ACC: Charley Wiles

Randy EdsallTony Quinn/Icon SMIThere's no easy winning formula for Randy Edsall and Maryland as they transition to the Big Ten.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knew exactly what to expect -- and where to focus -- when his Utes moved from the Mountain West in 2011 to the Pac-12: Recruit better prospects. Upgrade the facilities. Break down new opponents.

But that didn't make the transition any easier.

The Utes made a big splash that first season and finished 8-5, before dropping to 5-7 in the two seasons thereafter. Whittingham knew a drop-off like that was possible -- a move into one of the Power Five carries with it certain risks -- but that doesn't mean any challenges caught the 54-year-old head coach off guard.

"No real surprises," Whittingham told ESPN.com. "Nothing blind-sided us from a football perspective. It was exactly as anticipated. ... The bottom line is it's just a process transitioning. We're not making excuses -- people don't care; we have to win -- but it takes time to ramp up."

With three programs set to officially join a new power conference Tuesday -- Louisville to the ACC; Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten -- that process will play out once again. New members know they'll have to adjust, improve and upgrade before taking a step forward in their new conferences. But that doesn't make the task any easier.

Since 2000, a dozen other football programs have transitioned into one of the Power Five conferences. And, in their first seasons, only three teams improved upon their previous year's record -- with just two watching their win total increase by more than one. For most teams, the acclimation has been gradual.

"There are no shortcuts," Whittingham added. "But I don't think there's anything that's undiscovered or a secret. It's pretty simple and pretty plain."

In one interview after another, five coaches told ESPN.com the same three keys for transitioning successfully: improve recruiting, upgrade facilities and figure out those new teams. That really shouldn't come as a shock, as those tips are useful for any team in any circumstance. But when it comes to transitioning, several coaches said, those priorities are magnified.

All of a sudden, during that conference transition, Utah's great facilities in the Mountain West didn't quite pass muster with USC's 110,000-square-foot sports facility or Oregon's $68 million football building. So it unveiled its own new facility last fall. In 2004, Virginia Tech's old Big East recruiting footprint wasn't enough to dominate long-term in the ACC. So the staff immediately sought out prospects in Georgia and the Carolinas. And, in 2005, Boston College's staff was forced to scout nine new opponents on a schedule that ballooned from No. 74 in terms of strength to No. 22. So, even during "off time," some coaches stared at their laptop screens morning to night.

Each team needed to improve in that area immediately or risk falling behind their conference foes. Transitioning is a constant arms race, after all, a game where teams that tread water end up sinking. There's no such thing as being stationary in college football, especially during such a transition. Especially during that first season.

"It's definitely more of a burden that first season, for sure. No doubt," said former Boston College assistant Jerry Petercuskie, who helped oversee the Eagles' transition to the ACC and currently coaches at FCS Elon. "But there's no magic in it. It's just getting your players to play and adapting to the enemy."

Truthfully, several coaches said, there's not much they can do to quicken that Year 1 transition. Payoffs in recruiting and facility upgrades aren't immediate; the main short-term advances come from locking yourself in the film room and studying up on new opponents.

In other words, the recipe for such immediate success isn't a big secret either. Of the three teams that did improve their record that first season, they all returned solid teams that boasted solid quarterbacks. Texas A&M had Heisman winner Johnny Manziel (7-6 record to 11-2), Virginia Tech started first-team All-ACC QB Bryan Randall (8-5 to 10-3), and Pitt had NFL draft pick Tom Savage under center (6-7 to 7-6).

So, until that increased recruiting focus starts to yield changes on the field, most coaches during the transition spend a considerably higher amount of time figuring out opposing schemes, opponents and situations.

"When you're away from the office, every coach is looking at the opponent. You need to figure out that new enemy," Petercuskie said. "[Coaches] are a paranoid group of people. We don't want to go out on a Saturday afternoon in front of a national TV audience and get embarrassed. So we're going to do whatever we have to do."

