Beamer Ball was Hard to Find in 2022
Well, at least it was hard to find in Blacksburg and the the Hokie locker room. It was all over the media from down in Columbia, SC and the Gamecocks being coached by Virginia Tech long snapper Shane Beamer. It was a painful event, almost as painful as Shane whooping it up and doing well for South Carolina instead of the Hokies.
But the 2022 pain and the story of the special teams occurred last year in Norfolk when the winning touchdown was scored by the Monarchs on a scoop and score from a bad snap on a Field Goal attempt... Absolutely nothing else went right for the Hokies that season, after that mistake. It wasn’t the only awful thing about that game. An entire football field, plus, of penalties and another four turnovers just made the entire effort look like absolutely no one was ready to play on offense or special teams.
Here’s the Lineup
2023 Game 1 - Hokie Specialist Depth Chart
That was last year, though. We are all trying mightily to put that fiasco behind us and look forward to Tech making progress toward a return to winning. And frankly, the tone is often set by the first people to hit the field who can make an impact. Special Team play, as Frank Beamer preached, is consequential and can mean the difference between winning and going home tired and beat up.
This off season there was a serious kicking competition, and according to Coach Pry, the clear winner for kicking PATs and -4s was John Love. It looks like the program is taking advantage of the size of the roster, though because backup kicker Kyle Lowe demonstrated a cannon leg in 2022 and put a huge number of balls into touchback territory. So, he’ll be back doing kick-offs in 2023.
Though he struggled a bit in a few games last season, Peter Moore was pushed hard in camp, and made the adjustments and impressions on the coaches. Coaches Holt and Pry awarded him with the Special Teams Captain position for the season, so that work seems to have paid off. He’s the starting punter and feeling much more comfortable in the new system. The Hokies also use the punters as holders for the place kickers so Moore will be trotting on to the field to hold for John Love. His backup is interesting enough. It seems that Nick Veltsistas made a big impression, and the backup punter and holder. Tech shouldn’t have to worry about flipping the field this season, though one would hope they aren’t punting nearly as much, either.
Bhayshul Tuten and Malachi Thomas are penned-in at the Kick Return positions. This is a bit surprising because no one wants to see either of them hurt returning kicks. Perhaps it’s just a move to get sure-handed guys who can fair catch short balls. More coaches are ditching the small chance of a big return for the ball being placed on the 25 for both kicks and returns. Da’Wain Lofton is listed as a 3rd returner, and probably will be the short and hands team guy.
There is a surprising list of punt returners, though. As good as Tucker Holloway was last season, it looks like he’s been jumped by Jaylin Lane. Ali Jennings is being put in the 3rd spot. We’ll see if they rotate, or their use is situational. As we said before, this depth chart looks very “package” oriented more than who’s on first, what’s on second, etc.
The Most Important, Nearly Anonymous Person on the Field
Tech has been blessed with some great long snappers, and the position turns out to be one of the most critical single roles on the field. The Long Snapper (and Short Snapper, too) must deliver a ball, with passing precision, upside down and do it to a tiny target with as little ball movement as possible. The second most critical role on the field that no one really pays much attention to is the holder for field goal and PAT kicks. The Holder has to get the ball down the laces turned and the angle correct for the kicker. This has to happen while the kicker is actually starting into the motion of kicking the ball. It’s a timing and rhythm thing to go with the hand and body skills to do the work. One mistake and - well we know how that works out. This season the long snapper is Justin Pollock, and the Short Snapper is his backup Christian Epling. They will both have their work being judged with a keener eye after last season’s special teams issues.
So, Folks, that’s it! The depth chart review is done, and we start into the prep for the main event. Tomorrow, we make our predictions, and at some point, Bryan’s going to do his odds, where to watch, and informational post.
The campus is already getting set up. The dining flies are going up on the Prichard Prairie, the lots are being marked off, the signs warning that no parking will be allowed during Saturday are going up, and the catering preparation trucks are lumbering around toting gear from place to place.