"Don't be messing with my kicker." Beamer's tone was both playful and serious, although his face read with a dismissive, "just fucking try me." That was the conclusion to an anecdote about an over-coached punter that regressed on his watch at Murray State told during the Duke week presser. Special teams are the Frankinator's baby. They're an integral component of his brand of football, BeamerBall. A lot of other coaches try not to lose with special teams, Beamer tries to win with them.
Special teams were a liability this season, and that's on no one else but Frank Beamer.
The Hokies were ranked 108th nationally in net punting (33.6 yards/punt) in 2011. Scott Demler and Michael Branthover struggled to find consistency, routinely shanked balls and flipped field position out of favor. Danny Coale was more reliable and averaged 6.7 more yards a punt than the team. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed #Coale4Punter because it enhanced his legacy, it hurt the team because it detracted from him playing receiver.
The Hokies only made 72% of their field goals last season. Compare that to 95-, 87-, 79-, 81- and 95-percent success rates in 2010 back to 2006 respectively.
Reality check, a Frank Beamer coached team didn't have a dependable punter or kicker.
In about a minute Michigan's going to win the Sugar Bowl. Brendan Gibbons is going to boot a 37-yard field goal and break our hearts. Before the snap my head was buried between my hands. I was hoping for a block. I said to myself, "a little BeamerBall guys." "Come off the edge hard Kyle." "Get there Gayle, get there, you can get there." I can't even remember if I saw the kick, the roar from across the stadium told me everything I needed to know. I knew better anyways, Tech doesn't block kicks like they used to.
Kyle Fuller recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown against Appalachian State, a game Tech won 66-13. That's not exactly a difference maker.
"During the Frank Beamer era at Tech, putting points on the scoreboard has always been a team effort — the offense, the defense and the special teams. It's called BeamerBall, and what sets it apart are the contributions of the defense and special teams." -- Excerpt from the 2011 Media Guide.
In 2011 BeamerBall hit all-time low in points scored since Tech joined the ACC. Digest these for a moment.
Does not include bowl games.
The data speaks for itself. Over the last ten years the trend has been less points via defense and special teams. I just hope 2011 was an outlier and not the new norm.
To rationalize a bit, the loss of Dyrell Roberts all but eliminated the effectiveness and big play production on kick returns. Teams just kicked away from David Wilson. Averaging 20 yards a return (94th) because no one else stepped up is inexcusable though. Jayron averaged a career best 12.67 yards a punt return (18 attempts), but again, nothing went to the house. By my eyes, the defense has been less aggressive the last few seasons. They've created less chaos and have been back on their heels more. The disruptive style of play we had been accustomed to seeing forced more offensive mistakes, and therefore turnovers.
I'm anxious (cautiously excited) to see how new faces in all phases of the kicking game perform this spring. All of the key contributors from last season might need to be replaced. Justin Myer won't be back to kick #ALLOFTHETOUCHBACKS. Cody Journell's status with the team is uncertain. Collin Carroll, a fixture at snapper, graduated. Coale, Jayron, Wilson are all gone. Michael Branthover and Scott Demler may just never cut the mustard. Your guess is as good as mine as to who fills the depth chart.
I don't think Frank Beamer is past his prime, or the game has passed him by. He still clocks in to work in the morning. He isn't moonlighting as some pseudo-coach like Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno did late in their tenures. He needs to fix BeamerBall, not only because he's responsible to, but because he's the most capable coach in college football to do so.