Friday, April 28, 2006




Spring Wrap-Up
by "Mad" Jay

Spring Fling

It's time to go position-by-position and see how the Hokies stand now that spring practice is over


Defensive Secondary

Projected Starters - Macho Harris, Brandon Flowers, DJ Parker, Aaron Rouse

This secondary has the chance to be the best secondary to ever play in the defensive backfield at Virginia Tech. The best is the one from the '99 squad with future NFL players Ike Charlton, Anthony Midget and Willie Pile. But the talent I see on the field heading into this fall is outlandish. Every projected starter has some playing experience and the player with the least experience (Harris) is the one the coaches are raving the most about. In fact, he just won the starting job over last year's very solid starter, Roland Minor. Depth at CB isn't a concern either, with Jahre Cheeseman and Minor fighting to get playing time. There is concern at safety from a depth standpoint. I think Parker and Rouse are phenomenal (Rouse will be All-ACC, write it down now) but the depth and talent of the backups aren't too impressive. Fortunately this entire defensive unit is under the tutelage of new coach Torrian Gray, a former Hokie stand-out with NFL coaching and playing experience. There is a lot to be excited about.


Projected Starters - Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi, Brett Warren

Two out of three ain't bad. Brett Warren has a great nose for the ball and is a good tackler, but he is too slow to fit into a Bud Foster-coached defense. It will be up to one of the many young additions to the Hokies (Matt Wright or Corey Gordon to name two young stars) to learn the defensive system and earn their way onto the field after the season starts. Fortunately for Hokie Superfans everywhere, Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi are returning and much like Ohio State's duo last year of A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter, these two guys are going to dominate offenses all season. They have played together for two years now, and frankly Hall has been better up until now. But Adibi had a breakout spring and I would look for both of them to become Butkus Award semifinalists and one or the other to become a finalist this season.

Defensive Line

Projected Starters- Chris Ellis, Noland Burchette, Kory Robertson, Carlton Powell

They call USC Tailback U. Penn State is called Linebacker U. Miami is Quarterback U. Pretty soon, they will start calling Virginia Tech Defensive Line U. The Hokies have the tradition dating back to Bruce Smith and the torch carried by names like Cornell Brown, Corey Moore, John Engelberger, and most recently Darryl Tapp. Now the recruits are signing at an amazing rate and there is a fierce fight for every position on this year's line, giving Bud Foster the luxury of rotating two defensive lines in and out of the game interchangeably. Backups like Orion Martin, William Wall, Steven Friday, Barry Booker and Taco Thompson have had the chance to show what they were capable of this spring. Thompson and Wall in particular came on strong at the end of the spring. When Burchette returns from injury this fall, the battles to hold the starting spots will be every bit as even as the QB battle - but the winner in all of this is the defense as a whole. The line will anchor what figures to be the top defense in the ACC, and a top 5 nationally ranked defense, especially when looking at the schedule.


Offensive Line

Projected Starters- Brandon Frye, Nick Marshman, Danny McGrath, Sergio Render, Duane Brown

Danny McGrath at center, Duane Brown at right tackle and Brandon Frye at left tackle are settled in at their positions, but the offensive guard positions are being fiercely contested headed into the summer. Complicating matters a bit is the addition of a new offensive line coach in Curt Newsome. At this point I can't get a read on if the offensive line will be a strength or a weakness for the team. It goes up against such a good defensive line every day in practice and there has been so much shuffling and trying new things that the best we can expect is that the players spend all summer working their tails off and build chemistry as a group. We will learn a lot more in summer practice about the offensive line. I will say I was happy that Brandon Frye and Duane Brown were switched at the end of spring back to their original tackle positions. Frye's performance at left tackle in the Gator Bowl gives me great comfort headed into the season.

