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Sep 21

Game Day: Bowling Green at Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. – 

Who: Bowling Green at Virginia Tech

What: The Hokies’ annual military appreciation game.

When: Noon

Where: Lane Stadium

Why: The Hokies look to bounce back from an embarrassing 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh, that saw their vaunted defense pushed around by the Panthers.

 

Four things to watch for

 

First down: Will the defense shrug off Saturday’s pitiful performance against Pitt?

It’s not often that a Virginia Tech defense gets pushed around, but that’s what happened Saturday at Heinz Field. The Panthers racked up over 500 yards of total offense, freshman tailback Rushel Shell ran for 154 yards and Ray Graham added 94 rushing yards and a pair of scores. Shell became the second straight back to hit the century mark against a Hokies’ defense that had aspirations of being the top unit in the nation.

Bowling Green should be a team that Tech’s defensive line can dominate. Now, will it be?

Second down: Can Tech get its running game going?

The duo of redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and true freshman J.C. Coleman have done some good things early this season, but haven’t been able to consistently churn out yards or break any long runs.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said this week the team is considering changing up the tailback rotation, which could mean more carries for junior Tony Gregory and senior Martin Scales.

Third down: How will the offensive line perform with guard David Wang out of the lineup?

The problem for whoever plays tailback, and for quarterback Logan Thomas, is that the already questionable offensive line, which struggled mightily at Pittsburgh, will be without starting left guard David Wang, who suffered a sprained ankle in the loss to the Panthers. Beamer said Friday that sophomore Matt Arkema will start in Wang’s place. Sophomore Brent Benedict will start at right guard and senior Michael Via, who had been rotating with Benedict, will be the backup at both spots and should team at both.

Fourth down: Will the Hokies’ injured defenders be able to contribute?

Junior cornerback Kyle Fuller, who suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Pittsburgh, practiced this week and was listed as probable for today’s game. But Fuller said the pain in his shoulder made it hard for him to get his shoulder pads over his head on Saturday. It remains to be seen how healthy he is.

And linebacker Tariq Edwards, who will dress for the first time this season after two offseason leg surgeries to correct a stress fracture, took part in some contact drills this week. Beamer said it hasn’t been decided if Edwards will play any against Bowling Green.

Sep 14

Game Day: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh

BLACKSBURG, Va. – 

 

Who: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh

What: The Hokies first road game of the year, a non-conference date.

When: Noon

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Why: The Panthers will be joining the ACC next year, but for now, this is a non-league game against a Big East school for Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 2-0 and looking to improve on their offensive play.

 

Four things to watch for

First down: Will Virginia Tech shrug off its tendency for sluggish offensive starts and jump on the Panthers?

The Hokies offense has looked strong in the second half and exceptional in its two-minute, hurry-up phase. But in the first quarters of games, Virginia Tech and Logan Thomas have been mediocre.

With Pittsburgh reeling at 0-2, a big start would go a long way to giving the Hokies control of the game.

“We’re playing, like, a wounded animal,” Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “They’re going to be backed up in a corner. They’re playing at home. They’re playing a quality opponent in us. They’re going to play their tail off. We expect that.”

Second down: Can the Hokies control the line of scrimmage?

Anytime you play Pittsburgh, even an 0-2 version that lost to FCS Youngstown State in its opener, you have to match the Panthers’ physical style of play, especially up front. Defensively, that shouldn’t be a problem for the Hokies. Their much-ballyhooed defense is built on a strong and athletic defensive line.

“They’re physical up front, they want to establish the run,” Tech senior linebacker Bruce Taylor said this week. “It’s power football. They’re big up front. They’ve got two good, probably great, running backs.”

On the offensive side of things, one of the reasons Virginia Tech has been rotating sophomore Brent Benedict in at right guard is that he’s more of a physical presence than senior Michael Via.

Third Down: Does the running game have a big play in it?

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring this week praised the play of his rookie tailbacks, noting that both redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and true freshman J.C. Coleman have impressive yards-per-carry averages (Holmes is getting 4.3 yards per rush, while Coleman is at 5.4).

But no one is denying the Hokies could really use some long runs. Holmes has the longest rush by a tailback this season at 19 yards. Virginia Tech’s best running play was a 26-yard gain by wide receiver Marcus Davis on an end around.

“We need to get more explosive plays out of the running game,” Stinespring said.

Fourth Down: How healthy is Pitt’s star running back, Ray Graham?

