NCF Nation: Mike O'Cain

Beamers 'just like any other coaches'

December, 30, 2011
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.
There is one key statistic that helps explain Virginia Tech’s recent surge:

Since Virginia Tech lost to Clemson 23-3 on Oct. 1, quarterback Logan Thomas has accounted for 23 touchdowns and thrown just two interceptions.

It’s no coincidence that the Hokies haven’t lost in that stretch.

Logan Thomas
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)Since the ugly October loss to Clemson, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has thrown just two interceptions while racking up 23 touchdowns.
While the entire team has improved since that game, Virginia Tech’s ascension to No. 5 in the latest BCS standings has mirrored the maturation of Thomas. It’s not that Thomas was bad – the Hokies have only lost one game all season – but he made the mistakes early expected of a first-year starter, and he has grown into one of the best quarterbacks in the conference heading into Saturday’s Dr Pepper ACC championship game against Clemson. The Hokies have been a different and better team since the last time they faced Clemson, and it all starts with Thomas.

“I've seen a lot of progress,” Virginia Tech receiver Danny Coale said. “You have a guy who has all the tools in the world and all the athletic ability along with the right mental approach to the game. So as you would expect, he has a little bit more comfort. He gains a little bit more experience each and every time, and you see him become more comfortable as the games go on. And I think he's just matured quickly into a very good quarterback.”

There was plenty of blame to go around in Virginia Tech’s home loss to Clemson, but Thomas took the brunt of the criticism from many outside the program. He completed 15 of 27 passes that day for 125 yards and was sacked four times. He also threw an interception and the Hokies were held without a touchdown in Lane Stadium for the first time since 1995. It was the second-fewest points in a home game since Frank Beamer took over the program in 1987.

Following that loss, Thomas had a little heart-to-heart with quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain.

“Coach O'Cain just called me into his office afterwards or on Monday after the game was just like, ‘Hey, keep your head up. You're still our quarterback. We have no doubts in you. You're going to be a great one.’

“And it was definitely good to hear that from my coach. But I think it was better that all the guys on the team had my back as well. And nobody was down on me. Everybody was picking me up, saying: Hey, we got it. We just gotta take it one game at a time. And the next week I came out and probably had one of the best games I've had or will have. So I think it was just a confidence boost just knowing that everybody had my back.”

The following week, Thomas had a jaw-dropping performance in a thrilling 38-35 victory over Miami. He ran 19 yards for the game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-1 with 56 seconds to play, and completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards, three touchdown passes and two rushing — more touchdowns than he had incompletions. His only two blemishes were a short pass that David Wilson dropped, and a ball that he threw away after picking up a botched snap.

Clemson is wary of Thomas’ improvement.

“He was a young player coming to our first game,” said Clemson safety Rashard Hall. “Looks like he's just been improving over games as you would expect players to do, especially at the quarterback position. He played a good game against us and watching him throughout the season and on film last night, he seems to be doing a great job as their quarterback.”

Beamer has no doubts.

“He's a guy that's very smart,” Beamer said. “He's always in control on the football field, and I think as he's gained experience, he knows where he wants to go with the ball. He's more accurate … and it all just comes with experience.”

The biggest experience of his rookie season, though, has yet to come.
Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain kept starter Logan Thomas for a few extra minutes after one of their position group meetings last week. O’Cain talked with the quarterback about the criticism Thomas had been facing following the Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson.

Thomas conceded that he had heard some of the negativity, but said it had been harder on his mom than it was on him.

“He was getting a lot of grief, there were a lot of naysayers out there, doubting whether he should be playing quarterback,” O’Cain said. “I have no idea where that comes from or what starts that. For two weeks in a row he had completed 65 percent of his passes and now all of a sudden -- and he completed 55 against Clemson, that’s no slouch. But that’s life as a quarterback. He and I talked about that.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Bob Donnan/US PresswireLogan Thomas had the best game of his collegiate career Saturday when the Hokies eked out a win over the Hurricanes.
“I said just understand that No. 1, you have tremendous confidence in yourself and we have tremendous confidence in you. Go out and play. I think he felt the same way after the Clemson game. I don’t think he felt like he played his best, but he didn’t understand where all of the negativity was coming from. I said that’s just part of it. I don’t know where it’s coming from, either.”

