NCF Nation: Bryan Stinespring

When you start talking spring football every year, you start talking change.

New coaches.

New players.

New starting quarterbacks.

New teams.

Wait, what?

Yes indeed, life is about to change for the soon-to-be supersized ACC, as Pitt and Syracuse begin spring practice this year with an eye toward Year 1 as new league members. While changes come in many forms, there is no denying that this year more than most, the ACC will see radical changes across the board.

Not only will the league grow to 14 teams, three new coaching staffs are taking charge (Boston College, NC State, Syracuse); nine teams have either a new offensive or defensive coordinator; and 13 teams have at least one new assistant on staff. You know it is an offseason of change when two of the two most stable programs in the league -- Florida State and Virginia Tech -- have undergone staff overhauls.

Jimbo Fisher lost assistants for the first time under his watch, having to replace six in all, including a yet-to-be-hired offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Perhaps the most galling loss of all came at the hands of longtime rival Miami, which hired away James Coley to serve as offensive coordinator.

As if that wasn't enough, Florida State must also begin the process of replacing departed stars EJ Manuel, Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes and Tank Carradine this spring.

The Noles, however, are in a better spot than the Hokies, coming off their worst season in two decades.

After offensive ineptitude hampered his team for a majority of the season, Frank Beamer changed out his offensive coaching staff, hiring Scot Loeffler as offensive coordinator in place of Bryan Stinespring. This all adds to the prevailing theme in Blacksburg this spring: How will Loeffler get the most out of quarterback Logan Thomas?

Virginia also has made major staff changes. Coach Mike London made the boldest moves in the league this offseason following a 4-8 season, hiring former Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild as offensive coordinator, former NC State coach Tom O'Brien as associate head coach/tight ends, and Jon Tenuta as defensive coordinator. Fairchild, O'Brien and Tenuta bring 115 years of coaching experience to the staff, so you have to believe the pressure is on to turn things around immediately.

Pressure is there for the new faces in the league, too. Boston College coach Steve Addazio has to find a way to turn around a 2-10 team in a hurry. NC State coach Dave Doeren has to know that 7-5 seasons with upsets over Florida State are not good enough in Raleigh, so he's got to find a way to improve with only 11 starters returning. And Syracuse coach Scott Shafer has to find a way to build upon the momentum Syracuse created in its final Big East season, in a division with Florida State and Clemson.

Doeren and Shafer have to meet their goals with a new starting quarterback. Each lost excellent leaders in Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib, both expected to be drafted in April. Both competitions are wide-open going into the spring, as are the competitions at Florida State, Pittsburgh, Duke and Virginia.

Of these schools, there is perhaps most excitement at Pitt over a new starter, now that the Panthers have said goodbye to the streaky and often-maddening Tino Sunseri. Former Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik figure to be the top two candidates.

But even a school such as Clemson has to deal with change. Yes, the Tigers do return their All-American quarterback Tajh Boyd, coach Dabo Swinney and both coordinators -- holding onto hot commodity Chad Morris for one more season. But they also lose leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who declared himself eligible for the NFL draft. And just as important, they have to replace center Dalton Freeman, who made 49 starts in his Tigers career.

So you see, change is everywhere, both big and small. Spring is our first introduction to a new-look ACC come the fall.
For all the endless flak Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas took throughout the 2012 season, his decision Tuesday to stay for his senior season is good news for the Hokies.

No, really.

The naysayers may roll their eyes, but it is important to remember that Thomas enters his senior season as the established leader of the Virginia Tech offense, a veteran player with enough self-awareness to realize that his performance in 2012 was simply not good enough. Not for himself, and not for the Hokies.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsHokies QB Logan Thomas should benefit from what is expected to be a solid offensive line in 2013.
His production was down, his completion percentage was ugly (51 percent) and his interception total (16) was too high. None of this can be argued. But somewhere in there, Thomas is still the player who had a breakthrough 2011 season, who led Virginia Tech to an at-large BCS berth, who has enough measurables to have him rated No. 1 on Mel Kiper's list of junior quarterback prospects.

