And Fuller thinks this year’s Hokies are poised to regain that reputation as a game-changing special teams group.
“Definitely,” Fuller, a junior cornerback, said Saturday on the field at Lane Stadium during the team’s media day. “I was just talking to Coach Beamer yesterday and asked him, ‘Are you going to let us loose to go block some punts?’ That’s something I’m trying to bring back. I remember seeing those guys back in the day, blocking punts and returning ‘em, things like that. So that’s definitely something we want to do and I think we can do that with the people we have.”
From 2000-2005, the Hokies blocked 33 kicks, 17 punts and 16 field goals and extra points. But since then, the special teams have been decidedly less special. From 2006-2010, Tech blocked just 18, eight punts and 10 extra points and field goals.
Last year? The Hokies only got to one kick, when Tony Gregory blocked a punt in a win over Appalachian State. Fuller recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
“I think we’ll be more solid on special teams this year,” safety Detrick Bonner said. “Everybody comes back and we get to do it all over again. We’ll be more solid this year.”
Beamer said he wastes no time getting down to special teams in the preseason.
“We’re into it right now,” Beamer said. “Our punt team goes against our punt block team. It started from Day 1.”
Tech’s prowess in the game’s third phase is so well known, opposing coaches often make the trip to Blacksburg to study “Beamer Ball.”
Shane Beamer, the team’s running backs coach, is in charge of the kick return team and assists on a number of other units. The younger Beamer said Notre Dame and Ohio State have been among the visitors to Tech in recent years, as other schools have begun to catch up to the Hokies on special teams.
“I know whenever I took a job somewhere, the first thing they wanted to talk about was what makes Virginia Tech so good on special teams,” Shane Beamer said. “People saw, when you’re blocking kicks, when you’re returning kicks for touchdowns, you win games that way. There’s no bigger momentum changer than to score a touchdown on special teams.”
Last year, the Hokies failed to run back a kickoff or punt for a touchdown for just the second time in the last six years.
In 2010, David Wilson returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and Jayron Hosley ran back a punt 80 yards for a score. Both are now in NFL camp with the New York Giants.