Wide Receiver/Tight Ends

Projected Starters - Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Beau Warren

I know what you are thinking - Mad Jay just won the lottery and now he can afford crack because he picked Beau Warren to start at tight end. Hear me out on this one. The Hokies will not replace Jeff King at tight end this year. He was a NFL caliber tight end who could block, run fast and make all the catches. Tight end will not be a receiving weapon this season, and likely will only be an outlet now and again in the flat or on a quick slant. So the Hokies need an athlete who can also block. Voila - Beau Warren. His father played tight end for the Redskins (and tormented my Cowboys on many a Sunday), and Beau has great feet and played offensive line throughout high school. Duane Brown, currently one of the Hokies' best players on the offensive line, started his college career at Tech as a tight end as well. So Warren can certainly grow into the role of a lineman if that's his long term goal, both mentally AND physically since he only weighs 265 lbs right now. He could be a good blocking tight end for the team this season which is what they need.
As far as receivers go, it's only the best unit on the team, in my opinion. There are five guys with big game experience, and I just picked the two I felt the coaches would go with based on their comments during the spring. But when you have David Clowney, Josh Hyman and Justin Harper in the wings, you don't really just have two starters at wide receiver, you have five starters, two or three of whom will be in the game at any given time. I have ranted about how poor a choice the Wake Forest receiving coach (Kevin Sherman) was for this job, but frankly I could stand on the sidelines with a clipboard and make this group look good. That said, if they have poor seasons, I will personally attempt to run this Kevin Sherman fella out of town on a rail. It seems preposterous as I read over my next comment but I stand by it - four of the five receivers on this team will be playing in the NFL in the next three years (probably not Josh Hyman, but only because of the mental part of the game, he's not a very good route runner). That's how good they are; plus, in the NFL, they love receivers that can block and these guys can block. Ironically, the best of the bunch, Eddie Royal, may be the lowest draft choice because he only stands about 5'9" tall. Sheesh.

Running Back

Projected Starters - Branden Ore, Jesse Allen

I have read a great deal about Branden Ore this spring. He is one of the keys to the entire Hokie season this fall. If he fully recovers from his shoulder injury and doesn't re-injure it, I predict he will have one of those special 1200+ yard, 15 touchdown seasons. He is that kind of back. But what I have been reading about is his mental state. The comments are all indicating a vast improvement of his understanding of the game of football. Counseled by Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones and faced with the reality of life for most young men in the Tidewater area of Virginia where he works at a 7-11, Ore seems to have grown up quite a bit. He has learned from the regular folks that he is working with how to appreciate that he has an opportunity that so few people get. He also seems to grasp that there are running backs with NFL-potential at programs all over the country. The ones that fulfill that potential do more than just play well on Saturdays. They practice as hard as anyone during the week. They conduct themselves on and off the field with character. They are on-time for team meetings and they play the PR game, with its endless requests for interviews. I think Ore gets that now, but we will find out for sure in the fall.
George Bell is another extremely talented back who can very capabaly rotate in and out of games with Ore much like Humes/Imoh and Jones/Suggs in years past. From there the drop-off in both talent and experience is definitely noticeable. And it doesn't help that Kenny Lewis and Elan Lewis (no relation) are also rehabbing injuries headed into the summer as the third and fourth string running backs. The summer is critical for depth at the RB position, but again, this fall it all rides on the shoulders (literally) of Branden Ore.


