Beamer: Two-way loyalty a foundation for Hokies
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)The steely, how-dare-you glare has been flashed time and again in recent seasons, every time a reporter asks Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer about offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and his fitness to continue calling the plays.
But Beamer's unwillingness to entertain such talk wasn't his only response last year; back in his office, he called Stinespring in for a little heart-to-heart conversation.
"He knew that I was grinding myself to a pulp," Stinespring recalled. "He just has a way about it. (He said) 'You're a good football coach. You've been a good football coach. You'll always be a good football coach. Keep focused on what we can do to get better. Don't let outside interference take away from that.' I learned a great deal from that conversation."
Beamer practices what he preaches, especially when it comes to the Hokies.
"If the guy's not right for us, we're going to do what's right for the program," said the head coach in his 23rd season. "But I think all these guys are right for this program."
Relationships help explain why loyalty goes both ways in the Hokies football offices and why opportunities to become a head coach elsewhere have failed to lure many assistants away.
Bud Foster, in his 15th season as the defensive coordinator, is probably the one most frequently sought by other schools, but he has made it clear that he's holding out for a BCS-level job.
"I make more money than I ever thought I was going to make coaching football," Foster said. He played for Beamer at Murray State and has coached with him for the past 29 years.
"I like coaching at the highest level. I want to be on the highest stage and have an opportunity to win on the highest level, the largest stage. That's what drives me."
Foster is part of Beamer's core - four coaches with him a combined 76 years at Tech. They are the ones, Beamer said, that have laid and maintained the foundation the program is built on.
Stinespring is in his 16th season, and his eighth in charge of the offense.
Recruiting coordinator Jim Cavanaugh is in his 14th season and running backs coach Billy Hite has been with Beamer for all 23 years at Tech, and was nine years before that, too.
"There's a lot of guys on our coaching staff that could have gone and been head coaches, but what's more important to you is that lifestyle that you have," Hite said. "We're all making good money and you're in your comfort zone when you're with Frank Beamer."
Stinespring's comfort zone was more evident than ever earlier this season after the Hokies offense struggled against Nebraska and needed last-minute heroics to win, 16-15.
In his Monday meeting with the offense, Stinespring pointed out the plays where the team's mistakes caused plays to fail. He also showed them where he'd made mistakes.
His surprising admission served to unify the players in the room.
"When he did that, I think it really made the whole offense more comfortable," said Ryan Williams, the leading rusher in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 119-yard average.
This week, the coaching staff is planning a big finish.
Coming off a 48-14 victory against Boston College two weeks ago, the Hokies seemed poised to force their way into the national championship discussion when they headed to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. Instead, the Yellow Jackets dominated after halftime, running for nearly 300 yards on their way to a 28-23 victory that squashed the Hokies championship aspirations, dropping them from No. 4 in the AP Top 25 to No. 15.
But Foster, like Stinespring, found unwavering support from the man in charge.
"I try to look at it in real terms, and the real terms were offensively we had some young people and then we got behind on the offensive line a couple years ago and there were reasons why we weren't as successful as we needed to be," Beamer explained. "We had good experience on defense. This year, some plays have popped. Well, Bud and our defensive staff, they didn't get unsmart. It's a fact that you've got some inexperienced guys playing over there."
Those guys, like Beamer, have the utmost confidence that Foster will get it fixed.
Earlier this season, linebacker Jake Johnson was among the players whose tendency to freelance was causing the assignment-based defense to get burned.
That prompted an animated conversation with Foster - and a new understanding.
"When that does happen, his intensity level goes through the roof. Spit will be flying, but that's just because he knows we can do better," said Johnson, only a sophomore.
"I work hard just to make him proud."
For Beamer, it all goes together, with Foster and Stinespring leading the way.
"They enjoy working, and I think they realize we can be successful at the highest level here, and consistently successful," Beamer said. "And I think most people like that."