Does he look like a linebacker playing quarterback at times? Yes. Are some of his throws ugly at times? Yes. Did he leave himself open for criticism with his performance in 2012? Yes.

But we cannot look at his 2012 season in a vacuum. The offensive line struggled. The running backs struggled. The receivers struggled. Thomas was not alone. Any good offense works in concert. And Virginia Tech looked about as good as a ragtag elementary school performance only a parent could love.

As the quarterback, Thomas gets the bulk of the credit when all works well and the bulk of the heat when all falls apart. He has seen both sides. But help appears to be on the way in the form of a new offensive coordinator.

As Heather Dinich reported, citing a source, the Hokies have hired former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to take over for Bryan Stinespring. While Loeffler has not exactly turned out inspiring offenses of late -- Auburn was one of the worst in college football in 2012 -- he is most known for his work with and development of quarterbacks.

Virginia Tech has not officially announced any staff changes yet. But given Loeffler's track record with signal-callers in his past, the hope and expectation is for Thomas to live up to his great potential and improve not on 2012 -- but on where he left off after the 2011 season, when he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw six fewer interceptions.

"I need to be a lot more consistent," Thomas said on ESPN's "College Football Live." "I had a lot of throws get away from me this year. I have to take care of the little things, and hopefully that will make me become a better quarterback."

No, Thomas needs to take care of the little things and the big things, and he must elevate the teammates he has around him -- something he failed to do in 2012. That is what makes an elite quarterback and an elite leader. That is what Virginia Tech believes it has in Thomas. That is why his coaches high-fived when they heard he would be returning.

The Hokies are far better off with Thomas despite his shortcomings. He has another chance to show why.
Five days have passed since the season ended for Virginia Tech, and no word just yet on if there will be a major offensive staff shake-up.

Most everybody expects something to happen. But what will happen, and to whom? Those are the major questions that remain now that the Hokies avoided disaster with a come-from-behind win over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl that featured just enough offense to win.

Not great offense. Just enough offense. A season-low 196 yards is not exactly enough to encourage anybody that the status quo should remain.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has some decisions to make regarding his offense.
As if Hokies fans needed any such reminder, Virginia Tech just completed its worst offensive season since 2008, ranking No. 82 in scoring offense (25.1 ppg) and No. 82 in total offense (376.6). The key difference between this year and 2008, though, was rushing offense. This year, the Hokies averaged 145.9 yards on the ground with a revolving door of backs -- 41 yards fewer than a year ago with David Wilson.

Virginia Tech was better in that category in 2008, averaging 174.3 yards per game to rank No. 35 in the nation, a big reason why it was able to get to the Orange Bowl. The last time the Hokies averaged fewer yards rushing was in 2007, with 133.64 ypg to rank No. 82. Yet even then, they were able to make the Orange Bowl. Both teams in 2007 and 2008 featured stout defenses (No. 4 in 2007; No. 7 in 2008), enough to bail out any offensive shortcomings.

The defense was too inconsistent to be the headliner this year, though it did bail out those shortcomings against Rutgers. Still, it has been apparent for weeks that coach Frank Beamer has some decisions to make. There already is one report that receivers coach Kevin Sherman is going to Purdue.

Less certain is the future of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who declined to address his future after the game.

Whatever staff changes are made, Virginia Tech has three major questions to answer:

1. If Logan Thomas does return, the Hokies need to find a way to take the load entirely off his shoulders, and to get him to work on his accuracy as a passer. This stat sums up just how badly he struggled this year: His completion percentage dropped from 59.8 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent in 2012. While it is true he had less talent and consistency at receiver, it is also true he was not consistent enough in the delivery of his passes.

2. Who is the running back? The revolving door did not work this year. Does that mean Virginia Tech does not have a back capable of being a reliable workhorse, or the coaches had itchy fingers and just wanted to try out a whole bunch of players to see what worked? Three different backs started this year -- J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes. None ran for more than 500 yards. That question must be resolved.

