Friday, July 07, 2006
A REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENT OF: VIRGINIA TECH
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered but not too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Vick-less once more, do Hokies get all comfortable with the Gator Bowl again? Not that there's anything wrong with that...
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 47-18 (25-13 ACC/Big East) - 2005: 11-2 (7-2 ACC; Coastal Champs) Won Gator Bowl
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 11 (5 Offense, 6 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: It's obligatory here to mention accused felon/Miami Dolphins benchwarmer Marcus Vick, whose pot smokin', jailbait chasin', bird flippin', calf stompin', handgun flashin' and sweet, sweet speed will be sorely missed after one mere, tantalizingly inconsistent season that veered him from MOCFP candidate to Trick Daddy doppelganger after the horrific Miami loss. More important, though, might be dealing with the absence of four draft picks from the rocking defense, three of them in the first three rounds. Veteran leaders of the pass rush (Darryl Tapp), the run clogging (Jonathan Lewis) and the coverage (Jimmy Williams) that coalesced to form the top-ranked overall D in the country are all drawing paychecks now, of the legal variety.
WHAT'S THE SAME: Linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi pretty much rock in their own right, big, fast dudes who can get after the quarterback (combined six sacks, 11 QB hurries in '05), make a bunch of tackles (126 together) and generally destroy everything happening anywhere on the field like Soviet tanks rushing to smash an uprising in Eastern Europe (12 pass breakups, 9.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three touchdowns).
The rest of the back seven's in OK shape despite Williams' graduation, as rover Aaron Rouse was making plays everywhere last year, too, and comes back with corner Roland Minor (12 starts, 3 picks) and D.J. Parker, who played a good bit as a backup at safety.
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Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, as seen from opposing backfields
DON'T CRY FOR ME, JASON ADJEPONG: Tapp and Lewis were the first line of the Iron Curtain in front of the 'backers, and as a whole the defense will only be back in the top three in every category ('cept rushing, where it was a shameful eighth) the three new linemen will have to similarly impose their will. Noland Burchette and Carlton Powell opened last season as starters and both have some history of productivity; the aforementioned Adjepong is a "top newcomer." If they combine to hold opponents to one total yard again on 21 rushing attempts in 3rd and short (1-3 yards) situations, consider the transition a succes.
IT TAKES TWO, OR FIVE: If the all-important quarterback and much of the offensive line is going to be tiny and hairless, eyes barely adjusted to the light, etc., there will be no such trouble with the skill guys handling the ball. Branden Ore was hurt in the Spring but will emerge with bruising, finally-on-the-field ex-blue chipper George Bell as the latest high quality rushing duo on the Hokie assembly line (that's Stith/Kendrick, Suggs/Jones, Humes/Imoh, for the record, though Ore actually moved into Imoh's spot for a lot of last year, had three 100-yard games and almost led the team in rushing). Notable: in the "Gain-Lost-Net" category of the stat sheet, it shows Ore had only two negative yards - two one-yard losses - in 109 carries, which is an extreme, over-the-top demonstration of "straight ahead" running. Meanwhile, Phil Steele has called the Tech receivers the best group in school history, and probably is right: super-fast Eddie Royal, David Clowney, Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and Josh "Heh Heh" Hyman caught 118 passes last year and could all be labeled "go-to" in a pinch. Tight end Jeff King (6 TDs) will be missed in the red zone.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: Frank Beamer knows how to keep it positive when you don't know who your quarterback is, but do know he's going to be who's only taken somewhere between zero and a dozen snaps:
Why's that, if, as Beamer says further down, "there's not a bad one" among the polycephalous, point-producing monstrosity comprised of Sean Glennon, Ike Whitaker, Cory Holt and Greg Boone? Alas, Beamer's true thoughts emerge elsewhere in the summary:
That inexperienced collection will be protecting Glennon, most likely, though Holt got the precious few snaps (a dozen) behind Vick last year and Whitaker was 6-6 with a touchdown in the Spring game. So...this may be Grant Noel territory (i.e. handing off en route to eight conservative, efficient wins).
REASON FOR HOPE: The skill talent gives the offense opportunity for balance and versatility. How far can the No. 1 defense fall? The linebackers are ruthless assassins.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Quarterback is inexperienced and may get mauled because his line is in most places, too. The defensive line was all about bad things, man, bad things, but Darryl Tapps don't grow on trees, even for Virginia Tech.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, LITERARY, POLITICAL OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... The Democratic Party: a few victories, flashes of old glory, still very competitive and a force to be dealt with, but has missed every opportunity to regain lasting relevance in the overall power structure since the Chosen One - Michael Vick/Bill Clinton, the adored sibling of a troubled little bro in either case - took the halcyon days with him at the start of the decade.
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING... Nine wins, very lovely parting gifts. Tough team to peg: certainly an annual favorite for the Coastal Division title, major talent returning in a couple bunches on both sides, but who's willing to jump on the Sean Glennon bandwagon? Not SMQ, either.
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PREVIOUS REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENTS:
June 3: Boston College...June 4: Arkansas State...June 6: Hawaii...June 8: Virginia...June 10: Rice...June 11: Boise State...June 14: Tulane...June 18: Oregon...June 21: Colorado...June 24: South Florida...June 26: Fresno State...June 30: Minnesota...July 2: UAB
ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENTS:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: BYU...April 5: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 16: Alabama...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo...April 21: N.C. State...April 23: Arizona...April 24: Memphis...April 25: Louisiana Tech...April 28: Iowa...April 30: Toledo...May 2: Ohio State...May 3: Mississippi State...May 5: Southern Miss...May 7: Louisiana-Lafayette...May 11: Akron...May 12: North Carolina...Michigan State...May 15: Air Force...May 17: Stanford...May 18: Georgia Tech...May 21: Connecticut...May 23: Purdue...May 24: Navy...May 27: UCLA...May 28: New Mexico State...May 29: Tennessee
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