It’s gone as quickly as it came.

Thomas had a stunning performance last week in the Hokies’ 38-35 win over Miami, throwing more touchdown passes (three) than incompletions (two). One of those incompletions was a dropped pass, the other a throw-away. His 92 percent completion rate was the highest of any quarterback under coach Frank Beamer in 301 games. Oh, and he also rushed for a career-high two scores, including the game-winner.

“It was the best performance I’ve seen,” O’Cain said.

The task now is to build upon it. According to Thomas and those within the program, there was no major revelation, no discovery during the week of practice leading up to the Miami game that resulted in the historic performance. It was simply a matter of Thomas making good decisions and getting help from his receivers and good protection from the offensive line. It was a complete offensive performance the Hokies are hoping will carry over to Saturday’s game at Wake Forest. O’Cain, Beamer and Thomas – they all have seen gradual progress each week, and none of them were ever in panic mode.

That was for the fans.

“My parents and my grandparents raised me to let everything roll off my back,” Thomas said. “That’s the way I let things go. I just looked forward to the next day, next week, and I think that really helped me get through and get past all of the doubt.”

Beamer said Thomas was better against Miami with his decisions of where to go with the ball. Against Clemson, Thomas completed 15 of 27 passes for 125 yards and an interception. He was also sacked four times in that game.

“I think he tried to drop a couple balls off instead of trying to get it down the field, and that's a good play, it's a completion and you're dumping it off to some dangerous guys,” Beamer said of the Miami game. “I think where to go with the ball; I think he's better this week. When you know where to go with it, and get there on time your accuracy is better so I think that played into it. He'll learn every week I promise you; he's just a guy that'll keep improving.”

The improvement was harder to see from the outside.

“I’ve always had the confidence I can play like that every week,” Thomas said. “I did get some doubt after the Clemson game, but hopefully it was erased this past weekend.”

O’Cain said Thomas’ performance was something the entire offense can build on, not just their quarterback.

“From an offensive standpoint, you have a tendency sometimes for some frustration to set in,” O’Cain said. “We needed a game like that to get that out, to say 'yes we can do it' and put all of the negative stuff out of your brain and go out and play.”

Thomas agreed.

“I think it’s going to help us in our confidence department tremendously,” Thomas said. “And it was also, when things got tight, we didn’t just fall apart, we stepped it up to another level and were able to go and outperform and get the win.”

Don’t worry, Hokies, Thomas is not the “I-told-you-so” type.

“I’m just thankful I had the game I did,” he said.

So are Virginia Tech fans. All of them.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 5

October, 2, 2011
Each weekend reveals more. Virginia Tech might not have wanted to open this week's lesson book. Here’s a look at what we learned in the ACC in Week 5:

1. Virginia Tech’s offense has more problems than the staff seems to want to publicly admit. Both coach Frank Beamer and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain downplayed the Hokies’ inept performance on offense following their 23-3 loss to Clemson. They spoke of missed opportunities and turnovers, but in the end seemed to think it’s nothing that can’t be fixed in time for the Miami game or anything serious enough to keep Virginia Tech from contending for the Coastal Division title. The eyeball test, though, disagrees. The Hokies are in a bind in third-and-long situations, and defenses aren’t going to respect the passing game until that changes. There were also signs of problems up front, as Logan Thomas was sacked four times and Clemson’s defensive line had the upper hand. There were signs of this against East Carolina, but Saturday's game proved only more difficult against better competition.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
AP Photo/Steve HelberTajh Boyd and Clemson made a statement with their road win on Saturday.
2. Clemson is as good on the road against ranked opponents as it is at home. The Tigers answered a big question as doubt continued to follow them to Blacksburg. After starting off 4-0 at home, Clemson proved it can also beat ranked competition on the road. Lane Stadium is arguably the toughest venue in the ACC, especially at night, and Clemson left no doubt it was the better team. Quarterback Tajh Boyd stayed poised, made good decisions, and managed the offense well.

