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Monday, September 28, 1998

CLARK EXPECTED TO PLAY AT BC; HOUSERIGHT TO FULLBACK

Al Clark is expected to be ready to practice Saturday and will start throwing on Wednesday (Sept. 30). Dave Meyer's shoulder injury is not as bad as originally thought, based on x-rays, although Coach Foster did not elaborate on when he might return. He said that the team should be "about full strength" for the BC game [except for the season-ending injuries].

Jake Houseright moves to #2 fullback immediately and will be "borrowed" by the offense for the rest of the season. Coach Foster said Jake is going to be "a great, great linebacker here." Game situations haven't allowed him much playing time at LB, and backups Welch and Taylor have played well, therefore it makes sense to move him to fullback for now. Foster talked about Jake being unselfish and a team player to agree to the move, and said he has the skills to play FB.

Coach Beamer later said they had discussed the move with Houseright a week or so ago. They realize he is going to be "one of the greatest linebackers to play at Virginia Tech," but also realize he can help the team now offensively. It's a tribute to Houseright that he can play fullback and help, said Beamer, who also called him unselfish.

Beamer said he recalled for Houseright his college coaching career which began on the defensive side, then later had him calling plays. You learn from each role and that will help you overall, is what he said he told Jake. Learning about pass blocking pickups and blocking schemes and the like will help him become a better overall LB later. Beamer said he is concerned about the amount of learning that is required overall at the position, although he said Coach Hite thinks Jake is picking things up well.

Bill Roth noted that Jake rushed for 1,900 yards as a fullback in high school and was recruited by many to play that position.

Coach Beamer was the luncheon speaker Monday before a group in Birmingham, Ala. He spoke there last year, as well, as I recall. He said he started the day watching film with the team at 7 a.m., did a fast roundtrip to B'ham and then returned for 5 p.m. team meeting, specialty teams meetings and then the radio show. Whew!

Is this his best VT defense yet? Beamer was asked. "It's too early to say." He credited the team with preparing so hard during the spring to be this good. The defense had not a single bad practice in the spring and has been focused since the day after the Gator Bowl.

Beamer made a point to thank the Merryman family for its contribution that got the new Merryman Center started. The building means a lot to Tech's total athletics program, Beamer said, "and we are going to see the results in recruiting."

He went on to talk a bit about recruiting philosophy, saying he doesn't want to spread out too far geographically in recruiting to the point that you don't really know he kids and their backgrounds. It's hard to know what a recruit's background and family situation is if they are from a great distance.

Recruiting is going "very well" and VT is "in on some really good players." He thinks more high school coaches may be urging kids not to commit early until they are sure of their decisions, in light of the change of heart by various recruits in past years.

A caller asked about the polls and how VT's margin of victory may have played into where the team stands. "I have never been a guy who worries about how bad we beat a team for the sake of the polls," Beamer said, "and I won't be."

The Boston College game will be the first on artificial turf for VT this season. The coach said he doesn't worry anymore about preparing on turf for the week leading up to a game on artificial surface. That's because the team frequently practices on turf in the Rector Fieldhouse anyway due to weather conditions (including a practice inside last week).

BC is much improved, Beamer said, although he hasn't seen the film yet. He brought up that the BC back named Cloud has said he is going to rush for 2,000 yards this year. BC has produced offensive totals of 491, 486, 433(?) and 466 in games so far.

Foster said the coaches have looked at film of BC vs. Ga. Tech and Rutgers, and the 1997 game at Blacksburg. BC has a veteran OL -- the best Tech has faced so far, and which has allowed only one sack in four games. Cloud is comparable to Miami's running backs, Foster said. (Tech held him to 23 yards last year).

VT was 4-0 at this point last season, and Beamer said he told the team Monday that they have to keep their heads on straight and keep working hard.

He credited OL coaches Stinespring and Pearman, saying they "have done one of the great jobs" by getting the OL competitive. They have pieced together an OL unit despite injuries to Lehr and Redding, and they play hard.

The officiating in the Pitt game was good overall, Beamer said. They are going to miss some, and they did miss one that affected the play when no hold was called against Pitt on their TD pass, he said. In response to a caller, he said that the coaching staff grades the officials and submits a report for every game on calls made and NOT made. Coach Hite is the VT liaison with the conference director of officials.

The punt block by Larry Austin came even though the defense had the return on. On the first Pitt punt, the block was on and Keion Carpenter had a great chance to get through but was grabbed by the center (no call). Beamer said on another Pitt punt, Corey Moore was already past the center when Pitt called time out.

