1998 Syracuse Game Emails
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 11/16/98

Click here for the TSL game analysis

Note from Will:  I don't ordinarily do this, but the Syracuse game, and my subsequent analysis of it, generated so much interesting email that I thought I would share a couple of them with you.  The authors of the emails have been kept anonymous.

Email #1 - A Different Perspective

Furrer, DeShazo, Druck. Bustle's track record speaks for itself. As far as the season....

Tech is 7-2 and two plays away from being 9-0 and in the top 5. This has been accomplished during what was universally considered to be a rebuilding year. It has also been accomplished with a revolving door at quarterback. Would Syracuse, UM, or WVU be where they are if McNabb, Covington and Bulger, along with their backups, had been lost for significant portions of the season? Perhaps, but the fact remains that the Tech coaches were the ones faced with that situation. As for Al....

Ricky did not recruit Clark. Al was recruited following the 93 season, when Bustle had already left for South Carolina. Gary Tranquill had been named the new OC. Clark pretty much fell into our laps. Al had verballed to the hoos, only to see his scholarship offer withdrawn when George and his gang coaxed Aaron Brooks away from Penn State. Clark became available late in the recruiting process, and Tranquill jumped on him. He joined the program prior to the 94 season, when DeShazo was a senior. Tranquill and DeShazo never got along, and Gary agitated to play Al that year, with Beamer refusing, and Al was red-shirted. At the end of the 94 season, Tranquill left and Bustle came back. The first thing he did was attempt to recruit another quarterback. Major efforts were made for Marc Bulger and Brandon Streeter, but we got neither [Dave Meyer was recruited from New Jersey the following season. This is a guy Bustle is very high on. If he's still around next spring, don't just automatically hand the starting job to Vick]. Clark went into the 95 Spring Practice #1, but, as was to happen often, he got hurt. A guy who had been hanging around the program for three years, a guy named Druckenmiller, got the spring work, and the rest is history. Clark again went into the 97 spring #1, and has essentially been hurt ever since. Al has limitations, chief among them he is not Druck. He has also played hurt most of the last two seasons, and has had little chance to establish any kind of rhythm. Beamer is right when he says we have never gotten a chance to see the real Al. Which brings me to....

We have had no offensive continuity the last two years. Injuries and some recruiting misses have combined to create a revolving door at quarterback, wide receiver, fullback and the offensive line. There's not a lot of offense left. Both of Druck's years as starter, he had the same o-line in front of him, Still to pass to, and Ox and Edmonds lining up behind him. Our qb and wide receiver problems are well-documented. At fullback, we have seen Shelly Ellison, expected to be the fullback, finally have to leave the team after multiple injuries, and Cullen Hawkins take a medical redshirt. That leaves Ferguson, a product of the walk on program. A guy with tailback size is not going to provide a lot of help picking up blitzes. Miami's Morgan lived in our backfield, and, for whatever reason, no opponent tried multiple blitzing against us again until Syracuse. Expect to see Rutgers and the Jeffersons come at us constantly. This is a situation created by injury, and our talent level is not yet sufficient to overcome it.

On the offensive line, two names: Damien Woody and Darnell Alford. These were two recruits after the 94 season that the Tech staff thought they had, and ended up at BC following Dan Henning's Raid on Virginia that year. Both would be starting, and not having them caused shuffling and playing Kadela and Lehr earlier than normal. Woody was expected to move into center and continue the tradition started by Pyne and Conaty. It didn't happen. Todd Washington was moved to the position last year, but a Todd Washington snapping the ball is not a Todd Washington at tackle opening holes for Ox. It takes a few years for recruiting misses to show up, and these are two that hurt. It also should be pointed out that Wide receiver James Crawford and tight end Pedro Edison are no longer on the team due to a general housecleaning. They would be starting, although it is doubtful what kind of leadership they would be providing. Ricky Hall was the big catch of that 94 class, and he was lost for two years due to academics. These add up, and indicate the talent level needs to be higher. Check what's being red-shirted and who is sitting at Hargrave and coming to Tech next year. The talent level on offense will be higher.

