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Tech’s first-team offense still couldn’t punch it in during goal-line drills in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Dave Knachel | Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas was the Hokies’ leading rusher last season, “and that can’t happen” again said RB coach Shane Beamer.
Grant Pearrell | Virginia Tech
Running back Michael Holmes (center) was stuffed at the goal line on three consecutive plays in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s first-team offense had just run Michael Holmes into the line three straight times against the starting defense with little luck. Holmes was stuffed on all three occasions in the goal-line drill.
Instead of going back to that well on fourth down, quarterback Logan Thomas faked a handoff, rolled out to his left on a naked bootleg and out-raced a defender to the pylon, diving headfirst into the end zone for a score on the final play of Saturday’s scrimmage at Lane Stadium.
New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler liked the touchdown, just not the way the offense had to get it.
“We’re down there and we need to pull the ball and run it naked with Logan? That’s not our mentality,” Loeffler said, still stewing somewhat in interviews afterward. “We want to line up and we want to knock people off the ball and we want to run the ball into the end zone. So that needs to improve.”
It was thematic of the Hokies’ second full-scale scrimmage. While Tech didn’t have much goal line offense installed before Monday’s scrimmage, this time it had several periods where the offense started with the ball at the 10.
The first-team offense and defense squared off twice in those scenarios. The offense didn’t punch it in on either occasion.
“[If] the defense has 11 guys up there in a game, I think we probably spread it out and throw it a little bit,” running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “But I think it was a mind-set: ‘Hey, we’re going to run the football in.’ And to not get that done was disappointing.”
It was a season-long problem last year. Beamer rattled off from memory several short-yardage failures — against Pittsburgh, Clemson and Virginia — that proved costly, calling them “embarrassing.”
It was one of the major reasons Frank Beamer made offseason changes to the coaching staff, wanting to get back to the smashmouth running game that has served the Hokies so well in the past. New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes’ “tip of the spear” comment about his group in January invigorated the fan base.
But the spring has proven that it still remains largely a work in progress. Grimes, who is working to ingrain that tough mentality with his players, continues to shuffle offensive linemen around to find the best five.
Shane Beamer, meanwhile, is still trying to determine a pecking order at running back among J.C. Coleman, Holmes, Trey Edmunds and others, something he admits might not happen by the end of spring.
What is clear from the coaches’ comments is that although it’s tempting to use the 6-foot-6, 257-pound Thomas as a runner, the Hokies don’t want him shouldering such a big rushing load this season, especially in short-yardage situations, where he takes an additional pounding.
“No. 1, it’s ridiculous that our leading rusher was our quarterback last year,” Shane Beamer said. “At a place like Virginia Tech, as the running backs coach, that can’t happen.
“Second of all, we know what a great player Logan is. And the New England Patriots aren’t going to run Tom Brady 30 times a game. And the New Orleans Saints aren’t going to run Drew Brees 20 times a game. …
“We’ve got to do what we do to win football games, but if we can hand it off to that running back and he can get that first down, we would like to do that every single time.”
Loeffler admitted he sounded like a “Negative Nancy” after the scrimmage, begrudgingly pointing out some positives as well, but he wants Tech to have an urgency with a week left in spring.
“We have to have a mentality that we’re against the clock,” Loeffler said. “We play in 100 and some odd days and we’ve got to go.”
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