Sunday, April 27, 2008

So Much to Say, So Much to Say, So Much to Say

This could be the longest post in the history of TSF so grab a cup of coffee to try and stay awake and fasten your seat belts. There's a lot of ground to cover here and I've got the adrenaline rush (or is that the 11 Mountain Dews) from watching 10 hours of NFL Draft coverage the past two days.

First of all let's wrap-up spring practice. Position-by-position here's how things look as the Hokies head into the off-season.


Free Safety - Kam Chancellor. Monster spring by this young man moving over into this position. He will be a 1st round draft pick in the NFL when he decides to come out and that's the end of that. There is little depth here as the backup is walk-on Ron Cooper, but Alonzo Tweedy who enrolled this January as a member of the Class of '07, opened some eyes with his speed. He has an opportunity to be a great secondary player at whip or free safety in the future.

Rover - Dorian Porch has the spot due to his experience and his athletic ability, but Davon Morgan (who played at free safety as a true freshman) is really pushing him. Morgan is instinctive and flies to the football. I was VERY worried about moving Kam over from rover to free safety, but rover is shaping up to be a strength of the defense with these two outstanding players pushing each other.

Cornerback - Macho Harris moves over to boundary corner from field corner and as long as he can by physical enough in run support (which he needs to prove to pro scouts anyway) that will be fine. Stephan Virgil surprised us all and rose to the top of the chart at field corner. I would have bet dollars-to-donuts that Cris Hill would have proven ready for primetime, and he may still do so in the fall, but right now Virgil is the starting field corner. With Carmichael and Hill there is plenty of depth and talent at corner, they are just lacking meaningful game experience. 

Linebacker - You don't just plug the holes left by Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi and not miss a beat at linebacker. Thankfully the whip is back with Cam Martin who is a star on this defense. And he is backed up by the very solid Cody Grimm, so that position is covered. But there is a dropoff in talent to Brett Warren (replacing Hall) and Purnell Sturdivant (replacing Adibi). At least those two have some game experience. There is true talent in Barquell Rivers who elevated himself to the two-deep backing up Warren and Hunter Ovens who backs up Sturdivant but neither Ovens nor Rivers have played in a game. There is also some serious all-star talent coming in this fall at linebacker with Quillie Odom, Jake Johnson, Steven Taylor and others. So the future is very bright at linebacker but in '08 you will see a dropoff to be sure.  

Defensive End - Jason Worilds is the next in what is becoming a VERY long line of defensive ends getting drafted into the NFL. Worilds has put it all together this spring and will dominate in '08 on the field. Orion Martin is one of my favorite players at the other end, as he works his ass off and he really understands the game. Backing up these two are Nekos Brown and Steven Friday. Friday has all the speed in the world but needs to get a lot stronger and Brown will do fine in relief when those two go in with the 2nd string.

Defensive Tackle - Yeesh. Zero depth at this position right now. Taco Thompson lost 30 lbs and will be improved this fall at nose and John Graves is going to be a stud at tackle, but behind them the cupboard is bare right now. Kwamaine Battle was emerging last year but had surgery on both shoulders.  Demetrius Taylor is a 256 lb converted LINEBACKER. Justin Young can't get out of Coach Wiles' doghouse.  A.B. Latif is a converted guard who hasn't picked up the position yet and Courtney Prince (who I wasn't high on when he signed with the Hokies) needs at least another year to get stronger. The Hokies rotate their defensive linemen every two to three series as part of their gameplan but that only works if you have players who can handle the job as the team did in '07. This is a huge area of concern for the coaches right now and don't be surprised if Leon Mackey gets a look this summer when he gets on campus. It is unlikely he'd be ready to contribute right away but defensive tackle needs help immediately so it's worth at least taking a look.


Tight End - the most improved position on the team. I wish Bryan Stinespring was just the tight ends coach and recruiter because he is comfortable and capable in those two roles unlike offensive coordinator where he is the weak link in the entire football program (oh you knew that was coming). Greg Boone is the starter and made a major impact this spring. Sam Wheeler, who was the starter in '07, is recovering from knee surgery but will be back this fall, as will Chris Drager who was getting playing time as a true freshman. And then Andrew Lanier came out of nowhere to make play after play all spring. So tight end is talented and deep which is great news.