I feel that Bustle has done an admirable job under the circumstances. Injuries and the other problems have created havoc, and we are still 14-7 over the last two years. Obviously other schools feel the same about Ricky. Clemson and South Carolina are both going after Tulane's Bowden. The school that doesn't get him will court Bustle. He will head to Clemson tomorrow, but South Carolina will require some thought. There is a feeling around that the Gamecocks may be in over their head in the SEC. They simply cannot match the budgets of Florida and Tennessee, and also lag behind second-tier [financially] Alabama, Auburn and Georgia. It is becoming pretty obvious that the recruiting base in that state will not support two quality teams. In the ACC, Clemson is only behind Florida $tate in spending. It will be considerably easier to win there. Bustle realizes he will only get one shot at a head coaching position, and might not take the South Carolina job. I, for one, hope he doesn't.

Email #2 - The Beamer Coaching Philosophy

I am a 1972 grad (BArch) which dates me a bit. By 1987, when you graduated, I had already been out of Tech for 15 years and a Hokie fan for over 20. I saw my first game in (near) brand-spanking new Lane Stadium in 1966 as a Freshman at Ferrum (then JC). The Hokies clobbered GWU (!!!) by a 42-0 score (or something like that). GWU still played football then it and it was not long thereafter that they abandoned their program.

I enrolled at Tech the next year. Frank Beamer was a starting DB under then Coach Jerry Claiborne. Frank Loria, Kenny Edwards, Ken Barefoot, Mike Widger, Al Kincaid, all those guys played for the Hokies in those days.

Beamer was known as a solid, hard-nosed and smart player (workmanlike), but never fast, as were most Tech players then. Good, but not great athletes. In 1968 I saw Larry Brown, then at Kansas State play one of his best college football games ever at Lane Stadium. This was long before he became an all-pro w/the Redskins. Another year, Miami, with Ted (the Mad Stork) Hendricks came to town and beat us 14-7. The Tech TD came on a punt return by Frank Loria. Miles (lower quad) was the jock dorm. The football players all ate with the rest of us in Owens dining hall. Most of them worked there.

The purpose of this message is to address the issue you raised in your current game report (Syracuse) about the offense. Most people's world views are shaped by their own experiences. Frank Beamer played under Jerry Claiborne who played for Bear Bryant (you know all that). Claiborne put all of his best athletes on defense. He introduced a serious weight training program. He did some good things and brought the program out of the backwaters of the dying Southern Conference, but Tech could never win a "Big" game because we didn't have any speed. Obviously, today it's a different story.

The kind of program you describe is a virtual carbon copy of Claiborne's teams: strong defense, special teams and caretaker offense. Claiborne's offense was low risk and one dimensional. He liked fullbacks up the middle and an occasional (very) pass. It's instructive to mention that Claiborne had the same problems at each of his next two stops. He brought the wide-tackle 6 to Maryland and elevated its program but ultimately ran out of gas for lack of imagination on offense. Next stop Kentucky, his alma mater. He had some success there and then retired. Don't get me wrong though, Claiborne's teams played good sound football. And above all, he was a very decent guy.

I think the root of the current situation can be traced back through Beamer's football pedigree. He learned the game from Jerry Claiborne and has embraced the same basic philosophy.

I agree w/your assessment of the game. The real story wasn't McNabb: We handed him the opportunity to win the game with one play because of the failure of our offense to develop a sustained attack. And Donovan McNabb is the kind of player who can take advantage of those circumstances. There isn't any shame in losing to him. But, if you're going to win at this level, you've got to have a credible offense, and as you said, we don't. Even so, we're still light years ahead of the Claiborne era. We never had athletes like the ones we have now. Beamer just has to follow your advice and develop an offense worthy of his defense and special teams. Clearly, he is a fine coach but if the program is going to get to the next level he's going to have to take some risks with his offense.

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