3. Georgia Tech stands alone in the Coastal Division. With its win over NC State, Georgia Tech is 2-0 in the ACC and in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division. The Jackets are off to their first 5-0 start since 1990, and their first 2-0 start in conference play under coach Paul Johnson. Virginia Tech’s loss to Clemson has opened the door for Georgia Tech to reassert itself as the best team in the division.

4. Wake Forest has quietly become one of the ACC’s better teams. There are only two teams in the ACC’s Atlantic Division with 2-0 records: Clemson and Wake Forest. Granted, the Deacs’ toughest competition has yet to come, and Wake Forest’s running game has yet to hit its stride, but quarterback Tanner Price has put his team in position for a dark horse run at the division title. At the very least, Wake’s chances of reaching the postseason look much better.

5. The ACC is top-heavy right now. Virginia has nothing to brag about in its overtime win against Idaho. Maryland had an uninspiring performance at home against Towson. For about 22 minutes, Miami’s game against Bethune-Cookman was much closer than the final score indicated. Yes, the league was able to rebound from last week’s poor performances against nonconference opponents, but it was hardly in convincing fashion. Clemson and Georgia Tech have distanced themselves as the top teams in the league.
After two games and a 2-0 start, it's time to check in with Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain about how his first-year starter, Logan Thomas, has fared so far. Here are the highlights of my interview with him yesterday:

How would you assess his play through the first two games?

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/Karl DeBlakerVirginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain is pleased with what he's seen from Logan Thomas so far this season.
Mike O'Cain: I've been very pleased. I think he's done exactly what we've asked him to do. He's done a tremendous job of managing the game, getting us in and out of plays, doing all of the little things you have to do, reading signals, and getting the play called properly, getting us to the line of scrimmage in time. He's done a wonderful job of that. That's the way it starts. Overall, he's thrown the ball well. I know his stats right now don't look particularly good, but he's had seven dropped balls in two games and another six that he's had to throw away because of either pressure or not having anybody open, or whatever reason. If you put those 13 throws as potential completions, it looks good. He's not forcing the ball, he's not making the critical mistake. Even though he had an interception on the goal line on Saturday, it wasn't a stupid error as I would call it, a crazy error, it was just one of those things that he threw the ball outside on a fade and the safety made a great play on the ball. Logan didn't get it quite outside far enough, but he was going where he should have gone with it. Does he have to get better? Yeah, and we have to get better offensively in all phases. But I'm pleased with where he is so far. We've been able to bring him along, not ask him to have to win the ball game. He ran the ball very well on Saturday, we put the ball in his hands nine or 10 times. I think he had 11 carries, but two or so may have been runs in the passing game. He had to make a decision in reading it, either he would keep it or give it to the back or whatever. He had five or six opportunities to do that. He's done well and played well.

You guys had committed to the run against ECU, ran it 45 or 50 times. Did that have anything to do with what Logan wasn't doing?

Mike O'Cain: Absolutely not. There were a couple of things in our thought process. Early in the game we threw the ball a fair number of times and somebody said, 'You know, David Wilson has only touched the ball four times.' We were probably midway through the second quarter, and that's not good. So that was part of it. At the same time, we were able to run the football. We were able to take the football down the field and run the ball, which, in turn, their offense was very explosive. We wanted to keep the ball away from them. We were able to run the ball. We were getting 5 yards on first down, 6 yards on first down. It seemed to be the right thing to do. Will we be able to do that from here on out? I probably don't think so. But we were able to Saturday. It worked, and we had the ball for about 38 minutes. That's 38 minutes they don't have it.

Ideally, how much do you want Logan to be running with it?

Mike O'Cain: We don't really put a number on it. What we have to do to win the game. The opportunity presented itself Saturday where we felt like there were several times he had an opportunity to help us get 5 yards, 6 yards, 7 yards, and all of those weren't necessary designed for him to carry it. It was an option for him to carry the ball. It just happened to be the way he played, he ended up carrying the ball. But probably 11 times is too many, to be honest. At the same time, going back to Tyrod [Taylor] a little bit, Tyrod we didn't necessarily design for him to carry the ball very many times a game, because he's going to get six, seven, eight carries a game, just pulling the ball down in the passing game. Logan's a little bit different. He's probably going to stay in the pocket a little bit more, probably won't get quite as many runs in the passing game as Tyrod did for a difference in styles. So we may create a few more ways for him to carry the ball and play his part in the running game.
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.
Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer can still vividly remember walking off the field at Lane Stadium in 1992 when he was a sophomore in high school and his father, Frank, had just concluded a dismal 2-8-1 season as head coach of the Hokies.

Virginia Tech had lost at home 41-38 to rival Virginia in its season finale, and the younger Beamer was following his father’s footsteps into the tunnel as they left the field.

“I was about 10 feet behind him following him, and I can remember a guy hanging over the railing and screamed down at him, ‘bye-bye, Beamer!’” Shane Beamer said. “People thought that might be his last game.”

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Jeff Blake/US PresswireVirginia Tech has compiled a 195-98-2 record under Frank Beamer in 24 seasons.
Instead, it was Virginia Tech’s last losing season under Frank Beamer.

“I was sitting in an academic visit the other day with a recruit, and the professor said we were just kind of a quiet little college town university before [Frank] Beamer showed up,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who has been on the sideline with Beamer as either a player or coach for 33 years. “Now, we feel like we hit the jackpot. Things have changed. That’s what you see with Coach. He’s a guy who put this place on the map, so to speak.”

Beamer enters his 25th season as Virginia Tech’s head coach this fall, a longevity that has been unrivaled, as no other head football coach in school history had lasted longer than 10 seasons, and only Penn State’s Joe Paterno has been at his current school consecutively longer (45 years). Beamer has won 240 games in his 30 years as a head coach, and his sustained success at his alma mater has been unparalleled in recent years, as no other program has managed seven straight 10-win seasons. Under Beamer, Virginia Tech has won four ACC titles, three Big East titles, made five BCS bowl appearances and played for one national championship.

“I feel fortunate to be around 25 years,” Beamer said. “I really understand how fortunate I am. There have been a lot of good coaches, a lot of good players, and an administration that hung around when most wouldn’t these days after about the first four or five years. Things have turned out good for Virginia Tech. Being in the Big East was a great situation for us. That helped because it gave you TV and bowl games. And then coming into the ACC, that helps because that’s the right conference for us. We’ve had some fortunate things happen to help me stay there for 25 years.”

There is a reason, though, Beamer is still coaching and making sweeping changes to the program at 64 years old.

Despite his accomplishments, Beamer has yet to win a national title, a fact that hasn’t exactly escaped the Virginia Tech faithful. With or without that elusive title, Beamer is destined for the College Football Hall of Fame, and those within the program say Beamer doesn’t need a national title to validate his career or legacy at the program. Most would agree. But he still wants to win one, and by making staff changes this offseason -- which included the hire of his son, also a top-notch recruiter -- Beamer has put himself in a better position to contend for one, if not this year, then in the near future.

Shane Beamer said there wouldn’t be a better way to commemorate his father’s silver anniversary this season than with a title -- any title.

“If you were writing a movie script and the head coach hires his son in his 25th year of coaching and they win a national championship the first year together, that would be pretty storybook and Hollywood-esque,” Shane said. “I don’t know if that’s in the cards or not. We’ve got a tough schedule this year and a lot of challenges ahead of us. Obviously if we win a championship that would make it even more special, but if we don’t win a championship this year, just being on the staff and being a part of this team and getting to share his 25th year of coaching with him, that’s pretty special in itself.”

Staff loyalty runs deep in Blacksburg, which is why the offseason changes caused quite a stir inside and outside of the football building. Longtime assistants Billy Hite and Jim Cavanaugh were moved into administrative positions to make room for the younger Beamer and outside linebackers/assistant defensive ends coach Cornell Brown. Quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain was given the playcalling duties.

Shane said there were plenty of elite recruiters on Virginia Tech’s staff before he arrived, and if there is a perception out there that he is the missing piece to the Hokies’ quest for a national title, it’s the wrong one.

“If you count my dad and the nine assistant coaches, I’m one-tenth of the equation,” he said. “We’re all in this thing together. I don’t think myself or Cornell is the missing piece. He’s been adamant about why we were brought in, and thought it was good for the program to try and make it better from top to bottom and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Beamer said being able to retain the knowledge of Hite and Cavanaugh while hiring two younger coaches who have to reach the top of their game was an overall upgrade.

“I think our organization is the strongest it’s ever been,” Shane said.

That’s saying a lot, considering the milestones that have been reached over the past 24 seasons.

Frank Beamer, though, isn’t done yet.

“I’m hoping we will be celebrating Year 25,” said Foster. “I’m hoping it will be a special year.”

It’s been a long time at Virginia Tech since it wasn’t.
Logan Thomas Andrew Shurtleff/US PresswireLogan Thomas will take over as Virginia Tech's full-time starter this season.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- It was third-and-16 against Miami last season when backup Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas had his one and only snap in a moment of consequence.

He didn’t flinch.

With starter Tyrod Taylor feeling woozy on the sideline, Thomas completed a 24-yard pass to Danny Coale for the first down and sustained what would be an eventual scoring drive against Miami in late November.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer exhaled.

“I remember thinking, ‘whew,’” Beamer said. “A lot of good thoughts went through your head quickly. That said a lot. You’re under the gun, just come in, make a throw like that when we needed it. That said a lot.”

The Hokies are going to need Thomas to make an even bigger statement this fall if they’re going to defend their ACC title. The Tyrod Taylor era is officially over in Blacksburg, and Thomas is preparing this spring for his first season as a full-time starter in the shadow of his predecessor while also carrying the lofty expectations and physique of former Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.

Truth is, Thomas might just be the best mix of both.

Thomas has the leadership skills and composure of Taylor, and at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, he also has the height, weight and arm strength of Newton. What he doesn’t have yet is experience or consistency. Over the past two years, Thomas has watched and learned as a redshirt and backup to Taylor. His accuracy has improved, along with the mental aspect of his game, but there’s still a learning curve involved, as Thomas only played two years of quarterback in high school and was recruited as a tight end/receiver.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas and Tyrod Taylor
AP Photo/Steve HelberLogan Thomas (left) spent the past two seasons learning from Tyrod Taylor.
“Some days, he’d just take your breath with the throws he’s making: ‘Gee wiz, look at that one, and look at that one,’” Beamer said. “And then he’d get out there another day and wouldn’t be quite as accurate, just a little bit off. I really think it gets down to concentration and him being the guy. I’m looking forward to it.”

So is Thomas.

Virginia Tech isn’t going to change the offense drastically to suit him, but the staff might put the ball in his hands more because of his size and strength. He’s more of a pocket passer than Taylor was, but when he does leave the pocket, Thomas can run. He’s not shifty, but he’s fast, and his strength will make him difficult to tackle. Where Taylor had to move his feet to see, Thomas is about six inches taller to see over the action.

Defenders will be forced to tackle Thomas around his waist, giving him time to get the ball out. Taylor was usually tackled on his upper body, making it harder for him to throw under pressure. Thomas will be less likely to pull the ball down and scramble, but he’ll make throws Taylor might not have been able to because of his height.

“I’m not the type of scrambler Ty was,” Thomas said. “He’s the most elusive person I’ve ever seen.”

Thomas has an experienced offensive line and group of receivers to work with, though, so there’s potential for the Hokies’ passing game to flourish more than it did under Taylor. That depends, of course, on Thomas’ accuracy. His range is about 60-75 yards -- compared to about 75 or 80 in high school, when he said his “mechanics were really bad,” and he would just heave it.

“I was really bad when I first got here,” Thomas said. “I was throwing high, low, skipping it across the ground. Now they’re a little bit more in the strike zone.”

O'Cain said Thomas has made “tremendous improvement in all areas” since his first week at the position and the end of this past season.

“He was just wild,” O’Cain said, “like a fastball pitcher that sails into the upper backstop every now and then. He’s really improved that. He’ll still miss one occasionally, but they’re close misses. Three yards, or four yards … you just say to yourself, where in the heck did that come from?”

“We can’t ask him to do all of the things we asked Tyrod to do,” O’Cain said. “He’s not at that level mentally yet. We’ve got to be careful we don’t overload him, allow him to go out and play. But at the same time this spring, I’m not going to spoon feed him. We’re going to throw things at him and let’s see what sticks and what he can handle. I’d rather throw things at him, see what he can handle, and then take away, as opposed to being too cautious because he’s had two years.”

