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August 31, 2010

Q-and-A: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer

For the second season in a row, Virginia Tech will play in the nation's most anticipated season-opening matchup.

In 2009, the Hokies lost 34-24 to Alabama in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff in Atlanta but went on to finish 10-3. This season, Virginia Tech takes on Boise State in Landover, Md., on Labor Day night.

Almost all of the talk about the game centers on Boise State and its quest to become the first non-Big Six league school to advance to the BCS title game. But Boise State's biggest hurdle to the improbable will be its first -- against a Virginia Tech team that has its own lofty expectations.

Hokies coach Frank Beamer, 63, relishes the challenge. He is entering his 24th season at his alma mater with what looks to be one of the better teams of his tenure, a team that could be a dark-horse national title contender.

Beamer has led Virginia Tech to 17 consecutive bowls, three ACC crowns, three ACC Coastal Division titles, three Big East championships, two BCS bowl triumphs and a trip to the BCS title game. That resume figures to be padded in 2010.

Rivals.com spoke to Beamer as he prepared for the huge showdown with Boise State.

With eight starters returning, led by an array of skill-position talent, could this be your best offense since Michael Vick was under center?

"I get the same feeling with Tyrod Taylor out there that I got standing over on the sideline with Michael Vick. I feel like a big play can happen at any time; every play has a chance to be a big play. I like Tyrod a lot. He has played well, he's throwing very accurate, he's very confident, he knows what he's doing on the football field. He was the passing efficiency leader in the ACC last year [149.30 rating, 55.9 completion rate, 2,311 yards, 13 touchdowns, five interceptions] and we have a bunch of really good quarterbacks in the ACC. I think Tyrod is right there at the top of the list. Pass efficiency is how many you complete to your team and how many you don't complete to the other team. That's a pretty important stat. I think we have the right quarterback in Tyrod Taylor."

Speaking of Vick, do you stay in touch with him?

"I was with him in the summer a bit, played golf with him one day."

You have a dynamic tailback tandem in Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, who is back after missing 2009 with an injury. Do you plan to use them together?

"I think you have to get your best talent on the field. They will be on the field some together. We have another guy, David Wilson, who played well in the preseason. We played him as a true freshman last year [334 rushing yards]. We have to make a decision on what we do with him, too. He has been very impressive in preseason practice. We can get two on the field, but I'm not sure we can get three on the field together."

With just four starters back, there are more questions on defense than offense. How is that unit developing?

"It has been going OK. We had a couple of guys miss practice time, [end] James Gayle and [tackle] Kwamaine Battle, two guys we are really counting on. Gayle has missed a bunch of time. We want to get two deep at tackle and defensive end. And we are trying to settle on who will be our backup linebackers. It's going OK."

For the second season in a row, you are playing a highly ranked team in the season opener. Do you like that?

"I think it makes you better. We understand just like Alabama last year that we will have to be well-prepared to beat a good Boise State team. They are for real. They have good players, they coach them up. They are very efficient in how they play offense and defense, and in the kicking game. You have to be very fundamentally sound in all areas because they test you with formations and motion and so forth, both offensively and in the kicking game.

"But the bottom line is that it makes you a better football team overall. You understand that you have to be well-prepared in that opening game to have a chance to win."

You recently received a contract extension through the 2016 season, which would be your 30th year in Blacksburg and also the year you turn 70. How long was that in the works?

"We have been talking for a while. I am fortunate to have been the head coach here at Virginia Tech and fortunate that they want to keep me around a while longer. I was glad to be able to get that done."

How much longer do you think you'll coach?

"I really don't know -- I think as long as my health stays good and I enjoy the players. And I really enjoy the players we have around here. And the other thing is as long as you have a shot to win. There is a lot of difference in this profession when you aren't winning. And there is a very thin line between [winning and not winning]. I think all of those things enter into it."

Any chance your longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster could be named coach-in-waiting in the near future?

"I let the administration deal with that. I will leave that up to them."

The ACC has five teams ranked in the AP preseason top 25: Virginia Tech at No. 10, Miami at No. 13, Georgia Tech at No. 16, North Carolina at No. 18 and Florida State at No. 20. Is this the best you have seen the league since Tech joined in 2004?

"Maybe. I think it will continue to get better and better. Good coaches, good players, recruiting -- I think it will keep getting better. We have four teams ranked on our side, the Coastal Division -- us, Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. That's probably as tough a division as there is in college football. I think the ACC will move forward and continue to get better."

There does seem to be a big imbalance between the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. Do you agree with that?

"That's just the way it turned out this particular year. There are some good teams on the other side, too."

Conference realignment dominated the offseason headlines. What do you think the future holds for the ACC?

"I think everyone is happy with where they are in the ACC. At least in the meetings I have been around, that seems to be the feeling, that we feel like we have a great league and want to keep it the way it is. With what has happened out West recently, there may be some more movement in that regard. But I think the next big question is what's Notre Dame going to do? Other than that, I think most of the expansion is done."

You don't play Florida State this year, but how strange will it be the next time you face the Seminoles to not see Bobby Bowden on the sideline?

"It will be different. He has meant a lot to the game, had a great run there. Back when he was finishing in the top five, however many years it was [14 consecutive seasons], I don't know if we ever will see a team do that again. He had a great run there."

How do you feel with the way he left his job?

"That's Florida State's business there. I will leave that up to them."

Do you think your team has a legit shot at the national title this season?

"There are so many teams each year that start out with a legitimate shot. I think we have the quarterback who can get us there. I feel the same about Tyrod as I do about Michael Vick. Whether we can come along and play consistently as a team quick enough -- that's the question right now.

"Anytime you are talking about a team of that caliber, your kicking has to be solid. I think we have good kickers, but both of them are going to be kicking for the first time [senior kicker Chris Hazley and senior punter Brian Saunders ]. They both are older guys who have been around here a lot. Hopefully that will be a strength for us.

"Getting these defensive guys to come along and the offensive line to play consistent and our kickers to perform the way I think they are going to -- I think those all are questions to be answered."

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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