December 31, 2011
Virgina Tech Offensive Coordinator BRYAN STINESPRING folowed by Selected Virginia Tech players.
An Interview With:
COACH BRYAN STINESPRING
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Virginia Tech Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring. Coach, an opening comment.
COACH STINESPRING: Well, first of all, to say how excited we are to be here in the Sugar Bowl really doesn’t do us justice at all, to be a part of this Bowl and this great tradition means a great deal to all of us.
But I think our position in college football, where we are today, has footprints in New Orleans. And we date back to 1995 when we were here, it gave us an opportunity to step out into the national prominence to be able to beat Texas here at that time I think signified our arrival into what we hoped to be a top 10 top program year in and year out in this country.
And I remember after that game Coach Beamer in the locker room saying we’re going to be back and we’re going to be better. And I was in the back thinking, whoa, slow down little fella, enjoy the moment here. You’re a little giddy, I understand. And he was right.
We were back here. We were able to play for the national championship in a terrific ballgame. And then we were able to come back again and play Auburn, undefeated Auburn team, and go face mask to face mask with them for four quarters. And now we’re back again and we’re facing a Michigan ball club that is the winningest ball team in all of college football.
And since 1995 we’re the winningest football team in college football in Division I‑A. So like I said it really means a great deal to us to be here, it’s special to be here, and because as I had said, I think the footprints of where we are in college football are stamped within the city of New Orleans and this Bowl. So our rise coincides with this tremendous Bowl and the people that are here. And I’d also like to say that New Orleans, Blacksburg, Virginia, we have some ties that bind us together, both on the field and off the field.
And we share great times and great celebrations, but we also in this time and age we also have shared in tragedy. And in those times I think we have both shown a tremendous spirit that enables you to rise in times of tragedy and to show what you’re really all about and to show a comfort level and a caring level and a resolve that separates those who are able to move forward, who are able to learn and grow. And this city has shown that and it coincides with what what’s happening in Blacksburg, too. So we understand life and those other aspects, too.
To say we’re excited to be here doesn’t do it justice. There’s another meaning. There’s another level to that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Coach, say you’re starting from scratch and you’re the head of coach of a program with a lot of dual threat QBs over Virginia Tech of the last few years or last decade or so, but would you prefer a dual threat QB or a drop‑back passer?
COACH STINESPRING: I think anytime you have a quarterback that enables you to keep a play alive, that makes a defense have to defend the passing game and defend the quarterback as a potential additional runner, what it does and what it makes the defense have to do is they have to play 11 on 11 even in the run game.
If you’re running the ball, and pretty much assured it’s either going to be a tailback or a fullback or a receiver on a reverse getting the ball. So you’re not really ‑‑ you’re able to eight‑man front and not compensate for a quarterback, when you have to compensate for a quarterback, not just in the pass game, but also in the run game, you can get this thing balanced up and enable you to play 11 on 11.
So it’s not just for, in our expression, in our terminology, it’s just not one ball/one back. It’s now another potential ball carrier. So I do like the idea that the more options you have, I think the better opportunity for success you do have.
Q. Bryan, David’s season, David Wilson’s season as a whole, did he surprise you at all with what he was able to do, whether it be his durability, his consistency, his explosiveness, did anything catch you by surprise now once he kind of embraced that and he got that featured back role?
COACH STINESPRING: Great question. Yes, but of course as you know David, nothing has a tendency to surprise you when you know David. But his ability to break as many tackles as he did, you knew he was going to make people miss. You knew he was going to be able to outrun some potential tacklers, but to break as many tackles as he did throughout the season, to show that physical part of it, you know he’s physically strong, but to be that physical, with that much speed and to be able to play as physical as he did and break tackles and run through tackles, throughout the year, we knew he had that ability.
But to the level that he did it, yes, it did surprise me.
Q. A follow‑up to your opening statement about how the ’95 game catapulted the program to a different level. Do you feel like you guys still have another level that you can reach and do you think that this game can sort of do a similar, have a similar effect that it did that time?
COACH STINESPRING: We always hope that year in, year out, we’re always trying to get to another level. And I don’t think anybody ever knows exactly what that level ‑‑ you always hope to, at the end of the year, be a national champion, to be the very best. But I think when you look at Coach Beamer, when you look at Coach Foster that was here yesterday and Billy Hite, I think when you have guys that are continuous in a program for a period of time, they don’t believe that the ceiling has been reached for that endeavor that you’re undertaking.
