The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
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Monday, August 18, 2003
by Wayne Clevenger

Editor's Note: With the first show of the 2002-2003 academic year, we welcome our new regular Hokie Hotline Notes recapper, Wayne Clevenger, to the fold. Many thanks, Wayne!

Bill Roth opened the 2003-2004 debut broadcast from "Beamers" by welcoming listeners from new coverage areas and noted that, although the format will be similar to years past, this season’s Monday night broadcasts have been lengthened to two hours from 7PM to 9PM ET. Roth then explained how listeners can email or call and ask questions during the program:

Phone Numbers: 1-888-TALKISP or 1-336-794-9045 or Email: hokiehotline@vt.edu

Featured guests: Bryan Stinespring, Jim Weaver, Frank Beamer

Bryan Stinespring - Offensive Coordinator & Offensive Line Coach

Coach Stinespring began by expressing his excitement about this season. He noted that Monday's two practices went well on both sides of the ball. Roth asked why the coaches were less than pleased with Saturday’s scrimmage. Coach admitted it was the "first scrimmage" and seemed to think that there are some kinks to be ironed out. He stated that the offense had too many penalties and basically got "out of whack." The penalties brought on too many second and long and third and long situations.

Next, Roth and Coach Stinespring broke down the offense by position:

Quarterbacks – Coach stated that we’re very fortunate to be in this position with two very good quarterbacks, both with a lot of talent and the obvious bonus of having Randall’s experience. Roth asked if there are plans to play both quarterbacks in a platoon-type situation. Coach said that they haven’t thought that far ahead, but that the staff was committed to getting Marcus quality snaps when the games are still in doubt, not just "mop up" duty. Roth then asked who the most improved football player on the team since last season. Coach didn’t hesitate to finger Bryan Randall – his work ethic in football, academics, and life were the main reasons behind the opinion. Coach noted that this year Bryan is bigger, stronger, throwing better and has better grasp of the offense. "He gets better every day."

Tailbacks – The discussion began with Coach pointing out that Kevin Jones is 10 pounds heavier and just as fast if not faster than last season. It’s his turn to take the ball full time and run with it. He’s been practicing his receiving very hard and studying film during the off-season. "He’s a very talented young man." The discussion then turned to Cedric Humes. Coach mentioned that he didn’t want Cedric to sit a lot last year – which is why they converted him to fullback. Stinespring then noted that Cedric’s natural position is tailback and he’ll make a tremendous contribution now that they’ve converted him back to that position. Roth mentioned our history of platooning two tailbacks (Kennedy & Hebron, Thomas & Oxendine, Suggs & Jones) and asked if that strategy will continue or will KJ get 25-30 snaps a game. Coach didn’t really answer directly but admitted that it’s critical to have fresh legs in there at all times. Then again, sometimes guys get hot and you stay with them. As the discussion turned to Mike Imoh, Coach boldly stated that he may be "pound for pound" one of the best football players in the country. Imoh had a great off season and is a weapon running or receiving out of our backfield.

Fullbacks - When the subject of fullbacks arose, Coach noted that current co-starter Doug Easlick got the least amount of attention last year yet "played as well as anyone on the team." Jeff King provides flexibility because we can use him in an H Back mentality. Opposing teams won’t know whether he’ll line up as a full back or tight end. King can either run the ball or catch the ball out of the backfield which will hopefully keep opposing defenses guessing.

Tight Ends – Coach said that Keith Willis is a tremendous receiving threat and we’re hoping for big things from him because he's very much improved. Stinespring stated that we now have three of the best tight ends we’ve ever had in terms of versatility and variety of formations. The versatility is illustrated by the fact that Jeff King can line up as either a fullback or tight end.

Roth asked if the coaching staff had been looking at what opposing teams have done offensively against the Hokies in the past. Stinespring responded by explaining that the coaches have indeed spent a lot of off-season time looking at different offenses and trying to get new ideas about how to pattern this year's offense based on our personnel.

Receivers - Roth started with Ernest Wilford. As expected, Coach had nothing but praise for Ernest, mentioning that he could have gone either way after dropping the two point conversion pass in the 2001 Miami game. He chose to use that disappointment as a motivation tool to become better. Roth then asked about DeAngelo Hall. Stinespring noted that first and foremost Hall has to be a great cornerback, but they did spend the spring getting him acclimated to the receiver position. Coach went on to say that Justin Hamilton is a big target, catches the ball well and practices comfortably at full speed. Stinespring briefly noted that Richard Johnson is getting better but taking "baby steps." Chris Shreve is good at getting open and has a very good 40 speed.

