Coach Frank Beamerís segment
Coach Beamer started off his segment with a few comments about the Temple game. He stated that without the four turnovers on Saturday, the outcome would have been much different. I know this sounds like an "ifs and buts" analogy, but he brought up an interesting point. He stated that if the team had four punts of 40 yards instead of the four turnovers, this would have resulted in a field advantage difference of 160 yards for the Hokies. He also stated that most of the pre-game objectives, which are made for each opponent, were met against Temple.
Lewis in Lynchburg called in with concerns with the playing surface. Coach stated he again met with the staff that cares for the field and they will aerate the field this week to allow additional drainage. It seems an extra natural layer has built up under the turf which has allowed for more water retention. He stated additional steps would be taken and the field would be in better shape for the Pittsburgh game.
Jim in Roanoke observed that the defensive unit looks to the sideline to get the play call and wondered if this slowed the Hokies down as the Owls looked prepared to run several plays on Saturday. Coach Beamer stated that sideline play calling is part of coaching against a no-huddle offense. He did not think this kept the Hokiesí defense off balance against the Owlsí offense.
Dan in Huntsville again played the part of offensive coordinator, suggesting the use of a swing pass this Saturday. He even suggested calling the play the "Dan pass" if it succeeded. Coach stated that was all good and well, but what does he call it when it fails. Dan also suggested more interaction between the band and the fans. He thought that "Tech Triumph" gets drowned out after touchdowns due to the cheering of the fans and thought a "signature song" used when television broadcasts return from commercial breaks would give the Hokies an identity. Coach Beamer thanked the caller for his suggestion and stated he would pass the idea along.
Rob in Galax called in asking how Shane Beamer is doing at Tennessee and if we might see him coaching at Tech one day. Coach stated he thought the experience Shane was getting at schools like Georgia Tech and Tennessee was invaluable, all though he thought heíd be enjoying it a little more if the Vols werenít struggling to win football games this year. As for Shane returning to Tech one day, Coach only offered a "Weíll see."
Justin in Lynchburg called in with a doozy. He observed that Texas A&M struggled early on the offensive side of the ball. He stated that after replacing the offensive coach, the Aggies started moving the ball and scoring some points. He then asked Coach Beamer if he had considered a similar change on his coaching staff. Coach Beamer firmly stated he is happy with Coach Stinespring, his coaching staff, and the progress this team is making. He saw no need for a change, except that the Hokies needed to stop turning the ball over.
Bill returned to the comments of Coach Stinespring and asked Coach Beamer if he thought the offensive play calling was too conservative in the Temple game. Coach Beamer stated he thought hindsight makes for a fine critic and itís always easier to second guess yourself after the fact. He stated that many factors in the Temple game including our solid defensive play, our great running game, and an undefeated record can make you play somewhat conservatively. He again stressed the improvement of the football team, the fine job his coaching staff does week after week, and the bottom line: winning the football game. This show of support for his coaches was met by cheers from those in attendance at the Gobblertown Tavern.
Susan in Harrisonburg called in informing Coach Beamer she will be on the sidelines this week as she won an Advance Auto Parts contest. Coach Beamer told her to have her "play" ready as they would be calling it the second play of the game. The pressure got to Susan and she quickly moved on to her question, which concerned the possible flat attitude of the team after playing Temple. Coach Beamer stated that if his team comes out flat, he doesnít know them very well. He also expected some high octane practices this week in preparation for Pitt.
Mark in Roanoke called in asking about the continuing struggles with Freshman K Nic Schmitt and if it had to do with the holding duties of r-Junior P Robert Peaslee. Coach Beamer again explained that Peaslee normally holds for right footed kickers. Schmitt is a lefty, so the mechanics of the kick, from the snap to the hold, are reversed and tend to be a bit slower in completing. He did say that there has been no consideration given to a holding specialist and that he continues to have confidence in our kicking game.
Kyle from Chesapeake called in and asked if Randall continues to struggle as he did in the Temple game, would Senior QB Grant Noel see playing time. Coachesí answer was an emphatic "No," and that he was pleased with the direction and course of his football team.
