TSL Round Table #5
by TechSideline.com, 7/10/02

For our "TSL Round Table" feature, 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.

This week's TSL Round Table question: What's the thing that bugs you the most about Hokie football, and that you wish would change ... and what's the thing you like most about Hokie football and that you hope never changes?

Sandy Cormack (Baltimore Hokie):  

The thing that bugs me about Hokie football most: inconsistent talent level. We have been in the spotlight for almost a decade now, yet haven't been able to consistently acquire the talent it takes to sustain a Top 10 program from year to year. Every couple of years we have to rebuild instead of reload - '97, '98, '01. As a result, the offense and defense hardly ever peak the same years. My model for this kind of year to year consistency is Miami under Jimmy Johnson. After their first NC, they were always in contention, always prepared, even after losing many starters to the pros each year. That is the kind of consistency we need.

The thing I like best about Hokie football is gameday. Early arrival, tailgating, seeing old friends, building anticipation, kickoff. What an experience gameday has become in Blacksburg. And it's still in its infancy - wait 'til we can accommodate over 70K fans and the administration gets smarter about it (which I do believe will happen).

Dan Ramsey: Nothing really "bugs" me about Hokie football, to be honest. If I had to say what I would like to see changed, I would say the caliber of our OOC opponents (which has improved markedly) and the versatility of our offensive play-calling (which I expect to improve markedly this season under Coach Stinespring).

As for what I hope never changes, I'd have to say the sheer electricity that permeates Lane Stadium on a home gameday. I honestly believe that VT has one of the top five fan bases in the entire USA, and I sincerely hope that we never get so spoiled by our success that we consider a 7-4 record and a second-tier bowl bid as a "down year," as has happened at some other schools.

Jim Alderson: What bugs me the most? Noon games. Our tailgate group has a sacred ritual just before we head to the stadium called Communion that involves a bottle of Wild Turkey and shot glasses. Drinking brown liquor before noon is not the brightest of ideas. I realize that television dictates the early game times, but I ain't home watching.

What do I like the most and hope never changes? That every fall Tech opens up Lane Stadium and plays football games that I am able to attend.

Kent LaRoque: The thing that bugs me the most about Hokie football is the lack of creativity on offense, although I'm sensing we're about to see some very nice changes this coming season. I'd like to see more of a balance between running and passing, and a broader variety of passing routes. While some will argue that we only slightly favor the run, and statistically that might be true, our passes are either TE/FB possession passes or 40 yard fly-patterns that occasionally go for six. We throw very few crossing routes, although we saw some in the 2002 Gator Bowl, and we seldom throw 15-20 yard out-patterns. We're a team that can usually run the ball on anyone anytime, but when we fall behind, as we did against Syracuse, Pitt and FSU last year, we're "toast" if we can't throw the ball because a team will stack to stop our running game and dare us to pass. We are far too predictable on 3rd and short...

What I like the most about our program...now that's a little tougher...so unless Will edits this response, I'm going with two. 1) Our defense and special teams play. They are clearly two of several things that our program is noted for doing very well and we have won countless games during the Frank Beamer era because of either or both. 2) The undying support of our fans, no matter what the situation. The Miami game last December is such a glorious example of our spirit. We stand and we cheer and yell the whole game. It gives me chills when I recall Eric Green's punt block and Manning running it in to pull within two against the eventual National Champion Miami Hurricanes. I doubt if it has ever been that loud at any other stadium with twice as many fans...We truly are "Hokie Proud"!

Chris Hoover: Well, the thing that used to bug me the most about Hokie football - the weak OOC schedule - has been pretty much taken care of, so that isn't what bugs me the most about Hokie football these days. (Well, except for the 2003 slate, that is. UConn, JMU, and UCF?!? These are the opponents for what is supposed to be an MNC caliber team? Are you kidding me? And 2006 could use a little work as well.)

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, what bothers me most these days about VT football is probably our conference situation. The Big East, despite some success on the field, is a pretty weak conference. We need Notre Dame to get bowl tie ins because fans of other teams in the conference either don't exist or they don't travel more than 50 miles from home to watch their team play in a bowl. Big East teams are always considered a given as candidates for other conferences looking to expand. Meanwhile, we can't expand because of the small band of non-Division I football schools in our conference stand in the way. I just hope it doesn't come back to haunt VT in 5 years when conference landscape is a lot different than what it is today.