Offensive Guards/Center - Finally this will be a strength of the football team. Nick Marshman was lost at tackle early last season but once he was moved back to guard, he shined and he has improved even more this spring. Sergio Render will be an All-ACC guard if he keeps his intensity up. And Ryan Shuman returns from knee surgery to find Beau Warren (Brett's younger brother) has upped the level of competition a notch. Whoever wins that battle, the Hokies will have a solid center snapping the ball and calling the blocks at the line of scrimmage. And depthwise, Jaymes Brooks, Barrett Mears and Will Alvarez are all solid talents who just don't have any experience. 

Offensive Tackle - People seem to be saying the whole offensive line is going to be fine this year, but I am concerned about the tackles. Ed Wang moves from right tackle to left tackle and that's a jump in level of difficulty because teams usually put their best pass rusher up against the offense's left tackle. Wang is athletic enough, but he has a lot of work to do on technique. Blake DeChristopher shows all the signs of being a total stud at right tackle but he's never played in a game. The backups are Richard Graham, who is the swiss army knife of the offensive line and can back up any position, and Greg Nosal, a converted tight end who has excelled this spring. This is a position with a very bright future based on the youth and incoming class of freshmen, but not very solid depth and unproven players as starters makes for a Mad Jay Nausea Fest headed into the season when it comes to offensive tackle. 

Wide Receiver - Just like linebacker, this position loses the best group of players in Tech's history. Three of the four senior receivers were drafted into the NFL this year. Unlike linebacker, there is almost no game experience to plug into the hole. Brandon Dillard is the starter at flanker, and he has stellar speed but his consistency is in question. Zach Luckett is the current starter at split end and he is also a physical specimen but wide receiver just doesn't seem to be his natural position (i.e. does he have the hands?). Now WR has many players who have shown flashes this spring - Danny Coale, Ike Whitaker, Ervin Garner, Prince Parker, Patrick Terry - but none are ready to start in the ACC right now. The real talent is the incoming class of freshmen this summer and one, if not two of them (my guess is Dyrell Roberts and Randall Dunn), could be in the two-deep by the beginning of the season.

Running Back - I hate seeing players get hurt as Kenny Lewis, Jr. and Jahre Cheeseman did this spring. But it gave Darren Evans and Josh Oglesby a chance to show what they can do and right now, my pick for the two-deep is starting Jahre Cheeseman with Darren Evans as the back-up. You could flat-out wear out some linebackers giving them a dose of those two guys all game and rumors are that the Hokies are going to be adopting a more power running-game focus this fall. I'd be very happy with that backfield. This is a position with great depth in '08 and with incoming freshman Ryan Williams, it gets even more exciting.

Quarterback - This may shock you, my Calm and Beloved Reader, but right now, if I had my druthers, I'd start Sean Glennon and redshirt Tyrod Taylor in 2008. The reason is that I don't think the Hokies have the experience to win the ACC title this season. If that's the case, why not use Taylor's redshirt so that in 2009 and 2010 he gives you the best shot at competing for a national title when the Hokies will be stacked with more talent and experience than any team since 2005? I would be ok with the coaches starting Taylor in '08 to give him more game experience and having Glennon play back-up but that looks awful unlikely based on Coach Beamer's past history. The worst case scenario here is running that QB carousel where both guys play in 2008. That makes no sense. Either plan for the future and redshirt Tyrod or pick your starter and stick with him for the season. Now, at a Charlotte Hokie dinner with Coach Beamer (more on that later), he said that the coaches were really going to try and pick a player to start. They weren't happy with how the two QB-system worked in the Orange Bowl and I think that Beamer's past nightmares with two QB's (see Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick) are starting to get him more nervous about the idea. Let's hope they really do pick a starter and stick with that guy (and if it's Glennon, that means redshirt Taylor). 

