by Bill Glose, 8/31/02
Ah freshman yearÖa time filled with equal parts excitement and uncertainty. For most of us, it was our first experience living away from home, taking courses in stuffy 500-seat auditoriums, and recovering from late-night keggers by sleeping through our morning schedule. Then, when our GPA barely registered on a subatomic level, we were shocked into forming new habits, like actually studying (gasp). Our predecessors warned us; told us about their own freshmen experience, but it was something each of us had to learn for ourselves.
The good news for us (and our parents) was that those lessons helped us avoid repeating the same mistakes later on. As upperclassmen, we learned not to schedule morning classes, how to use our friendsí old tests to study (wink-wink) for exams, and which hangover remedies actually worked. And best of all, as each new freshman class poured into campus, we were able to sit back and laugh at their mistakes while forgetting about our own. As James Earl Jones once told Simba, itís all part of the great circle of life.
And thatís something we should all remember when thinking about this yearís football team. Virginia Tech's two-deep roster this year is chock full of speed and talent, but itís also riddled with freshmen, and freshman players, no matter how talented, will make mistakes. Itís no knock against them, but they are lacking a vital ingredient necessary to make serious contributions on the field Ė experience. Each year, coach Beamer states how experience is the most important factor to a football team, and Iíve come to the conclusion that he might actually know what heís talking about.
As evidence, just look at a couple of VTís recent standouts who started as true freshmen Ė Ben Taylor and Eric Green. Taylor made the two-deep roster as a true freshman and tallied 23 total tackles for the year, with a single tackle for loss (TFL). He more than tripled both of those totals by his sophomore year, and by his senior year he racked up an amazing 121 regular season tackles and 18 TFLís.
Perhaps the best example of what to expect from youth on the field is Eric Green. In his first year, his performance could best be described as inconsistent. One week he smothered Syracuse receivers and forced a fumble from Maurice Jackson with a crushing blow, and the next week he was burned by Pittsburgh for multiple touchdowns. It wasnít that he played poorly Ė in fact, he earned freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News Ė it was just that more experienced players took advantage of his youth. Now, with more playing time under Greenís belt, heís become a tremendous threat to opposing offenses. Try not to drool as you imagine what the defensive backfield will be like next year with both Green and DeAngelo Hall manning the corners. Canít do it, can you? Ok, now go grab a napkin and dab the corners of your mouth.
The best thing about all this youth is what it will bring the Hokies down the road. After the ASU game, when coach Beamer was asked about the teamís performance, he said, "It gives us hope, not just for now, but for the future." If the underclassman play in that game were any indication, the future is bright indeed. Nine true freshmen played in the game and eight of Techís nine touchdowns were scored by freshmen and sophomores!
I canít wait to see which new young players develop into the Corey Mooreís, Ben Taylorís, and Andre Davises of the future. Just think how exciting the next few years will be! And, although I enjoy sound thrashings of our in-state rival as much as the next Hokie, Iím looking forward to UVa rising up from the ashes as well. The tight games with the Hoos that came down to final plays in the fourth quarter were so much more memorable than the blowout yawners in recent years. Of course, I much prefer the 1995 nail-biter type of game to the heartbreaker of í98. This year however, the Hokies should be prepared for both of those types.
I donít expect a losing season from these youngsters Ė the Hokies have the ability to win each game on their schedule this year. But I also think a half-dozen of their opponents have the ability to beat VT. So, the most likely scenario in my mind is that the Hokies finish somewhere between those two.
The message here is that experience counts. Young, talented players will make excellent, exciting plays. But, at times, they will also turn around and make ugly, bonehead plays. Theyíll make the same kind of mistakes that all players do, grow from the experience, and avoid making them again.
Be excited about this young group, but donít be surprised when they do something that leaves you scratching your
head. Watch those wonderful freshmen and when they goof up, just shake your head, recall your own silly freshman
mistakes, and smile. Smile, because in a short while, these freshmen will have game experience. And once that happens,
all teams visiting the Rock will exit the same way that Arkansas State did Ė bullied, beaten, and battered.
Bill Glose is the editor of the literary journal, Virginia Adversaria. His fiction has been accepted for
publication in four countries and he was recently named the winner of the 2001 F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest.