Fans went to see the likes of Logan Thomas, Michael Holmes, J.C. Coleman and James Gayle, players likely to command Virginia Tech’s marquee come football season.
But to coach Frank Beamer, the biggest disappointment of Saturday’s weather-driven cancellation of the Hokies’ spring game was not seeing his special teams perform.
No Tech kicker has ever attempted a field goal or extra point in a college game. Only Michael Branthover has punted, and by season’s end last year, he had lost the job to receiver Danny Coale.
“When you're talking about Branthover and (Connor) Goulding and (Ethan) Keyserling and even a couple snappers there, too, getting them out there and getting them reps when it means something and there's people in the stands, yeah, I was really looking forward to that, because all of them, they've had their moments,” Beamer said Wednesday on the ACC’s post-spring media call.
“You'd just like to see it under some game conditions right now.”
I asked Beamer if selecting a punter and placekicker will be Job One in preseason drills.
“Absolutely,” he said, “and we've got a couple kickers coming in here, a snapper coming in here. That's going to be a priority from Day One, to identify that. We've got to get more solid and more consistent in our kicking game. We're going to give it the attention.”
The wild card remains last season’s kicker, Cody Journell. If his felony charge for an alleged home invasion is reduced to a misdemeanor, he could return to the team. Journell made 14-of-17 field goals and 43-of-44 PATs.
“I think it was two-fold,” coach Mike London said. “One, it's no secret that we had three potential starting offensive linemen out. … We had 10 offensive linemen … to play in the spring game.
“We had over 80 snaps. So a lot of that was just predicated on throwing the quick slide protection passes, get the ball out, get the ball in space, being very conscious of the fact that when you're trying to run the ball up and down the field with 10 linemen, you might have some issues there.”
The second reason was to test the Cavaliers’ inexperienced secondary.
“Give some of these (younger guys) — Brandon Phelps, Brendan Morgan, Drequan Hoskey — get them on the field, working in front of people at the stadium, going against I think pretty good wide receivers. So I think the mission was accomplished. You're right, we're not going to throw the ball that many times, but we just had to do what we had to do, particularly because of our depth situation on the offensive line, but at the same time get those guys some sorely needed reps back there in the secondary.”
* In his first season as Clemson’s starting quarterback, Phoebus High graduate Tajh Boyd was first-team All-ACC, set a league record for touchdown responsibility with 38 (five rushing, 33 passing) and helped the Tigers win their first conference title since 1991.
“He did do a lot of good things last year, and you never want to minimize that,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “But we're trying to be great, and he wants to be great, and it's a tough position to play. But there's a lot of room for improvement for Tajh Boyd.
“Number one is ball security. … He did such a great job through those first eight games, and then all of a sudden he started doing some freelancing and playing outside the system and forcing things and just not doing as good a job of managing the game. So that's his area that he has to improve.”
Boyd threw three interceptions in Clemson’s first eight games, all wins, nine in the final six contests, four of them losses. He was playing in first-year coordinator Chad Morris’ spread offense.
“Part of that is just experience and having played and been there now and knowledge of the system in Year Two and staying within the system,” Swinney said. “When we had some issues with Tajh last year, a lot of it was where he would get outside of what we were asking him to do. So just being a little bit more disciplined as a quarterback is going to be huge.
“But I thought he took some steps this spring. Still not where we need him to be. We've really challenged him to go have a great summer and to come back and be ready to have a great junior season. But his ownership of the position has got to continue to improve for him to be a great player. He's a very good player, but he has the ability to be great, and (we) as coaches have to continue to challenge him.”
* Another first-year starter, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon, finished second to Boyd in touchdown passes with 31.
“The thing that we like most is that he finished the year strong and really used the time from the last game against Maryland (until the Belk Bowl against Louisville),” coach Tom O’Brien said. “He got better in the bowl game.
“I lot of the things we stressed to him from that point on was to get back, to set up quicker, to deliver the ball and be more decisive in his reads. We've carried that over into spring practice. The thing that's been good for him is … the experience of those kids in the secondary.”
Indeed, Glennon this spring threw against a Wolfpack secondary that returns all four starters, including All-American cornerback David Amerson, who last season intercepted an ACC-record 13 passes.
“He's challenged Amerson all spring,” O’Brien said. “Now Amerson got him in the spring game, but that's all part of the challenge of going best against best. Both of our safeties are three year starters. The other corner is a three-year starter. So he had a great opportunity this spring to go against a good, competitive secondary, getting that back foot down, getting the ball out and making good decisions.”
* Finally, I asked O’Brien about senior offensive lineman R.J. Mattes, whose father, Ron, was a first-team All-ACC defensive lineman at Virginia in 1984.
“I think he has NFL potential,” said O’Brien, a former offensive line coach at Virginia. “We've kind of moved him around. He's played about every different spot on the line. He was a right guard, a right tackle and a left tackle. We're trying to get settled into a position for him. But he has the skill set to play at the next level. … He's got the same fiery personality and leadership traits as his father.”
O’Brien said the 6-foot-6 Mattes is comfortable playing at his listed weight of 313 pounds.
“He's moving well,” O’Brien said. “He had an injury last year where he had a floating body in the back part of his ankle that required surgery in the off-season. We thought he was going to miss all of spring practice, and he missed the first five days.
“So you didn't see many ill effects coming off the surgery with his ankle. He played through it last year, but he certainly looked quicker on his feet this spring than he did at the end of last year.”
Much more ahead on football as summer camp approaches.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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