Added Tom Bradley, who coached at Penn State during its move to the Big Ten and is currently the senior associate head coach at WVU: "I would say it took a couple of years for us to really get a beat on teams -- to understand the fans and feel comfortable with the climate you're entering. What do they like to do in certain situations? Not knowing that definitely made it harder."

No one can say for sure exactly how Louisville, Rutgers and Maryland will fare in their new conferences: Virginia Tech assistant Charley Wiles believes the Terrapins are already a bowl-caliber team; Temple assistant Ed Foley thinks Rutgers will wind up in the middle of the pack. But everyone knows what these teams have to do to succeed.

They can't win in Year 1 without a solid group of returners. They have to upgrade their facilities to stay competitive. And above all -- Whittingham said this was 80 percent of the transition – they need to recruit well. Do all that, and the wins will roll in faster than the fans' question marks.

Transitioning successfully is as simple -- and as difficult -- as that.
Only three ACC schools kept their entire coaching staffs intact this past offseason, the clearest way to show how transient the profession is on a year-to-year basis.

[+] EnlargeBud Foster
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsDefensive coordinator Bud Foster has been Frank Beamer's right-hand man at Virginia Tech since 1987.
That is why a select group of coaches deserve a hand. Chris Vannini of Coachingsearch.com compiled a list of FBS assistants who have stayed at their respective schools for at least 10 years.

It is not a very long list.

Only 37 of 1,152 full-time assistants meet that standard. Four are from the ACC. Three are from one school: Virginia Tech.

  • Bud Foster, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator, 1987
  • Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, 1990
  • Charley Wiles, Virginia Tech defensive line/run game coordinator, 1996
  • Odell Haggins, Florida State defensive tackles, 1994

Stinespring and Haggins break the typical assistants mold, making their stories especially remarkable. Neither has ever worked for another FBS school. Haggins played at Florida State from 1986-89, then began his coaching career there in 1994. He was recently promoted to associate head coach and is going into his 21st season with the Seminoles.

Stinespring started at Virginia Tech as a graduate assistant, working his way up to offensive coordinator. After the 2012 season, he remained on staff as recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach despite losing his offensive coordinator duties.

Foster and Wiles both played for Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer; Foster has spent his entire coaching career with Beamer, turning down opportunities to become defensive coordinator elsewhere. His name has been linked to head coach openings in the past, and there is no doubt he would love the opportunity to run his own program one day. But until that day comes, Foster remains committed to both Beamer and Virginia Tech. The reverse is true as well.

What is clear about all four: they have gotten on-the-field results and have benefited from being at programs with long-tenured head coaches. Beamer has been at Virginia Tech since 1987. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher worked with Haggins under Bobby Bowden, and Fisher decided to retain him on staff. Fisher also retained two other assistants who remain in Tallahassee: offensive line coach Rick Trickett and receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey. Both are going into their eighth seasons at Florida State -- not quite a decade but quite a solid tenure at one place.
Few players have had the kind of turnaround in the last year that Corey Marshall has had. After taking a leave from the Virginia Tech team for "personal reasons" last summer before returning to redshirt in 2013, the versatile defensive lineman worked his way back into the coaching staff's good graces, earning the Hokies' defensive MVP honors this spring.

Looking to build off his strong recent run, and looking to add more weight, the redshirt junior has a chance to be the next in line on a defensive front that has annually been among the best in the ACC.

ESPN.com caught up with Marshall to talk about his changes.

[+] EnlargeCorey Marshall
Michael Tureski/Icon SMIVirginia Tech defensive lineman Corey Marshall is ready for a breakout season after redshirting in 2013.
What did it mean to be named defensive MVP this spring?

Corey Marshall: That's another milestone I'm happy to accomplish. The big thing with this defense is replacing parts, and when you can be viewed for a period as the MVP on a defensive spot where there's going to be a lot of overall (talent), I think it's a big deal that people think you can be a catalyst at that position. I was just happy to get that recognition.

What worked for you this spring? What did you improve on? What were your goals?

