BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer is happy to be back on the football field.
The Hokies' coach opened his 29th spring practice Tuesday, not quite four months after throat surgery. The procedure forced him to step back from many of his duties and let his staff handle the football operations.
''I had throat surgery, some work in there on my tonsils and it's fine now. I'm back at work and ready to roll. I feel great,'' Beamer said in his first meeting with media since the surgery on Dec. 6.
He did not provide details about what prompted the surgery. At the time of the procedure, Virginia Tech head team physician, Gunnar Brolinson, said the surgery was to address an issue they had been aware of during the season, but decided to wait until the season was over to remedy.
Beamer missed most of the Hokies' Military Bowl preparation and coached from the press box. His son Shane, the associate head coach and running backs coach, guided the Hokies on the sideline.
Virginia Tech beat Cincinnati 33-17 to finish the season 7-6.
''It was different, but I was proud of our guys,'' Beamer said of not being on the sideline for the Hokies' 22nd consecutive bowl game. ''I thought our coaches really did a great job of preparing them. We played well, we got that bowl win.''
Beamer, whose 230 victories lead all active coaches at the FBS level, also expressed gratitude for all those that showed their support during his recovery.
''This place is special and people are special and what we've all gone through and how everyone stepped up, I mean, I appreciate people,'' he said. ''I appreciate our administration. I appreciate the people around us.''
The bowl game was three weeks after the surgery, and Beamer did much of his prep work from home because his doctors did not want to risk infection. He said being away from the field was difficult.
''When you get out there and you're not a part of it, you start thinking how much you want to be a part of it and looking forward to ... getting back out there with the football team,'' he said.
''Been a day I've been looking forward to.''
The Hokies have many questions to address this spring, including a quarterback battle between Michael Brewer, last year's interception-prone starter, and redshirt junior Brenden Motley, a dual threat.
The coach, however, said his top priority is putting together an offensive line.
''That's such a critical deal, but I'll say this: I really like the people that we have and we've wanted to get more of a toughness in there and I think we're well on the way to doing that,'' Beamer said.
The bowl victory has sparked excitement around the program, Beamer said.
''They tell me season tickets are going well right now, the renewals and so forth,'' Beamer said. ''I think our fans are excited. We needed that bowl win.''
Team trainer Mike Goforth said the Hokies have rallied around Beamer.
''They care about coach. They want to play hard for him,'' said Goforth, in his 17th season. ''I think there's something special about this team and it starts at the top and goes all the way down.''
Follow Hank on twitter at: http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr