Monday, January 18, 1999

What a Week!

And I'm not just talking about what went on at the HokieCentral house.  I'm also talking about the happenings in Tech sports, both on the (basketball) court and off the (football) field.  Let's take a look at the major story lines from last week.

1.)  Foster Stays in Blacksburg

Are we in the golden age of Hokie football?  It's arguable that indeed we are, and one more piece of evidence was presented last week, when Hokie defensive coordinator Bud Foster declined a supposed job offer from Florida and elected to stay in Blacksburg.

I say "supposed," because what truly happened between Bud Foster and Steve Spurrier in Nashville last week is open for interpretation, as is the question of whether or not a job offer actually occurred.

Spurrier met with Foster at a coaching convention in Nashville last week (and how much fun must that have been for the Hokie coaches to return to Nashville just a couple of weeks after our great bowl victory?).  It appears that Spurrier asked a question similar to "If I offered you the job right now, would you take it?" to which Foster replied something like, "Well, no, I'd have to talk it over with my family first."

What was meant by the question-and-answer session (which was probably similar to that, but not the exact words) depends upon how you filter it through your own personal biases.   If that is truly the conversation that occurred, then Foster's answer must have sounded like a no to Spurrier, because a day later, Florida hired their new defensive coordinator, and it wasn't Bud.  And if that was the conversation that occurred, it probably wasn't an offer, as far as Spurrier was concerned, but more of a gauging of Bud's interest.

To Foster, Tech, and Hokie fans, however, it was just as good as an offer, because if Bud had said yes, then Spurrier would have asked the question formally, and it would have been a done deal.

So in Florida, they're reporting it as a interview that didn't pan out, and in Hokie-land, they're reporting it as a spurned job offer from one of the titans of college football.  Regardless of what you call it, it's good news for Tech.

The last thing Tech needed going into next season was to adjust to a new defensive coordinator.  The Hokies are returning some serious talent on D next year, and Bud knows the players and the defense so well that to have him leave would only have been a bad thing, no matter how you slice it.  Despite the maturation of the defensive scheme, which will enter its seventh season at Tech next year, Bud has tweaked and tuned it yearly to improve it.

This year's changes, for example, included a redefinition of the Whip linebacker slot that saw the position change into more of a defensive back's position, and Bud tweaked the scheme in other subtle ways to disguise coverages and play-calling.  Only a coordinator who is intimately familiar with the defense can make the kinds of adjustments that Bud is making these days.

And only a coordinator who is as familiar with the Tech players as Bud is knows where to put the athletes to best play the positions.  When the Whip linebacker slot was redefined, Bud knew to move Lorenzo Ferguson and Phillip Summers, former defensive backs, into the position.  He knew their skills and abilities are suited to the "new" Whip position.

2.)  Recruiting:  Football's Second Season is in Full Swing

Ah, yes, recruiting.  I've been doing this web site for nearly three years now, and I still haven't figured out what it is that makes people so passionate about recruiting.  Certainly, the passion that arises during recruiting season is the result of a myriad assembly of factors, none of which is more important than others.

For Hokie fans, when a recruit chooses Tech, we don't feel that a recruit chooses the place "Virginia Tech."  We feel, rather, that the recruit has chosen to become "one of us."  I think that has a lot to do with why we get so tied up in knots over recruiting, because another athlete has chosen to join our family.

But enough with all the philosophizing.  Hokie fans were nervous during football season, as weeks and weeks went by, and only two verbals filtered in:  Ryan Angelo, a fullback from Florida, and Shawn Witten, an "athlete" from Tennessee.

But when Frank Beamer flirted briefly with Clemson and then announced he was going to stay at Tech, the flood gates opened, and Tech started receiving a flood of verbals.   For the most part, none of them were big name recruits that made me want to do cartwheels, but we are once again building a solid class.  It's a class filled with the type of kids that Tech coaches, mainly Mike Gentry, can mold into good football players.

