After redshirt junior Scott Demler mustered just one punt of more than 40 yards for the second game in a row this past weekend, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said Monday he is considering a change at punter ahead of Saturday’s game against Arkansas State.
Demler averaged 37.8 yards on five punts in the Hokies’ 17-10 win over East Carolina, but his 30-yarder in the first quarter set up the Pirates in prime field position for their lone touchdown drive of the afternoon. In the season opener against Appalachian State, Demler averaged just 32.4 yards on six punts, including one that went just 20 yards.
Beamer said true freshman Michael Branthover, a DeMatha product who was named The Post’s All-Met kicker the past two years, will dress for the Arkansas State game and get the first shot at unseating Demler.
Branthover is “a little bit inconsistent,” Beamer said. ”But he’s been bombing them in practice.”
In the Hokies’ final scrimmage of training camp, which was closed to the media, Branthover averaged 49.5 yards on two punts, including a long of 53 yards. During his senior season at DeMatha, 59 of Branthover’s 69 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
There was much written this offseason about wide receiver Danny Coale’s desire to be the team’s starting punter, but Beamer has voiced increasing concerns of late about the logistics of having a position player punt.
Coale said last week he still works on punting a bit during practice, but Beamer expressed confidence that Demler would improve upon his shaky performance in the season opener.
The coach said Monday Demler’s best punt against East Carolina was his last one, a 37-yarder that was muffed by Pirates wide receiver Lance Lewis and recovered by teammate Rahkeem Morgan for a minus-10 yard return.
That, though, doesn’t seem to have been enough to ease Beamer’s concerns.
***The Hokies will also have to address their passing game this week. Quarterback Logan Thomas currently sports a 43.6 completion percentage, the result of some unexpected drops from a veteran group of wide receivers and Thomas’s own growing pains.
Beamer confirmed Monday that Virginia Tech didn’t originally plan on running the ball 70 percent of the time against the Pirates. Instead, “it kind of happened as the game went along,” Beamer said.
If you’re trying to find a moment when the Hokies’ strategy changed, look no further than Thomas’s first career interception early in the second quarter. After that play, Virginia Tech had run the ball 12 times and passed it on nine plays. The rest of the game, however, the Hokies ran the ball 38 times and attempted just 11 more passes.
Beamer, though, said his faith in Thomas hasn’t wavered just because of one subpar start.
“Any time you’re playing quarterback, there’s so much going on and there’s just a learning curve there,” Beamer said. “We’ll go through it with Logan, but the thing I really believe is he’ll learn from this game. . . . In the end, Logan will learn from this and be better. I don’t have any doubt about that.”
***It comes as no surprise, but Beamer was extremely pleased with his defense’s performance this past Saturday after it yielded just 112 total yards to East Carolina.
Each earned player of the game honors – Hill from the team’s captains, Fuller from the coaches – and Beamer even said it was Hill’s best game since coming to Virginia Tech. Hill, a redshirt senior, had a team-high seven tackles and a huge third down pass break-up in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.
“If he continues to play like that, he can really help us,” Beamer said.
Fuller, meanwhile, was named the ACC’s defensive back of the week on Monday after snagging his first career interception and finishing with two tackles for loss over the weekend.
***Now that back-up guard David Wang is out 8-10 weeks with a fractured foot, Beamer said Michael Via will get snaps at guard this week during practice. Via, a versatile redshirt junior who can also play at right tackle and center, missed the Hokies season opener with a knee injury. He dressed for the East Carolina game, but did not see any action.
“He’s knowledgeable,” Beamer said of Via. “He’s been in the battles.
Beamer added that redshirt junior Courtney Prince (Gwynn Park HS) and redshirt freshman Matt Arkema will also get an opportunity to earn some playing time behind starters Greg Nosal (left guard) and Jaymes Brooks (right guard).