Tech’s Beamer looking for toughness this spring

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer has a simple mission statement for his team as spring practice begins Wednesday.
“I want this to be the toughest football team we’ve ever had here at Virginia Tech,” Beamer said Monday during a teleconference with reporters.
To that end, the Hokies coach put his players through five straight days of 6 a.m. workouts last week, the first time he’s had them on that schedule in his 27-year tenure at Tech. Normally, the early-morning drilling is spread out over a few weeks, but Beamer wanted to drive home his emphasis on toughness.
“I just think there’s a mental toughness, physical toughness that’s important to winning,” said Beamer, who cancelled the team’s 6 a.m. workout Monday because of impending inclement weather. “I thought the kids handled it great. I thought they fought through some legs that were tired, and bodies that were tired and they fought through that great.”
The Hokies have the first of 15 practices Wednesday. The spring will include two scrimmages and ends with the annual spring game on April 20.
“I think it’s a real eager time around here,” Beamer said. “I think there’s an eagerness and want to. Now we just have to get people in a position to perform consistently.”
The Hokies went a disappointing 7-6 last season, narrowly avoiding their first losing season since 1992 with a 13-10 overtime win over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Tech’s streak of eight straight seasons with at least 10 wins ended, but it extended its streak of reaching bowl games to 20.
The offseason saw Beamer overhaul the offensive coaching staff, bringing in new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead.
Beamer said the staff changes didn’t have a major impact on his schedule, as he’s taken the same hands-off approach he did with his former assistants.
“I think people, when it’s theirs, they’re responsible for it,” Beamer said. “My management way is to let them do it and we’ll talk if we need to, if something needs to be talked about. Basically, if it’s successful, it’s them and if it’s not working so good, it’s them.”
The new coaches got a major lift when quarterback Logan Thomas decided to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft. But the offense must replace both starting offensive tackles (Vinston Painter and Nick Becton) and its top three wide receivers in terms of both catches and yardage (Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts).
Beamer said junior Mark Shuman will open atop the depth chart at right tackle, backed up by redshirt freshman Augie Conte (Blessed Sacrament Huguenot). Junior Laurence Gibson will start at left tackle with redshirt freshman Adam Taraschke behind him.
At receiver, the Hokies get senior D.J. Coles back from a knee injury that cost him the 2012 season. The former Goochland star will lead a receiving corps that also includes speedy sophomore Demitri Knowles.
Perhaps the most intense competition of the spring will be at the tailback position, where Beamer is determined not to have the unsettled situation the team went through last year. Talented Trey Edmunds, who redshirted last season, figures to be a factor competing with sophomores J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes and senior Tony Gregory.
While the offense is being rebuilt, the Hokies will hope to, again, lean on their defense.
Tech lost only two starters from its defense, and has players set to fill those spots. Tariq Edwards, who missed most of last season recovering from knee surgery, will take over for Bruce Taylor at linebacker and Luther Maddy, who shared time with Antoine Hopkins at defensive tackle, will be back that position.
Tech gets Edwards, Miller and Coles back from injuries and all three are expected to be close to full participation for the spring.
Cornerback Antone Exum (Deep Run High School) will miss the spring after injuring his knee in a pick-up basketball game on campus. His status for the season-opener in Atlanta against two-time defending champion Alabama is unknown, though he said he’s confident he’ll be ready to play.
Beamer also announced some position changes for spring. Jack Willenbrock is moving to tight end. Jerome Wright and Fuller Hoepner are moving to fullback. Josh Trimble and Derek Dinardo are moving to outside linebacker or Whip.
Tech is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA on linebacker Deon Clarke (L.C. Bird) and wide receiver Joshua Stanford’s applications for redshirts.