CM: I think it was a culmination of things. I think most importantly it was getting bigger, stronger, faster. The old clichés. Grinding, staying at it. But most importantly it was just getting back in shape. That was the biggest thing. And I always knew I could play -- it was just getting that light switch to flip on. And there's a track record of guys here. They tell you all the time -- some of the older guys, James Gayle, now an NFL player, some of the other guys -- it's just a maturation process you go through. And I'm at those waning stages where you really start to pick up your game and elevate your play. So it's just nice seeing all that stuff come together.

You mentioned the light clicking on. How do you think that happens? I know it doesn't come overnight.

CM: Just repetition and muscle memory. Finally clicking. I think the biggest challenge for most guys coming out of high school is just the drastic change in talent; everybody's talented. You can't just coast on your raw ability; you have to be professional and go about it every day and improve at your craft. And I think that was where I just elevated off the field, was just doing extra work. Really getting that drive and that inner (focus) back. I think I got complacent once I got here, and that kind of left me in limbo. Once I got refocused I was able to do the things I know I'm capable of doing.

What do you like playing better: end or tackle?

CM: I think I'm a defensive weapon, honestly. However (defensive line) Coach (Charley) Wiles sees fit to use me, that's how I'm going to go about it, approach it. You've got to be a team guy. You have to have those elements. But I think what I really respect (about) him and (defensive coordinator) Bud Foster is they really know how to exploit talent. They understand I have that type of natural defensive end body and they let me rush in those pass-rush packages, those 30 packages, and let me exploit that on the outside, to get after the quarterback a little after I do the dirty work inside. So it's just keep on (building) that relationship and understanding that if you do your job every day, they're going to look out for you.

How important is it to you to help carry on the standard this defense has set over the years?

CM: It's massively important. It's the lunch-pail mentality. I think we all come to the conclusion that you've got to be blue-collar guys. You can't be about yourself. You've got to play within the Xs and Os, and I think where we excel, Bud Foster over his tenure here, is that he had guys that could play outside of the Xs and Os. After they completed their assignments, they went above and beyond. And to be a championship-caliber defense like we were last year, we have to have 11 souls with that mentality that, "I'm going to make the play. I'm going to change momentum in our favor when things get out of whack and adversity hits." And I think we've got a lot of guys with that mentality. I think we've got a chance to do something special.

What did you get out of redshirting? How are you better off for it in the long term?

CM: I think the wear-and-tear aspect of it is really underrated. I got, I think, about three months there where there was just no beating, there was no grinding, there was no wearing or lasting effects on me, and I was just able to get healthy in all aspects -- the little nicks and knacks that come along with the business. So I was able to get back right in that aspect, and that really just let me attack everything just (at) 100 miles an hour, and I really got better from that aspect. But I've been in this defense three years, so mentally it was just picking up where I left off and playing fast. I think that's what the coaches will tell you if you ask them -- just the intensity I came with every play. And that's just being a product of the system and understanding where you can excel and understanding how to read blocks. I think I got smarter in the nuances of the game.

Were there times last year where you would see something happen on the field and think you could've been there to help?

CM: There were a lot of sleepless nights watching those games, not being able to help your brothers. I kind of equate it to your brother getting in a fight and you're on the other side of the fence and you can't do anything about it. It kind of eats at you as a competitor. I think that UCLA game was kind of the culmination of that. There were a lot of plays where I think if I'm out there, we can turn those around and get stops and put our offense in a position to try to generate some plays to kind of shift the momentum. Because you saw it get away from us. We came out, had a couple competitive series, and as the game wore on -- as a defense it's bend-but-don't-break, but if you're out there all game you're going to break eventually. So just working on that and staying focused.

What does it mean to have the kind of turnaround you've had get noticed by the coaching staff publicly? Is that a sense of personal validation?

CM: It is, because I've had a lot of trials and tribulations, and I didn't want to have those situations be a blanket or an indictment on my character. I think at certain points you develop bad habits when you get complacent, and that's what I kind of fell into freshman year. And at a certain point if you know better, you do better. And I'm kind of at that point in my development where just maturity-wise I've taken a couple steps -- leaps and bounds from where I was Day 1. I know how to handle people and situations, and just as a man understanding that things aren't going to go your way but you need to fight through them, you need to keep your head up. All that just goes back into being a professional. Once you do some of those things, you get to reap the benefits. I didn't come here, work 17 years of my life for it to all fall away at the end. I take pride in being one of the best guys out there. I was blessed to play this game and I want to play it to the best of my abilities.