Full time receiver and backup quarterback Chris Clifton is impressive, but the Coach stated that they didn’t want to spread him too thin. They want Clifton to focus on his receiving duties first and foremost. Alluding to the depth chart, Roth asked something about how the Hokie offense might use the different receivers. Coach stated that they have different packages that highlight each of one of the receivers.

Offensive Line – Roth noted that the season could hinge on the production of the offensive line. Coach said the unit is definitely better than last year and they know they’re the "engine" for the offense. Stinespring singled out left tackle Jimmy Martin as the most athletic lineman and added that he needs to be the best lineman because he protects the quarterback’s blind side. Martin is the best pass protector, and Dunn has also improved in this area. Jimmy Martin should now be able to play either tackle position. Coach said that Reggie Butler is a "huge kid" and a viable backup tackle. Good to have that depth. It was further stated that center Jake Grove is a "player" and is "very aggressive." Coach suggested that the fans should take a few plays to watch Grove and the rest of the offensive line instead of watching the ball. This will offer an idea of "life in the trenches."

Roth then read an email question that asked about the possibility of Kevin Jones being used as a wideout. Coach said that Kevin really excels when he can take the ball 3-4 yards deep in the backfield and accelerate, but that he’s been working hard on catching the ball out of the backfield as well.

Roth asked what the Coach wanted to see most over the next two weeks heading into the opener against UCF. Coach said we have to play better together as a team. The defensive units are so fast that it’s really testing our offense in terms of blocking. He joked by saying that he’s trying to get the snapper to snap the ball harder so the quarterback can get rid of it faster.

Jim Weaver – Virginia Tech Athletic Director

Roth started Weaver’s segment by pointing out that during the last Hokie Hotline show back in March, we had no idea what was about to happen in terms of league expansion or even who the Hokies’ basketball coach would be. He then introduced Weaver to a smattering of applause. Weaver opened by discussing the Athletic Department’s agenda as the beginning of the year approaches. He stated that Virginia Tech has taken a leadership role coming out of the NCAA sportsmanship February summit in Dallas. He announced that there’s another localized sportsmanship summit planned for 8 PM Aug. 28 at Cassell Coliseum. Local high schools, colleges and various alumni groups will be invited to attend, and it is open to the public.

The discussion then turned to the 30 year relationship between Jim and UVa Athletic Director Craig Littlepage. Recently, Littlepage suggested that key personnel from both departments get together to discuss key common issues and provide assistance with Tech’s assimilation into the ACC. The meeting took place last week and Weaver confirmed that it was extremely productive.

Roth pointed out that it must be strange for fans and alumni to see the unprecedented level of cooperation between the two rival universities. Weaver responded to this by saying that it’s all about the big picture and general sportsmanship. He went on to say that there are many common objectives and goals between VT and UVA.

Weaver and Roth discussed how the whole ACC expansion was a soap opera, and Jim finished by saying "all’s well that end well." Weaver illustrated how positive the ACC admission is for VT, especially in terms of decreased travel time for Hokie teams. Weaver said that, during the expansion process, his dealings with several other Big East athletic directors have been friendly and they all seem to wish VT the best. He continued by saying that they understood VT’s position and that we were forced to do what was in our best interest. He also confirmed that they believed we were up front about our position throughout the process and did not engage in years of secret discussions with the ACC. Roth asked Jim if he thought it would be tense when he saw the athletic directors from Syracuse and Boston College this year. Weaver said he didn’t think it would be uncomfortable at all.

David from Austin TX emailed and asked about the future prospect of continuing the VT – WVU series in light of Tech’s move to the ACC. Jim stated that we’d really like to continue the series and expressed that to the WVU administration on June 26th. Due to the slate of non-conference opponents that each school had already scheduled for upcoming seasons (pre ACC expansion), it’s not possible to immediately continue the series. However, Jim did acknowledge that the series could be renewed in either 2008 or 2009 if not sooner.

