27th year (216-104-2 at Tech; 258-127-4 overall in coaching career)
Getting in the habit of seven-win seasons wasn't something that interested Beamer. Given the ongoing struggles of his offense, and the sudden deterioration of his running game, the time was right in the offseason to make some changes on his coaching staff. As he heads into the twilight of his coaching career, Beamer has to ponder what kind of shape the program will be in whenever he finally decides to leave his position. The streak of eight consecutive seasons with 10-plus wins is over. Miami, Georgia Tech and UNC are all legitimate challengers for the ACC's Coastal Division crown. Virginia is making serious strides in in-state recruiting. One merely average season isn't cause for too much panic on some campuses, but Beamer remembers what it's like to struggle like he did early in his first six seasons as Tech's coach (combined 24-38-2 record). He's trying to ensure the program doesn't even get close to that point again.
Sr. | 6-6 | 254 | QB
He's dropped about eight pounds since last season, which helped him get around better in offseason workouts, but his biggest transformation has come in his mechanics. Thomas, who indicated he'll have more freedom to make his own calls at the line of scrimmage than he's had in the past, said he's clicked right away with Loeffler.
Sr. | 6-1 | 230 | LB
Tyler is the latest success story in Tech's lengthy history of walk-ons that have contributed in Beamer's tenure. Last season, he led Tech and finished tied for third in the conference in tackles with 119 on his way to earning second team All-ACC honors from the media.
Sr. | 6-4 | 255 | DE
After setting a preseason goal of 10 sacks last season, and finishing with just five, Gayle is staying away from predictions this season. He's dropped 14 pounds. Though he's still working on the finishing part of his technique, there are few defensive players in the ACC better than Gayle, a Bethel High graduate, at getting in the backfield.
Aug. 31 | vs. Alabama | 5:30 p.m.
In 2009, Tech lost 34-24 to Alabama in Atlanta in the season-opener for both teams. Based on what Alabama has coming back this season, including All-America candidate quarterback AJ McCarron, wide receiver Amari Cooper and all four starting linebackers, Tech might have to consider a loss by 10 points or fewer in this rematch in Atlanta a strong showing.
Sept. 7 | Western Carolina | 1:30 p.m.
After playing the two-time defending national champion in the season opener, Tech comes home to take on a Western Carolina team that finished 1-10 last season. If nothing else, it'll be a good opportunity to give some of the redshirt freshmen and deeper backups a chance to gain some experience.
Sept. 14 | at East Carolina | Noon
Though Tech has won four of the last five meetings, ECU has been tough to handle. Three of those five games were decided by 10 points or fewer. ECU returns 18 starters, including quarterback Shane Carden (3,116 passing yards last season), running back Vintavious Cooper (1,049 rushing yards last season), wide receiver Justin Hardy (1,105 receiving yards last season) and nine defensive starters.
Sept. 21 | Marshall | TBA
Tech continues its sampling of some of the best teams Conference USA has to offer with a second straight game against a foe from the league. Last season, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato (245 yards passing against Tech in 2011 in a 30-10 Marshall loss at home) completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,201 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Sept. 26 | at Georgia Tech | 7:30 p.m.
A short turnaround for both teams heading into this Thursday night meeting, but Georgia Tech will be coming off a Saturday home game against North Carolina. Of course, trying to prepare for the Yellow Jackets' option with abbreviated prep time is never a good thing. Virginia Tech is seeking its fourth straight win against Georgia Tech.
Oct. 5 | North Carolina | TBA
With two bonus days to prepare, Tech's secondary will get some extra prep time for UNC quarterback Bryn Renner. If Exum isn't back for the Georgia Tech game, might this be the game when he returns? If so, it'll be a heck of a test for that surgically repaired knee.
Oct. 12 | Pittsburgh | TBA
Tech begins a three-game stretch where it needs to take care of business. In its final season in the Big East last year, Pittsburgh ended up being the first team to expose issues that would plague Tech all fall with a 35-17 upset of the Hokies. Tech, which has lost four straight in the series, will remember last season.