Graham is coming off a knee injury that cut short his 2011 season. At the time he was hurt, Graham was leading the Big East in rushing. Now, he’s back. And through two games he’s been effective if not spectacular.

Graham has rushed for 174 yards on 33 carries, ripping off a 50-yarder already this year and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. But he hasn’t found the end zone yet.

“Graham, he looked good in the Cincy game,” Taylor said, “but I feel like he’s still nursing that knee a little bit.”

Last game, the Hokies gave up over 100 yards rushing to Austin Peay’s Wesley Kitts.

Extra points: Virginia Tech’s injury report Thursday listed center Andrew Miller (ankle), linebacker Bruce Taylor (ankle) and safety Detrick Bonner (leg) all as probable for the Pittsburgh game.

Sep 12

Weaver likes Notre Dame addition

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Growing up in Harrisburg, Pa., long before he played for Joe Paterno at Penn State, Jim Weaver said one name stood above all the rest in college football.

“There’s only one Notre Dame,” Weaver, the 67-year-old athletic director at Virginia Tech, said Wednesday. “I remember as a kid in the early ’50s watching Notre Dame football on Sundays.” When we played football in the alley as a kid, everybody wanted to be Notre Dame.”

Wednesday, Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast Conference announced the Irish would be joining the league, no later than 2014, for all sports except football. In football, the Irish are committed to playing five ACC opponents a year.

“I think it’s a win-win,” Weaver said. “I think it’s an exciting day for the Atlantic Coast Conference and the member institutions. We’re getting a quality academic institution joining the conference.”

His coaches agreed.

“I think it’s great for the ACC and great for Notre Dame,” Tech football coach Frank Beamer said. “I think both of us benefit.”

First-year basketball coach James Johnson echoed that sentiment.

“I think the addition of Notre Dame to the ACC is a great move. This strengthens the best basketball league in the country even more,” Johnson said. “I think this benefits both the ACC and Notre Dame; a true ‘Win-Win’ situation.”

On the women’s basketball side, Notre Dame has played in the last two national championship games under longtime coach Muffet McGraw.

“You’re making a very tough league significantly harder,” Tech coach Dennis Wolff said. “But at the end of the day, I think that’s a good thing for women’s basketball.

And, Wolff said, it continued to fortify the ACC’s reputation as a basketball league.

“If you look at the men’s side, with the addition of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and now Notre Dame, it makes it one of if not the elite conference,” Wolfe said. “And I think you could say the exact same thing on the women’s side.”

Notre Dame will become the league’s 15th member overall, including Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which leave the Big East for the ACC next season.

“This is the best athletic conference in the country and we will only make it better,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said.

The addition of the Fighting Irish also paved the way for the ACC presidents to approve a $50 million exit fee from league, a move designed to bring stability to the conference.

Aug 15

4-Down Territory: Four players poised for breakout seasons

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Most people are predicting big seasons for Virginia Tech junior quarterback Logan Thomas and junior defensive end James Gayle. And there is plenty of hype surrounding senior linebacker Bruce Taylor and junior cornerback Kyle Fuller.

This is a look at some of the more under-the-radar names that could have major impacts this season.

Not stretches or longshots, these guys are all expected to be starters. They’re just not considered the team’s stars. Not yet, anway.

First down: Defensive tackle Luther Maddy

Sure the Hopkins brothers – Antoine and Derrick – are the best known of the Hokies’ stable of defensive tackles, but Maddy played last year as a true freshman, starting seven games after Antoine Hopkins was injured, and turned in a stellar spring practice.

So far in preseason camp, Maddy has worked himself slightly ahead of Antoine Hopkins on the depth chart, though it’s likely both players will see plenty of time this year.

“I would like to be the starter. I think that’s anybody,” Maddy said. “But I’ll play my part if I have to be second string. With the d-line, you need a rotation, you need a break. You can’t play the whole game.” 

This season, Maddy will have less pressure and get more rest. That should equal more production.

But he doesn’t plan to ask out of many plays.

“I don’t ask for breathers,” Maddy said. “I want to be on the field all game.”

Second down: Wide receiver Marcus Davis

Especially considering the slow recovery from knee surgery of fellow senior D.J. Coles, Davis appears to be the Hokies top threat at wide receiver. Add to that a more polished and consistent Logan Thomas at quarterback and the fact that Tech doesn’t have an established stud at tailback, and it looks like Davis could be inline for a big season.

Through camp, it’s been clear that Tech plans to get the ball to the sizeable and athletic Davis in a variety of ways.