What do you see as the ceiling for you personally now?

CM: For a lot of guys, if you're not Jadeveon Clowney, people project your ceiling to be a lot shorter. But I think one of the benefits of not being just crazy royal gifted like that is that you continually get to shape your game and be very polished, as opposed to some of these others guys that don't take the fundamentals as seriously. You can really be an elite player because you do all the little things that build up to what you see on Saturdays or Fridays or whatever the case may be if you go out to play. So I think my ceiling is pretty high. I don't think I've touched it yet. I think once I put this weight on, in the season the double-teams will come even easier. Because a lot of guys will tell you I don't play like I'm 250. I play like I'm 270 already, so once I get that added weight on, there's a chance to be very, very disruptive, and that's something I look forward to getting to.

Is that a goal for you, to get to about 270?

CM: Yeah, to get to 270. We just started this offseason program. I've gained about five to seven pounds back on. So I'm right on course to be there sometime around the summer, so I'm not too concerned about it. But it's just getting bigger, faster, stronger.

And you were about 250 coming into offseason conditioning?

CM: I was about 247. I'm up to like 255 now, and it's still coming on easy, so I see that. But the biggest thing is it's not fat. You're putting on good weight that's going to help you be explosive and help you be fast and be strong out there.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 11, 2013
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Around the ACC we go ...

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September, 20, 2012
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See you in Tally.

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March, 6, 2012
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Hey! Don't forget about the chat today. 1 p.m. See you there.

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March, 5, 2012
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Heard there's a tournament this weekend ... who ya got?

Video: VT D-line coach Charley Wiles

December, 30, 2011
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VT defensive line coach Charley Wiles talks about the Hokies' need to make a statement against Michigan.

Beamers 'just like any other coaches'

December, 30, 2011
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Shane Beamer, Frank BeamerUS PresswireShane, left, and Frank Beamer have been able to maintain a professional relationship while coaching together this season.
Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer lives about 10 to 15 minutes away from his parents in Blacksburg, Va. At the beginning of the season -- before it began to cut into bedtime for his kids -- Beamer and his family would spend Thursday nights after practice at coach Frank Beamer’s house eating takeout together for dinner because it was the one day of the week the staff didn’t work late.

It was also just about the only hint that Shane and Frank Beamer were a father-son coaching duo this year.

“If you came to practice every day, you’d never be able to tell they were father and son,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “They take it as their job. They act just like any other coaches. You’d never be able to tell, and I think that’s good for our team that there’s nobody higher than the law.”

Heading into his first season on his father’s staff as associate head coach and running backs coach, Shane Beamer intended to make sure that was the perception, and apparently, he succeeded. He also proved to be an important addition to the staff’s recruiting efforts, and the running game has fared well under his watch. Now, the Beamers will have an opportunity to coach in the Allstate Sugar Bowl together when the Hokies face Michigan next week. While Virginia Tech wasn’t able to deliver Beamer any titles in his 25th season, it was a successful transition for a rookie coach with a big name to live up to.

“When your last name is Beamer, whether you’re a high school football player here in Blacksburg or playing in college at Virginia Tech or a coach at Mississippi State, I think people sometimes look at you a little bit differently,” Shane said. “Maybe there’s the perception you’re in the position you’re in because of your last name. I’ve dealt with that all my life. I try and go out of my way to prove in any situation I do belong. I wouldn’t want anybody to ever say I’m in this position because of who my dad is or anything like that.”

Most of the coaches on staff know the Beamers too well to make that mistake. Shane has known quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain since he was born and defensive coordinator Bud Foster since he was 2 years old. He’s known defensive line coach Charley Wiles since he was 5. In a way, the staff is just as much family to him as the head coach.

Not that he ever saw his dad much this season.

