Present and Future All-Stars
by Chris Horne
TSL Extra, Issue #21

On July 12, 2002, the VHSCA held their annual All-Star football contest between the East All-Stars and the West All-Stars. Virginia Tech boasted ten recruits at the game, including Jonathan Lewis, Darryl Tapp, Cary Wade and Jimmy Williams. Lewis, Tapp, and Williams helped lead the East to a 21-7 victory. Wade played for the West squad. Techsideline.com takes a closer look at these four players, how they fared in the All-Star game and how they figure in Techís future plans.

Jonathan Lewis (6-2, 290, 4.9), a standout defensive tackle from Varina HS in Richmond, VA, showed why he was so heavily sought after in the in-state recruiting battle between Virginia Tech and Virginia. Lewis combined with the rest of the East defense in stuffing the West offense, holding their opponents to only 7 points, forcing 3 turnovers, and limiting them to just 99 yards.

The West had a tough time passing the football but an even tougher time running it, gaining only 49 yards rushing. Almost none of those yards came up the middle, where Mr. Lewis was waiting, consistently clogging up running lanes and completely taking away the West inside running game. Lewis made around 5 tackles (unofficially) for the game, including contributing on one sack. He sent a message early on to the West, helping to stuff RB Ahmad Brooks for a 2-yard loss on a designed run up the middle. The West quickly learned that they could not run up the middle, and instead had to find different ways to move the football.

Nothing worked, however, and Lewis and company would dominate the rest of the game. Following the game, Lewis was happy with the win and with the way he played.

"I think I did a pretty good job," said Lewis, who was celebrating his 18th birthday. "I held my ground on the defensive line, made a couple of tackles, got in on a sack. I think I just played well all the way around, especially technically."

Earlier this year, Lewis had expressed a need to work on his technique before the start of Techís preseason practice. Over the summer, Lewis worked hard to get stronger and fitter, to improve his athleticism and help him with his technique.

"As much as anything, I have been working out and lifting weights," said Lewis of his summer regimen. "Thatís what I have been doing" to improve for Virginia Tech.

His hard work clearly paid dividends. Lewis looked in fantastic shape for the All-Star game. He consistently stayed low, moving would-be blockers back off the line of scrimmage. The bigger, stronger Lewis will now take his game to Blacksburg, where he figures to play early for the Hokies. Tech has little experience returning at the defensive tackle position. Sophomore Kevin Lewis, Jonathanís brother, returns after a redshirt year. Junior college recruit Jimmy Williams also figures to be in the mix, along with junior Mark Costen and redshirt freshman Tim Sandidge.

By seasonís end, Jonathan Lewis could find himself starting alongside his brother for the Hokie defense. If his performance at the All-Star game is any indication, his impact could be felt sooner than that.

Playing beside Lewis on the D-Line in the All-Star game was Darryl Tapp (6-2, 225, 4.6), a defensive end/linebacker prospect from Deep Creek High School. Despite a senior season in which Tapp racked up 89 tackles and 15 sacks, many felt he was underrated in the state of Virginia. In fact, many felt he stacked up well with other Virginia linebacker prospects Ahmad Brooks, Kai Parham, and Justin London.

Playing defensive end throughout the game, Tapp made some noise early for the East. In the second quarter, he came up with a big 3rd down sack, ending a key West drive and pinning them deep in their own territory and providing the East with excellent field position. Despite his early sack and the fact that he and the rest of the East D-line controlled the game, Tapp felt he could have accomplished more.

"It wasnít a very good game for me," said Tapp. "There were more plays I could have made. I just didnít get to it."

Tapp, a linebacker in high school, will most likely play defensive end for the Hokies. He fits the mold of the athletic, undersized defensive end Tech likes to use. Eventually, the staff hopes he can become a Corey Moore or Cornell Brown type of player. And while he will have to adapt to a new position, Tapp accepts the challenge to play end for Virginia Tech.

"When I get there I will play end," said Tapp. "They said I might get a look at linebacker, but coming in I will play defensive end. I feel very confident about going into Tech."