At media day, Davis was asked what has been holding him back from emerging as a star at Tech thus far in his career.

“The only thing that separated me was playing behind two great receivers who are now in the NFL,” Davis said, referring to Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale.

He’ll get his chance to prove it this season.

Third down: Running back Michael Holmes

David Wilson is gone, Tony Gregory is coming off a knee injury and the Hokies’ other top runners are true freshmen. That should all add up to plenty of carries for redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, especially early in the season.

So far through camp, Holmes has been the team’s clear No. 1 at the position, with converted fullback Martin Scales getting most of the second-team work.

All offseason, Beamer has compared Holmes situation to that of Logan Thomas last year. People outside the Hokies’ program questioned how affective the unproven player would be, but when the games started, Thomas excelled.

Beamer is hoping – and expecting – the same thing from Holmes.

Fourth down: Defensive end J.R. Collins

James Gayle is a force on the opposite end of the defensive line and Virginia Tech has a host of sturdy options inside. Once teams are done figuring out how to contend with all that, they can turn their attention to blocking Collins.

He spent the first week of camp with the second team, punishment for being late to a team meeting.

Now, Collins back to playing with the starters and should be poised for a big season.

Gayle said he’s shooting for over 10 sacks this season. If he turns in that kind of year, Collins should also feast on opposing quarterbacks.

Jul 29

Top prospect Fuller picks Hokies

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Cornerback Kendall Fuller, one of the highest rated uncommitted football recruit in the 2013 class, announced his intention to sign with Virginia Tech on Sunday.

The 5-foot-11, 189-pound Fuller, rated a five-star prospect by the recruiting service Rivals.com, chose the Hokies over another Atlantic Coast Conference school, Clemson.

The Olney, Md. native made his announcement at halftime of the Champion Gridiron Kings event in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Fuller’s older brother, Vincent, played at Virginia Tech and then in the NFL. Two other older brothers, senior wide receiver Corey Fuller and junior cornerback Kyle Fuller, are on the Hokies’ current roster.

The younger Fuller had also considered Michigan, but narrowed his choices down to Virginia Tech and Clemson. At the Nike event, The Opening, in Beaverton, Ore., Fuller got a special haircut revealing his final two. He had the Clemson Tigers logo cut shaved into one side of his head and a “VT” cut into the other side.

At Tech, Fuller joins a 2013 class that already includes a pair of four-star recruits in Salem (Virginia Beach) High School quarterback Bucky Hodges and Manchester (Midlothian) High defensive back Holland Fisher.

Fuller is the fourth five-star recruit, as rated by Rivals, to pick Tech in the last decade, joining quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Vick and cornerback Macho Harris.

Jul 16

Tech’s Norman transfers to Eastern Kentucky

BLACKSBURG -After spring practice, safety Theron Norman met with Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray. Gray told Norman he wasn’t in line for much playing time, so Norman said he decided to transfer.

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Hermitage High School graduate will play at Eastern Kentucky this year. Norman left the Hokies last month.

"I transferred from Virginia Tech just for playing time," Norman said Monday by phone from Richmond, Ky. "Things didn’t work out for me at Virginia Tech. It was time for me to go somewhere I could get a chance to play.”

Norman said he also talked to James Madison, Richmond, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina.

He said not all those schools had scholarship money available for him. EKU offered Norman a full scholarship to join the Colonels, who start preseason practice Aug. 1.

“This is further than Blacksburg was, but I figured I’d be a little further from home,” Norman said. “I looked at it that I had to do what’s best for me. I know I’m far away from home.”

Norman played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back at Hermitage, then played safety for one season at Hargrave Military Academy.

He redshirted in 2010 at Virginia Tech and saw limited action in three games last season.

But this spring, the Hokies moved Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett from corner to safety, and ahead of Norman on the depth chart.

By transferring to Eastern Kentucky, an FCS team, Norman can play immediately. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

The Colonels went 7-5 last year, losing in the playoffs to James Madison.

Jul 10

Tech’s Miller on list for Rimington Trophy

BLACKSBURG- Virginia Tech junior center Andrew Miller is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to college football’s top center.

The trophy’s selection committee released a 51-name fall watch list Tuesday.

Miller, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound Bassett native is the Hokies’ lone returning starter on the offensive line this season. He started all 14 games for Virginia Tech last season.

Here is a story I wrote on Miller from April.