The Hokies are building a class that consists mainly of a smattering of DB/WR types, a handful of fullbacks, and some tight end/defensive end types.  Tech is pretty well stocked at tailback, quarterback, offensive line, and linebacker positions, so we're not aggressively pursuing those types of recruits this year.  And the Hokies also don't appear to be working heavily on defensive tackles, either.

Things kicked into full gear last week with a verbal from highly sought-after in-state target Keith Willis, and a "recommitment" from DB/WR Deon Provitt from Ohio.   Provitt, a preseason SuperPrep All-American, had originally chosen the Hokies (a silent verbal that the state media never picked up on), had decommitted to Michigan, and has now recommitted to the Hokies.

Tech coaches have recently publicly stated that the Hokies are still aggressively pursuing seven recruits, and they expect to sign three or so among those seven.   According to the list of verbals on Screaming Lizard's Hokie Hotline recruiting site, Tech currently has 20 verbals.

When you consider that the Hokies only had about 12 or 13 seniors on this year's team (sorry, I don't have the exact numbers at hand), your first thought might be that some serious attrition is going to have to occur for Tech to be able to accommodate 23 new recruits (assuming we get an additional three for next year).

Fear not, Hokie fan.  Some attrition will no doubt occur, but if it's not enough, the Tech coaches will probably ask some of this year's recruits to delay entry until January, so they can be counted against next year's total, instead of this year's.   It's a shell game that happens every year, and the numbers always work out.   Usually, the kids who are asked to delay are sure-fire redshirts, so they wouldn't see time on the field next year, anyway.

The top remaining in-state targets are receiver Andrae Harrison and LB/DE Nathaniel Adibi.  The rumors have Harrison as the dreaded "lock," and Adibi, a PSU, UVa, and UNC recruit, as a 50/50 shot.  My own gut feeling is good on Harrison, but not so good on Adibi, but for what it's worth, I never figured Lee Suggs would be a Hokie, either, so anything could happen with Adibi.

Signing day is only about two weeks away, on February 3rd, and this year's class is shaping up like last year's did - namely, a class full of solid recruits that might be dressed up nicely by a few big-time players committing late.  This year's class will not approach last year's for quantity of All-Americans, and in my mind, will be more like the classes of 1996 and 1997 - pretty good, and dotted with a few superstars.

3.)  The Tech Women:  Sweet Sixteen-and-oh

Bonnie Henrickson's basketball team recently survived a tough road trip and brought home a sparkling 16-0 record, standing alone as the only unbeaten Division 1-A women's basketball team.

I've figured out that what makes this team so successful (besides the obvious answer - Coach Henrickson) is chemistry and depth.  Led by selfless senior point guard Lisa Witherspoon, the team foregoes individual goals and works together towards the common goal of winning.  This was never more in evidence than this year's Virginia game, when I watched a UVa team that arguably had better athletes get carved up by a Tech team that looked, in contrast, like a well-oiled machine.

As for depth, Tech has ten or eleven players who can contribute, whereas most teams that the Hokies will face the rest of the year can only boast one or two players with the skills to carry a team to victory.

Last Sunday, against fierce rival GW on the road, the Hokies demonstrated the value of depth by choking off GW's two main scoring threats, Gomez and Aguilar, leaving the Colonials punchless and defeated.  By contrast, if a team can somehow manage to hold down the Hokies' Tere Williams and Amy Wetzel (which is almost impossible, with Lisa Witherspoon feeding them the ball), Tech still has a number of players that can put up points.

The goal of snagging a top-16 seed and hosting a sub-regional in this year's NCAA tournament is still well in sight, particularly now that Tech has beaten GW on the road.   As of this writing, Tech has achieved an average ranking of 13.5 in the two major polls and stands at #3 in the RPI ratings.

The RPI rating is likely to fall as the season wears on, because Tech's strength of schedule will fall as the Hokies work their way through the relatively lightweight Atlantic 10.  And in the RPI, strength of schedule is weighted more heavily than in, say, college football's BCS standings.