Tech returns the top four players to the defensive end position. Senior Lamar Cobb, juniors Nathaniel Adibi, Jim Davis and Cols Colas provide depth at the position, but Tapp still expects to play and contribute early.

"Yes," said Tapp when asked if he will play early. "They already told me I would be playing so I need to come in focusedÖand in shape. I feel confident."

Tappís speed and athleticism should help the Hokies on the defensive line next year. A confident and driven person, donít be surprised if he makes some noise for the Hokies this season.

Perhaps one of the less heralded Hokie recruits played a big part for the West squad. Cary Wade (5-11, 180, 4.5), a cornerback prospect from Robinson High School in Fairfax, VA, teamed with Stefan Orange to play virtually the entire game for the West squad. He is coming off a senior season in which he helped lead Robinson to a Group AAA Division 6 Championship.

Several times the East tried to throw at Wade on deep fade patterns. Wade came away the winner most times, boxing out the receiver and keeping great position in knocking the ball away. He knocked away one pass to Jimmy Williams in the end zone and forced an offensive pass interference penalty in the first half as well. Wade did give up a 30-yard fade pass from Anthony Martinez to Marcus Vick, but even then he exhibited good technique and position. Vick just made an outstanding play. Following the game, Wade was satisfied with his performance yet aware of the areas he needed to work on.

"I played decent," said Wade of his performance. "There are some things I need to work on. I had good coverage and all, but I think I need to learn how to read the ball a little bit better."

First and foremost, Cary Wade is a leader. He exhibited his leadership and toughness during the All-Star game, playing the majority of the game with an injured right wrist he suffered early on in the contest. Despite the injury, he kept battling, hanging in and playing tough throughout. Wadeís injured wrist was better by gameís end, so it will not affect his availability this fall.

"Itís alright," said Wade of his wrist. "I had an arm tackle out there. I sprained my wrist when I should have wrapped up. I should have squared up. But itís alright. Iíll be alright."

With a wealth of talent and experience returning to the Hokie backfield, it appears Wade probably will redshirt this upcoming season. Despite the distinct possibility of a redshirt season, Wade keeps a positive attitude as he goes into college.

"It depends on how the coaching staff sees me," said Wade of his upcoming season. "If they want me to play, you know I will step up. Iíll bring my A-game for the coaches. But if redshirting presents itself, Iíd be willing to do it."

Wade is a classy character who will help the Hokies in the future, both inside the locker room and on the field. If there is one thing that is certain from the All-Star game, however, it is that he is happy to have Bethel High Schoolís Jimmy Williams (6-4, 205, 4.5) on his team this coming season.

In what was perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the game, Williams made 4 receptions for 61 yards in helping the East score 21 points. The surprise was not in the way he played, as many in the Hampton area know how talented this young man is, it was more the way he excelled at the wide receiver position. In high school, he played quarterback and safety and seldom played receiver. In the All-Star game, Williams showed good speed and great hands in becoming East MVP Anthony Martinezís favorite target.

"I think Tech may want me as a receiver now," joked Williams following his outstanding performance. "I think they will try and steal me over on the offensive side now."

Williams, who recently qualified for freshman eligibility, was excited about his performance at the All-Star game. He is even more excited about the chance to play for Virginia Tech, especially since his eligibility status was in question until recently.

"I am real excited," said Williams of his upcoming freshman year. "Very excited, very excited. Iím ready for it to be here."

Williamsí performance helped the East capture victory, but admittedly he was not focused on personal statistics. The safety prospect exhibits a great team attitude Tech coaches are sure to welcome.

"I was worried about the team today, not about myself," said Williams. "I wanted the team to win today."

Williams projects as a safety for the Hokies, but his size makes him a candidate to switch to outside linebacker as well, in the same mold as current sophomore linebacker Mike Daniels. Williams certainly has the versatility to play many defensive positions, as he contributed at safety, defensive end and linebacker in high school. But with his newfound offensive talent, does Williams harbor any notions of playing both sides?

"Nah, I like defense," said Williams. "I like to hit."

Williams, Lewis, Tapp, and Wade are solid recruits, but more importantly, good guys as well. Tech fans can look forward to seeing the development of each player through the coming years.

 

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