Hokies host Mountaineers in Blacksburg

Frank Beamer's 25th season at the helm in ranked Virginia Tech Hokies open up the 2011 campaign with a matchup against FCS foe Appalachian State at Lane Stadium.

Beamer's 24th season as the head coach of the Hokies didn't exactly start off on the right foot, as Tech followed up a heart-wrenching loss to powerhouse Boise State in the opener (33-30), with an unthinkable setback to James Madison (21-16). However, Beamer rallied the troops, as the Hokies went on to win 11 straight games after that, run the table in the ACC and claim the conference title. The result was a date with Stanford in the Orange Bowl. While the outcome was less than desirable (40-12 loss), the year proved to be one of Beamer's finest coaching performances to date, earning him the first- ever Joe Paterno Award, given by the Maxwell Football Club, to the nation's top coach.

"This award is extremely special, No. 1 because of the coach's name on it, a guy that I have deeply admired for many years and appreciate very much his impact on college football," Beamer said.

Beamer is eyeing up his 200th victory at Tech, currently sitting at 198.

Jerry Moore has one up on Beamer, as he has amassed 199 wins at Appalachian State and is just one shy of joining the 200-win club. The Mountaineers won their sixth straight Southern Conference title a year ago, tying the record set by Georgia Southern (1997-2002) and enter this season ranked number two in the FCS national poll.

Appalachian State and Virginia Tech are the only schools in the FBS or FCS to have won at least 10 games in each of the last six seasons.

Tech has won all three meetings with the Mountaineers, with the last one coming back in 1982 (34-0).

The Mountaineers have the ability to move the chains against just about any opponent. The team averaged just over 430 yards of total offense in 2010, gashing foes for over 200 yards on the ground and through the air.

With All-American candidate DeAndre Presley back in the fold, this team should be able to light up the scoreboard once again. A dual-threat QB, Presley rushed for a team-high 1,039 yards and 13 TDs in 2010, while throwing for 2,631 yards and 21 TDs against just seven INTs. The team also has the benefit of top receiver Brian Quick returning as well. The 6-5, 220-pound senior hauled in 47 balls, for 844 yards and nine TDs in 2010. Tight end Ben Jordan (27 catches, 306 yards, six TDs) is a valuable relief valve as well in the passing game.

The Mountaineer defense was solid at times in 2010, but certainly took a backseat to the offense. This season could see the defensive unit close the gap a bit. There are playmakers at each level.

The defensive front certainly has some girth, with five 300+ pounders, including senior tackles Dan Wylie (6-1, 305) and Chris Aiken (6-1, 315) and senior end Gordy Witte (6-6, 315).

The linebacking corps is filled with experience, with as many as six players who have started at one point, headlined by juniors Lanston Tanyi, Brandon Grier, Jeremy Kimbrough and John Rizor.

The secondary has its share of veteran as well, including senior CB Ed Gainey (36 starts).

The Hokies will move forward this season with changes on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest loss will be at the quarterback position, where Tech will have to find a way to replace Tyrod Taylor, who grew into a tremendous leader under center and left Tech as the Hokies' all-time leader in passing (7,017 yards) and total yards (9,213). Also gone are talented tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans.

Sophomore signal-caller Logan Thomas sits atop the depth chart. Thomas was Taylor's primary backup a season ago and brings a solid set of skills to the quarterback position, with great size (6-6, 245) and a strong arm. The departure of Williams and Evans in the backfield will allow dynamic tailback David Wilson to become the go-to-guy on the ground. The 5-10, 200-pound junior has averaged an eye-opening 9.3 yards every time he has touched the ball. Look for Wilson to be spelled at times by senior Josh Oglesby (5-11, 210).

While the backfield has its question marks, the receiving corps is as good as it gets in the ACC. The return of talented WRs Jarrett Boykin (53 receptions, for 847 yards, six TDs), Danny Coale (39 receptions, for 732 yards, three TDs) and Dyrell Roberts (21 receptions, for 303 yards and two TDs) will certainly aid in Thomas' maturation process under center. Another player who may emerge as a big time playmaker on the outside if 6-4, 230-pound junior Marcus Davis.

Four of five starters along the offensive line return, headlined by All- American candidate Blake Christopher (6-5, 312) at right tackle.

The defensive side of the football is not without its own concerns in 2011. The team must find a way to replace five departed starters. The cupboard isn't exactly bare though for defensive guru Bud Foster.

Up front, ends J.R. Collins (5 sacks) and James Gayle (4 sacks) will attempt to converge on opposing QBs.

The linebacking corps is a little more stabilized with junior Bruce Taylor (91 tackles, 15.0 TFLs, 6 sacks) leading the way. The hope is that 2009 starter Barquell Rivers, who missed most of the 2010 campaign due to injury, can return to form.

The secondary returns perhaps the Hokies' most talented football player in junior cornerback Jayron Hosley, who earned All-American accolades after leading the nation in interceptions (9) in 2010.