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Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline Notes
, September 29, 2003
by Wayne Clevenger

Bill Roth opened the show by making several announcements. Jason Lallis suffered an MCL sprain against UConn and will miss 2-4 weeks. A total of six players will miss this weekend's matchup against Rutgers due to injury. Mike Imoh was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the week after his kickoff return for a TD vs. UConn. Imoh is the first VT player to return a kickoff for a TD since Tony Kennedy in 1992 at Louisville. Itís also the first time a Hokie has done it at Lane Stadium since 1989.

Bryan Stinespring Ė Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach

After introducing Stinespring, Roth asked him for his overall take on the UConn game. Stinespring noted that VT seemed to score quickly throughout the game, which kept the offense from getting into a rhythm. He said the offense just didnít get a lot of snaps overall, especially in the second half. He said he was disappointed with the lack of execution on third down conversions (VT went 0 for 8). Roth commented about Ernest Wilfordís post-game quote where he described the team as unfocused and "loopy." Stinespring said they made him "loopy" at times (laughter). He said that itís critical for VT to come ready to play week in and week out, regardless of the opponent because thereís just too much parity in college football these days.

Roth brought up the fact that Bryan Randall didnít have his usual stellar game (at least by 2003 standards) against UConn. In response, Stinespring admitted that Randall would have "liked to have some opportunities back" and that he was a "little off." He also pointed out that Randall has been outstanding in the previous 3 games, and just needs to get back on track.

Roth asked how badly Stinespring wanted to play Marcus Vick against UConn. Stinespring said that the staff always let the game dictate when and where to play any backups, including Vick. He then admitted that the staff did want to get Vick more snaps, but the circumstances of the game prevented that to a certain extent.

Roth then brought up the topic of injured starters, particularly Richard Johnson and Justin Hamilton. Stinespring expressed his disappointment about this, but said it was unfortunately "just part of the game of football." He admitted that Hamilton and Johnson are integral to some of VTís motion schemes and they will be sorely missed. He said that others will need to step and perform including Shreve, Clowney and Hall. Stinespring said this is the first time this season that the issue of depth has been a concern. However, he said that VT is very happy to be 4-0 at this point in the season. Before taking the first caller, Roth brought up the fact that VT is second in the nation (behind Texas) in the category of total points scored.

Bill in Norfolk (Stinespringís cousin) called and asked what, if anything, Stinespring was doing to prepare for the tougher teams on the schedule like Miami and Pitt. Stinespring joked by saying he expected tough questions, but not from family (laughter). He then said that VT prepares for their next opponent and doesnít look too far ahead in terms of preparation. However, he did admit that the VT coaches spend some significant time in the offseason preparing for teams that have historically played VT very tough.

Roth asked Stinespring if he was losing sleep over any upcoming opponents. Stinespring said that he wasnít losing any sleep, but that sleep was a rare commodity with his new infant daughter around. He said heís lucky to average 5 hours of sleep and night. Roth then pointed out that Rutgers is currently ranked 104th in the nation against the run and wanted to know if this would affect VTís offensive game plan against them. Stinespring defended Rutgers by saying that those statistics were somewhat deceiving. He said he wasnít seeing them give up big chunks of running yards on film. Stinespring pointed out that Rutgers beat Navy, who is very adept at running the football. He said it was possible to give up yards in the running game, but still win the game. He pointed out that Rutgers is better now than in the past, and very confident. He noted that their defense is very settled and executes a combination of schemes similar to VT and Miami.

Billy in Stanton called to congratulate Stinespring on a job well done thus far this year. He said he thought VTís running backs were some of the best in the nations. Stinespring agreed and thanked Billy for the praise.

Roth then asked why Kevin Jones came out of the game so early against UConn. Stinespring said it was primarily because VT held a commanding lead and wanted to avoided unnecessary injuries. He noted that there are a lot of games left and VT needs KJ to be fresh down the road.

After a break, Roth asked Stinespring how the red shirt freshmen were looking. Stinespring said they are all looking very good and mentioned Xavier Adibi by name. He said that many of them could have played this year, but VTís existing talent and depth made redshirting an option.

Joe in Buena Vista called and congratulated Stinespring on his play calling this season. He then asked if VT would run certain trick plays in future games, such as the flea flicker and shovel passes. He also asked if VT was close to signing a top running back prospect. Stinespring answered the first question by stating that VT works every week on specialty plays that can be used in certain situations, but admitted that not many had been used thus far. He went on to address the second question by saying that he was very excited about the current running back prospects VT is recruiting. Stinespring pointed out that VT has a history of good running backs in the system and recruits know this.