And I believe all of us believe what keeps us motivated, what keeps us driving forward is the belief and the knowing that there is another level that we can get to. And we will always consistently aspire to get to it. But, yes, absolutely. We were always engaging ourselves, motivating ourselves to get to that next level. And I think that’s the way we approach every day at work, because when you go to work, you feel like you’re still striving to get to that next place, that there’s a better day out there for you. And I think that enables you to go to 19 straight Bowl games.
Q. David Wilson against Clemson, can you get it going, how much of an effect do you think that played in the ACC championship game and why was Clemson able to slow him down?
COACH STINESPRING: Obviously when you have someone like David, you want to get the ball in his hands. We didn’t do a very good job early in the game of doing it. We came out and probably put a lot of run pass checks in early in the play calling, which really gets back to how the defense aligns itself and engage our play calling from that. And obviously Clemson was by their alignment and what they were going to do was try to overload the box or get more people involved in the run game. And therefore we were probably getting into some more passes instead of just lining up and calling some runs.
Then when we tried to throw a couple of screens to get him involved early, they did a great job of defending it. So we probably needed to force the ball into his hands a couple more times early on, regardless of the situation.
So we just needed to do a better job of getting him involved.
Q. You always hear of quarterbacks who are recruited to be, they’re good athletes in high school, recruited for other positions. Have you ever heard anyone anywhere like Logan who didn’t want to move from quarterback to another position and has managed to thrive at what he’s doing?
COACH STINESPRING: Well, you know, there’s the Stinespring kid at Clifton Forest, Virginia. He was a quarterback in the ninth grade, starting quarterback. And eight months later he was a right guard for the rest of his life. And that was the greatest transition I’ve ever seen in the history of football.
I went from quarterback, never playing with my hand on the ground, until eight months later, bypassing ‑‑ I was a tight end for like a month and then I went to offensive guard, I think.
So that was a big transition. But Logan ‑‑ Logan’s a gifted athlete. But I think Logan always just liked playing the game, whatever the sport was, whatever the sport he was in at that time, was his favorite sport.
When he moved to quarterback as a junior, I just think he felt really in his mind it was part of where they needed me as a football team. Not something he aspired to or thought was generally his position.
But I think when he got to college and he and I talked and there’s a chance ‑‑ we feel like there’s an opportunity for you to be a quarterback. And if we’re wrong, the biggest thing we’ve done you is redshirt you, instead of trying to play you. But what if we’re right, what if the opportunity to be a three‑year quarterback in a top program, how does that go?
And I think Logan was the kind of guy that, once he puts his mind to something, I think he’s going to will it in a certain direction. So it’s not surprising to see what Logan has done. It was just the means of getting to move in that direction.
Once he’s done that, it’s been a great deal for him and for us. And as I’ve told people before, those people that are quarterbacks at this level, successful quarterbacks at this level, they spent their whole life gearing to be a quarterback, from toss up and tackling in the backyard, I’m the quarterback. I don’t play guard, I don’t snap the ball, I don’t go one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three. I play quarterback.
That wasn’t Logan; he didn’t go to the passing camps. The Nike passing camps, the whoever passing camps. He went to basketball season. And he went to track season. And then he picked up the football again August 6th. So what really is significant about all that is that I think because of that, you’re now seeing a guy that is playing at another level and getting better and better because he’s really spending full time to be a quarterback and you’re starting to see that progress because of it.
Q. With obviously every game you want to take advantage of scoring opportunities, but with the uncertainty with the field goal kicking, is it even more important when you get around the red zone you guys really cash in in the Sugar Bowl?
COACH STINESPRING: Absolutely. I think so. I think anytime situations change during the course of the season you need to be able to adjust accordingly to how you see fit. We have confidence in whoever is out there on that field and whatever position that they’re in. But it also goes along a little bit with us as an offense. This year we have been very good as an offense.
But the disappointing aspect of it is we’ve left, for this particular offense, this season, as well as we’ve moved it, as well as quick strikes, long drives, we’ve had it all, but sometimes we haven’t taken advantage of all of our scoring opportunities.