Projected Starter - Sean Glennon

This is a good place to point out that I am listing who I believe the coaches are going to name as the starter at each position in the fall. In this instance, I think Beamer is going to play it safe and name Sean Glennon the starter. I also think that's a mistake. I am a big Sean Glennon fan and I don't think he is going to make an error large enough to let Cory Holt or Ike Whitaker take the starting spot away without controversy. I also think Beamer has been beaten up too much in the public eye over Whitaker's alcohol transgression to then turn around and name him the starter this fall.
But there are times when, if you listen to the players, they can tell you who the "special" ones are. I remember the whispers when Michael Vick had his monster spring the year he became a starter. I remember hearing players say that his younger brother Marcus could just flat out play. And Marcus's other problems notwithstanding, he could just flat-out play. And now I hear Whitaker's name being tossed around by the players and coaches as having that "next-level" athletic ability. And then Whitaker went out and hit 6-for-6 in the spring game, including a monster 49 yard TD bomb after scrambling away from what seemed to be a sure sack. All this and he missed more than half the spring. Maybe I am wrong and Glennon, who I feel compelled to restate that I think is a solid QB, can show the leadership intangibles and make the big plays that the team needs this season. But in the ultra-competitive ACC, the Hokies need their best player and leader taking snaps whoever that may be.
Which brings up my biggest point about QB - All 3 candidates have talent, so I think it's less important about whether Beamer names Whitaker, Holt or Glennon the starter and SIGINIFICANTLY important that Beamer stick with his guy this time around. Playing musical quarterbacks can decimate a team (and a QB's self-confidence) as it did in 2003 for the Hokies. If Beamer is unhappy with whoever his starter is after the first few games of the season, then he needs to bench him and give his 2nd choice a few games to take over the team. If he is disciplined about this, I think he will find a real winner in one of the three of Holt, Glennon and Whitaker. If Beamer changes QB's like The Blonde changes her mind (for those of you who aren't married that means too frequently) then none of the QB's will be able to take the team where it has the potential to go. I will add as a postscript to the QB discussion that Greg Boone who is 4th string is 6-3, 275 lbs and can run about a 4.5-4.6 forty yard dash (unofficially). An athlete like that needs to be on the field and Bryan Stinespring will show me a lot if he finds ways to get Boone into the game. Based on what I've seen from Stinespring, don't count on it. But you heard it here first - or second or third depending on where you get your Hokie news - Boone is a beast.


In closing, I think the defense is going to be even better than advertised and will carry the Hokies in several games. Whether the Hokies have a decent, good or spectacular season will be mostly dependent on the play of the offense. There are a few position battles to be finalized in summer practice, not the least of which is QB. So now, in order to take the next step, the team needs to lock itself in the film room and the weight room this summer and then once summer practice gets underway we'll see how much has changed. Until then, I remain...

Mad Jay


"Mad" Jason Oakley
Brian "Where's The Ice?" Wrenn


This news magazine is in no way affiliated with, or supported by,
Virginia Tech, the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, the NCAA, the
BCS, the Big East Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference or any
other organization other than EhhTee Productions. EhhTee Productions
is an institution created by the author of TechSuperFans for the
further advancement of the media through electronic means.

TechSuperFans and are trademarks of EhhTee
Productions. EhhTee Productions and its staff are in no way
responsible for any losses or actions taken by its audience.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mid Off Season Update


"Mad" Jay provides some mid-off season insight.


A Mid-Off Season Update
by "Mad" Jay

It's been a while my Calm and Beloved Reader, but it's taken some time
for me to make sense of a Spring filled with many changes. Virginia
Tech Football 2006 is going to be a vastly different ride than the one
we have become accustomed to, so let's get right to it.

First of all, let's talk recruiting. Many of you with whom I have been
speaking have voiced great concerns over the Hokies' recruiting class.
While I agree that there were very few big names or national top 100
players that signed to this program, I genuinely believe the team had
a very solid recruiting class. Some grave concerns and frustrations I
have are that the school wasn't even in on some of the biggest
in-state names and I sincerely hope that isn't the beginning of a trend.

Let's start with the brightest area which is the defensive side of the
ball. The additions of Jason Adjepong and John Graves along with 2004
signee Steven Friday will anchor the defensive line for years to come.
There were no significant recruits in the defensive secondary or
linebacking corps, but those units are very young and so those aren't
pressing needs yet. Talk to me about that next season. If we don't
sign some talented LB's or DB's next winter, THEN I will likely be
sick with worry.