3. Consistency on the offensive line. The play up front was not as good as it has been in several years. You understand that early on, as the line had to break in four new starters. But they should have been better at the end of the year. If you want every part of your offense to work in concert, you need a competent offensive line.

ACC Friday mailblog

October, 5, 2012
FSU fans didn't like my prediction again this weekend. Funny thing is, I keep picking FSU to win ...

Matthew Robb in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: You really think FSU will only win by 7? You didnt learn anything after the Wake Forest game where you picked a narrow margin there as well? With that prediction you are saying that FSU isnt a top 5 team at all. Glennon cant move out of the pocket. The defensive line will have a field day against him just like last year when they had under 200 yards of total offense. At least last year they had an offensive line worth something. GEEZ

HD: That score isn't a knock on FSU by any means. The mark of a great team is not winning by 50 points every Saturday, it's finding a way to win tough games on the road and winning every weekend, regardless of hostile crowds, which FSU will find at Carter-Finley. I will be shocked if NC State doesn't play better and more disciplined than it did last week at Miami.

Chris Jackson in Miami, Fla., writes: Do you think the fighting Irish secondary could stop the air attack against a speedy Miami offense ?

HD: With three new starters back there, the Irish have a very inexperienced secondary. It's something Miami can exploit -- if quarterback Stephen Morris gets the time. Notre Dame's front seven is the real deal, and that's where the Canes should be concerned. The Irish will try and pressure Morris into mistakes. The secondary, though, has been banged up. They've played well so far, but they haven't faced a team passing like Miami is yet. Notre Dame lost one starting safety to an Achilles injury, one expected starting cornerback injured his Achilles in camp. Some guys have come over from offense, too, as one safety was a receiver last year, one cornerback was a receiver two years ago, and another cornerback was a running back when he arrived in June.

Andrew Rosti in Arlington, Va., writes: Heather, I agree that the 8-game conference schedule is the fairest mostly because of the home-away split keeping a balance. However, as conferences grow beyond 12, we see the issue of conference teams not meeting but once every six years, and at home only once every 12 years.Should the ACC go a step further and get rid of the "cross divisional" rival format? Imagine playing in the ACC for all four years and never seeing Clemson, Virginia Tech, or FSU in your career? Teams may see non-conference opponents more frequently.

HD: No, Andrew, I don't think it's really an option to do that, nor do I think it's in the best interest of the league. I think the value of keeping games like FSU-Miami, Clemson-Georgia Tech, UNC-NC State and Maryland-Virginia outweighs not seeing everyone from the other division as often. That is the one good thing that will be lost without the nine-game schedule, though, is that players would have faced each team at least once in his career. Logic states that teams have to have the head-to-head results of facing each team in the same division in order to crown the division champs, and keeping the cross-divisional rivals is important to the league's tradition. Any inequity in that system is partially compensated for by getting a shot at the championship game.

Kenneth in Auburn, Ala., writes: I was slightly disappointed in your hot seat article earlier. It's definitely no secret that many Hokies are dreaming of the day we can have an explosive offense a la pre-Stinespring. What needs to happen in order for Beamer and Weaver to finally realize a drastic offensive change is needed? I'd be happy to see Virginia Tech have a losing record if it meant change from the consistently mediocre coaching we have now.

HD: Simple: Status quo. If Virginia Tech's offense doesn't pick up soon, the Hokies are going to struggle to stay in the Coastal Division race, let alone win it. UNC can score. Miami can score. Heck, Duke can score. I know Frank Beamer has been loyal to his assistants, but at some point, he might have to make a choice. While Stinespring has taken the brunt of the criticism, it wouldn't surprise me if there were changes with some position coaches like wide receiver and/or offensive line. It's still a little too early, though, to say that needs to happen. There is plenty of time for the Hokies' offense to get better, and I would be really surprised if they didn't take another step forward against UNC.

Matthew in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Coming into the season there seemed to be pressure building on Paul Johnson's shoulders. After a rookie season winning our hearts he has compiled a three game losing streak to Miami and Georgia, and going a big 0 -4 in bowl games. After a heartbreaking lose to VT and Miami, and the embarrassing lose to MTSU how hot is his seat? Is a win against Clemson and U[sic]GA enough to keep him in ATL for another year?