Shane spent most of his workdays during the regular season in the offensive meeting room. The time spent with his father was limited to about 30 minutes a day in a staff meeting, maybe another 20 minutes in special-teams meetings and on the practice field. He spent more time with offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring than he did his father.

“Coming into it, I was worried about how I might be accepted, and I didn’t want anybody on our staff to feel that they couldn’t be themselves around me because of who’s son I was, and I don’t think they do,” Beamer said. “When I was a player he treated me like any other player, and as a coach, he treats me like any other coach. I have a job to do, I try and work extremely hard at my job to prove I belong, and to me it hasn’t been awkward at all.”

It has, however, been special.

“The things that stand out are being able to share in the big wins, beating Virginia up there like we did and an exciting win over Miami, or the opening ballgame when they had a presentation for him, with it being his 25th year, being out there with him and share in that,” Shane said. “And then moments off the field, having dinner with my mom and my dad on a Thursday night after practice, just things like that make it special.”

So did winning 11 games and becoming the first ACC team in league history to receive an at-large BCS bowl bid. Shane was a part of that, as Virginia Tech’s running game is No. 30 in the country entering the Sugar Bowl, and running back David Wilson is No. 6 in the country in rushing yards per game.

“At this level, it’s not just having your son on the staff; it’s having good coaches on your staff, and I think Shane is a good coach,” Frank Beamer said. “He works hard at recruiting and is very good at that. I’ve really been pleased at having Shane back here and working together and having that kind of relationship. And I can tell you, my wife, Cheryl, is particularly happy to have two granddaughters running around and getting to see them every day. Then I think Emily, Shane’s wife, is happy to have a baby sitter in Cheryl. So I think everybody wins in this deal.”

And there’s no question the Beamers love to win. Like father, like son.

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October, 12, 2011
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I'm sorry, so sorry ...

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August, 15, 2011
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Expansion? What expansion?
Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins can remember a moment at his grandmother’s house when he was little and fell off a see-saw. His older brother, Antoine, used the see-saw to “smush” him.

The Hopkins have plenty of memories together, but they both agreed that none could possibly compare to the ones they will make this season when they line up next to each other as starters on Virginia Tech’s defensive line.

[+] EnlargeAntoine Hopkins
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesThe Hokies are expecting Antoine Hopkins and his brother Derrick to anchor their defensive line.
“This one will go down in the books,” said Antoine.

The last brothers to play side-by-side for the Hokies were Blake and Brett Warren at linebacker in the mid 2000s. The last pair of brothers to line up at defensive tackle were Kevin and Jonathan Lewis, who started in the mid-2000s. There was also defensive end Orion Martin and his brother, Cam, a linebacker, and offensive linemen T.J. and Todd Washington in the mid-1990s.

“Playing with him on this level is crazy,” Antoine said. “It won’t be the first time playing side by side, but at Virginia tech, he’s a sophomore, he played as a true freshman, he’s doing big things, his big brother is beside him. What more could you ask for?”

Antoine, a redshirt junior, is the only returning starter up front for the Hokies this season, but the potential of the front four is reminiscent of some of Virginia Tech’s stingiest defenses under coordinator Bud Foster. Just how fearsome this foursome can be, though, depends in part on how the Hopkins brothers fare on the interior. Both made significant strides this spring, and could be difference-makers this fall.

Antoine started the final 12 games of last season and finished with 45 tackles, including two sacks and 6.5 for loss. He also had seven quarterback hurries. Derrick was one of only two true freshmen to play for the Hokies last season and was named the top defensive newcomer of spring practices. He was in the two-deep last year, but defensive line coach Charley Wiles said Derrick “kind of leveled off a little bit at the end of the year.” This spring, though, he matured, and will push his brother to be the team’s top tackle.

“There’s no competition at all,” Derrick said. “That’s the way we were raised. We support each other and back each other up.”

And they have made each other better.

They live together, they practice together, and Antoine’s experiences both on and off the field helped speed up Derrick’s freshman learning curve.