Well that's the spring practice wrap-up. Now onto a great visit that the Charlotte Hokie Club arranged when Coach Beamer and Coach Beth Dunkenberger came to speak at a dinner event. I met Coach Beamer personally for the first time (having met Coach Hite and Coach Foster at previous events) and his family - son Shane, daughter Casey and wife Cheryl. 

Coach Beamer was a class act all the way and his speech was funny and informative. Coach Dunkenberger spoke movingly about remembering the events of 4/16. It was a really enjoyable evening. But Coach Beamer had a few points to make that shed light on the coaches' view of this '08 team.

First of all, he alluded to the amount of talent and experience the team is trying to replace in 2008 (more on that later in the draft review). Then he went through the away game schedule and friends, it is BRUTAL. Beamer followed up with a joke about how we need to remember that this team has won 10 games seven of the past nine seasons so don't get too mad at the coaches this year. It was funny, but it also was setting the stage for what need to be realistic expectations for this squad. 

There was a much needed mea culpa from Beamer about the recent bowl performance. He said that the coaches are going to change their bowl preparation, which to me means that now there's actually going to be some. He took the responsibility for the team not beating Georgia nor Kansas, two teams that the Hokies were better than. I was impressed and if the Hokies make it to a bowl this year, I look forward to seeing a renewed focus on winning that game.

Coach Beamer also talked briefly about the different areas of the team and he said that this was one of the best spring practices that he can remember. The team is focused and they are playing the right way. That is so encouraging to hear when you recall that just three years ago, Marcus Vick and that team were playing penalty-filled football and having off-the-field troubles all over the place. If you ever have a chance to go hear Coach Beamer speak or meet him, please do so. He represents the university very well and he's a down-to-earth folksy guy. 
Finally let's wrap this up by reviewing the NFL Draft which just completed today. How Bout Them Hokies!?!?!?!?!?! Eight Hokies were drafted this year, second only to the USC Trojans. In 2006, nine Hokies were drafted. It is obvious that the Hokies are recruiting top talent and coaching them up and the past two recruiting classes in '07 and '08, by all accounts, have a chance to take that even further.

What was just as enjoyable as seeing those Hokies that we know so well, get drafted into the big leagues, was watching the ESPN and NFL Network folks talk about Virginia Tech football. This serves as a huge recruiting tool for Tech. Not only can the coaches tell big time high school players that they have a great shot at the NFL if you go to Tech (keep in mind that UVa only sent three players to the NFL this year against the aforementioned eight Hokies), but the testimonials from NFL GM's and scouts, and even the analysts themselves are the type of PR that you can't even pay for. 

Take this one gem as an example from the NFL Network towards the end of the draft in the 7th round when they were doing a top 10 pick recap (I was on my 11th Mountain Dew at this point). When they got to Vernon Gholston who went to the Jets with the sixth overall pick, they were discussing how he had All-Pro talent but that he just didn't play hard on every down. Jamie Dukes (a former NFL center and analyst for the Network) commented that he believed it was the college coach's responsibility to coach this talent up and get him ready for the NFL level. He had this to say - 

"What I'm saying is that I don't see this happening with kids coming out of Coach Beamer's program. Or if you go down to Florida State playing defense for Mickey Andrews, you don't see kids coming out of there taking plays off."

What a compliment to Coach Beamer and Coach Foster that they have a reputation of sending defenders to the NFL who bring their lunch pail to work and play hard every down. And by mentioning Virginia Tech in the same breath as Florida State, they are putting those two programs on the same level of prestige in the minds of a recruit. Anyway, I thought that stuff was great which is why I watched too much draft coverage. So let me close by showing you guys where the NFL bound Hokies are headed and where they got picked.