Jeff in Knoxville, TN called and asked if the coaching staff ever made recruiting trips to North Carolina. Coach Beamer stated that the state of Virginia was the staffís primary focus. He also observed that North Carolina is ACC country, with five Division 1-A schools, all vying for the same in-state recruits and this would prove somewhat of a challenge. Jeff evidently had some information about some solid high school kicking prospects in the state, and Coach Beamer encouraged folks to email their candidates and the staff would look into the situation.
Pete in Salem was one of several callers to state his support for OC Bryan Stinespring and that the fans should ease up on their criticism of his play calling, which was met with more applause. Coach Beamer again gave his support to his staff and stated that a young football team is bound to have growing pains. He feels that they have come a long way since spring practice. He also gets the benefit of seeing the improvement by attending daily practices, a luxury most Hokie fans do not have. Pete also asked if the team will be watching last yearís gut-wrenching game tape of VT-Pitt. He stated that the team would review the tape.
Patrick from Christiansburg called in asking about the health of r-Junior LB Vegas Robinson. Coach Beamer stated that Robinson is still a week away and should be back for the game at Syracuse. He stated that the tendency of a high ankle sprain is to show some improvement quickly and then for the healing process to slow.
Barrett from Blacksburg called in asking if the Hokies would mount a Heisman Trophy campaign for either QB Bryan Randall or Sophomore TB Kevin Jones next season. Coach stated that he thought Jones would get some help from the athletic department next year in this area, but in a more surprising revelation, he stated that some work was being done in that regard for TB Lee Suggs this year.
Eric in Daleville called in chastising many of the Hokie fans for voicing their displeasure with the play calling of Stinespring. Bill offered that this is a call-in show and without differing opinions, it wouldnít be much of a show. Coach Beamer thanked the caller for his support. He was also one of the many callers to encourage fans to get to the stadium early and "get that place right" for Saturday nightís game.
A caller from Roanoke offered his observation for the need of an unpredictable offensive game plan against the teamís tougher foes late in the season, which view Tech as a one-dimensional threat. He felt that our phenomenal running attack brings one-on-one man coverage against our receivers and that we should exploit this. Coach Beamer readily agreed and stated this is something the team has been working on. He again stated the passing game continues to improve weekly. He also observed that as a tight game like the Temple contest continues, and the game remains tight against a team you should defeat, a conservative mindset does set in.
Bob in Mechanicsville asked the Coach to take the fans inside the locker room at halftime and tell us what the coaches tell the players. Coach Beamer stated that the defensive unit meets, the offensive unit meets, and the kicking situations are addressed. He stated that there is very little "rah-rah" or inspirational speeches that occur, because, in his opinion, if you havenít done your job to motivate the team during game week preparations, and you have to wait until Saturday to do so, "youíre cooked." He stated he thought the inspirational halftime pep talks were overrated and that, by and large, no major game plan adjustments are made, unless the team is getting blown out in the first half.
Mary-Ann in Chesapeake called in asking if the Hokies are practicing to better anticipate the slants and screens Temple ran with varied success last Saturday. She adroitly pointed out that Pitt has better personnel than Temple and would have more success running these types of plays. Coach stated that the offensive sets Temple was running had their outside receiver dragging across the middle and their inside receiver spreading the field. In this case the defense either has to man up, which can result in the deep ball, or play off the receiver, which gives them the short touch passes. It was those touch passes that Beamer thought Owl Sophomore QB Mike McGann ran with success. He also stated that the McGann and Rutgers Senior QB Ted Trump stepped up and played their best games of the season against the Hokies.
Greg in Atlanta asked about the outlook for the recruiting class of 2003. Coach Beamer said he is very pleased with the early verbals and that the Hokies are still in the running for the best players in the state of Virginia.
David in Lynchburg asked how Grant Noel is mentally handling his role as the teamís backup signal caller. Coach Beamer stated he couldnít be prouder of the way Noel has adjusted to his new position and the support he gives to the guys on the field.
Coach Beamer wrapped up tonightís show by assessing the Saturday night game against the Panthers. He did say the wet weather is the source of concern, not the cold. He also called the Panthers are a physical team who have won 12 of their last 14 games and are a few plays away from being undefeated this season. He again encouraged the fans to get to the stadium early, which should be little problem considering the special atmosphere Lane Stadium takes on at night.
News and Notes: