Virginia Tech’s two new assistant coaches, former Hokies players Shane Beamer and Cornell Brown, both have important challenges this spring.
Beamer has to smooth out a few rough spots in new starting tailback David Wilson’s game and harness his big-time potential now that he’s “the man” at that position. Beamer also has to manage his spring depth chart with the No. 3 guy, Tony Gregory, unavailable for contact drills and Wilson missing several practices and scrimmages with track commitments. Oh, and get somebody ready to carry the load if Wilson tweaks a hamstring, turns an ankle or worse at any point next fall.
At least Beamer, though, has the luxury of having one proven playmaker. Brown has one of the most important jobs of the spring: to whip the “whip” linebacker spot into shape and find somebody who can be not only dependable but also disruptive this fall. That didn’t happen last season, when starter Jeron Gouveia-Winlsow -- getting his first real collegiate playing time as a sophomore -- struggled so much that defensive coordinator Bud Foster essentially eliminated that position and relied heavily on five-defensive-back looks.
Tech had nowhere else to turn at whip because backup Alonzo Tweedy, a speed demon and special teams ace, suffered a severe groin injury in the preseason and never fully recovered. Determined to “find a playmaker” at whip, Foster moved redshirt freshmen Nick Dew (formerly a strong safety) and Dominique Patterson (formerly a “backer”) to the position this spring to compete with Gouveia-Winlsow and Tweedy. The message was clear: nobody’s position on the depth chart is safe.
So how are things going for Beamer and Brown as they attack their first challenges as Virginia Tech assistant coaches? I’ll let them tell you. And Tweedy updates us on his, um, groin. Not a topic I frequently address with interview subjects, but somebody’s got to do it, right? Here you go ...
RB COACH SHANE BEAMER
ON ASSESSING HIS GROUP OF RUNNING BACKS AFTER 5 PRACTICES WITH THEM: “It’s been good. Great people, first and foremost. That’s been the fun part, getting to know these guys. They’re awesome guys to be around. I’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of snaps, like Josh Oglesby and Joey Phillips, a walk-on, who’s doing a great job teaching the fullbacks what to do. Josh knows what’s going on. And then physically, they’re showing a lot of good things. David (Wilson), we’ve had two practices in a row with him and he’s been good, knocked the rust off. Josh has done some good things. I’m really trying to find a third guy (at tailback). Tony Gregory is limited, so we’re trying to find a third guy.”
ON GREGORY, THOUGH, BEING WAY AHEAD OF SCHEDULE FOR HAVING A RECENT ACL SURGERY: “I was thinking the same thing. Am I watching the same guy that just tore his knee up back in November? He’s getting around. If you ask Tony, he’s full-speed. He’s ready to go. He gets mad we don’t put him in there. He’s worked hard, made a commitment to getting healthy and been in the training room extra to try to get rehab. He’ll be ready to roll (in the fall). To me, he’s full-speed except for contact right now.”
ON THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF HAVING WILSON MISSING SIGNIFICANT TIME THIS SPRING WHILE RUNNING TRACK: “Really, he’s a smart guy. You worry about a guy, when he’s missing meetings, knowing what to do. Every practice, we’re putting more and more offense in, so every day that he misses, he’s missing a meeting where we’re going over the details. But he’s really been pretty good. I can’t think of a bust that he’s had really the last two days. It’s just catching him up on what he missed and maybe a little technique we’ve taught, but he’s a smart guy and handles that well.”
ON WHETHER HE SENSES THAT OGLESBY FEELS LIKE HE’S GOT A NEW LEASE ON LIFE THIS SEASON: “Definitely. I think he’s extremely focused, extremely business-like. He’s serious about his work. He’s sitting in meetings, taking notes. On the practice field, he’s practicing with a purpose. I told them on the first day, ‘I don’t know what’s gone on here in the past. I don’t know who’s done what. We’re starting fresh. We’re competing every day and the best guy is going to play.’ I’m into results and performance, and he’s showing that right now.”
ON OGLESBY BENEFITTING FROM NO. 1 REPS WHEN WILSON IS OUT: “I think so. When David’s not there, Josh is ‘the guy.’ He gets in there and does a good job and has kind of taken ownership of that position.”
ON HOW JAMES HOPPER, WHO MOVED FROM SAFETY THIS SPRING, HAS LOOKED AT TAILBACK: “Mentally, he’s been really good. He has picked it up. I’ve been very pleased from that standpoint. He knows what to do. The thing with him is just learning the little details of playing running back, pass protection and things like that. The thing that will give him a chance – he’s got some ability, too – is he’s a smart kid and a tough kid. The other night in practice, Gouveia-Winslow came off the edge, full-speed, and Hop went in there and attacked him full-speed.
“Now Gouveia-Winslow (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) probably got the better end of it, but it wasn’t like Hopper (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) was afraid to put his nose in there. It was a collision that ooooh-ed and aaaaah-ed and all that, but he was right back in there the next play. He took a couple shots in that little scrimmage we had that I was kind of (worried about), but he hopped right up and was ready for the next play.”
ON WHETHER HOPPER’S TIME ON DEFENSE HELPED HIM FORM THAT HIT-FIRST MENTALITY: “Probably so. Everybody knows defensively what we’re about, being physical and being tough. If he’s played any defense here, he’s got that mentality. So he’s a tough guy and he’s carrying that over to offense right now.”
ON BEING AROUND SOUTH CAROLINA’S STAR TAILBACK MARCUS LATTIMORE AND WHETHER DAVID WILSON LOOKS LIKE A STAR TO HIM: “Yeah. He’s certainly got all those ingredients: a strong guy, fast guy. He’s not as big as Marcus Lattimore, but he’s faster than Marcus. He does have more explosiveness. Marcus is a special guy, special player, and David’s the same way. He’s certainly got potential, but like I told my guys: I’m into results, so let’s see it. He’s practicing that way. We’ve talked about a lot of things he needs to do better and where he can be better, and he’s really making an effort to do that.”
WHIP LB COACH CORNELL BROWN
ON WHO SHINED IN VT’S FIRST SPRING MINI-SCRIMMAGE: “Winslow showed up and played well. Tweedy showed up and made a lot of plays – and he was consistent throughout practice. That’s all we can ask out of those guys. The position as a whole, they performed and did some good things.”
ON HOW THE NEWLY CONVERTED WHIPS, REDSHIRT FRESHMEN NICK DEW AND DOMINIQUE PATTERSON, HAVE LOOKED THIS SPRING: “It’s a work in progress. Right now it’s Dew (as the No. 3 whip), then Patterson, then (walk-on) Derek DiNardo. Gouveia-Winslow (is No. 1), then Tweedy. They could go either-or. It’s a consistency thing. That’s what we’re looking for out of the spring, who can be most consistent and continue to perform and show up.”
ON SENSING THAT GOUVEIA-WINSLOW FEELS CHALLENGED BY VT USING MORE NICKEL LAST SEASON, THEN BRINGING OVER TWO NEW WHIPS THIS SPRING: “From what I see, the kid is a student of the game. He’s always going to work to be better than what he’s shown before. That’s the biggest thing. I’m sure he’s heard everything that everybody’s saying, so he wants to go out and prove that he is a solid player – which he is. For the first five practices, that’s what he’s shown. He’s a comfort guy. When he’s out there, you’re comfortable with him out there.”
ON GOUVEIA-WINSLOW SMACKING ONE OF VT’S RUNNING BACKS GOOD IN A RECENT PRACTICE: “Oh, yeah. That’s a big part of what he’s showing, some physicalness about him. He’s able to go attack and mix it up with guys. That’s what we want from them.”
WHIP LB ALONZO TWEEDY
ON HOW MUCH HIS GROIN INJURY HAMPERED HIM ALL OF LAST SEASON: “My groin was really still hurting throughout the whole year. I just got it wrapped and whatever I could do, I gave great effort, just to be out there and give it my all. I rested it during the offseason a little bit ... and now I’m feeling good.”
ON WHEN HE FELT NORMAL AGAIN: “I’ll say the middle of January. After every game, it always ached and hurt. But I’ve recovered from it, so I’m good now.”
ON BEING WELL ENOUGH TO COVER KICKOFFS BUT NOT TO PLAY FULL-TIME ON DEFENSE: “I wasn’t full-speed at all last season. I got through it. I got a shot (of pain medicine) every game.”
ON NOT BEING ABLE TO PRACTICE MUCH LAST YEAR AND HOW BEHIND HE GOT AT THE WHIP POSITION: “I fell behind a lot. I really wasn’t involved in any periods but scout team and special teams, so I fell back a lot.”
ON THINGS HE’S WORKING ON THIS SPRING: “Last year, even though I really wasn’t involved in a lot of stuff, I still was studying the book. So I know everything out there. I’m comfortable. I know the basics. It’s just physically going over reps of the plays we have and coverages.”
ON TAKING IT AS A CHALLENGE WHEN THE COACHES MOVED NICK DEW AND DOMINIQUE PATTERSON TO WHIP AND SAID THEY’RE LOOKING FOR ‘A PLAYMAKER’: “It kind of did – a lot. The spot is open right now, so we’re all fighting to see who really wants it. In my mind, it’s pushing me to take the spot.”
ON THE COACHES PLAYING NICKEL (5 DBs) HEAVILY LAST YEAR TO REPLACE THE INADEQUATE WHIP PLAY, BUT NOT WANTING TO DO THAT THIS YEAR: “We talk about it a lot in meetings. They really don’t want the nickel. They want the whip. We’re trying to get it down pat so we can get back on the field and have a whip out there playing.” or give the coaches a good look so they can know that I can play the whip spot.”
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