Another email came in asking if there was anything the Tech administration is doing to enhance VT fan security at the upcoming VT – WVU game in Morgantown this season. Jim stated that security is always the sole responsibility of the home team. He noted that it’s not always possible to take Virginia Law enforcement personnel along on road game trips because not all states have reciprocal recognition of their authority. Jim also mentioned that Big East meetings during the off-season resulted in discussions to enact certain policies regarding fan security (as a follow up to the NCAA sportsmanship conference in February).

Robert from Roanoke in the audience asked Jim if he could pick any team in the country to be the 12th in the ACC, which team would that be? Jim answered by saying that he, along with others, agrees that Notre Dame would be the best possible addition as the 12th conference team. He then admitted that he didn’t think Notre Dame would ever give their independent status in football. Roth noted that a lot of teams have been rumored to be in the mix, but Jim could not comment on these rumors.

Tony in Newport News called with a question about the status of the 2004 BCA game. Jim said that the opponent and location for that game are still being worked out, but nothing has been finalized.

The discussion wrapped up with Jim reasserting the administration’s commitment to sportsmanship initiatives and reiterated the leadership role that VT will take in response to this year's summits.

Frank Beamer – Virginia Tech Head Football Coach

Frank was introduced to a round of applause. The conversation started by revisiting the pending ACC membership and Coach noted that our avenue to success is much smoother in the ACC. He said he thinks the ACC will be the strongest football conference in the country.

Roth noted that VT’s #9 AP poll ranking matched the best pre-season ranking Tech has ever had. Beamer countered by pointing out that "the people who know VT best" picked the team to finish third in the Big East. He said that the conference is stacked with talent and more teams have a chance of beating Miami this year than every before.

Roth asked how he would rate the overall talent level on the team. Coach answered by praising the freshman class and saying that he didn’t think we missed our evaluation on any of them. He continued by saying we may be fortunate enough to redshirt most of the freshmen, which is a rare position to be in. He wants to make sure that any true freshmen that play this season, see a significant amount of actions.

Chad in Nashville called asking about conference scheduling in the ACC next year. Coach confirmed with Jim Weaver that the scheduling would probably be patterned after the Big Ten. He further admitted that nothing’s been really solidified in this area and even if the ACC used the Big Ten model, we’re not sure which teams we’ll play every year vs. every other year, etc.

Todd in Wilmington emailed, asking what new players can we expect to see on special teams this year and will there still be a lot of "height" on the kick block units. Beamer answered the second question first by saying that he did emphasize height in the kick blocking units because the taller guys generally have longer arms and that shortens the distance they need to cover to get to the kicker. Coach went on to single out Eric Green, Josh Hyman and Michael Malone as stars or future stars on special teams. Overall, Frank sounds very confident about the punt return unit as well, and pointed out that different special teams units can feed off each other’s success.

Jeff in Knoxville called in and asked about the competition between place kickers and how that situation might sort itself out. Coach admitted that, during the competitions, no one had really stepped up, but eventually they’ll have to get down to it and pick one by this coming weekend so the unit can get ready during game week. He went on to state that several of the kickers have performed well at times, but inconsistencies have made the first string choice a difficult one. Coach thinks that in the end, it might be a gut feeling that chooses the starter.

Barek in Blacksburg called asking about how much playing time James Griffin might get and how the coaches went about recruiting JUCO transfers. Coach stated that James is an excellent player who tackles well and would get quite a bit of playing time at Rover along with Michael Crawford. Coach continued by saying that VT doesn’t recruit very many JUCO players, but they got the inside track on Griffin because of a friend of his from the same hometown and college was already on the team (former VT defensive tackle Jimmy Williams).

Cynthia sent an email asking who might emerge as this years team leaders. Coach said he liked people that lead by example and singled out Jake Grove, Jacob Gibson, Nathanial Adibi, Bryan Randall, Doug Easlick and Ernest Wilford. He said these were leaders but not an exhaustive list. Coach didn’t want to slight anyone by leaving them off the list and concluded that the team has many potential leaders.

Roth asked about the additional 30 pounds Baaqee had put on and has it slowed him down any. Coach said that if anything, Baaqee is faster and hits harder than ever before.

Jim from Blacksburg in the audience asked about new strategies this year for getting the team keyed up for each game. Coach stated that he’d get someone to work on that and answer the question next week.

