Frank Beamer would probably be excused if he let out a long weary sigh. This week has to be draining, even for a long-time veteran of football who has been through a lot this past week. To recap: Virginia Tech went on the road to Florida to play Miami in what was a season-defining game and triumphed over the Hurricanes in tropical depression-like weather. Meanwhile, the injury bug continued to hit the Hokies, as it was announced Thursday evening senior defensive backs, Kyle Fuller (groin injury) and Antone Exum (ankle), are going to miss the game.
However, two major stories have broken out this week. As announced, Jim Weaver, who has served as the athletic director at Virginia Tech since 1997, has announced his retirement at the end of next month. Finally, the controversial Cody Journell, who was the first freshman kicker to receive a scholarship from Frank Beamer, has been dismissed from the team under what is termed "violation of team principles." Beamer likes to use golf analogies, doesn't he? In that case, it's clear that Journell has finally run out of mulligans.
Beamer probably has got to be thinking about his summer home in Georgia, wishfully dreaming about fishing, hiking, and playing with his growing granddaughters. Who wouldn't blame him for that? After all, this is the same coach who stuck by Journell throughout the season as he was suspended, had some kind of funk with his kicking game, and yet his support never wavered.
Like a seasoned captain at sea, Beamer is, undoubtedly, employing the same steady-as-she-goes approach to his week. Especially in the light this weekend will be Senior Day, a time to honor all the seniors who are currently on the football team, and to have that day shoved to the back burners in the wake of breaking news after breaking news. It has to be tough for him and those players.
Fortunately, Beamer has been in the business for a long time. He is no stranger to controversy. At the risk of causing bile to rise in some fans, Beamer stuck by Marcus Vick, in spite of his myriad of legal issues, before the administration finally lost patience and intervened. If Beamer has been able to stick by the side of oft-criticized Bryan Stinespring for a decade, he will stick by anything he loves, even if it may be to his own detriment.
This weekend game against Maryland is fast-approaching. From the sounds of conversation between beat writers and the coordinators, it sounds like business as usual, except for one thing..who will handle the kicking duties?
In some respects, this is similar to the situation the Hokies found themselves in at the Sugar Bowl. You all remember it? Cody Journell was arrested in the weeks leading up the Sugar Bowl, and it forced Beamer to go to Justin Meyer, who was the kickoff specialist, to handle place kicking as well as kick offs. As they say, the rest is history.
Depending on how one look at it, it may be of good fortunate Beamer has options in which place kicker he trusts to handle the pressure of kicking a field goal attempt. According to Hokiesports.com, there are currently seven specialists. Besides the well-known A.J. Hughes, who by the way should have locked up All-ACC honors with his steady punting, there are Michael Branthover, Ethan Keyserling, Mitchell Ludwig, Hunter Windmuller, and recently activated Eric Kristensen. Beamer is in the unenviable position of naming the kicker.
Maryland is coming to Blacksburg with a severely depleted roster due to injuries. If there was ever a game where the Hokies need to be on guard, it is this weekend against Maryland. Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster doesn't care if the Terrapins are injured. He's already game-planning as if they are bringing all their best players. Ditto for Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler.
The game plan is actually pretty simple. Offensively, they need to build off the success of running the ball from the pistol and ace formations featuring Trey Edmunds as the hammer and J.C. Coleman as change of pace back while building play-actions off the stretch and power runs. Defensively, they have to maintain stout, disciplined assignment football. The opportunities are going to be there for the defensive line to have a dominant day and the secondary will be counting on freshmen corners, Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller, to maintain the secondary's integrity.
The biggest X-factor will be the special teams. It was incredibly fortunate the kickoff and punt coverage units were able to force two fumbles and recover them after blowing the coverage against Miami. The special teams cannot afford to walk on razor's edge again. They need to be solid across the board. Maryland may not threaten anybody with their special teams, but the Hokies cannot afford to give Maryland a spark of hope if they want to stay alive in the Coastal Division title hunt.