Status Report From the North
By Greg Kehr, 6/23/00

As summer kicks into high gear and the July Fourth holiday quickly approaches, it is time to start thinking football again. But don’t get ahead of me, I am talking about the NFL and training camp, which starts in mid-July for most teams. And right in my back yard are the Buffalo Bills, who as it turns out, have a handful of former Hokies looking for serious minutes come September.

Everyone knows that the Buffalo Bills drafted Corey Moore in third round of the NFL Draft back in April. Most of those people seem to think that Corey was a reach, a wasted pick if you will. "He’ll never pan out in the pros," they said, "he’s too tiny." About the only ones not saying these things were yours truly, most of you reading this (hopefully all), the Buffalo Bills organization and Corey Moore and his family. Throw the numbers out the window because you can’t quantify the size of someone’s heart with a number. So, if you haven’t heard all ready, Corey Moore is going to surprise a lot of people…everyone but us, that is.

Through the last two mini-camps that the Bills have had, Corey has been working at outside linebacker. His spot is on the weak side, which will allow him to use his speed and quickness to rush the passer, something he does extremely well. I for one see this as a natural fit, and being a Bills fan, I remember a guy by the name of Cornelius Bennett wreaking havoc from the same position. Corey is not the size of Cornelius, but trust me, his skills are as good, if not better, and that bodes well for fans and teammates alike.

Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell is going to be the guy that doles out the playing time for the Bills defense, and it seems apparent that Ted is very pleased with Corey Moore’s maturation thus far. The speed, quickness and intelligence are all good, but when coaches call someone a "football player", that usually means they see the intangibles that necessitate increased playing time. Incidentally, don’t Coach Beamer and Foster use the phrase "football player" to describe some of our guys; They seem to know what they are talking about. I was just curious.

Perhaps the strongest asset in Corey’s bag of tricks is his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Buffalo Bills fans are used to solid special teams just like Hokie fans. The Bills had a guy by the name of Steve Tasker a few years back, quite possibly the best ever on special teams. Corey has said on numerous occasions, he is looking forward to being the best special team’s player on the roster. I don’t know about you, but I have to believe an attitude like that is going to pay big dividends further down the line. Keep listening folks, because Corey Moore may just be the starting weak side linebacker for the Buffalo Bills this fall…and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Another possible starter on the Bills defense is former Hokie safety Keion Carpenter. The Bills drafted Keion a few years back and he immediately fell in line behind some quality safeties. Well, this year, the landscape has changed a bit. Gone is starter Kurt Schultz to free agency, leaving in his wake an opening for the best possible guy. Word early on was Keion had a very good chance to step in and grab it. The word now is really no different.

The Bills drafted Travares Tillman out of Georgia Tech, a guy who could potentially start right away. They drafted him in the second round, ahead of Corey Moore, so you know they must think the guy can produce. The biggest liability with Tillman is, he’s a rookie. Learning the system and adapting to the pro game is a difficult transition, one that sometimes takes many years to grasp. This is where Keion comes in. Not only is he athletic enough and talented enough to play every down in the NFL, but he has been in the system for more than a year. He dressed every game last year; he even saw some playing time. He knows what it takes on the mental end to be ready, and he has had time to grasp the physical part, the system, for more than a year now. Keion Carpenter can play safety in the NFL, this I know. Keion Carpenter can play starting safety in the NFL, this I know. What I don’t know is whether or not he will. In fact, nobody knows, nor will they until the end of training camp in August.

Lots can happen in camp. Guys get hurt, guys get outplayed, guys get better, and guys get worse. You can be the penciled in starter going in to camp and come out being number three on the depth chart. No one knows what is going to happen, but the Buffalo Bills could be looking at two former Hokies starting on their defense. That is enough to make all of Blacksburg stand up and SHOUT!

Last but certainly not least are two guys who are in different situations, Billy Conaty and Nathaniel Williams. Billy has been with the Bills for four years. He has been cut, re-signed, exposed, placed on the practice squad, placed on the injured list, and more. If you can name it, Billy has probably seen it. The great part about this is, Billy is now number two on the depth chart and in a very good position to see playing time. And I don’t mean mop-up duty either.

If any of you out there in Internet-Land are Bills fans, you know that the offensive line has gone through quite a make-over in the last few years. There has been injuries galore, shuffling the likes of what you see in Vegas, not to mention suspensions, demotions and free agent losses. When I look at the line, they have the ability to be great. But with so much happening, everyone needs to be ready to play especially Billy.

Jerry Ostroski is the starting center, but he started out as a guard and has even played tackle. He was inserted last season at center to stop the bleeding due to injuries suffered by the then-starting center Dusty Ziegler. Ostroski shined, Ziegler didn’t, now he’s gone and leaving room for upward mobility in the center ranks. Ostroski is a solid performer at center and will continue to get better as long as he doesn’t hurt himself. If that happens, former Hokie #3, Billy Conaty will be waiting in the wings to step in and prove his merit. He has paid his dues, and it would be nice to see him get some playing time in the big league.

That brings me to Nathaniel Williams, a free agent signee straight out of Blacksburg. He was signed after the draft, brought in for the mini-camps, and thus far has not disappointed. Corey Moore was heard saying the other day, of course he may be a little biased, that Nathaniel has been showing the kind of skill that the coaches like. He is not the biggest or the fastest defensive lineman, but once again, the knowledge that he learned at Tech, not to mention the caliber of football played, has served him well.

Training camp will be a big test for big Nat. That will be where he proves hopefully to himself and the Bills coaching staff, that signing him was a good move and will pay for itself in the future. Besides, when you lose a guy like Bruce Smith off the end, it opens things up quite a bit. I am not saying Nat is going to be a big time minute’s guy down in the trenches, but in today’s NFL, losing people opens up holes that weren’t there before. The Bills have a number of young guys who are anxious to get their shot at playing time. But with that chance comes the pressures of failing and some players can’t handle that pressure. It will be interesting to see just where the chips fall…no pun intended.

So from me to you, a report on the status of what some Hokies are doing in the NFL, specifically in Upstate New York. If you look around, Buffalo isn’t the only place with Virginia Tech representation. Teams like San Francisco, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota and Green Bay all have Hokies on their squads. It is nice to see the program not only excel at the collegiate level, but also more and more at the professional level.

Just because you have a good college team, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those same players will produce in the NFL. It is refreshing to think that more and more Hokies continue their winning ways after they leave Lane Stadium…because we all know a lot of winning is being done IN the stadium these days.

Greg Kehr is a Marketing Coordinator for Empire Sports in New York and writes about Hokie sports from the Northern perspective.


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