HD: Johnson's ridiculous contract will keep him there if nothing else. It still runs through 2016, and according to Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it would cost the athletic department $10.485 million to fire Johnson after this season. Georgia Tech is already on a tight budget. If there's going to be a scapegoat this year, my guess would be defensive coordinator Al Groh.

hokieingeorgia in Athens, Ga., writes: Do you think that Logan Thomas let all the pre season hype get into his head and thats why he hasnt been playing up to his potential. becouse by now shouldnt he be timed right with all the new receivers.

HD: No, no, no. I'm telling you guys, Logan Thomas is not the problem. It's the guys in front of him. They need to be more physical, and so do the receivers. Virginia Tech needs to block. Period. Hit somebody.

Tom in Miami, Fla., writes: After watching WVU absolutely light up Baylor and everyone else they have played, I am wondering if the UMD defense is better than expected after "holding" WVU to 31 points? I am asking because I am very far from objective as a MD alum, and am looking for an objective opinion.

HD: I said before the season started that Maryland's defense would be better than expected and underrated. It's a very, very talented group that is doing its part to help the Terps dig out of last year's 2-10 crater. Maryland has the No. 11 rushing defense in the country. They've played some good teams. The challenge now is to keep it up against ACC opponents and get more help from the offense.
With Virginia Tech's top two kickers at home because of off-field incidents, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said it's even more critical for his team to cash in on its red zone opportunities against Michigan in Tuesday's Allstate Sugar Bowl. That has been a weakness for the entire season, as the Hokies enter the game tied for No. 101 in the country in red zone efficiency. In 64 drives inside the 20-yard line, Virginia Tech has come away with 34 touchdowns and 14 field goals.

"We have confidence in whoever is out there on that field and whatever position that they're in," Stinespring said. "But it also goes along a little bit with us as an offense. This year we have been very good as an offense. But the disappointing aspect of it is ... sometimes we haven't taken advantage of all of our scoring opportunities. So that's something we've continuously addressed throughout the season. And now it becomes even more important."
Once again, the expectation is for Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Division.

Once again, the Hokies have the potential to work their way into the national title conversation.

But buried amid the preseason prognostications is the fact that quarterback Logan Thomas has yet to start a game and has thrown just 26 passes in his collegiate career. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer enters his 25th season as head coach of his alma mater with a new, highly anticipated beginning at his quarterback position. How Thomas fares in his first season will go a long way in determining whether the Hokies can return to the ACC championship game and possibly contend for more, or if they'll make way for a new champion.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireLogan Thomas will get his first collegiate start Saturday against Appalachian State.
There have been times this summer when Thomas has looked spectacular -- like on the clutch 24-yard pass that came on a third-and-16 at Miami last year. But there have also been times when he has looked like he’s never started a game before, and missed open targets.

That’s what Virginia Tech fans should expect this fall -- a little bit of both.

Thomas is going to experience some growing pains, but those within the program are confident in his abilities both as a leader and as a player. In addition to a favorable nonconference schedule to start the season, one of the biggest assets Thomas has working in his favor is the experience around him – veteran offensive linemen, senior receivers, a senior tight end, and a dynamic running back in David Wilson.

With the talent around him, there shouldn’t be much pressure on Thomas to win the games alone.

Nor should Hokies’ fans expect him to.

The Tyrod Taylor era is over. Thomas and Taylor are different in stature and style, and that will be reflected in the Hokies’ offense. If it looks any different, it’s not because Mike O’Cain is calling the plays instead of Bryan Stinespring, it’s because Thomas is a 6-foot-6 quarterback instead of the six-foot Taylor. It’s because Thomas won’t be scrambling like Taylor did, but he’ll be able to make passes Taylor couldn’t.

It will only be a matter of time before the comparisons between them disappear.

