Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer gets involved personally with his special teams. Beamer's attention to details is not only what has made his special teams "special" but his team so successful.

Virginia Tech's special teams are famous for hard-nosed, aggressive play, sure tackling, creating turnovers and scoring touchdowns on those turnovers. They call it "Beamerball", named after legendary head coach Frank Beamer.  Beamer is very hands on when it comes to the special teams for Virginia Tech.  Beamer started out as the defensive coordinator, then calling plays on offense, "His special teams didn't really pick up the tempo until he had more direct involvement where the kids knew they were answering to the head coach," former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis noted.  

Weis traveled to Blacksburg to observe Hokie practices first hand when he was the head coach at Notre Dame.  "It was about how to coach – his approach to getting guys to perform at a higher level of efficiency," Weis explained about why VT's special teams performed so well. Brian Polian (special teams coach of Notre Dame at the time) said, "Whether or not they actually go to block a punt or not, whoever is punting the ball is thinking, ‘Oh my God this is Virginia Tech, they're coming to block the punt,' and that in and of itself has some value."  

Tech must replace its punter and placekicker this fall.  Senior Chris Hazley (6-1, 196), junior Justin Myer (6-1, 214) and redshirt freshman Cody Journell (5-11, 180) will compete for the placekicking job.  Hazley, a former walk-on, has waited for the opportunity since being in the background his previous three years.  He came out of spring ball as the kicker to beat.   Hazley is solidifying his hold on the position this fall.  He hit all four of his field goal tries, including kicks of 48 and 43 yards, in last Saturday's practice.      

Myer has been in the lineup on kickoffs the past two years and will once again have that responsibility.  Justin has recorded 22 touchbacks for the Hokies and his booming kickoffs played a key role in Virginia Tech leading the ACC in kickoff return coverage.  Myer has a strong leg but needs to work on his accuracy if he is to earn the placekicker duties.  Myer shows good form and good strength as well.  

Senior Brian Saunders (6-0, 198) appears to be the front-runner for the vacant punting job.  He backed up Brett Bowden for three seasons and has been a non-scholarship player for four years.  Bowden finished 14th in the nation last year with a 43.77 average.  Saunders showed improved leg strength and consistency in spring practice, which was essentially his tryout for the job.  On August 14, Coach Beamer awarded the punter with a scholarship.  Saunders bruised his right ankle on August 23 but is expected to be fine.  Saunders averaged 46 yards on four punts in last Saturday's practice.     

Dyrell Roberts was fourth in the nation in kickoff returns last year (31.89 yards per return) while sophomore Jayron Hosley was fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 23rd nationally in punt returns (11.23 yards per return).  Hosley has been out of fall ball with a left hamstring injury. He returned to practice this past Monday and now has a sore right hamstring but is expected to be fine by the opener with Boise State.   Sophomore David Wilson is another threat that the Hokie return game has in its arsenal.   

Defensively, Chris Hill has been very quick coming off the edge on punt blocks this fall.  Hill had two blocked punts last Saturday.  The Hokies were 50th in punt return yardage, allowing 7.82 yards last season.  They were 30th in kickoff return defense at 20.22 yards per return allowed, with 16 touchbacks. Star-divide

This "checklist" was put together by "Outsidethesidelines" on the Alabama fan board to evaluate special teams.  It is fairly complete and well-done.  I took the liberty of adding a few of my own categories to the list.


·                            Kick-off length

·                            Kick-off location and positioning

·                            Kick-off hang time

·                            Ability of kickoff team to get downfield and surround the ball carrier

·                            Tackling ability of kickoff team

·                            Onside kick placement

·                            Onside kick recover ability (on both sides)

·                            Deep snapping on punts

·                            Punt protection

·                            Quickness of punter's release

·                            Punt length

·                            Punt location and positioning

·                            Punt hang time

·                            Punt return defense

·                            Punt blocking abilities

·                            Blocking for the punt returner

·                            The punt returner's actual return abilities with ball in hand

·                            The punt returner's ability to safely catch the punt

·                            The punt returner's decision making ability on when to call for a fair catch and let the punt bounce, or when to take a kneel on a kick-off

·                            Deep snapping on field goals

·                            Quality holding by the holder

·                            Timing between the snapper, holder, and kicker

·                            Blocking by the field goal protection unit

·                            Ability of the kicker to elevate the ball over the line to avoid a block

·                            Kicking power of the kicker

·                            Kicking accuracy of the kicker

·                            Field goal blocking abilities

·                            Kickoff return—Blocking

·                            Decision-making ability of the kickoff returner

·                            Ability to catch kick

·                            North-south running on the kickoff

·                            Physical ability of returner to break tackles

·                            Returner's speed with the ball

·                            The faking and maneuverability of the ball carrier

·                            Coaches' ability in making correct decisions with regard to utilizing special teams units

·                            Ability to successfully take wind and other playing conditions into account on all kicks

·                            Ability to avoid special teams penalties (clipping, roughing, kicks out of bounds, etc.)