Roth commented he’d read in the Orlando newspaper that UCF Coach Mike Kruczek would spend two weeks preparing for Virginia Tech instead of the normal one week. Coach said that all coaches tend to do things differently and he like to "bring the team" along, then focus on the upcoming opponent the week prior to the game. He likes to get everything installed, then zero in on the opponent during "game week" only. Coach said that they regard game week as a fine tuning period.

Keith from Delaware emailed and asked which current or incoming walk-on players would have the best chance at immediate success in the program. Coach singled out Doug Easlick, Chris Shreve, Steve Cantor, Brandon Pace and Brandon Manning as all contributors in the 2 deep rotation. Coach said he’s also impressed with a walk-on long snapper named Bart McMillan from Bristol who came to the VT program after finding out that ETSU was doing away with their program. The current starting long snapper is Travis Conway.

Somebody from Roanoke in the audience asked about the ability of Kevin Jones to take over for Lee Suggs in red zone running situations. Coach said the KJ has studied Lee’s style and prepared himself well for running low and powering forward through the line. He said we’ll see the difference on the field this year.

George from Colorado emailed asking why VT’s recruiting had been so sluggish until recently. Coach admitted that the conference expansion process had definitely slowed down their recruiting efforts. He noted that it’s difficult to get the kids to commit when you can’t make them any promises about future conference affiliation. However, the coach said now that VT's ACC affiliation is set, recruiting should really step up into high gear.

Roth commented that VT already has two verbal commitments from quality quarterbacks (Cory Holt, currently at Hargrave, and rising HS senior Sean Glennon, though Roth wasn't allowed to say so) and asked if there are any other plans to recruit more quarterbacks. Coach said basically that you can never have enough quality QB’s in the pipeline and that there was one more out there that they’re going after. Roth then asked if VT was recruiting tailbacks to plan for the contingency of KJ leaving early for the NFL. Coach said we’re actively pursuing quality tailbacks, but that we’re in pretty good shape in that area regardless.

Roth asked the Coach about Tuesday’s scrimmage and what might be the objectives. Coach stated that most of the 70 plays will be run between the 1 and 2 units. Coach said he wants to be able to narrow down to definitive starting roles depth rankings. Coach pointed out that Trott, Warren and Cooper have a definite chance at significant playing time because of their considerable improvement. He still wasn’t sure whether Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall would play or redshirt this year. Both Roth and Coach Beamer went on to point out the quality overall depth on this year's team and how it might be the deepest team every fielded by VT.

Drew in Blacksburg called asking how Aaron Rouse is looking this year and also wanted to know if Rouse would play this year. Coach said Rouse will play and gave Rouse praise for always going 100% on the field but sometimes in the wrong direction. Drew also asked which of the current freshman players are the most talented. Coach didn’t single out any particular player, instead he stated that all the current freshman were talented, outstanding players.

Rich in Winston-Salem called and asked if some of the coaches have redirected their recruiting efforts in NC and other areas in light of Tech’s pending ACC membership. Coach stated that he was surprised to find out how many quality players are coming out of North Carolina and said that his staff intends to divide up the state into recruiting areas that each of the coaches are responsible for. He went on to say that he likes to get players from as close to Blacksburg as possible and North Carolina is very close, but they had not focused on it as much before because of the competition from the other Division 1 schools in the state.

Somebody in Clifton Forge called asking Coach Beamer if the pending ACC membership would change the approach to this year’s UVA game. Coach said it would not be a lot different because this year both teams are still in different conferences. He went on to say that next year the approach might change when both teams are in the same conference.

David in Roanoke called and asked if Coach had talked to Michael Vick about his recent injury. Coach said he had not spoken to Mike, but that Marcus kept him informed on Mike’s injury situation. He went on to say that he believed MV would recover well from the injury and he hoped to see him back on the field very soon.

John in Raleigh emailed asking about the play of Jared Mazetta. Coach said he was doing well, but emphasized Jeff King was also doing well at the FB/TE positions. He went on to say that players like Mazetta have a way of working their way onto the field.

Roth noted that he didn’t remember the last time they were able to sit down and talk about so many talented players at the same time. Coach agreed and said that the problem was trying to figure out how to best use them all at the same time.

Roth wrapped up the show by stating that VT set a new season ticket sales record (Editor's note: over 36,000 season tickets) for the 10th straight year. Coach said that the fans deserve much of the credit for the tremendous support in their rise to success.

Monday was Day 1,407 of Tech's continuous possession of the Commonwealth Cup.

-- Wayne

          

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