After the Hokies went through their first mini-scrimmage of the spring Wednesday night, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring stood in front of his unit to deliver a message reminding them of the work that lay ahead. Virginia Tech is getting acclimated with an all-new supporting cast around quarterback Logan Thomas, and during the 47-play dress rehearsal at Lane Stadium that was closed to the media, apparently that inexperience showed.
“It’s a journey that we’re going on, and this is a process. There’s gonna be some bumps along the road,” Stinespring said. “But we’ve got to keep pressing forward and stay the course. I can assure you, we have a lot of work to do.”
That sentiment was echoed by Coach Frank Beamer, who called the first live action of the spring, “ragged.” But it was the offense that became the focus when the Hokies met with reporters, because of the uncertainty surrounding the unit outside of Thomas’s potential under center.
Stinespring said Wednesday night that tempo has been a huge point of emphasis during Virginia Tech’s first five practices of the spring, and that the team is working more spread principles into the offense.
Minor offseason scheme alterations are commonplace throughout college football, and these particular changes are due in part to the Hokies’ visit with Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who before last season held the same position at Boise State. But Stinespring was quick to point out that Virginia Tech’s overall offensive philosophy remains the same as it has been during the 26 years Beamer has been in Blacksburg.
“We haven’t fully defined nor are we attempting to define the scope of that tempo,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an experiment, but I do know this: We’re trying to increase our tempo in everything that we do. We’ve worked a lot of spread sets in conjunction with our fullback and tight end based sets. But we’ve really explored a lot in the offseason, made some adaptions and some adjustments and just some spread and tempo.”
The tempo theme has trickled down to Virginia Tech’s unseasoned offensive line, which must replace four starters from last year. Position coach Curt Newsome said his message to the offensive linemen has been “play faster, play harder and they’ve done that so far.”
But even Newsome conceded Wednesday night was not the best showing by his unit, which allowed four sacks.
“I don’t know how many one-on-one battles we lost, but we weren’t very productive,” he said. “We’re in the production business. It is what it is.”
Thomas went 3 of 4 for 24 yards, while his back-up, Mark Leal, completed two of his five throws for 23 yards. Wide receiver David Mellstrom (Loudoun Valley High) had a 32-yard touchdown reception. Linebacker Ronny Vandyke of South County High (four tackles, one sack) and defensive lineman Matt Roth (two sacks) led the defense.
Frank Beamer singled out running back Michael Holmes for praise, saying “he’s a guy you kind of notice” because of his mixture of speed, power and moves. But Holmes gained just four yards on four carries and his main competition, freshman J.C. Coleman, managed six yards on four carries. Even more telling is that associate head coach Shane Beamer said defensive coordinator Bud Foster used a vanilla scheme and “I don’t think they threw a blitz all night.”
However, it’s not prudent to draw conclusions from a scripted 47-play scripted scrimmage, especially since the coaches were more focused on evaluating some of the players further down on the depth chart. But it’s clear now that the development of the Hokies offense will remain the biggest topic of the spring.
“It’s gonna carry into the offseason,” Stinespring said. “We’re gonna have to improve a great deal not just within our offensive line, and that’s what I addressed to our offense afterwards.”