I viewed last year's Virginia Tech-Alabama game with the above factors in mind:  

Opening kickoff:  Virginia Tech kicked off.  There was about a 3-second hang time to the left hash at the 11-yard line.  Four defenders were at the 20 when the ball was caught.  There was a seven-yard return.  

After holding Alabama , Virginia Tech punted.  There was a perfect snap, good catch and a release time of about a second.  Three Alabama players got good surge to the punter's right side but were well blocked.    The kick was a booming punt with 4.8 seconds hang time.  The punt pinned Alabama against the left sideline.  There were five VT defenders in the area and he made minimal gain.   

Alabama FG attempt—two or three defenders had hands in the air at the line but the ball was kicked high for a field goal.  

Alabama led 3-0 and lined up for another FG attempt—The guys in the middle jumped to block it but again the kick was high enough to get over them and through the uprights.  

Alabama kickoff leading 6-0--Dyrell Roberts caught the ball at the 2, saw a crease in the blocking, and sprinted to the outside.  Three Alabama defenders were unblocked and moved to stop him.  Roberts' stiff-arm dealt with one of them and he outran the others into the end zone for a 98-yard kickoff return.  

With Virginia Tech leading 7-6, Alabama punted.  The punt was to the right side.  There was a four-second hang time and that allowed four Alabama defenders to be at the 15 when the ball came down to Ryan Williams.  He fumbled.  Three guys were left unblocked as Williams tried to catch the ball.  The long snapper was one of them and he recovered the fumble.  

With the score 7-6, Alabama lined up for a field goal.  2 guys jumped in the line, one guy on the right side of the field-goal blocking team made a little penetration.  The ball was well over the heads of the outstretched hands for a field goal  

With the score 9-7, VT lined up for field goal.  Excellent blocking, no one was close to blocking the kick.  The snap and hold were excellent and the kick was good.  

Second half kickoff--Four seconds hang time to the middle of the field in the end zone.  Two VT defenders shot through to the 15 with 4 more at the 20.  Alabama had good blocking and took care of one of the deepest penetrators that was in place to make the tackle.  One of the other kickoff-team members missed a leaping tackle and Alonzo Tweedy finally made the tackle at at the 22.  

First Virginia Tech punt of second half—no penetration, 4 guys got down to down the punt.  Long snapper Brian Selman of Alabama downed it on the 4.  

Virginia Tech's second punt in the third quarter--Excellent snap, good control by punter and quick release.  No pressure at all, good blocking.  5.5 hang time to right-hash mark on the 11-yard line.  There was a fair catch.  There were five guys within range.  

With VT leading 17-16, the Hokies kicked off.  It was a good kick to the goal line in the middle of the field with four-second hang time.  There were 7 VT players at the 20, where the Alabama ball carrier was tackled.   

Alabama attempted a field goal--Two guys (Andre Smith and John Graves) in the middle of the VT line got good height on their jump.  Don't know if it affected the kick but it was wide left.  

VT Kick return, down 24-17-- Alabama kicked off with 4.5 seconds hang time on the kickoff.  Davon Morgan caught the ball.   Morgan displayed good north-south running until he hit the 17, then stutter-stepped, allowing Alabama 's defense to collar him, wrestle him down, and steal the ball.  

With VT down 24-17, Alabama attempted a FG.  There was good penetration from the left side of the VT block team but the back was kicked quickly before defenders could get in and the kick was good.  

Alabama was now leading 27-17 and kicked off.  There was a five-second hang time.  Two VT returners, Roberts and Wilson, were together in the middle of the field.  Roberts stepped in front to catch the ball.  There was great blocking.  Two Crimson Tide players had penetrated the 20 when Roberts was at the 20, but both were blocked.  Roberts did the wise thing by using his blocker and spurted to the right sideline.  From there, he didn't have much blocking in front of him and after a few yards along the sideline he was tackled out of bounds for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.  This led to a VT touchdown.  

With Virginia Tech trailing 27-24, they kicked off.  There was a four-second hang time to the left hash at the 10-yard line.  At the time the Alabama returner caught the ball, 1 Virginia Tech defender was at the 30 and 4 others were between the 30 and 35.  The Alabama returner hesitated and had only made it six yards upfield when 3 Tech defenders had reached the 25.  When the returner reached the 25, 6 Hokie defenders were in the area.  Three were blocked but three met him at the 25 for the tackle.  

Alabama scored to go up 34-24 and kicked off.  There was a four-second hang time to the middle of the field.  The ball bounced around and was recovered at the 11 by Wilson .  He was real tentative and was stopped at the 18.


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