So that’s something we’ve continuously addressed throughout the season. And now it becomes even more important. But it’s something we’ve had to concern ourselves with all season. Like I said, there’s been times in the past where we may have struggled a little bit more offensively or had to fight harder for yardage and harder for points, but we’ve gotten them.
And this year I think the yardage has come a little easier at times or moving the ball’s come a little easier at times, sometimes difficult. But we’ve left a lot of points on the field and we can’t afford to do that.
Q. Back on Logan, how far has he come from training camp to right now as far as his football savvy, knowledge, especially recognition and those type of things?
COACH STINESPRING: I don’t know how to answer that and what type of gauge you’re looking for me to get to tell you. But it’s been very surprising. I’m surprised at how far he’s been able to come, because not just from the game management part of it, but the way he’s handled the passing game, the way he’s distributed ball, I mean, you start with a guy that was strictly a receiver ‑‑ I’m the receiver, receiver, receiver, now you start to see the backs getting more involved in the passing game.
Eventually they really started breaking the trend and throwing it to the tight ends every now and then. When you go back, look across the board, the ball has been dispersed well by him. When you go back, look at that aspect, how many different people have been involved in the passing game, how many people have touched the ball, I think that says a lot about your quarterback, because he’s not just zeroing in on one place, one person, because I think it would be very easy to sit here and say Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, that’s where I’m going.
That’s probably the first place I would look. But you go back and start seeing some of the touches by Chris Drager as the season went on or D.J. Coles, you start seeing a quarterback that’s now starting to disperse the ball well, and I think that’s a great measure of where a quarterback has gotten to.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Virginia Tech Offensive Players Quotes
Virginia Tech Quarterback Logan Thomas
(On balancing the reward and business of the trip) “All of the guys have the same plan. We are here to have fun. We have had enough fun the first couple of nights and it’s time to get ready for the game. That’s what we are down here for; to win another game and just establish some credit to Virginia Tech.”
(On changing the conversation back to something positive) “We have to go out there and win the game to make it something positive. We have been down in the hole all year. Ever since the end of the Clemson game, people were doubting us. It’s kind of a redemption game to go out there and play as well as we can.”
(On playing in a game with such explosive players) “It’s always exciting taking the field with David [Wilson]. Add another guy like Denard [Robinson] and he is a very dynamic player. I think it should be a lot fireworks going off on Tuesday night and I’m excited for it.”
(On his New Year’s resolutions) “No, I’ve never made one, so why start now?”
(On switching back to quarterback after moving to tight end) “First, I was very hesitant and I wasn’t excited about it at all. Two weeks in, I was cool with it. I went through my first year and redshirted. It wasn’t until that spring that I was really excited to play it and I took the second string position.”
(On his hesitations with the switch) “Growing up, I never pictured myself doing it (playing quarterback). I always pictured myself catching the ball.”
(On if his mindset is that of a quarterback or a receiver) “I feel like I am the same person as I have always been. I am not afraid of contact. The type of person that will go out there and do anything just like a lineman would, a receiver would, or a running back would. I probably won’t ever change from that type of person.”
(On if he lead blocks) “I had a couple of lead blocks this year. I am not afraid to go out in front of somebody and throw a block or put my shoulders down and try to knock somebody over.”
(On Michigan’s defense) “They are very stingy up front and don’t allow the run hardly ever. They are very strong and physical. They are very disciplined, which just makes it even tougher. We just have to play strong up front, get what we can get and take shots when we can.”
Virginia Tech Flanker Danny Coale
(On playing in final game as a Hokie) “I have had a great time down here so far. A lot of questions have been risk/reward kind of things. We’ve had opportunities to enjoy ourselves with some team outings. We’ve worked hard all season long, so it is nice to be in New Orleans enjoying something new. At the same time, we worked very hard so we know our main goal is to win the game. That’s the focus of the guys and that’s the goal that we’re working towards.”
(On whether Sugar Bowl could be a “landmark” game) “You think back to Texas, and you think back to Auburn and the National Championship game. Tech’s played in some pretty big games in New Orleans and this is one of them, going against Michigan, a storied program. I think a program that Tech wants to be with the winning tradition and I think we’re on our way there and this is an important step in the process.”
(On visual differences of Superdome) “It is a little different. Instead of the lights being on the side, they’re kind of circular and they go up. It can be tricky at times, but you have to deal with it. It’s one of the things that are out of your hands, so getting used to it in practice and throwing as many deep balls as you can is important. Catching punts where the ball could get lost is important. I’m excited to see what it’s like when everything is lit up. I think it’s going to be fun.