“I think the biggest part was just the whole comfort level,” Antoine said. “I knew the ropes here. I could point him in the right direction, but he’s actually helped me a lot. I have a younger brother here, so I had to step my game up. I couldn’t make as many mistakes because he’s watching. He learns from my mistakes. He came in the first year and adapted very well.”

Playing for the same school wasn’t something they said they planned -- it just happened. Derrick was considering other schools, like Georgia and Boston College, but in the end said Virginia Tech was the best fit for him.

Of course, his brother might have played a small role in the recruiting factor.

“It’s a blessing,” Derrick said. “With this situation, me and my brother playing the same position at Virginia Tech, it’s a blessing from the lord. It’s rare. People don’t get to do this every day.”

Coaching 'em up: Virginia Tech

August, 1, 2011
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There’s a caveat to this part of the series.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that this series is highlighting one assistant coach from each ACC team whose position group will be in the spotlight this fall. If it were any other program in which an assistant coach handled the special teams, that’s who you would see here for the Hokies, as they have to replace their kicker for the fifth straight year. They’re also looking for a new punter and could turn to starting receiver Danny Coale. Frank Beamer, though, is the one who oversees Virginia Tech’s special teams. And the goal here is to introduce you to an assistant. We know Logan Thomas had a good spring. Everyone within the program has raved about him. Quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain must deliver a dependable new first-year starter, but there’s another position group in Blacksburg that’s gotten a makeover:

Coach: Charley Wiles

Position: Defensive line

Experience: Wiles has been on Beamer’s staff since 1996. He originally joined Beamer at Virginia Tech as a graduate assistant in 1987 and held that position for two years. When he left Tech after the 1988 season, Wiles spent a year at East Tennessee State. He returned to his alma mater, Murray State, for a six-year coaching tenure, winding up as the Racers’ co-defensive coordinator. In 1995, he helped coach the Racers to an 11-0 regular-season mark and a berth in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs. Wiles also served as Murray State’s recruiting coordinator.

Of note: When Beamer was the head coach at Murray State, Wiles won Kodak Division I-AA All-America honors as an offensive lineman in 1986.

His challenge: Replace three starters and develop depth. With Chris Drager’s move to tight end this spring, Antoine Hopkins is the only returning starter up front. He started the last 12 games of 2010, and will line up with his little brother, Derrick Hopkins. Wiles finished spring practices confident in his starting four, but depth remains a true concern. Defensive end J.R. Collins was moved inside to tackle on occasion during the spring, and could continue to be an option this fall. The staff will also take a long look at some true freshmen this summer to help with the depth. End James Gayle was named the team’s most valuable defensive player of the spring and earned a starting job, but he’s got to continue that this fall. This group of players showed the potential to be a gritty group capable of getting the Hokies back to being a dominant defense fans are used to seeing, but they’ve got to solidify a rotation this summer. It’s up to Wiles to coach ‘em up.

Virginia Tech spring game storylines

April, 22, 2011
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The Hokies will wrap up spring practices at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Lane Stadium. Here are three main storylines to watch:
  • Quarterback Logan Thomas: All eyes will be and should be on the first-year starter as he takes over the offense for the first time with so many fans watching. He's drawn rave reviews so far from the coaching staff and his teammates, but it's the first official introduction to a new era of quarterback in Blacksburg.
  • The defensive line:Virginia Tech had to replace three starters in tackle John Graves and both ends, Steven Friday and Chris Drager, who moved back to tight end (another player worth watching). While coach Charley Wiles has been pleased with the starting four this spring, depth at the position remains a concern. Keep an eye on James Gayle, who really impressed the coaches this offseason.
  • The kicking game:For the fifth straight season, Virginia Tech entered spring practices looking for a new place-kicker, and like last year, the Hokies also need to name a new punter. Receiver Danny Coale has tried out for the position this spring, along with redshirt junior Scott Demler, redshirt freshman Ethan Keyserling, redshirt freshman Conor Goulding, and redshirt sophomore Grant Bowden, who is the brother of former Tech punter Brent Bowden.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 15, 2011
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It feels like an in-season Friday with all of the ACC spring games tomorrow ...

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