Virginia Tech just got done with a pretty big weekend. Not only did athletic director Whit Babcock reaffirm Frank Beamer would be back for 2015, the Hokies picked up commitments from two ESPN 300 players, bumping its recruiting stock into top 25 territory.
There is little doubt, then, that this next season sets up to be a make-or-break year for Beamer and his staff.
Though the Hokies struggled to a 7-6 record in 2014, it was assumed Beamer would return even though the results have fallen over the last three seasons.
For one, Virginia Tech suffered through an injury-plagued season that saw its top three running backs go down, and it played a majority of the season without its top defensive tackle and one of its best cornerbacks. In all, 12 players were either lost for the season or missed significant time.
For another, the Hokies were among the youngest teams in the country, relying on freshmen and sophomores at just about every position. Each time Beamer was asked to evaluate the status of his team, he pointed to its youth and his optimism for what was to come.
The belief inside the athletic department during the season, and the belief now, is that the Hokies will be able to put everything together to make a run in 2015 -- when this team is healthier, more experienced, and has another crop of four-and five-star players ready to make an immediate impact.
Just consider: Freshmen scored 26 of Virginia Tech’s 36 touchdowns in 2014. Freshmen scored 251 of its 313 points (80.2 percent) -- the most of any FBS school. Additionally, every player who scored at least one point for the Hokies in 2014 is scheduled to return in 2015.
Seven starters return defensively, including end Dadi Nicolas (who ranked No. 2 in the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss) and cornerback Kendall Fuller, who will merit strong All-American consideration. Tackle Luther Maddy is poised to return, along with Brandon Facyson – two players who could garner All-ACC consideration.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster also returns, after earning a raise and extension. Beyond Foster, the entire staff is expected to return, avoiding the turnover Beamer has dealt with over the last several seasons.
Now add to the mix another promising recruiting class. There is no underselling just how big it was to get a commitment from five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle this past weekend, especially after the Hokies lost out on in-state Josh Sweat to Florida State in December.
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler also deserves credit for flipping Miami commit Dwayne Lawson, a four-star dual-threat quarterback out of Tampa, Florida. In all, the Hokies have seven commits from four- or five-star players and currently sit No. 23 in the ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings, with one month to go before signing day.
Beamer has shown he has no problem playing freshmen, from Facyson to Fuller to Cam Phillips, Isaiah Ford, Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams over the last two years. So the potential exists for freshmen in the class of 2015 to make an immediate impact as well.
Just about everything Beamer needs to win is in place now. Not only does he have the players, he has the backing of his athletic director – and that has helped him deliver on this recent recruiting class.
There cannot be any more excuses. During their recent conversations about where the program is headed, Beamer reassured Babcock he has not lost his championship touch – even though it has been four seasons since Virginia Tech called itself ACC champions.
Beamer has this next season to prove it.