THE CHICK-FIL-A BOWL:
Virginia Tech (10-2) vs. Georgia (8-4), Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN
By Norm Wood
Newport News (Va.) Daily Press
December 21, 2006
BLACKSBURG In 20 years as Virginia Tech's football coach, Frank Beamer has rarely patted himself on the back. You won't catch him leaning back in the leather chair in his office, kicking his feet up on the desk, chomping on a big cigar and pondering what a good job he's done.
Maybe he'll consider doing it this offseason.
The magnitude of what he and his coaching staff had accomplished hit him near the end of the regular season. None of the obstacles at the start three new starting offensive linemen, a first-year starter at quarterback, an innovative discipline system and four new assistant coaches could keep Tech from another 10-win campaign in the long run.
Four days before Tech beat Virginia 17-0 for its 10th win of the season, Beamer talked about how a win against the Cavaliers would put the Hokies in elite company. Tech joined Southern California as the only programs in the nation with 10 wins in three consecutive seasons. Texas could join the group with a victory against Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.
Beamer knew he wasn't going to win ACC coach of the year (Wake Forest's Jim Grobe was a shoo-in), but Beamer said he thought this year's effort by his staff was the best he'd seen during his Tech tenure. He credited much of the success to the smooth transition made by his four new assistants: Torrian Gray (secondary), Curt Newsome (offensive line), Mike O'Cain (quarterbacks) and Kevin Sherman (receivers).
"I think I lost four good coaches, and I think I gained four good coaches," Beamer said. "They're a little bit different, but I think we're a good recruiting staff, maybe the best recruiting staff we've ever been. I thought from an Xs and Os standpoint this year we were good. I mean, halftime adjustments and both offensively and defensively, I thought we were good."
Speaking of recruiting, it's an area Tech didn't really have to worry about in the fall. Tech led the nation in commitments for most of the late summer and early fall, and as of Dec. 15 had pledges from 26 recruits. Newsome was responsible for landing quarterback Tyrod Taylor of Hampton, Va., the most highly recruited player on Tech's board.
On the field, there's no mistaking what the two key ingredients were that got Tech to 10 wins: defensive coordinator Bud Foster and tailback Branden Ore.
Tech will enter the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Georgia with the nation's top total defense (221 yards per game), pass defense (128 yards) and scoring defense (9.3 points per game). Tech's defense, which loses just three starters, gave up 29 points total to its final six opponents all wins and had four shutouts.
While the defense handled the heavy lifting, Ore had a break-out season. Despite having just one carry in the last two games of the season because of a high-ankle sprain, Ore gained 1,095 yards and 14 touchdowns on 221 carries, and caught 14 passes for 203 yards and a score.
Neither Ore nor Foster has shown much interest or had much opportunity to leave Tech. Ore, a 5-11, 202-pound redshirt sophomore, realizes he could use at least one more season before he entertains thoughts of entering the NFL draft.
"I'm definitely going to be (at Tech)," said Ore, who added that he needs to work on his pass protection and reading defenses. "I'm definitely not going anywhere. I definitely see me in a Virginia Tech uniform next year. As far as that NFL stuff goes, I'm not really thinking about that stuff right now. I've got two years left here, and I'm just taking it one game at a time. If the NFL comes, then it comes, but right now I'm pretty much concentrating on what I can do for Virginia Tech."
Foster's situation is different. At 47 years old, he has reached a point where he'd like to try his hand at head coaching. Some observers have said Foster hasn't gotten many calls about job openings because he's too picky. (He thinks he deserves a head coaching job with a BCS school.) Others believe Foster may not be able to put together a good enough staff.
For whatever reason, Foster doesn't seem to be in the conversation for many openings right now. He's definitely interested.
"I hope y'all can spread that word," said Foster, who has been Tech's defensive coordinator since 1995. "I haven't been getting any phone calls. Who knows? I can only control what I can control. There's jobs out there, but I've got a great job here (at Tech). There's some coach-killers out there. I've had some opportunities to go get some jobs, but those aren't always the right deal. Being a head coach just to be a head coach doesn't flip my switch. To maybe have the right situation, where you might have a chance to be successful, would (excite him), but I can't control that and I'm happy where I am."