Virginia Tech offered Thomas a scholarship when he was a sophomore in high school, and he had prepared for his freshman year expecting to play immediately as a tight end or receiver. On the first day of spring ball, though, O’Cain approached Thomas and asked if he would be interested in trying to play quarterback.

Thomas agreed to try it, but it took about three weeks for it to agree with him.

“I was hating life for the first two weeks, hating it,” he said. “I had prepared that whole summer to play tight end, h-back, and so I had thrown zero balls until camp started. It was really that third or fourth week that I said, ‘just throw it all out the window, get a new mindset, and I really started enjoying it. A lot of it was because of coach O’Cain and Tyrod as well. They helped me along with the process and trusted me at a young age.”

O’Cain said he saw enough promise after just a few days watching Thomas at the position that he told Thomas he could be a three-year starter.

“I wasn’t trying to pull the wool over his eyes,” O’Cain said. “I felt like he could be a good quarterback, a very good quarterback.”

It’s time to find out if O’Cain was right.
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."

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 21, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Around the ACC we go ...

Former Wake Forest backup quarterback Brett Hodges will transfer to UCF and is eligible to compete for the starting job immediately. How? By using the same NCAA transfer rule Duke guard Greg Paulus will have to use if he wants to be an FBS quarterback, too. 

At Virginia Tech, Marcus Davis might not have been ready to be the No. 2 quarterback, but quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain thinks Davis is a more talented athlete than Ju-Ju Clayton.

Here are five questions Maryland still needs to answer on defense.

Bobby Bowden's spring tour has begun, and Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel has the play-by-play.

And two leftovers for you ...

Thanks to one reader for providing this link on Monday: Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen wasn't shy about his feelings regarding the NCAA sanctions FSU is facing. Friedgen's take? Bowden should vacate the wins.

How much could fans tell about Virginia's new spread offense from its spring game? Not much, and that was exactly how coach Al Groh wanted it.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

As a fifth-year senior who already graduated, and a third-string quarterback and backup wide receiver who has watched more games than he had played in, Cory Holt could have understandably closed his career at Virginia Tech after last season.

 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Virginia Tech's Cory Holt is preparing to start at quarterback against Maryland on Nov. 6.

He thought about it. Just not for too long.

"I'm not going to give up on this team, I'm not going to quit," he said. "And they're not going to give up on me. And they haven't for the last four years."

The Hokies certainly aren't going to give up on Holt now. Not when he could be their starting quarterback on Nov. 6 against Maryland.

On the first play of last weekend's game at Florida State, Virginia Tech starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered a left high ankle sprain. In the third quarter, backup Sean Glennon dropped down and writhed in pain with a left ankle sprain. Both of them are wearing a protective boot until "at least Thursday or Friday," according to trainer Mike Goforth, and will be listed as questionable for the Maryland game.

While Holt was warming up at halftime at Florida State, receivers coach Kevin Sherman approached him and asked him if he was ready "just in case you have to go in." Holt was joking when he said, "yeah." He didn't really think he'd be playing.

After all, Holt hadn't taken a snap at quarterback in six weeks.

That changed within minutes, and Holt was suddenly searching for his helmet and running the Hokies' offense without even getting a chance to talk to quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain.

"He ran the offense just like you wanted him to," O'Cain said. "I'm very proud of him because he was in a very tough situation and did a great job."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Heather Dinich

 Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
 Tyrod Taylor was 9-for-14 for just 48 yards, but also ran for 74 yards on 15 attempts. He scored on a 2-yard run late in the first half.

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- This is not about what Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon can't do.

It's about what Tyrod Taylor can do in the absence of pass protection, experienced receivers and a go-to tailback. Taylor can scramble, can make something out of nothing and he can spread defenses out.

He did all of that in Virginia Tech's 20-17 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday in the Hokies' ACC opener while Glennon watched every snap from the sideline.

The Hokies' two-quarterback system is officially down to one. This is Taylor's team now.