Ready or not, Logan Thomas is now the face of Virginia Tech’s offense.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The career of Virginia Tech redshirt senior Chris Drager has officially come full circle, as he will spend his final season where his collegiate career began -- as a tight end.

Drager, who spent the past two seasons as a defensive end, has returned to the top of the offensive depth chart almost by default, as the graduation of tight end Andre Smith left the Hokies with just one returning tight end who has caught a pass in a game, Randall Dunn (one). Redshirt freshman Eric Martin was the second tight end when the Hokies used two-tight end sets, but he missed three games midseason with an injury.

Enter Drager.

“It’s not like discouraging,” he said of the volley between offense and defense. “It’s like, ‘I’ve got to learn another playbook,’ even though I kind of know it. It wasn’t as bad as the last move, since I have an idea of what’s already going on.”

Drager played 11 games at tight end in 2008, including one start. He caught three passes for 37 yards, but moved to defense the following fall. He fared well and started 11 games last year. He finished with 31 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks. He also had four pass breakups, 20 quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he expects Drager to make a smooth transition this spring.

“I think he’s going to be fine,” Beamer said. “He’s such a smart guy. He’s been there, so he’ll be coaching Coach [tight ends coach Bryan] Stinespring for two or three days.”

Drager said he probably enjoys playing defensive end more, but both he and Beamer agreed that his skills are best suited for the tight end position, especially when it comes to NFL potential.

“I’ve always been a team player,” Drager said. “If they needed me at defensive end, I’d be playing defensive end right now. But it’s definitely nice that our last year, I get to play the position that I’m most likely going to be playing -- if I play -- in the NFL.”
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring told on Wednesday that he has no problem relinquishing the play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain. When asked if he's OK with the change, Stinespring said, "Absolutely."

"I think it’s one of those situations that presents itself that you study and look at yourself and address what’s best for your program," Stinespring said. "How can you improve your program? What needs to be done to enhance your program? About three or four indicating factors within our quarterback system, with additional responsibilities and endeavors, I think it fits us right now. I think it’s the best for us right now. In the final analysis, that’s what you’re looking to do, what’s best. What’s best for your program and the young men you’re entrusted to put in a position for success. That’s No. 1. That’s who we are, what we do. This is one of those areas we looked into not for the first time, this is not a new area, we’ve discussed it before, it is not a world changing event in any way shape or form."

New dynamic on Virginia Tech's staff

February, 23, 2011
Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain has been both a head coach and an offensive coordinator. Never, though, has he been a coordinator without calling the plays, as will his colleague, Bryan Stinespring.

"It may be a little bit unique, but it's a system that can work," O'Cain said. "I think you've got to have a good working relationship with the guy sitting beside you. Calling plays is not magic. It's something we do during the week."

The dynamic of Virginia Tech's staff has changed, as older, more tenured assistants have been moved to administrative roles, younger assistants hired, and the play-calling duties have been assigned to O'Cain. Should the staff come to an impasse about a decision, Stinespring will have the final say. What has made Virginia Tech's staff so special during Frank Beamer's tenure is its cohesiveness, and in order for it to stay that way, some egos might have to be shelved in order for this new plan to work. Those within the program have insisted that it's not a big deal -- that Stinespring gave his blessing and even initiated the changes to the offensive staff.

It's a major upheaval, though, for a staff that has built its reputation -- and its success -- on its stability.

"You've got to get your egos out of it," O'Cain said. "A lot of times egos get in the way and there's a power struggle, but I don't feel that way. ... Unless you're involved in our game and particularly with our staff, you've got to be around us and understand our makeup and how we go about things and the personalities involved and leave your ego at the door and go do what's best for this football team and what's best to help you win. Whoever makes the call -- it really doesn't make a rat's rear end who makes the call -- as long as the call is made and we're successful."

What happens when there are differences in opinion?

"I've been in this profession for 34 years and there are very few times in those 34 years -- I can probably count on one hand -- where there's been a disagreement over what the play should have been or could have been," O'Cain said. "You call the play, you send it in positively, your quarterback calls it in positively, and you go. Now, could sometimes a better play have been called? Ain't no question about it. That happens every Saturday. But the disagreements are very few."