Curtis in Harrisonburg called and noted that Randall seems to keep the ball most of the time when running the half back option play. Curtis wondered if other teams notice this and key on the fact that Randall probably wonít pitch the ball. Stinespring pointed out that most defenses key on Jones (thus preventing the pitch) because they would rather see Randall run the ball. He said that VT has been working on several schemes to "force the pitch" and make sure KJ gets the ball.

Roth asked why the counter running plays seemed more successful against aTm than UConn. Stinespring said the execution was part of it, but that he didnít call as many counters against UConn because he didnít want to go to the well too many times and sacrifice offensive variety.

Bruce in Dinwiddie called and pointed out that VT players seem to come out flat and not really get into the game until the end of the first quarter. He used UConnís first play from scrimmage as an example. Roth interjected by saying he heard Syracuse was pleased with the 12pm kickoff time for their game against VT because Lane Stadium has a different atmosphere for those time slots (less excitement). After illustrating the high energy levels of the players and fans during the first three VT games this year, Stinespring admitted that both the players and fans were a little flat against UConn. He said that the coaches are always meeting with their respective player units and impressing upon them the importance of coming out focused and excited.

Ron in Salem called and praised VTís execution of the shotgun counter option. He then suggested several other plays that might work well for VT. First he suggested the old Redskins counter trey, then he suggested using a quick dump pass to the tight end when opposing linebackers attempt to shoot the offensive line gaps. Stinespring admitted that Beamer has also suggested the counter trey as a running play option. However, since itís a slow developing play, Stinespring said he thought that todayís defenses are too fast and recover too well for this play to work consistently. Regarding the second play call suggestion, Stinespring pointed out that defenses have other ways of clogging the middle when the linebackers have vacated the area. He thanked Ron for both suggestions.

Roth asked how Rutgers differed from UConn. Stinespring said that Rutgers exhibits more movement and blitzing on defense. He said VT must execute well against them or they could be in trouble. He went on to point out the Rutgers is a big play type defense and takes a lot of risks. They have good tacklers and control the gaps well. Overall, Stinespring said he was very impressed with what heíd seen from Rutgers on tape.

Jim Weaver Ė Athletic Director

Roth introduced Jim Weaver and began the discussion by touching on the upcoming ACC athletic director meetings in Charlottesville (Tuesday & Wednesday). The meeting agenda will encompass future basketball and football scheduling models. Weaver said he doesnít know who VTís permanent partners will be (other than maybe UVA) on their conference football schedule, nor did he think VT would have much of a choice in the matter. He said the basketball schedule will most like follow a 16-game league schedule model, which VT is in favor of, along with most other ACC schools.

Roth noted that the ACCís appeal to have a football championship game with an 11 team league will most likely be declined. Weaver said he thought adding a 12th team made the whole expansion work better economically, but that he hadnít heard anything about the matter (other than in newspapers). Weaver mentioned that heíd read about an ACC official conference call that took place this past Saturday, but he wasnít involved in. He said the conference call seemed to address the Notre Dame issue by reinforcing the league policy of all sports participation and disallowing the possibility of partial membership. He said he thought most ACC schools (including VT) are in favor of adding a 12th team.

Charles in Roanoke called and asked about a rumor heíd heard that the Hurricane baseball program would stay independent after Miami joined the ACC. Weaver said this was news to him, and both he and Roth seemed to think there wasnít anything to validate such a rumor.

Bruce in Smithfield called and asked about a rumor heíd heard where VT and UT might play at a neutral site near Bristol. He also asked if the possibility of playing WVU in 2004 at a neutral site had been explored. Weaver answered the second question first by telling Bruce to wait for an announcement to be made the following day (9/30) between noon and 1pm regarding which team would replace Temple on the VT schedule in 2004 (Editor's Note -- it's WVU. Click here for details).

He addressed the second question by saying that he didnít know where the rumor started, but admitted he had received a third party call suggesting the same scenario. He said that neither UT nor VT are exploring the possibility because it wouldnít make financial sense. Even though the site in Bristol may seat 150,000 spectators, this would not bring the same revenue to both schools as a home game. It also makes little financial sense because both teams are in close proximity to each other with respect to television markets.

Roth and Weaver touched on the USC / Cal match up this past Saturday. Weaver said it was a classic example of the parity in college football these days. They then discussed the firing of John Mackovic at Arizona. Weaver, who knows Mackovic, said he hated to see something like that happen in the middle of the season and admitted he didnít know all the circumstances involved. Roth asked Weaver if he would be surprised to see Rick Neuheisal or Mike Price coaching at Arizona. Weaver said that would indeed surprise him.