Now for the positive side. What I like most about Hokie football is all of the winning and the success. Duh. Who doesn't like that? Just kidding. I mean I like the winning and all, but assuming that we don't drop off a cliff, what I like best are the Hokie fans. I realize that over the last 5 years we've picked up a lot of bandwagon hopping frontrunners, but I still think that, for the most part, our fans are among the classiest in the country. With few exceptions (particularly when it involves the hoos), whenever you hear another school's fans talk about Hokie Nation, they usually a positive impression. Throw in the glowing reports that we typically get from the ESPN guys whenever they visit Blacksburg and the Hokies are known for being hardcore fans who are still respectful of most opponents and opponents' fans. I hope that's something that doesn't change anytime soon. Along with the winning, of course.

Steve Aikens (SteveinBaltimore):  I'm going to answer the questions in reverse order from which they were asked. First, what do I like best about Hokie football and not want to see changed? I would say it is the Beamer emphasis on defense and special teams. I love the way attacking defense and special teams can dominate a football game. I love the way we fans are so into the game when the other team has the ball or when kicking teams are on the field. I'd rather watch a great defense, like the Hokies or Ravens, than a St Louis Rams style offense any day of the week. Nothing compares to the excitement of a defensive or special teams touchdown, and no team in the nation, probably no team in the history of the sport of football, generates more of that type of excitement than Beamer's Hokies!

Now what bugs me, what would I like to change? That one's not so easy. I've griped about the schedule as much as anyone, and I do believe that it might cost us a National Championship one of these years. But Jim Weaver really has worked hard to improve it since he took over, and especially this year, when we face a fantastic schedule, it does not seem an appropriate time to bring it up. I could pound on the the ol' dead horse about conservative nature of our offense...but once again the timing is poor because we have a new OC who deserves a chance to establish himself before we start complaining. Or I could talk about how it's a bit harder to enjoy each season because expectations are so high; the board melts down after every loss; even after wins there's a lot of complaining about whatever facet of our game was the weakest. Will Stewart has covered a lot of this ground in the past, such as in his award-winning "Michael, we hardly knew you" article. But I don't think I'm going to complain about that either...after all, we waited for years to get the respect we felt we deserved, and we dreamed of competing with the big boys of college football. Now that we're there, we've got to put up with the fact that the higher expectations and pressure and disappointment comes with the territory in the lofty stratosphere of college football that we now inhabit. The last thing we should do is sound like those idiot lottery winners who talk about how the money ruined their lives, and you just want to slap them and tell them they shouldn't have bought the damn ticket in the first place!

So I'm going to answer the question with: NOTHING! That's right, there's NOTHING that bugs me about Tech football and NOTHING that I want to see changed. Bring on 2002!!

Will Stewart, TechSideline.com: I notice that a number of the other guys are calling out the offense as the thing that bugs them the most, whether they phrase it as being conservative, unimaginative, or whatever. Same here, but I'll phrase it this way: I'm bothered by the fact that historically, Frank Beamer, who isn't afraid of anything when it comes to defense or special teams, speaks mostly of his offense in "fear" terms.

Coach Beamer seems to worry constantly about whether his offense is going to turn the ball over, but he doesn't think twice about leaving Ronyell Whitaker and other cornerbacks on an island by themselves while he sends 7 guys at the quarterback. I'll submit to you that VT's defensive philosophy has cost them as many games over the last 5 years as offensive turnovers have, and yet, Beamer sticks with his defensive philosophy, because it wins more games than it loses. But offensively, he seems very fearful that a mistake is going to happen, while he doesn't seem to let defensive mistakes keep him up at night. I just don't understand how a guy who is so aggressive on defense and special teams can be so conservative on offense. It doesn't make sense to me. You need all three phases firing to be the best, but hey, I've said that a million times on this site.

But, as other round tablers pointed out, that might change a big this year. We'll see. Beamer's been known to change before.

What I like most about VT football, like many of the other respondents, is the gameday atmosphere, and the electricity that surrounds a big game. I find that as I get older, I get less carried away with things and less excitable, but approaching the stadium on gameday still puts butterflies in my stomach and makes me want to break into a run to get inside as soon as possible. Even though reporting on VT sports has become my livelihood and my calling, I still get a charge out of being in the stadium, like an 18-year old undergrad. I hope I never outgrow that.


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