Carpenter was named the Big East defensive player of the week after his three interceptions vs. Pitt. Tech had a player named to the all-conference weekly honors team for a fifth consecutive week.

Bill Roth noted that VT leads the BE in every(?) defensive category. VT's 18 sacks "by far" lead the Big East (for -127 yards). The defense has been credited with 24 tackles for loss and 44 hurries forced against the quarterback.

Beamer talked about the effects of VT's offense learning from practicing against such a good "disruptive" defense. And not only is the defense good up front, the secondary has been able to defend the deep balls: "For the most part, the secondary has played well."

But he also cautioned that 2 of the 4 starting quarterbacks faced so far were new, and that "we'll see how it goes against the more experienced quarterbacks."

A caller expressed frustration about the offense not getting plays off fast enough, leading to "many" delay of game penalties. This was countered by Roth and Beamer who said there have been only two delay penalties this season, and one was when the 25-second clock wasn't working. Beamer said the team practices with the 25-second clock every Thursday and goes through situations where the QB has to look at the clock every time out of the huddle.

Meyer did take a little longer calling plays in the huddle, but the official also worked a fast game and was consistently starting the clock ASAP vs. Pitt. Also, Beamer said, the offense is adjusting to huddling up again after using the no huddle last season. Working with the play clock is not a problem with Al Clark, he said. "He's in control."

Major League Baseball even crept into the discussion. Beamer predicted a Cubs win in the wildcard game Monday night. He said he grew up a Giants fan because that's the team his father followed. Now Frank's teams are Texas and Seattle because of the VT ties through Johnny Oates and Lou Piniella. He said Sweet Lou plans to come to some VT games this fall.

The sellout of the Pitt game, despite it being a televised contest, is a sign of things to come, Beamer said. He mentioned how much he appreciated the fans and the crowd noise that can make it hard for the QB to check off.

"We don't want to play Vick" at QB this year, Beamer told a caller. "But you never say never." Meanwhile: 1. Al is expected back for BC game. 2. They have confidence in what Sorensen can do. He made good decisions in the game. "To make that throw [near-TD to Davis] after one week of practice...." 3. Randolph, has height and has been around the game and "has a chance to be OK" at QB. 4. Noel is going to be a good QB, too, Beamer volunteered.

Coach Foster was obviously pleased with the defense to date, but cautioned that there are a lot of good teams ahead. "The exciting thing is we aren't anywhere close to where we can be."

Did the defense feel it had to play a bigger role in the Pitt game because of the injuries on offense? "We talked about them carrying a bigger load, and the kids responded." But Foster said there's the expectation for them to play that way all the time.

Nat Williams is the leading tackler, and Foster praised him along with Bradley, Moore, Engelberger, Beasley and Cyrus. Corey Moore, he said, has the biggest heart on the field.

He also talked about Austin's talent and potential. While he hasn't been that visible yet, he's getting 20 snaps a game on kicking teams, working hard, and will be heard from during his career, Foster said. Austin blocked a punt and also delivered a great block on a Freeman punt return last Saturday.

A caller wanted to know more about the athletes who are getting in on special teams. Bill Roth said that perhaps the Hokie Huddler could run a "pride and joy" depth chart of special teams.

Foster said Pitt lost its momentum after VT made the goal line stand and blocked the field goal attempt. It's a compliment to the DL and LBs that Pitt tried to go outside on the three ill-fated plays at the goal line.

Does the VT front on defense intimidate people, Roth asked -- Pitt tried blocking with two tight ends and VT still got to the QB. "This defense does do that a little bit," Foster said.

Roth said the Pitt coach said they had tried in practice to simulate VT's defensive scheme/spread, but couldn't simulate the Tech speed, even with their first team defense.

Foster said that T.J. Jackson will redshirt. Midget is working as backup at safety while Sorensen is on offense.

Some discussion about a nickname for the defense, such as Death Row II. Foster said he had heard "Misfits" the other day (from the team?). Whatever, he suggested this group is different and establishing its own identity.

Sorensen will remain the "quarterback on the punt team" and the upback. He was in on executing two fakes already and "we plan a few more fakes this year."

A caller wanted to be sure Foster knew the boos from the stands on the Pitt touchdown pass were not directed at the defense, but at officials who missed a blatant holding call. Foster said he knew that, and that with this defense, the holding calls are going to come along.

Tech hosts Hargrave Military Academy for a jayvee game this Friday.

--GalaxHokie

          

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