Roth and Weaver then turned the discussion briefly to the recent upsets in college football. Both expressed how important it is to maintain intensity from week to week. Weaver commented on how the teams from the MAC were surprising a lot of people and Roth said VT better be on alert.

Weaver closed by stating that VT would have 4 ACC home games and 4 ACC away games next year.

Frank Beamer Ė Head Football Coach

After a break Roth introduced Beamer and formally announced the one-game suspension of Cols Colas for the upcoming Rutgers game. The suspension was enforced because of a violation of team policies, and Darryl Tapp will get the start in place of Colas. There will be no further details available on the matter (Editor's Note: Click here for a Richmond Times-Dispatch report on the cause of the suspension).

Beamer reiterated how impressed the coaches have been while watching Rutgers on tape. He said the entire team is quite impressive. Theyíve improved a great deal, not to mention the fact that they almost beat Miami last year.

Roth touched on the injuries that are now compounded by the suspension. Beamer agreed that this was cause for concern and admitted that heís worried about the upcoming Rutgers game. He said that other VT players will have to step up and perform in order to beat Rutgers. He admitted that the team was inconsistent against UConn and specifically mentioned the lack of 3rd down conversions as well as the defensive lapses in the 4th quarter. Beamer said he was also concerned with receivers running free in the VT secondary, because Rutgers can throw the ball well. He said Rutgers is a lot better than people give them credit for at this point.

Roth asked Beamer if he thought VT was really the 4th best team in the nation (as the polls indicated). Beamer said he canít even worry about that right now because he needs to focus on beating Rutgers. Both Beamer and Roth praised the VT special teams play against UConn and singled out Vinnie Burns, who pinned UConn deep twice inside their own 10 yard line. Roth asked if DeAngelo Hall knew the punt would be blocked because he seemed to sneak up a little on that return set. Beamer explained that VT was rushing more players than UConn could block so Hall had to move up to take on one of their head hunters in the event of a fake.

Mike in Richmond emailed a question referring to John Markonís article in the Sunday RT-D newspaper that pointed out VTís weaknesses on defense and how these would be exploited by more talented teams. Mike asked how VT could improve defensively. Beamer answered by pointing out that the VT defense had played very well in certain stretches so far. He said he thinks the defense just needs to put together 4 solid quarters with no letdowns. Roth also pointed out that people have trouble giving UConn credit for their ability and execution. Beamer agreed with Rothís point.

After a break, Barek from Blacksburg in the audience asked if Rutgers had a lot of aggressive defensive players and schemes. Beamer confirmed that they did have a lot of aggressiveness and very good athletes on defense. He praised the coaching and said itís not the same Rutgers as past years Ė theyíre much improved.

Denny in Tazwell called and asked if the coaches use talk of VTís 2002 late season struggles as motivation for this year. Beamer never really answered the question directly, but said it was an amazing feat to be in the top 5 for the fifth straight year. He also noted that all the remaining teams on VTís schedule are tough opponents and not to be taken lightly.

Bruce in Dinwiddie called and asked if VT had become more conservative on defense in recent years. Beamer said he didnít think so. He said the VT style was the same, but the consistency may not be the same as in the past. However, he pointed out that sometimes people remember more defensive lapses than great plays. Bruce also asked how VT tempers the importance of playing backups versus finishing an opponent off during the game. Beamer and Roth both pointed out how important the backups will be who are replacing starters during the Rutgers game. These backups will benefit from the experience theyíve gotten so far this year. Beamer said that depth is the key for any good football team.

David emailed and commented how Rutgers is very accomplished on special teams and seemed to play quality opponents tough this year (Michigan State). Beamer agreed and reiterated how much Rutgers has improved from past years. He says this is evident on the video the coaches and players have been watching.

Matt sent in an email referencing key VT defensive penalties on 3rd down during past games that have turned the tide toward a VT loss. He specifically mentioned 2001 Syracuse and 2002 Pittsburgh games as examples where these situations occurred. He pointed out that VT has relived these penalties again this year, but has been hurt too bad so far. Matt wanted to know if Beamer was worried about this as the season goes on. Beamer said he was concerned about all penalties all the time. He said these are discussed and studied on Mondays and attempts are made to correct the problems.

