NEW ORLEANS, La. — Welcome to the football capital of the season, home of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, a Saints game on Sunday, and the BCS national championship. The Hokies took over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for practice this afternoon, and several of the defensive assistants were made available to the media, along with Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. All of the coaches were laid-back, in good spirits, and defensive line coach Charley Wiles was particularly entertaining and engaging.
The good news: There haven't been any injuries yet that will sideline any Hokies for Tuesday's game against Michigan. The hard artificial surface is beginning to wear on some of the players, and they're getting adjusted to the indoor lights, but the controlled climate will be good for ...
The bad news: Virginia Tech is down two kickers, and Beamer said today that recent practices haven't provided any answer. And no, Danny Coale won't be receiving, punting, returning punts AND kicking field goals. Starter Cody Journell spent almost a week in jail after felony breaking-and-entering charges, and then one day after he was released, his backup, fifth-year senior Tyler Weiss was sent home on a Greyhound bus for breaking curfew.
Justin Myer is expected to handle the placekicking duties against Michigan, but Michael Branthover is also an option. Myer has a strong leg, but he has struggled with his accuracy. He is 0-for-2 against Virginia Tech. Prediction? If he has to make a choice — go for it or kick a field goal, Beamer might try and goferit when he usually wouldn't in some situations.
The majority of questions today were about how Virginia Tech plans to account for Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, and it's the key to the game. While the Hokies' defense has spent plenty of time going against former quarterback Tyrod Taylor in practice, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said Robinson is faster than Taylor, and that nobody on the team could simulate what Robinson does. This will be a big test for a young defense, but Beamer said linebacker Alonzo Tweedy (ankle) is close enough to 100 percent.
"I don’t know that he’s totally 100 percent, but I think he’s close enough that he can be back to the old Tweedy,” Beamer said. “We need that. I think he gives you some options back in there defensively and on our special teams."
Gray said there's been an "edginess" to the Hokies' defense in their bowl game preparations, so it sounds like the guys are ready to redeem themselves from their performance against Clemson, but this will be an even bigger challenge.