The winner will be honored at a banquet in Lincoln, Nebraska on January 12, 2013.

Apr 21

Four things to watch in the spring game

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has gone back to a format he used when he first starting coaching the Hokies in the 1980s, in an apparent attempt to help his new offensive line develop some chemistry and his highly-scrutinized offense exit the spring with some confidence and momentum.

For Tech’s spring game today, Beamer didn’t divide up the teams evenly. Instead, he pitted the first team against the second team, then spotted the second team 21 points.

“I thought this particular year, the way our team is, I think it really helps to keep your groups together,” Beamer said. “Your first offense together, your first defense together. And then you want to get a great evaluation of those second team guys. It doesn’t get any better than them going against the first group.”

Here are four things to watch for during Saturday’s game at Lane Stadium, assuming you can see through the rain drops.

First down: How will the rebuilt offensive line perform against a still formidable second-team defensive line?

Beamer felt the line, which is replacing four starters, needed the time working together, so instead of splitting up first-teamers for today’s spring game, he kept the five starting linemen together on the maroon squad, along with the rest of the first-team offense.

And apparently, he did not want them too heavily challenged, so he instead of pitting them against the defensive starters, Beamer put all the first-teamers on the maroon team.

Still, Virginia Tech has so much depth and athleticism along its defensive front, that the Hokies’ offensive line should still be challenged today by the backups.

The unit got off to a brutal start to the spring, struggling mightily in the first two scrimmages. But the line – and the entire offense – has improved as spring went on.

“I don’t think we could block anybody the first day,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “I think we only had like three completions or something like that. It’s come a long way.”

Second down: Will Michael Holmes end his strong spring on a high note?

The redshirt freshman opened the spring as the team’s top tailback and has been the most impressive option the past four weeks. Running backs coach Shane Beamer stopped short of settling on a depth chart after practice this week, but it’s been clear that Holmes is the Hokies’ answer to the big question of ‘Who will replace David Wilson?’

“Michael took the fist rep of spring practice because he had the most experience coming back,” Shane Beamer said. “It’s kind of carried that way.”

Holmes did share the carries this spring with true freshman J.C. Coleman and converted fullback Martin Scales.

“They’ve all got equal work with the ones this spring,” Shane Beamer said. “We want to be fair where one guys not always getting to work with the two’s and one guys not always getting to work with the ones. In scrimmage situations they’ve all gotten equal work with the ones.”

Holmes has shown nifty moves and an ability to hit holes. He’s flashed speed on long runs and impressed with his power during Thursday’s scrimmage, scoring a pair of short-yardage touchdowns in goalline situations.

Now, he’ll get the chance to do it front of a crowd.

Third down: Is quarterback Logan Thomas ready to take the next stop?

So much of the Hokies’ offense is a question mark. Tech hopes Thomas is the exclamation point.

Last year, it was Thomas who was the suspect part of the offense. Now, he said he feels more in control of things – and that’s exactly what Virginia Tech needs.

“I’ve had a season under my belt,” Thomas said. “I’m not really uptight anymore. I know what to expect. The stress is kind of gone from that standpoint.”

And Thomas has been able to use that perspective to show patience with his less experienced offensive mates.

It was frustrating at first but they’re young,” Thomas said. “I was there one time. I know they got frustrated with me at some point in time.”

And his teammates on offense appreciate the approach.

Senior wide receiver Corey Fuller dropped three passes in one scrimmage, but other than a slight tell, Fuller said Thomas didn’t show his frustration.

“One of them, when I looked back I saw him unbuckle his chinstrap,” Fuller said. That’s when I knew, alright, I have to do something. … Normally he doesn’t say much.

Fourth down: Can anyone split the uprights?

Conventional wisdom is that the Hokies are anticipating getting Cody Journell back from his legal trouble in the fall, in time to be the starting place kicker. But at the moment, he’s not an option.

Conor Goulding has been the most accurate this spring, but Ethan Keyserling seems to have the biggest leg. Keyserling is likely going to enter the fall as the Hokies’ top kickoff man.

As for placekicking, how the kickers perform today under semi-fire could go a long way to determining their pecking order.

Apr 20

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Feb 18

VT Effect Blogs: Game-Day Blog: Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech -

vteffect:

BLACKSBURGVirginia Tech’s basketball team didn’t have long to lament Thursday’s heartbreaker in Tallahassee. The Hokies return home to host Georgia Tech today.

Unlike recent years, this late February stretch run isn’t about making up ground to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. It’s more…