Oct. 26 | Duke | TBA
In its past two games in Lane Stadium against Duke, Tech has won be average margin of 29 points. This season's meeting shouldn't be much different. Of course, Duke did put a scare into Tech last season by building a 20-0 first-quarter lead — before Tech reeled off 41 unanswered points behind a career-high 183 rushing yards from Coleman.
Nov. 2 | at Boston College | TBA
Tech got arguably its biggest win of the season last year in Chestnut Hill, Mass., with a 30-23 overtime victory with some help from kicker Cody Journell, who made a 41-yard field goal with 1:05 left in regulation to tie the game. Without that win, Tech would've been home for the holidays for the first time since 1992.
Nov. 9 | at Miami | TBA
The winner could end being in the driver's seat for the ACC Coastal Division title. Tech also will be looking for redemption after losing 30-12 last season at Miami. The last time Tech lost by a larger margin to a division opponent was in 2005, when Miami beat Tech 27-7.
Nov. 16 | Maryland | TBA
These teams haven't played since 2009, which is probably just fine from Maryland's perspective. Tech has won five consecutive matchups by an average of 26 points per game. Maryland should be better than it was last season, when injuries crushed it, but Tech should still cruise.
Nov. 30 | at Virginia | TBA
Among ACC opponents, only Duke has more consecutive losses to Tech (12) than U.Va.'s nine straight. Three of the last four games in Charlottesville have ended with Tech winning by 29 or more points. Most of U.Va.'s players hadn't even reached their teenage years the last time the Cavaliers possessed the Commonwealth Cup.
Clemson and Florida State are expected to be among the nation's top 10 programs, but Miami has aspirations of factoring into the conference championship picture. After one-year postseason bans, Miami and UNC should bounce back with bowl appearances. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and possibly Maryland look primed to spend the holidays in bowls, too. Can Clemson or FSU work their way into the national championship picture? That's a lot to ask of a representative from a conference that's 3-13 in the Bowl Championship Series, which is the worst record of any major conference in such games.
GETTING OFFENSE BACK ON TRACK
As Tech has toiled through the preseason, it's become apparent just how daunting the task of re-tooling the Hokies' offense will be for new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and new wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. Less than three weeks before kickoff in the season-opener against Alabama, Tech was still looking to establish four offensive line starters, nail down its starting running back and develop some dependable depth at the receiver spots. Loeffler's top goal was to put some teeth back in Tech's running game with sophomore J.C. Coleman and redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds, but there's little confidence in how effective the Hokies can be at the tackle positions. Quarterback Logan Thomas has worked on his mechanics in the offseason. By keeping everything lined up (shoulder, hips and feet), the goal is to improve accuracy. Of course, having some guys that can actually run crisp routes and catch the ball on a regular basis would help, too.
KILLER DEFENSE ARRIVING YEAR LATER THAN EXPECTED?
There's one glaring weak spot in the secondary, but Tech seems poised otherwise to have a defense that could pick up where the unit finished the season last year. After starting slow, defensive coordinator Bud Foster's group bounced back in the second half of the season to finish last year 18th in the nation in total defense (333.2 yards per game). With all four starters back on the line (not to mention some depth with which to work), Jack Tyler and a healthier Tariq Edwards back at linebacker and three starters returning in the secondary, Tech has plenty of experience. It remains to be seen how much cornerback Antone Exum's absence for at least the first month of the season will affect the secondary. Freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson will have to grow up in a hurry. If nothing else, Alabama should help answer just how far Tech is to being where it wants to be on both sides of the ball.
WAS LAST YEAR A BLIP?
When defensive end James Gayle recently discussed how Tech had processed last season's 7-6 record, he talked about how he and his teammates had gotten a wake-up call because none of them were used to losing with such regularity. Maybe that's enough to create change among the players, but it might take some convincing to get outsiders to jump on board with the idea. Season ticket sales and student ticket sales have been slower than usual heading into the season. Media picked Miami to win the ACC's Coastal Division by a comfortable voting margin. Tech was projected to finish second in the division. While the Alabama game obviously holds its own specific set of potentially nightmarish qualities for Tech, the Hokies will know exactly where they stand in the division and in the ACC after they play back-to-back games at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26 and against North Carolina on Oct. 5.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun