26th year (209-98-2 at Tech; 251-121-4 overall in coaching career)
Since the start of last season, a lot of things have changed in connection to Beamer's coaching career. After late Penn State coach Joe Paterno was dismissed from his position, Beamer became the NCAA active leader in career coaching wins. There will be less of Beamer this fall on Tech's sideline — he lost 32 pounds in the offseason. With his legacy in Blacksburg secure, the only prominent goal left is the most difficult of all to attain — a national championship. Though he may not have the team to get within reach of that this season (possibly next season if everybody comes back), he should have enough talent to reach 10 wins for a ninth consecutive season. The Hokies' current streak of eight straight seasons with 10-plus wins is the longest in the nation.
Jr. | 6-6 | 260 | QB
Thomas only needs 3,898 more yards to become Tech's career passing yardage leader. His hulking frame could also made him the most effective runner on Tech's roster. That's pretty good for a guy who didn't even want to play quarterback in the summer before his freshman year.
Jr. | 6-4 | 269 | DE
Setting his sights on posting more than the team-high seven sacks he had last season was Gayle's first offseason ambition. If he breaks double digits in the category, Tech might be fortunate to get the Bethel High graduate back for his senior season, because the NFL will be calling.
Jr. | 6-0 | 193 | CB
After displaying a knack for open-field tackles last season in leading Tech with 14 1/2 tackles for loss while splitting time at cornerback and outside linebacker (in the nickel package), defensive coordinator Bud Foster has vowed to let Fuller concentrate on his natural cornerback spot this season.
LIFE AFTER WILSON
Running backs coach Shane Beamer admits life in the film room is a boring without David Wilson around, and not only because Wilson's zig-zagging cutbacks are gone from practice video. Beamer never knew what he was going to get day-to-day from Wilson's electric personality. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, junior Tony Gregory, senior Martin Scales, sophomore Daniel Dyer and true freshmen J.C. Coleman, Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are much more of the straight-laced types, but they'll collectively be called upon to provide what Tech will be missing on the field from Wilson. Some combination of seven guys should be able to fill in for Wilson, right? Well, Wilson was no ordinary back, as his school single-season record 1,709 rushing yards last season and first-round NFL draft pick status in April (chosen by the New York Giants) will attest. Add in the fact Tech will be starting four new offensive linemen this season and the challenge to replace Wilson's production is even greater.
ARE THE KIDS REALLY ALL RIGHT?
Bruce Taylor insists he's just fine — after he warms up a little bit. Jeron Gouveia-Winslow feels great — when he gets everything loosened up. Tariq Edwards struggled through preseason practices. Those are Tech's returning starting linebackers — not exactly the healthiest sounding unit, huh? Taylor and Gouveia-Winslow are recovering from Lisfranc foot injuries (Taylor told one reporter this preseason he's "breaking up with Lisfranc"), while Edwards had surgery in March to have a rod placed in his left tibia to relieve pain from a stress fracture. Edwards' Frankenstein leg apparently wasn't doing well after the first week of preseason practice, so he had more surgery to have a screw removed from his left knee to eliminate pain associated with his earlier tibia surgery. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster anticipated Edwards' slow recovery and moved Taylor from middle linebacker to Edwards' inside linebacker spot prior to the start of practice. Jack Tyler took over at middle linebacker. Gouveia-Winslow was pushed in practice by Alonzo Tweedy and Ronny Vandyke. Bottom line: Tech's linebackers aren't nearly the wrecking crew they once were, and further injury issues will really test the Hokies' depth.
LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said he was settling into vacation this summer when he fixed the cable box at the beach house and flipped on the tube. After seeing a report on how junior quarterback Logan Thomas is projected to be a top draft pick if he comes out of school early next year, Stinespring joked his vacation mood was ruined. In some ways, it was inevitable. After completing 60 percent of his passes last season for 3,013 yards (second-best single season passing yardage mark in school history), 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, in addition to 469 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing, it was only a matter of time before draft gurus proclaimed the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Thomas to be NFL-ready. Thomas will have to do it this season without Tech's two most prolific pass-catchers in school history (Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale), without Wilson and with the new starters on the line. Thomas is more than capable, but the job description is more daunting.
Sept. 3 | Georgia Tech | 8 p.m.
An entire offseason to prepare for coach Paul Johnson's often confounding option offense should provide an edge for Virginia Tech, but Georgia Tech could represent the strongest challenge to the Hokies in the ACC's Coastal Division. It's an intriguing way to start the conference slate — primetime on Labor Day.