As Tech approaches its offseason, there are big issues to address. Beamer instituted a new discipline system this season where he fined an offending player $100 from his bowl stipend for each personal foul or unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty he committed. He also made the violators run 1,500 yards (100 for each yard of the penalty) at 6 a.m. on the Wednesday after the game in which the offense occurred.
Did Beamer's new system work? Tech committed 19 personal foul penalties in 12 regular-season games this season, including two offsetting and one that was declined. Only seven of those came in the last six games. Last season, Tech was flagged for 23 personal foul and unsportsmanlike penalties in 13 games, including four offsetting and one that was declined.
Also, Beamer, O'Cain and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring will have to take a close look at the passing game. With five talented, veteran receivers, and a line that will feature three returning starters, there will be no excuse for Tech's passing offense to rank anywhere near 78th in the nation (185 yards per game), as it did this season. Quarterback Sean Glennon struggled with his consistency in his first year as a starter. It remains to be seen if he will get a second, or if Ike Whitaker or Taylor can put pressure on him.
"My numbers may not be the best in the country and all that stuff, but I think I made enough plays this year to help our team win 10 games (in the regular season)," Glennon said. "Hopefully, maybe going into next year, people won't be doubting so much."
FB Jesse Allen, RT Duane Brown, DE Noland Burchette, LT Brandon Frye, LB Brenden Hill, OC Danny McGrath, PK Brandon Pace, RV Aaron Rouse, P Nic Schmitt
WR David Clowney, OG Brandon Gore, DS Nick Leeson, RV Cary Wade
2007 Returning Starters^
Pos. Name Ht./Wt. 2007 Class
QB Sean Glennon 6-4/221 Jr.
RB Branden Ore 5-11/202 Jr.
SE Josh Morgan 6-1/219 Sr.
FL Eddie Royal 5-10/181 Sr.
TE Greg Boone 6-3/281 So.
LG Ryan Shuman 6-3/318 Jr.
RG Sergio Render 6-3/320 So.
DT Barry Booker 6-4/280 Sr.
DT Carlton Powell 6-2/294 Sr.
DE Chris Ellis 6-5/260 Sr.
LB Vince Hall 6-0/240 Sr.
LB Xavier Adibi 6-2/221 Sr.
FS D.J. Parker 5-11/194 Sr.
CB Brandon Flowers 5-10/190 Jr.
CB Victor Harris 6-0/200 Jr.
Special Teams (0)
- has utilized redshirt season
^ six/more 2006 regular-season starts
Other Tested Returnees
RB George Bell, WR Justin Harper, WR Josh Hyman, RB Kenny Lewis, OT Nick Marshman, KR/PR Eddie Royal, TE Ed Wang, FB Carlton Weatherford, TE Sam Wheeler
DE Orion Martin, CB Roland Minor (2005 starter), DT Kory Robertson, DT Cordarrow Thompson, KO Jared Develli
Year BE/ACC Overall Postseason
1997 5-2 (2) 7-5 Gator Bowl (L)
1998 5-2 (2) 9-3 Music City Bowl (W)
1999 7-0 (1) 11-1 Sugar Bowl (L)
2000 6-1 (2) 11-1 Gator Bowl (W)
2001 4-3 (3) 8-4 Gator Bowl (L)
2002 3-4 (4) 10-4 San Francisco Bowl (W)
2003 4-3 (4) 8-5 Insight.com Bowl (W)
2004 7-1 (1) 10-3 Sugar Bowl (L)
2005 7-1 (1C) 11-2 Gator Bowl (W)
2006 6-2 (2C) 10-2 Chick-fil-A Bowl
ACC: 20-4 (.833)
Overall: 95-30 (.760)
Team 2006 Record^
Boston College 9-3 (5-3)
Florida State 6-6 (3-5)
Miami 6-6 (3-5)
North Carolina 3-9 (2-6)
East Carolina 7-5 (5-3)
Ohio 9-4 (7-1)
William & Mary 3-8 (1-7)
Duke 0-12 (0-8)
Clemson 8-4 (5-3)
Georgia Tech 9-4 (7-1)
Virginia 5-7 (4-4)
Louisiana State 10-2 (6-2)
^ regular season only (conference)
NOTE: Finalized dates/times TBA.