ACC All Access: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wants to narrow RB rotation, plus off week and Miami preview

As Virginia Tech heads into its off week on the football schedule prior to a crucial Nov. 1 game at Miami, coach Frank Beamer and his staff will focus on trying to spark Tech's running game, specifically by narrowing down the running back rotation.

Tech (4-4 overall, 2-2 ACC) is fifth in the ACC and 72nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing offense (157 yards per game). Tech, which is .500 or worse eight games into the season for the first time since 1992 (when team finished 2-8-1; its last losing record), has had just one 100-yard rusher in its last 10 games dating back to last season.

"I still think consistency in running the football," said Beamer of the area that needs the most improvement. "I think that's our number one priority right now. I think if we could get that squared away it would affect other things. We have our moments at times, but I think to consistently be able to do that is the objective for us.

"I think four backs is too many. They all bring something and they bring things different, but I think reps and being very consistent - and sometimes you look at it, and they could run better, sometimes we could block better, sometimes you look at it and if we could get a block downfield by a wide receiver that would make a play better. It's not just one thing, and I don't want to make it sound that way. It's just a little of this and a little of that. The bottom line is we need to be more consistent as a group."

In this past Saturday's 38-17 loss at No. 14 Clemson, Tech finished with 199 yards rushing, but 99 of those yards came from quarterback Logan Thomas. No running back finished with more than 29 yards rushing.

J.C. Coleman, who had 13 carries for 183 yards (most rushing yards from a freshman in Beamer's 26-year tenure) two weeks ago against Duke, had 12 carries for 19 yards at Clemson. Coleman, Tony Gregory, Michael Holmes and Martin Scales - the foursome of backs Tech has used this season - combined to have 26 carries for 93 yards.

"I think we've got to narrow it down," said Beamer, whose team is 66th in the nation in total offense (399 yards per game) after finishing last season 35th in total offense (413 yards per game; 35th was its best national ranking in total offense in Bryan Stinespring's 11 seasons as offensive coordinator). "They all bring something. They're all great kids, but I do think we need more consistency, and probably getting more precise will help us in that regard."

As for Coleman, who leads Tech with 56 carries for 355 yards (six yards per carry) and two touchdowns, Beamer indicated figuring out when to best utilize him could hold the key to added success. The same goes for all his backs.

"(Coleman) needs some open spaces, and there just wasn't a lot of open space there Saturday," Beamer said. "I think some backs are more open space and some backs are more at home in the (I-formation) and running that way, so we're looking at that part of it, too."

Tech hasn't finished the season averaging less than 174.4 yards rushing per season since 2007, when it averaged 133.3 yards per game. Of course, Tech still finished the '07 season 11-3 and went to the Orange Bowl on the strength of a defense that was third in the nation in scoring defense (16.1 points per game) and fourth in total defense (296 yards per game).

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Beamer wouldn't confirm if he submitted any plays from the Clemson game to the ACC office for review. Two plays seemed worthy of dispute.

There was a third down sack of quarterback Logan Thomas in the third quarter where no part of his body every touched the ground. There was also a third quarter reception by Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins that appeared to include a strip by safety Detrick Bonner and subsequent fumble recovery by cornerback Antone Exum, but replay officials ruled it was nothing more than a catch for a first down by Watkins.

"I'm going to keep our dealings with the ACC between us and the ACC and leave it at that," Beamer said.

Defensive tackle Josh Watson, who was credited with the aforementioned sack, told Clemson reporters Monday afternoon:

"There's no video in the stat book. It counts as a sack...so I'll take it."

Miami (4-4, 3-2) could help cure what ails Tech's running game. Miami is 117th in the nation in rushing defense (giving up 249.3 yards per game). Tech, Miami and postseason-ineligible North Carolina are all tied for second in the loss column in the Coastal Division standings, while Duke (6-2, 3-1) leads the division, but Tech has already beaten Duke.

Beamer said his team met Monday morning to review film from the Clemson game, and will meet in the afternoon to review the kicking game and have a team meeting. The team will have the rest of Monday off, in addition to getting Tuesday and Wednesday off before returning Thursday to begin preparations for Miami.

"I think mentally and physically we need to rest up a little bit," Beamer said. "It's been a tough stretch, a very physical stretch. We're going to refresh our minds and bodies a little bit and get ready to attack these last four games."

Despite suffering a sprained left ankle two weeks ago in a loss to North Carolina, and being listed as doubtful heading into this past Saturday's rivalry game against Florida State, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris started and played against FSU. He completed 25 of 43 passes for 223 yards, a touchdown and an interception in Miami's 33-20 loss to FSU. It was Miami's third consecutive loss.

Miami coach Al Golden said Sunday he expected Morris to be sore for the next 48 to 72 hours after the game. Morris, who is second in the ACC with an average of 277.4 yards passing per game (completed 179 of 311 passes, 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions), was sacked four times and hit a few other times.

Golden also didn't have any update on freshman running back Duke Johnson, who left Miami's game against FSU with an apparent lower leg injury. Golden confirmed the injury wasn't turf toe, but he didn't know if it was an ankle or foot injury.

Johnson entered the game second in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game (151) and seventh in rushing yards per game (61.1). He had nine carries for just 27 yards to go along with two catches for 49 yards against FSU.

Tech hopes to get a little healthier during the break, too. Left guard David Wang returned to Tech's starting group against Clemson after missing the Duke game and much of Tech's loss at UNC with ankle and knee injuries.

"I give him a lot of credit for playing," Beamer said. "He wanted to."

Beamer is still waiting to see if backup center Caleb Farris (ankle) can get back for the Miami game. Farris missed the Clemson game.

"We're hopeful that this extra time will work in favor in getting Caleb back," Beamer said. "We just have to wait and see."

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