Tyrod Taylor at it again

January, 3, 2011
MIAMI -- Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has gotten most of the attention this past week here at the Discover Orange Bowl, but anyone watching Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor just saw why he was named the ACC's Player of the Year.

He simply amazes you. Just when you think the play is over, when there's no more room to run, no other choices to make, he find a way to make something happen.

How he stayed in bounds, how he stayed poised long enough to find David Wilson for an 11-yard touchdown pass can't be taught. There's no way offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring could have drawn up that play if he had tried.

It's that instinct that has separated him this season, and that kind of athleticism that could be a difference in this game.
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Yes, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer plays favorites, and his 1995 team and national title runner-up squad are among them.

This year’s team could play its way onto his list of favorites with a victory against Stanford in the Discover Orange Bowl.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer
Jeff Blake/US PresswireFrank Beamer is proud of the way the Hokies have rebounded from a rough start to the season.
“The reality of it, I said, I thought this was the most important game we have played beside [the national championship game and the Sugar Bowl the 1995 team played in],” Beamer said. “Those were two good football teams that you like a lot. But, I think this game comes in there as terms of being very, very important toward the history of Virginia Tech football.”

The last time Virginia Tech started out 0-2 was in 1995, when the Hokies went on to win the final nine games of the regular season and beat Texas in the Sugar Bowl to finish 10-2.

“That’s one of coach Beamer's favorite teams, and he always lets us know, because he is so proud of them, that it’s not over until it’s over,” said defensive tackle John Graves. “It’s a great message, and I think a lot of people really bought into it.”

This team is also comparable to the 1999 team in that they both won 11 in a row. Only three previous times in school history has Virginia Tech had a winning streak of 10 games or more. The current streak, 1999 and a 13-game streak that started in 1995 and carried over into 1996.

Has this been Beamer’s best coaching job?

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring compared it to the 1995 season.

“He's had a lot of great coaching jobs, I think,” Stinespring said. “I've been privy to many of them. I go back to '95 when we started 0-2 that year, and how he handled that situation I thought was special. I think there was a -- there's not a procedure, there's not a book, there's not a manual that says, step one, in case of crisis. It's not like you get on the plane and all of a sudden an oxygen mask comes down and all those type things that you do from a step-by-step process. There's not one of those deals.”

Despite the start, the Hokies still have a chance to make their mark in school history. A 12-game winning streak would be the longest single-season winning streak in school history. Virginia Tech would have won three straight bowl games for the first time in school history.

“I think a lot of people doubted us because of the first two games; it was definitely two downers,” defensive end Chris Drager said. “Obviously we have come back and gone 11-0 after [the first two games]. We are on a momentum swing, but it does really come down to this game.”
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Virginia Tech has a long list of impressive accomplishments under coach Frank Beamer, but beating top five teams is not one of them.

The Hokies will have another shot at that when they face No. 4 Stanford in the Discover Orange Bowl.

This is Virginia Tech’s third appearance here in the past four years, and 18th straight bowl appearance, but the Hokies are 1-26 all-time against teams ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll.

“No. 1 you probably go back and look at the top five teams we’ve played, and were we as good as they were at the time?” Beamer said. “I know when I first came to Virginia Tech it seemed like we were playing a lot of top five teams, and we weren’t as good as they were. I think that’s one part of it, but there’s no question we need to be more successful. ... There’s no question.

“I think it’s important to this program at this time to be able to say, ‘Ok, we can win a game against a top five team,” Beamer said. “I told them this morning, that’s going to be work, and a great preparation. Stanford is legit.”

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said “people get caught up” in the Hokies’ record against elite competition, but that it’s “very, very important” they start to reverse that trend.

"But I think when you look at that, we were in a position to win those games,” Stinespring said. “It's not like we've gone into those games and not stood face to face and not had opportunities to win them. The fact that we haven't is something that is the albatross right now in terms of trying to shake it off a little bit.

