TSL Round Table #1
by TechSideline.com, 6/11/02

Welcome to a new "Voice of the Fan" feature on TechSideline.com called the "TSL Round Table." We have selected a small panel of site fans and message board posters completely at random and without rhyme or reason (so don't be offended if you're not one of them), and each week, we'll pose them a question and run their answers here on TSL. Let us know what you think of this new feature on the boards and via email, and if you like it, we'll keep it up.

This week's TSL Round Table question: In the 2002 season, what football player who has previously not made much of an impact will step up and surprise Hokie fans?

Dan Ramsey: I'd say Mike Daniels. He showed flashes of brilliance last year after having been moved over to Whip and then inserted as an emergency starter when Deon Provitt went down and T.J. Jackson was proving ineffective in pass coverage. The kid was put into a real pressure cooker and responded magnificently. With another full year behind him to learn the position and some serious time in the weight room this summer to add another ten or so pounds of muscle and get stronger (he seemed to have trouble on occasion with guys running through his tackles last year), I expect him to morph into our designated "heat seeking missile" this year and to really make some big plays for us. With a little luck and if he stays injury-free, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to think of him as an All-Big East selection as a redshirt sophomore. I don't know if Mike qualifies as "unheralded," but he's certainly not in the same league with Suggs & KJ as far as name recognition goes.

Chris Schooley: Justin Hamilton, WR. This ones easy. 6'3", 216, 4.53 and showed in the Spring game that he will make the catch in traffic. Gotta love his rapport with Bryan Randall as well, they seemed to be on the same page. Hamilton seems to have a strong work ethic (gained 17 lbs from August to February), a perfect WR build and runs the best when given a little room. A clone of the LSU WR Josh Reed, Hamilton could end up a first round WR pick and a collegiate All American by the time he's done here. He could go for 25+ catches and 7-9 TD's, not bad for a freshman.

Sandy Cormack (Baltimore Hokie): If we're talking "unheralded" players, that rules out guys like Marcus Vick, Jonathan Lewis, Richard Johnson, Jon Dunn, Kevin Jones, and Cedric Humes. And it's very unlikely that any "rough diamonds" will come in lacking substantial playing experience and stand out (ala Willie Pile in '00).

The three that I have had my eye on are Kevin Lewis, Vegas Robinson, and Cols Colas. All three need to have breakout years, considering the talent we lost on defense. But of the three, I think the one most likely to stand out is Colas. He became a starter last season and showed flashes of brilliance. He's got tremendous speed and a quick first step. He can bring back the pass rush attack our defense sorely lacked in '01.

Chris Hoover: This was a tough question. Even most of the "lesser known" players on the roster have been heralded at one time or another by somebody on TSL, either for being the sleeper recruit who will surprise, for playing well on special teams, or for being touted as the next walk-on success story. No matter what player you pick, some poster is going to say "that guy's not unheralded" or "I've been hyping that guy since the day he verbaled." For that reason alone, I thought about going with Kofi Boateng just to see how many posters would claim to have been on the Boateng bandwagon from the beginning.

For my pick, I'm going with Vince Fuller at FS. The skinny kid from Baltimore hasn't gotten a lot of PT behind the outstanding Willie Pile and he likely won't get a whole lot this season either, but I think Fuller will do very well and will surprise those Hokies who don't spend ten hours a day on TSL when he does get on the field. He's a former high school QB and having that "field vision" will help him at the safety spot. Fuller has bulked up considerably since arriving at VT back in the fall of 2000 (when he showed up weighing in at 170 pounds) and still has great speed for the safety position. And, as a bonus, the kid is smart, coming to VT with a 3.6 GPA and an 1160 on his SATs (and a scholarship offer from Duke). Quite simply, Vince Fuller is a player with the athletic ability and the intelligence to do very well at the safety position. Given the opportunity, he'll make some noise this fall.

Kent LaRoque: I'm thinking that Mikal Baaqee will be a pleasant surprise and have an outstanding year for VT. While many have their eyes on Vegas Robinson, look for Baaqee to have an excellent season at Mike. He's improved his 40 time and strength numbers under Coach Gentry and has positioned himself well to step in and step up.

Jim Alderson: In a prediction I personally guarantee to be correct unless it is not, Brandon Manning. I go with Manning because of 1) the long history of substantial contributions by walk-ons at Tech under Frank Beamer, and 2) choosing Jason Davis, T.J. Jackson or Keith Burnell was out of the question. Walk-ons seem to be a hungry lot, and Manning continues the tradition by playing his way into what looks to be a thin linebacking rotation. I also predict that he will block a kick against LSU that turns out to be pivotal. Don't let me down, Brandon.

Steve Aikens (Steve in Baltimore): Richard Johnson, wide receiver. We've got some new blood on the offensive coaching staff, with a new OC who showed in the Gator Bowl that he wasn't afraid to diversify the offense. We've got a new QB coach. And, in my opinion, we will see some new blood at the quarterback position over the course of the season. Our offensive line may lack depth but the starters look pretty solid, and we've got the best pair of tailbacks in the nation. Defenses are going to have to gear themselves to stopping the run. Sometimes you have to take what the defense is giving you, and with some new minds calling the plays I think we'll throw more than we have in the past.

Roughly every three years for more than the last decade, we have had a receiver emerge as a big playmaker: Scales, Freeman, Still, Davis. It's time for someone else to step up, and when I survey the roster, Richard Johnson seems like the most likely candidate. I know a lot of people are talking about Fred Lee, but we all know that Frank Beamer doesn't play freshmen who haven't been in the system redshirting for a year unless circumstances absolutely force him to.

Johnson has speed. He understands offenses. Remember, this is a guy who has been a QB in high school, and a defensive back. You can't tell me that you don't learn about the game when you have seen it from that variety of perspectives. He has been in the system waiting his turn for a couple years. I can't honestly say that I've seen any "flashes of brilliance" from him that make this prediction a slam dunk sure thing. But the circumstances look right to me. There is opportunity, given the huge number of receptions we lost from last year's team. There are some fresh faces on the coaching staff, and perhaps at the QB position, and I expect to see the attack opened up a bit as a result. And Richard Johnson was a heck of a high school player who has slowly developed in the Hokie system and it's now his turn to shine. He has the opportunity, and I can't wait to see what he does with it.

Will Stewart, TechSideline.com: In case you're keeping track, that's seven members of the round table weighing in this week, and one vote each for Mike Daniels, Justin Hamilton, Cols Colas, Vince Fuller, Mikal Baaqee, Brandon Manning, and Richard Johnson. (As an aside, "TSL Round Table" is a brand new feature, but I have the feeling this is one of the few times where our round table members will all say something different.)

Before continuing, I should note that the actual question as phrased to the round table this week was ""What previously-unheralded player will step up and surprise Hokie fans with a strong 2002?" While putting this article together, I took the liberty of phrasing the question how I really meant to phrase it -- I donít think it makes much difference, but in case it does, I wanted to let you know exactly what the round table members were answering. It also explains the use of the term "unheralded" in so many of the answers.

Now, for my take: This isn't a vote, but I'm going to break the tie, so to speak, by agreeing with Sandy and saying that Cols Colas will step up and surprise people. Yes, Colas has seen significant playing time the last couple of years, but he has not been a true "impact" player, when compared to what Hokie fans are used to seeing from their defensive ends, like Cornell Brown and Corey Moore.

Of the current four-man rotation at defensive end (Nathaniel Adibi, Jim Davis, Lamar Cobb, and Colas), all four are good, aggressive players. But of the four, only Colas has that wild streak in him, evidenced by his fiery, ill-advised shove of Miami QB Ken Dorsey in last December's game. Brown, Moore, and John Engelberger all had a bit of a mean streak in them, at least on the field, and people rarely described them as "nice." Colas brings the same hunger to the position that Brown, Moore, and John Engelberger did, as if something violent is simmering just below the surface. Brown and Moore truly emerged in their junior seasons, and 2002 will be Colas' redshirt-junior season. It's now or never for Colas.


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