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Hokies WR Coale adds punting to list of duties

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Danny Coale's role at Virginia Tech continues to grow, and it might not be a coincidence that coach Frank Beamer is giving him more responsibility as the games become more important.

The fifth-ranked Hokies play No. 21 Clemson for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., and the second-leading receiver in school history is likely to also be asked to handle the punting duties again.

Pretty impressive, too, since the senior handled the punting duties for an entire game for the first time last week against Virginia - when the Hokies (11-1) beat the Cavaliers to win the Coastal Division and clinch a berth in the championship game.

Virginia Tech's two punters are available, but they have struggled this season.

''He's a guy that - he answers the bell,'' Beamer said of Coale. ''I mean, his play at wide receiver, punt returns when he came in there that week and punt returned for us, he did a great job. He's just one of those guys that is smart and a good football player and answers the bell.''

Coale not only punted, but he helped out with punt returns against the Cavaliers.

Beamer, also the Hokies special team coach, said he didn't decide to have Coale handle the punting at Virginia until pregame warmups when he saw how far he was kicking.

It was probably a good thing that Coale got short notice. He's worked on punting in practice all season, but had only punted in a game twice, back in September. When he trotted out for his first punt last week, he was standing in his own end zone.

''We decided to snap it quickly,'' he said. ''And at that moment, you don't have much time back there to gather your thoughts, because as soon as you get lined, up the ball's coming.

''So my thought back there was just to really get it out.''

He boomed a 52 yarder, one of two in the game, and averaged 47.5 yards for four punts

''He's a guy who I'm sure his team has a lot of confidence in to put him in all those positions as a punter and punt returner and one of their go-to wide receivers,'' Tigers tight end Dwayne Allen said.

''I mean, that's awesome for him. And he's definitely a guy who we've got circled and (are) going to have to stop in order to bring the championship home.''

Coale, second to teammate Jarrett Boykin on the Hokies career lists with 155 catches for 2,530 yards, also is perhaps the Hokies' best blocking wide receiver. Safety Eddie Whitley said he usually learns something on Tuesdays and Wednesday, when the team is live in practice.

''He is a very savvy player. He knows how to use his head and knows what type of technical block to use on you,'' Whitley said Tuesday. ''That helps us out both ways. We try to work on our block setting as well as them using their block technique. So we help each other out as much as possible.''

Coale also gave an emotional pregame talk before the game at Virginia, and several players said afterward how effective he was in providing an added spark to make sure they played well.

Virginia Tech may need a similar spark this week with the ACC's BCS berth on the line against a team that comes in having lost three of four and looking nothing like the one that won 23-3 at Lane Stadium on Oct. 1. The oddsmakers have made the Hokies the favorites, which may help the Tigers.

Clemson was routinely the underdog early in the season, and won its first eight games.

''Even when we were winning at Auburn and Florida State, Virginia Tech was picked to beat us at Virginia Tech. That was very big for our motivation,'' Clemson right tackle Landon Walker said.

''I think when we were picked to lose those games, I think it helped the team.''

The Hokies, though, will arrive in Charlotte with momentum on their side.

''They have a ton,'' Allen said, noting that they've won seven in a row since that lone loss.

''We have to put out a big play to get that momentum swung back into our favor.''

Tagged: Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Danny Coale

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