“But we need to go out there and win this one. We need to win this one because it's a great bowl, a great match-up, a great competition, but that record, that's something that obviously people want to focus on and concentrate on, but we understand what we are in terms of our program. That record is just something that is part of it that we've got to try to go out and try to help improve it here in a couple days. It will be difficult.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C., -- Earlier in the week, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring talked to quarterback Tyrod Taylor and praised him for being named the ACC’s Player of the Year. Taylor immediately shifted the conversation to the ACC championship game, and that’s when Stinespring knew the quarterback wasn’t done yet.

“I think in the back of his mind, I know he wanted to go out there and make sure everybody knew it wasn’t a mistake when they made him Player of the Year,” Stinespring said. “I’d say he pretty much did that tonight.”

Florida State would probably agree.

[+] EnlargeTyrod Taylor
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTyrod Taylor completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Not only was Taylor the best player in the ACC this year, he was the MVP of the championship game -- again. Taylor, who also earned the title game’s MVP award in 2008, ran circles around Florida State defenders. He’s so elusive only his feet know where he’s going. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown. With his record-setting performance in a 44-33 win over Florida State in the ACC Championship Game -- one of the best displays of quarterback talent at Virginia Tech since Michael Vick -- Taylor punctuated one of the most impressive turnarounds in the FBS this year.

Virginia Tech became the first team in FBS history to follow an 0-2 start with 11 straight wins, and it became the first team in ACC history to win nine games against conference opponents in the same season. The Hokies have now won four league titles in a seven-year span. Bobby Bowden is the only other coach in ACC history who has managed that feat.

Don’t look now, but Virginia Tech is dominating the ACC the way Florida State used to, and the Hokies couldn’t have done it without Taylor.

“You talk about being the only team that has won 10 games the last seven years, and the last four, Tyrod has been right there,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “He’s meant a lot to Virginia Tech, there’s no question about that, meant a lot.”

Especially against Florida State, a program that had won 13 of the past 14 games against Virginia Tech.

“You’re 2-3 against them, right?” Beamer asked his quarterback following the win.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s better than anybody else at Virginia Tech.”

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering he is the winningest quarterback in school history, but Virginia Tech’s offense seemed to reach a whole new level on Saturday. The Hokies converted 13 of 18 third downs -- what Taylor called “money downs,” including a stretch of 10 straight.

Taylor’s ability to buy time helped his receivers get open. Danny Coale had a career-high 143 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

"It makes everything 100 times easier," Coale said of having a quarterback like Taylor. "He's playing phenomenal."

Given all he has accomplished, why on earth would Taylor still feel like has something to prove?

“Because a lot of people are counting Virginia Tech out,” Taylor said. “They don’t want us to play for this game right here. We just felt like there was a lot of disrespect towards our program so I felt I could come out here and have an extra good game just to put it in people’s heads that I think I deserved that, and I think it showed.”

Taylor’s ability to scramble has long been what has separated him and made him nearly impossible to defend, but given how much time he had against Florida State, those plays often appeared in slow motion.

Beamer has compared Taylor to Vick this season, and Florida State’s defense made the impersonation even easier. The Seminoles couldn’t stop Taylor no matter how hard they tried. In the second half, Taylor was about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and wound up escaping for a 12-yard gain.

“My feet just took over, to tell you the truth,” he said. “Sometimes I’m running and I don’t even know where I’m going. I trust my feet.”

The entire team does.

Regardless of what anyone outside the program thinks, he’s always been their MVP.

“If I could vote,” said Coale, “I’d vote for him.”

He doesn’t have to. There’s nothing left to prove.

ACC Helmet Stickers: Week 7

October, 16, 2010
Here are the ACC’s top five performers for Week 7:

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers: He had a career-high three sacks and four tackles for loss in the Tigers’ 31-7 win over Maryland. He now has a total of nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss on the season. Bowers sack total is already the most by a Clemson player since 2006 when Gaines Adams had 12.5. Bowers has recorded a sack and at least two tackles for loss in all of Clemson’s games this season except Presbyterian, a contest in which he played just 21 plays. Bowers became the first Clemson player to record three sacks in a game since 2001 when Bryant McNeal had three against Duke on Dec. 1. Gaines Adams, who also wore number-93, never had more than 2.5 in a game.