(On taking over the punting duties for the Sugar Bowl) “It’s going well. I’ve been punting in practice and doing the same thing I’ve been doing. I’m going to prepare like it’s my job and we’ll see how it goes around game time.”
(On final game of the team for the team) “Once you lose in a fashion like we did to Clemson, that was embarrassing. You never want to go out with a game like that; so, coming into this one, we just want to play better. First off, we just want to play better. We need to get in a groove earlier and do things like that. To be able to play in a game like this against Michigan as your final game, in hopes of playing better, is awesome.”
(On career at Virginia Tech) “From going un-recruited to ending up in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl is a pretty wild ride. It’s been an experience full of memories and I know this will be one of them.”
Virginia Tech OT Blake DeChristopher
(On distractions on New Orleans) “We’re all in a pretty fun city, so we just need to let the guys know we’re down here for a reason. Partying can wait. Going out and having fun can wait. We’re here to do one thing, and it’s a business trip for us.”
(On the level of intensity at practice) “I think, since we’ve been here, [practice] has been pretty intense. We’ve had great practices, I think – so far – and we just need to keep going.”
(On the opportunity to play a Big Ten team) “I think playing Michigan is a great challenge for this program and this team. We’re really excited. With the history they have, being such a great football team in college football, I just think the whole team is really excited to play them.”
(On the challenge of Michigan’s defense) “We always look at a defensive line as a challenge. Being able to displace the front guys is a challenge because it all starts up front and that’s definitely where their strong point is. The whole defense – they’ve got some athletes, they’ve got some physical guys. Their defensive line is strong; they’ve got some physical guys.”
(On if he feels like the team has to make up for the ACC Championship game loss) “I think everyone does. The whole team didn’t play the way we should have. We need to take one big step forward, not only as an offensive line, but as a team. That’s what we’re practicing to do and that’s what we’ll do in the Sugar Bowl.”
Virginia Tech TE Chris Drager
(On practicing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) “It’s kind of bright up at the top where most of the lights are. If you have to look up at a pass then it gets pretty tough, or if you have to return a kick.”
(On plans after college) “I plan to move back to Pittsburgh. There is a facility that trains athletes for the combine and I plan to intern and train there. So, if my body feels up to it, I will probably try out for the [NFL].”
(On tailback David Wilson’s personality and energy level) “He’s one of the most energetic guys I’ve ever been around. He’s never tired. He’s always doing things. That’s just the way he is.”
(On the examples of Wilson’s exuberance) “One time, during the summer, we were doing 7-on-7 drills, he brought a really fast dog with him to practice. He was literally just chasing the dog around the field while keeping up with it. Everybody was like, I don’t know how he does it.”
Virginia Tech Running Back David Wilson
(On how this week has been) “It has been nice, I was able to go home to Danville and spend Christmas with my family, then came back down to Blacksburg to prepare for this week.”
(On favorite part of the trip so far) “Going to the [Mercedes-Benz] Superdome, I had never been there before and it is different from the Georgia Dome… a lot bigger.”
(On running against Clemson in the ACC championship) “I really don’t know what they did, but whatever they did – they did a good job at it. It seemed like there was an extra defender everywhere I went.”
(On wearing a shirt and tie to class everyday) “It started in high school, I was a senior in high school getting ready for church before the season started and looked in the mirror, noticed how spiffy I looked. Right then, I knew what I would be wearing to school the next week.”
(On teammates calling him “different”) “Just different, which I think is a good thing, to be able to stand out from the crowd in positive ways. Not trying to be different in a bad way, just being myself and I guess they thought I was different.”
(On playing on the same field as Denard Robinson) “Hopefully, our defense will make it easier for me to outshine him on the field Tuesday night. He is a great athlete, who I’ve seen play and who doesn’t tie his shoe strings.”
(On finding running lanes against Michigan’s defense) “They play close up to the line of scrimmage, so once I get past the first level there will be lots of space for me to work with, because a lot of times their safety is on the line also. If you do find that crease that my offensive line will create, then there will be a lot of space at the next level.”
(On making up for the game against Clemson) “I am not going to try to make anything happen, just going to go out there and do what I have been doing my whole life.”