Duane Brown (LT) - 26th overall - Houston Texans
Brandon Flowers (CB) - 35th overall - Kansas City Chiefs
Eddie Royal (WR) - 42nd overall - Denver Broncos
Chris Ellis (DE) - 72nd overall - Buffalo Bills
Xavier Adibi (LB) - 118th overall (Are you guys in the NFL CRAZY?!?! 118?!) - Houston Texans
Carlton Powell (DT) - 148th overall - Denver Broncos
Josh Morgan (WR) - 174th overall - San Francisco 49ers
Justin Harper (WR) - 215th overall - Baltimore Ravens

Just for the record that's three receivers and a first round offensive tackle drafted into the NFL, Stinespring. Way to use that talent with the 85th best passing offense in the country, you imbecile. Yeah, there are probably those of you who think that I'm just beating a dead horse here. You might even be thinking that I should let this Stinespring thing go. And that is why I won't. I have to keep this issue in front of you, the true Superfans. I don't care if I have to go out to the burial plot with a shovel and dig that horse up and start beating whatever is left of its corpse - I will not let this go because of the importance of a change at the offensive coordinator position to the future success of Virginia Tech football and THAT is what we are loyal to here at TSF.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why isn't there more on TSF about Hokie B-Ball??

There are times in a man's life where he needs to sit back and gain perspective. I say a man's life because in a woman's life she never needs to gain perspective because she knows everything at all times about each individual situation. Or so I've been told. Well I'm no woman, but after the Hokies loss to Ole Miss I sure was acting like a little girl.

I threw a tantrum and didn't want to go to bed. I kicked the furniture and I pouted. I cussed Seth Greenberg, hoping that they could retroactively de-award him the ACC Coach of the Year. And just in general pitched a fit. And here's why:

Unlike football, I take the basketball team seriously. Now for those of you who think that throwing up after a Hokie football loss is taking it seriously, I probably need to explain that a little more. See, football is my love. I've watched the game since my earliest memories and I appreciate what the Hokie football program does for the university I attended, so I follow it religiously. Yes, the games may stress me out but I love it and it's fun. Basketball, however, I can't really watch and enjoy. I get too worked up over it. 

The reason took me a while to figure out, but as nuts as it is,  I'm apparently under the insane delusion that I can play basketball. I have this hallucination that if I were out on the court I could make a better decision than the players or coaches out there. Despite the fact that I don't have even remotely the athletic ability of these young men I watch the game differently because I have played basketball since the 7th grade. So instead of watching as a fan, I am watching to see what gameplan Coach Greenberg is using or how the big men are positioning themselves for rebounds, or if the players are moving well without the ball. 

And the problem is that the Hokies are so young that they aren't doing these things as well as they will when they have some experience. In the meantime it is frustrating for me to watch to the point where I can't even enjoy the game. And on top of that, when the Hokies play a team like Ole Miss and lose to the same gameplan that has been beating them for 3 years (see NC State, or Illinois or any other team that crashes the defensive glass and slows the game down to a halfcourt struggle) it makes me want to have a bonfire burning Coach Greenberg in effigy and dancing around the towering flames like I'm part of a Cherokee Indian war party high on peyote. I mean it infuriates me.

So I stepped back after the loss to gain some perspective before writing this. And I recognized just how far this team exceeded this year's expectations. If someone would have told me NIT quarterfinals and a #1 seed at the beginning of the season I would have taken it without thinking twice. And next year this team is still young so I try very hard not to get my hopes up too much. But they are so talented and if they can get a point guard (no Hank Thorns is not the answer at the point and don't let anyone tell you differently) and Jeff Allen turns up the intensity one notch in the weight room and on the court, then next season this is truly a team capable of contending for the ACC title. 

You have noted that there aren't many posts about the basketball team here on TSF and I guess it boils down to wanting to do a proper job. For reasons mentioned above I truly just don't feel like watching the losses again. I can watch Hokie football losses and try and analyze and offer my views, but watching the basketball losses again is something I'm not willing to do because I find it so damn disheartening. And reviewing game footage is something I feel like I need to do, to provide any decent insights that would be of interest to our readers. It's the same reason I don't post recruiting analysis until I've seen footage on each of the players.

Perhaps as I grow less and less athletic in my graceful journey through time (read: get old and fat), I can watch these games with a little more distance and provide you, my Calm and Beloved Reader with the perspective you deserve on a program that is growing in stature by leaps and bounds. But the basketball season's over now and we are about to get back to something we love here at TSF, and can cover with no perspective needed, whatsoever - Spring Football!