Miami’s defense: The Hurricanes responded to their lackluster performance against Florida State by forcing Duke into seven turnovers, including five interceptions in a 28-13 victory. Vaughn Telemaque picked off two passes, and defensive tackle Micanor Regis returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown.

Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. This is the kind of explosive offensive display Hokies fans have been desperately seeking, and Stinespring finally delivered, making great use of his cast of characters during a 52-21 win. Virginia Tech racked up 605 yards and scored on seven of its eight first-half possessions. Darren Evans scored a career-high three touchdowns and Tyrod Taylor threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another. By halftime, Virginia Tech had scored 49 points. Stinespring takes the brunt of the heat when the offense isn’t working. He should get some credit when it is.

Wake Forest tailback Josh Harris. He rushed for a career-high 241 yards on 19 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 33 and 87 yards in the 52-21 loss. He accounted for 241 of Wake's 346 yards total offense. The 87-yard touchdown run was the longest given up by Virginia Tech since 1987, Frank Beamer’s first game as head coach of the Hokies. Harris’ 241 yards are the most yards Virginia Tech has ever allowed on the ground by an individual. The previous high was 239 by Paul Palmer of Temple in 1986.

North Carolina. The Tar Heels won in Charlottesville for the first time since 1981, and scored the most points in Scott Stadium since 1946. The 44-10 victory was a complete effort, as receiver Dwight Jones had a career-high 198 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, T.J. Yates threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense intercepted Marc Verica three times and held the Cavaliers to just 2-of-6 red zone chances.
Here's a quick breakdown of the Hokies' win over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl:

How the game was won: Virginia Tech won the battle up front on both sides. The Hokies’ defense stifled the Vols' running game, sacked Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton six times, and forced two turnovers, both of which led to points. Virginia Tech was able to run the ball, which opened things up for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies sustained drives and mixed things up offensively, keeping the Vols off guard all night with a balanced offense that racked up more than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. It was a group effort, as the Hokies were able to overcome an injury to leading rusher Ryan Williams with 2:46 left in the third quarter.

Tyrod Taylor
AP Photo/John BazemoreHokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 10 of 17 for 209 yards and also had a rushing touchdown.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Not only did he showcase his ability to keep plays alive with his feet, but Taylor also made several impressive deep throws and showed significant improvement in the passing game. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 209 yards and one interception. He also had five carries for 26 yards and a touchdown.

Unsung hero of the game: Virginia Tech’s offensive line. They paved the way for a record-setting night for Ryan Williams and gave Taylor the time and protection he needed.

Best call: With eight seconds remaining in the first half, instead of taking a knee, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring caught the Vols sleeping when he called a deep vertical pass to Jarrett Boykin that went 63 yards and landed the Hokies’ on the 4-yard line. An official review determined there was still two seconds left on the clock, and a 21-yard field goal sent Virginia Tech to the locker room with a 17-14 lead.

What it means: It was a significant step forward for both Virginia Tech and the ACC, as the SEC had won the past four Chick-fil-A Bowl games. Virginia Tech had also lost four straight games to SEC teams dating back to 2002. The win gave Virginia Tech its first back-to-back bowl wins in school history, and it gave the Hokies their sixth straight 10-win season, joining only Texas in that streak. It should put Virginia Tech in the top 10 heading into 2010.

Record performance: Williams needed 110 yards to set the school’s single-season rushing record, and with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter, he passed Kevin Jones in the record books with a three-yard run. The play set up Taylor's one-yard touchdown run. Williams finished with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries before he was injured late in the third quarter. With the two touchdowns, he also set the ACC’s record for total touchdowns in a season with 22, breaking the previous record of 21 set by UNC’s Don McCauley in 1970. Williams also tied Don McCauley’s record for 100-yard games in a season with 10.