Sept. 8| Austin Peay | 1:30 p.m.
Virginia Tech will be far more prepared for abysmal Football Championship Subdivision foe Austin Peay (3-8 last season) than it was against James Madison in 2010, when Tech got off to an 0-2 start with losses to Boise State and JMU in a five-day span.
Sept. 15 | at Pittsburgh | noon
For Tech, it'll be a sneak preview of Pittsburgh, which has nine returning offensive starters, before the Panthers join the ACC next year. Tech has won 18 of its last 19 initial road games of the season (not including neutral sites). A good test for Tech's defensive front, as Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham is one of the nation's best.
Sept. 22 | Bowling Green
Dave Clawson, who coached Richmond from 2004-07, leads a Bowling Green program that has 10 returning defensive starters. Despite its experience on defense, Bowling Green has to value the ball more than it did last season (28 turnovers; tied for 12th most in nation) if it hopes to keep this one even remotely close.
Sept. 29 | vs. Cincinnati (in Landover, Md.)
While Cincinnati technically will be the "home" team, FedEx Field likely won't be terribly accommodating. Cincinnati isn't anything close to the coach Brian Kelly and quarterback Tony Pike-led crew Tech beat in January 2009 in the Orange Bowl. Kelly and Pike are gone, and the Bearcats are left with an unproven quarterback and running back to lead an inexperienced offense.
Oct. 6 | at North Carolina
Tech's stamina will be tested against new UNC coach Larry Fedora's breakneck, no huddle pace. With quarterback Bryn Renner, running back Giovani Bernard and four returning starters on the offensive line, the Tar Heels could be as good on the offensive side as any team the Hokies will face.
Oct. 13 | Duke
There's plenty to build on at Duke, which has 17 returning starters and a strong-armed quarterback in Sean Renfree. Duke held Tech scoreless last season in the second half of the Hokies' 14-10 win. Don't expect an encore from the Blue Devils during their visit to Lane Stadium for homecoming weekend.
Oct. 20 | at Clemson
This is Tech's biggest measuring-stick game. Clemson has arguably the nation's most explosive offense with Phoebus High grad Tajh Boyd at quarterback and All-American Sammy Watkins at wide receiver. Last season, Clemson beat Tech twice (by an average of 24 points per game) — at Lane Stadium and in the ACC title game in Charlotte, N.C. That has to sting.
Nov. 1 | at Miami | 7:30 p.m.
In the past, a Thursday night trip to South Florida to play Miami might've caused some serious heartburn. Not anymore. Miami has finished more than one game above .500 once in the past six seasons. Tech pulled out a 38-35 home win against Miami last season with a 19-yard touchdown run by Thomas in the final minute.
Nov. 8 | Florida State | 7:30 p.m.
For the second straight season, Tech plays back-to-back nationally televised Thursday night games in November. This might be an ACC title game preview. FSU's defensive front could make life difficult for Tech running backs Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman. Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel (288 yards passing in 2010 ACC title game loss to the Hokies) will challenge Tech's secondary.
Nov. 17 | at Boston College
Tech hasn't taken a November road trip to BC since 1993 in the early Big East days. Not sure if that means anything other than it might be a chilly weekend. BC was last in the ACC last season in scoring offense and total offense, which means 10 returning offensive starters have to prove they know what they're doing.
Nov. 24 | Virginia
Another Tech victory in this series would extend the Hokies' winning ways against the Cavaliers to nine games, which would be the longest winning streak by either team in the history of the "rivalry." At least U.Va. won't have to suffer the indignity of watching Tech fans fill up Scott Stadium this year like they did last fall.
In Tech's first eight seasons in the ACC, only once did the Hokies fail to win the conference championship in two straight seasons ('05 and '06). If the projections of the national college football pundits hold true, Tech could find itself sans conference title trophy in December again for a second straight season. It's difficult to argue Tech is better equipped than every other program in the ACC at any position other than perhaps quarterback. Tech is strong on the defensive line, but FSU arguably has the edge over every ACC team in all defensive units and on special teams. Georgia Tech and U.Va. have the deepest backfields. Clemson has the most skilled receivers. UNC and U.Va. probably have the best offensive lines. For once in what has been a fairly underachieving ACC since Virginia Tech entered the scene, the Hokies may have to overachieve.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times