Still, if the Hokies can keep a top-10 RPI rating and can sneak into the top 10 in the polls, perhaps they will get to host that subregional.  I feel comfortable talking about all this, because Coach Henrickson seems to have the rare ability to get her team to focus on the task at hand, even as others about them are dreaming of undefeated records and top-16 seedings.

Bonnie Henrickson quote of the week:  after the GW game, Bonnie, whose Hokies have now knocked off GW four straight times, drove home the point that there's a new king of the hill by saying, "GW got all but one vote in the preseason coaches' poll.  They didn't get our vote."

No one can drive home a point so subtly, but with such a fine edge to it, as Bonnie Henrickson.

Next game:  Friday night, against St. Joseph's, in the Cassell.  See you there!

Message Board Thoughts

It appears that the message board is going through another growing pain, as it does from time to time, so I thought I would take a few minutes to give you my thoughts on the board.

Some posters are sniping at each other over what content is appropriate for the board, and what content is not.  (Hint:  if you're using board space to argue with each other over what's appropriate and what's not, that's not appropriate content).   I don't want to get into specifics of what's "appropriate," choosing instead to give you some general guidelines.

The question you must ask yourself before typing in a message and clicking the "Submit" button is simple:  "Does what I'm about to post add value to the discussion on the board?  Does it present a new viewpoint, does it pass on information, or is it a great link that everyone might not have seen yet?  Or, heck, is it funny?"  If the answer is no, then you might not want to post.

For example, if a person posts a long, thoughtful post about, say, the offensive line, and your only response is to say, "I agree totally," with no other thoughts or clarification, well, then ... you might want to keep that one to yourself.  Because when you click Submit, you might push a post off the bottom of the board that contained a link to a great article written about Don Strock in The Baltimore Sun.  And once that article link is gone, it might never appear again.

So before you post, think:  "Am I adding something of value (and yes, jokes and wisecracks can be of value, folks), or am I just taking up space?"  If the answer is "taking up space," think twice before you click.

I usually let the board flow pretty freely, mostly because I enjoy the sense of camaraderie and community that a free-flowing, password-protected message board builds among its posters. And that sense of community is what makes HokieCentral what it is.   After all, I don't sell merchandise - I sell memberships, which are about belonging to the site, not "buying stuff."  And I like to think of the message board as another way to "belong."

But you need to consider are two things:

  1. This message board is a lot bigger than it used to be. A LOT.  And it has crashed many times this fall from the traffic.  The crashing occurs when posts overlap and mix each other up, so if you eliminate poorly-conceived and inadvisable posts like, "Hey, BigHokie, email me**" you just might save it from another crash.
  2. There are thousands of people viewing the board, and they all use it differently.   For some, it's a way to exchange information.  For others, it's a way to exchange ideas.  For others, it's a way to find information and links that they might otherwise miss.  For others, it's a way to ask questions and learn something new.

The key on point number 2, and this is where I need your help, is that thousands of people who all see the board in their own way still have to exist together peacefully on it.  It is possible, but not easy, to build camaraderie, kid around, exchange ideas and information, ask questions, and post links, all at the same time, so nearly everyone gets out of the board what they want.  And the only way this can be done is by smart posting, and by not filling up the board with junk.

As always, I will leave the final decisions up to the posters as to what constitutes "junk" in the context of (another hint) a Virginia Tech sports message board.

And one word of advice:  if you have a problem with whether or not another person's subject matter is appropriate for posting, don't start a fight with them on the board.  I HATE THAT!  Email me instead, and let me know what you think.   I may not answer, and I may not even agree, but I want to hear it, because I like to keep my finger on the pulse of the board.

However, spirited debate on issues is always encouraged.  It's okay to not like what someone said - let them know.  But if you don't like the fact that they posted it at all, then let me know.

Lastly, one more thing:  click on the ads!  Hard-working board host Grassy gets paid for click-throughs, so, as you enter the board and leave the board each time, give an ad a click.  If everyone does that, Grassy will get rich, and our board will be free forever.


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