After a break, John from Midlothian emailed stating that he was nervous over recent years when VT played good passing teams. He asked if VTís secondary players are trained to allow the catch and then tackle to minimize the gain, or watch the QBís eyes and go for the breakup or interception. Beamer explained that it depends on whether VT is playing man to man or zone or some combination of the two. The defenders are taught to do different things in different types of coverage (play the ball or play the QB) based on the situation.

Jeff in Christiansburg called and asked if receiver David Clowney would get more playing time in light of the recent injuries to Hamilton and Johnson. He also asked about the status of Fred Lee. Beamer confirmed that Fred Lee had left the team. He also said that Clowney, Shreve and Parker would indeed get more reps now with Johnson and Hamilton out. Jeff also praised Wilfordís TD catch against UConn and Beamer pointed out that it was also a great throw by Randall.

Roth and Beamer both discussed the value of Darryl Tapp, Nathaniel Adibi and Noland Burchette as special teams stars. Beamer said that some things would need to be shifted around because Justin Hamilton also plays some special teams. He said he didnít know how long Hamilton would be out, but noted that he came back quickly from his last injury. The focus of the discussion then shifted to the Rutgers punting formation. Itís different than VT is used to seeing and this will present a challenge in practice this week.

Victor in Blacksburg called and asked Roth when VT basketball practice starts. Roth said it will start on October 19th, but as of now there was no late-night (midnight madness) practice scheduled. Victor then asked Beamer his thoughts on what he thought were VTís weakest spots, offensive line and the secondary. Beamer said the offensive line is getting better and the secondary needs more consistency throughout, but theyíll be better too. He said he just wants to focus on preparing for Rutgers right now.

Roth noted that itís hard to tell who the top teams in college football are right now. He noted that a lot of the top teams that looked good early, now have a loss. He asked Beamer if he thought any teams out there right now could play with the 1999 FSU or VT squads. Beamer said he really didnít know. He said it was an unusual year of ups and downs (Oregon beating Michigan then losing to Washington St.). He said that the teams are closer in terms of talent right now and itís all about whoís hot at the moment.

Todd from Blacksburg in the audience noted that Eric Green had a successful history of blocking punts against Rutgers (two, one in 2001 and one in 2000) and asked if Beamer thought they installed their new punting formation with Green in mind. Beamer said that Rutgers had been adjusting their formation for years and maybe they ultimately wanted to have a formation that every opponent will need to adjust to. He also noted that Rutgers had a very good punter.

Chad from Nashville called with a question that alluded to an earlier comparison Beamer made comparing Saturdayís Cal-USC match up with the upcoming VT-Rutgers game (Beamer thinks that Cal is underrated just like Rutgers). Chad asked how the Hokies would prepare for next yearís ACC schedule when thereís no more Rutgers on the schedule and every team is even tougher. Beamer stated that the Big East is a very good conference and the ACC is probably better due to the fact that it has more teams. He said that getting through the Big East now is tough and that the BE shouldnít take a back seat to any other conference in terms of toughness at this point.

Don in Roanoke called with a rules question. If a game is tied in overtime and one team intercepts a two point conversion and runs it back to the 10 yard line at the other end of the field, do they get the ball there or on the 25 yard line? Beamerís answer: the 25 yard line.

After a break, John in Roanoke called and noted that the aTm offense seemed to catch VTís defense by surprise at times, snapping the ball as the defense came out of the huddle. John asked why VT didnít try to do this more against opposing defenses. Beamer explained that VTís defense is late getting new personnel groupings in sometimes. He said that the VT staff had a tough time reading the jersey numbers of the UConn players when trying to substitute accordingly. Beamer answered the first question by saying that sometimes when the offense tries to rush the snap they can end up making more mistakes than they cause in the defense.

Jim in NYC called and noted that Beamer seems to enforce the player suspensions quickly and the player behavior is better now than ten years ago. He asked what in the world would make a player break rules if they know theyíre going to miss at least one game for doing so (see Colas). Beamer wouldnít get into specifics, but said people make mistakes and the VT program has great kids for the most part. He said itís like having a son who makes a mistake Ė you punish him and you move on.

After a break Roth closed the show by asking Beamer what heíd like to see from his team against Rutgers. Beamer said the game would be tough and heíd like to see some of the 2nd string guys step up and perform in a hostile environment. Roth asked if Beamer would bring up the USC loss to Cal with the team. Beamer said he would because itís a perfect analogy for the circumstances that VT now faces.

Monday was Day 1,449 of Tech's continuous possession of the Commonwealth Cup.

-- Wayne


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