"Sean Glennon is a good, good quarterback," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "He's been a great quarterback for us. He's been a great team player for us. I feel for him. I really feel for him. But Tyrod just fits where we are as a football team right now. I'm all about team. How many wins can we get? You've just got to put those pieces together and Tyrod right now is one of those pieces. A major piece."

Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain said it would've been a much easier decision if Glennon would "stink it up," but Glennon helped lead the Hokies to the 2007 ACC title and hasn't played poorly this season. This is not sitting well with him. Nor should it. But, like O'Cain said, if they want to win, they see no alternative.

"We have no other move," O'Cain said. "That's what I told him, we don't have another tight end, we don't have any more wide receivers, we don't have another tailback we can stick in the game. The only move is this one. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality of what we thought we had to do to win football games. It's not him. I don't want anybody to think we are blaming him because we are absolutely not."

Taylor is now 6-0 as a starter. He was the team's second leading rusher against Georgia Tech with 74 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries, including a 23-yard run on the final drive of the second quarter that he celebrated by beating his chest.

"He's a tough guy to tackle, I'll tell you that," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "You know he's going to run the ball, and we still couldn't tackle him."

The passing game was almost as non-existent as option-loving Georgia Tech's. Taylor was 9-for-14 for 48 yards. He said he would like to throw more, but "the game dictates how the play calling goes."

"We did call some plays that were going down field," he said. "Some protection got messed up, switched up, miscommunication and I had to check down sometimes."

That's how it's going to be, at least until Virginia Tech's pass protection improves and the receivers begin to run better routes. Taylor threw the ball just 14 times, the longest pass going for 10 yards. The staff had called three or four downfield passes that Taylor didn't get off, and another two or three pass plays expected to go about 15 or 20 yards that Taylor decided to pull down.

"That's a thing we have to live with," O'Cain said. "Sometimes it's going to be good, sometimes it's not going to be good. You live with that. I don't want to coach him and tie his athleticism down. Standing in the pocket, wanting to b a great pocket passer, that's not where he is right now. He's a good passer, but he has to be a good passer when he feels comfortable being a good passer.

"That's the way we have to play offensively. We're not good enough. It's a work in progress with us offensively, and it's going to be a work in progress, maybe all the way 'til the end of the season. It's going to be work."

That's the difference between Taylor and Glennon, though. Taylor didn't have to throw the ball to win this game.

"I think he makes a tremendous difference," O'Cain said. "He puts a pressure on a defense that nobody else can put on them in terms of their pass rush lanes and things like that. He's always a threat to pull it down, that affects coverage, that affects linebacker drops, that affects a lot of things."

Glennon the most.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer have more in common than their neighboring lake houses in Georgia. After just one week, both of them are now second-guessing their original calls at quarterback.

Raise your hand if you saw this coming.

Me too, just not after one game.

At Maryland, Jordan Steffy's injured thumb is part of the problem. Friedgen passionately defended Steffy as if he were his own son on Tuesday, but at the same time wouldn't commit to him as a starter for this weekend against Middle Tennessee State.

At Virginia Tech, Beamer decided to revert back to last year's two-quarterback system and use Tyrod Taylor instead of redshirting him.

Did anyone see the UCLA-Tennessee game?

UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw four interceptions in the first half against Tennessee, and instead of leaving him in the locker room for the second half, Rick Neuheisel told his quarterback that he, too, threw four picks in his first start.

The only way for a quarterback to play with confidence is to know he has it from his head coach, and neither Beamer nor Friedgen are showing that right now. Yet both of them still expect Sean Glennon and Steffy to win games for them.

This will likely be an ongoing drama in College Park this season, as Chris Turner and Josh Portis have already played in the first game with Steffy. At Virginia Tech, how Glennon handles this decision will affect the entire team. But the Hokies appear to have more problems than just Taylor can solve.

While Hokies' quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain makes some valid points, the fact he said "I'm not sure we didn't feel this along" makes you wonder why the staff didn't go with its gut the first time around. They knew their personnel heading into the ECU game. It was the same team they had after it.

And Friedgen knows exactly what he has at quarterback. Three guys, three styles and three personalities.

None of whom can, apparently, do it all by himself.