On the offensive side of the ball, again there were no strong skill
position players signed in this class. And yet QB, RB and WR are
again, positions where we are very young, talented and deep. Next
season is where we need to focus on those. Let me be clear that we
will also need to recruit tight end very hard. Unless Ed Wang makes
very significant strides, and John Kinzer's neck is football ready, TE
could be our weakest position on the football team right now. Where
the Hokies did add was on the offensive line with the addition of
Sergio Render (another class of 2004 signee) and the highest ranked
recruit of the class, Aaron Brown. The offensive line, which was an
area I was highly concerned about headed into this year, has a lot of
potential and I am excited to see what they can do. I believe Brandon
Frye's performance against Elvis Dumervil in the Gator Bowl has
already had positive effects on him this year as he set some
weightlifting records this winter.

I have never been one to believe that you have to have a class filled
with 4 and 5 star recruits to be successful. You need players that fit
your program. In the case of the Hokies that means players who have a
lot of potential to grow and who are willing to work harder than at
other programs to reach that potential. But at the same time, next
season the team will have needs in what I call the "high athleticism"
positions - LB, WR, TE, DB. And that means the Hokies need to be the
leading school for at least two or three highly ranked recruits over
the course of the 2006-2007 season. A big win hosting Clemson on
Thursday night football later in the season will go a long way in that
regard and I expect the atmosphere at that game to be electric.

The main reason this season will be different is because of the
coaching changes. I think Tech did both very well and very poorly in
their off-season changes in the coaching staff.

I am extremely happy with the addition of Torrian Gray (defensive
backs) to the staff. I think that is a significant upgrade from
Lorenzo Ward due to Gray's experience as a Hokie and as a successful
NFL secondary coach. Luring him back to Blacksburg was brilliant. I
think that Mike O'Cain replacing Kevin Rogers at QB coach is an even
trade. And I wish Rogers the best of luck in the NFL.

Where I am extremely disappointed is the loss of Tony Ball and the
choice of Kevin Sherman for WR coach. Let me get this straight - VT
has one of the top WR lineups IN THE NATION and definitely the top in
the ACC. And the best the school could do was get the WR coach from
Wake Forest. You know - Wake Forest the 11th best (out of 12) in
passing yards in the conference. Wake Forest whose BEST receiver was
17th in the conference in receiving. Why didn't the school pull a Taco
Bell and think outside the bun? What's Antonio Freeman up to these
days? Surely there was a better option available to coach this stable
of WR's - the best the school has ever had?

And just so you folks don't think I'm slipping, here's the call for
Brian Stinespring's head. The reaility in today's college football is
that the school couldn't demote him to O-line coach and name a new
offensive coordinator brought in. I like Curtis Newsome's addition to
coach the offensive line and the right solution for everyone was to
let Brian Stinespring go and bring in a new offensive coordinator. But
this choice may just work out in the long run. You see, all of
Stinespring's duties except offensive coordinator have been removed.
That means he can focus full-time on the playbook and playcalling. If
the offense is ineffective he will try and hide behind the fact that
it's a new quarterback this year, but do not fall for that. This is
Stinespring's year to make it or break it. I hope I am HORRIBLY wrong,
but I think Stinespring just isn't cut out for offensive coordinator
and I am afraid that we will all see that this year. Hopefully we just
have to live through it for one more year. Stay strong my brothers and

Watch for me to strike again after the spring game where we will
wrap-up the spring and begin looking towards summer preparation. As
the theme will be the entire year, it's time to take the next step.



"Mad" Jason Oakley
Brian "Where's The Ice?" Wrenn


This news magazine is in no way affiliated with, or supported by,
Virginia Tech, the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, the NCAA, the
BCS, the Big East Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference or any
other organization other than EhhTee Productions. EhhTee Productions
is an institution created by the author of TechSuperFans for the
further advancement of the media through electronic means.

TechSuperFans and are trademarks of EhhTee
Productions. EhhTee Productions and its staff are in no way
responsible for any losses or actions taken by its audience.