The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
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Tech Talk Tuesday (football season only)
When: every Tuesday from 7:05-8:30
Station:  AM 910 in Richmond

Monday, March 4, 2002
by Will Stewart,

Monday night's Hokie Hotline was the final show of the 2001-2002 year. Guests were Mike Burnop, Jim Weaver, Ricky Stokes, Chuck Hartman, Lu Merritt, Grant Noel, and Mike Gentry.

This year was the 14th season broadcasting Tech football for Bill Roth and Mike Burnop, and Roth was voted Virginia Sportscaster of the Year for the fourth time in his Tech career. Roth said he considers it to be a team award, and offered to split his dessert with Burnop at the awards banquet.

Weaver's Comments

Roth asked Weaver what he thought about how Tech has done this year in athletics. Weaver said, "You would have liked to have won the bowl game, and more games in men's and women's basketball, but all in all, a pretty good year for our second year in the Big East."

Roth, Burnop, and Weaver reiterated that Tech's Gator Bowl bid can be attributed to Tech's great fan support. Burnop asked Weaver if he thought VT football underachieved this season, and Weaver said no. He noted that Tech is the hunted now and that everyone gets up for the Hokies these days, and Tech gets everyone's best shot.

Roth noted that the Big East has improved as a football conference. He pointed out that Pitt, after a horrible start, won their last seven games. Weaver praised Pitt's facilities and noted that Pitt was part of the Big East's 4-1 bowl record.

Burnop asked Weaver about the South end zone expansion. Weaver noted that Assoc. AD for Internal Affairs Tom Gabbard has done a great job, and that it's exciting to be part of a building process, instead of a maintenance process.

Roth asked Weaver to comment on the staff he works with at VT. Weaver said that he is a big believer in a family atmosphere, and that the staff talks about their business being a people business first and an athletics business second. Weaver and Burnop noted the continuity among the various Tech coaching staffs, and they credited the great atmosphere at Blacksburg and Virginia Tech for helping with that.

Burnop noted that in football in the 2002 season, Tech is playing on Saturday (8 games), Sunday (2 games), Wednesday, and Thursday (2 games). Roth pointed out that the schedule, even though it is 13 games and includes some weeknight games, doesn't include any "short" weeks.

Wed. night game: Weaver said that he wanted to get the game in before the students went on Thanksgiving break. He said that it's national TV, and you can "never get enough" national TV exposure.

There was some discussion about the South end zone expansion. Weaver said he encourages fans out there who have not been able to buy season tickets before to research the options available to them now and to "get involved with Virginia Tech football," with the increased seating available.

Roth said that when the promotional material for the new South end zone seating was first released, that there was some concern that the seats would not sell well, because they were expensive. But sales have gone very well. Weaver agreed, saying that Tech has sold over 1,000 of the 1,192 chair-back seats with stadium club privileges (in the "Zone Club" and "Touchdown Terrace" seating sections). They have not sold as many of the 1,160 "Goal Line" seats, which are bleacher-back seats but do not have stadium club access.

With Marcus Vick having signed with Tech, Roth asked Weaver what the name "Vick" being involved with the Tech program again meant from a business standpoint, particularly in the area of ticket sales. Weaver said that the "Vick dynamic" was going to help with ticket sales and possibly TV. Weaver noted (not related to the Vick discussion) that the games against LSU, Marshall, WVU, Miami, and BC are all already on TV next year, and that doesn't account for Texas A&M, Virginia, and Pitt among others, as other attractive TV games.

Burnop asked Weaver if he thought Vick could come in and play right away. Weaver wisely avoided answering the question and said that he thought every QB candidate would get the opportunity to win the starting job, and that the coaches would go with the one who thought gave them the best chance to win.

Burnop asked Weaver how important he thought this spring would be for VT football, which has lost a lot of players. Weaver said that in recruiting, the coaches got "3 out of the last 4" players they were recruiting. He said that the VT coaching staff recruits players that they can "coach up" without regard to rankings.

Asked for a final comment, Weaver extended his thanks to the Hokie fans. "College athletics gets more business-oriented every year, and we're appreciative of the people who support Hokie athletics and believe in this university. We have something very special going on here, and we're all working hard to continue it. That's our main goal, and we can't do it without the support of the fans."

In response to one final comment from Burnop, Weaver noted that it will probably be $250k extra for football team travel this coming season, due to the length of road trips to Syracuse, Miami, BC, Western Michigan, and Texas A&M.

Ricky Stokes' Comments

Stokes opened by saying that he was pleased with the progress showed by the team, despite injuries that they suffered early in the season. He noted that they rebounded nicely at the end.

Speaking of rebounding, Roth noted that Tech finished with a +7 per-game rebounding margin, not far from the Big East record of +8.3 set by Georgetown.

Roth talked about junior college transfers Kevin McCadam (football) and Carlton Carter (basketball) having great second seasons after having so-so first seasons. Fans think that JUCO's can come in right away and contribute, but they, too, take a year to adjust, just like freshmen. Roth pointed out that this bodes well for JUCO transfers Eric Branham and Terry Taylor for next year.

On the subject of incoming freshmen, Stokes said it is Tech's best incoming group since he has been at VT. They will push the older players, he said, which is a good thing.

Burnop and Roth pointed out that the Atlantic 10 has backslid since Tech left (he noted UMass and Temple not doing as well). They asked Stokes what he thought his current Tech team could have done in the A-10. Stokes said they would have more wins, and one big difference between the A-10 and Big East is that every Big East team has an NBA, go-to guy.

The key in getting through losing periods like the one Tech is currently in, Roth said, is to have a coach with a positive attitude. Burnop agreed and praised Stokes for that, and then Stokes gave Roth and Burnop some love, thus ending his short appearance on the show.

Chuck Hartman's Comments

Burnop introduced VT baseball coach Chuck Hartman by saying that Tech has averaged 36 wins over the last 23 seasons under Hartman. They have been in the NCAA's 3 of last 5 years, and Hartman is 3rd among active coaches in victories and 5th all time. Hartman jokingly said in response that he has outlived all the other coaches, and has had great players and great assistant coaches.

This year's VT team is picked near the top of the league after being the runner-up last year. Hartman said that the team will be a good pitching team with good defense, and games so far have borne that out. He said one surprise is that the outfield has played better than he expected.

Hartman said that Notre Dame will probably be one of the top teams in the Big East again this year, despite having lost two "big guns" off their pitching staff, both of whom went undefeated in the regular season last year and signed pro contracts.

VT has never had a deep pitching rotation, but this year is a little different. They go deeper than one top starter. Hartman agreed, saying that Tech's top four pitchers could possibly sign professional contracts.

Tech's top four pitchers: Joe Saunders was tabbed as second best left-hander in the country by professional baseball scouts. Jason Bush is just four wins away from tying the Hokie record for wins. Chip Runyon had a chance to sign a free-agent contract this past year but didn't. Pat Pinkman appears to be healthy again. Three of those four were freshman AA's.

Hartman said that three juniors will probably leave Tech's staff after this season, noting that Joe Saunders might be drafted in June and sign a million-dollar contract. Hartman said that it hurts the program to lose the players, but it's good publicity for it and good for recruiting. Hartman then showed his age by saying that up until about the last 25 years, not many players went to the pros.

Burnop asked Hartman to tell a story, and Hartman responded by telling this joke: He went out to a pitcher who had given up 5-6 runs, and it was time to pull him. Hartman said, "Tough day, big guy, let me have the ball." The pitcher said, "Coach, I got this guy out last time. I can get him." Hartman responded, "Sure you did, but that was this inning."

Lu Merritt's Comments

Merritt was asked to bring listeners up to speed on the South end zone seating sales. He said that "Touchdown Terrace" seats are sold out, "Zone Club" is close to sold out, and there are five of the luxury suites left.

Roth pointed out that the tickets were expensive, and the annual gift required just to get the seat is also expensive, so there was some worry that the seats wouldn't sell. Merritt agreed, saying that another concern was that VT had to "sell the end zone first" (instead of getting to sell premium seating on the sidelines). They have been pleasantly surprised by the strong sales.

Out of the $36 million South end zone project, $15 million is to be funded through donations, and to date, VT has $12 million in pledges. The rest of the funding is to come from ticket sales, deposits for the seats, and deposits for the club suites, spread out over the next 20 years.

Roth noted that with the economy the way it is, and after the Sep. 11th attacks, fundraising has been difficult. Merritt said that a newspaper reporter from New York called him as part of a story he was doing, and Merritt reported that VT is actually ahead of last year's record donations pace.

Burnop asked Merritt to tell more about the suites. Merritt said that each suite has 16 seats, leather sofas, a wet bar, and an eating area. The view of the field is surprisingly good, and you're closer to the field than you might think, because the stands rise at such a sharp angle. A lot of people, Burnop added, don't realize that the view from the end zone is good, because you can see the plays develop. And when the action is at the other end, perhaps making it hard to see, fans can see the game clearly on Tech's HokieVision scoreboard.

The cost of a luxury suite is $42,000 in the first year and gradually increases up to $45,000 in year five. There is an 80% tax deduction on the cost. In addition to the 16 seats, guest passes are provided so people "can visit and tailgate after the game." The post-game interviews will be close-circuit broadcasted into the suites. As far as food, there are three different selections, from a light meal up to a heavy meal.

This spring's O&M tour will make stops in Virginia, North Carolina, Atlanta, and West Virginia, just as in the past.

Season tickets: VT sold over 30,000 season tickets last year. Merritt said he hoped that number could grow by 3-5 thousand in 2002. Season ticket order forms are being prepared and should be mailed in about two weeks. Hokie Club membership will probably not be required to get season tickets this year, but Merritt noted that it's a good idea to support VT athletics by joining the Hokie Club. VT has 6,000 parking places, 3,000 of which are reserved/numbered spaces.

Merritt said that if the South end zone sales and seating are successful, it will give the university an indicator that the west side, a $45 million project, is needed.

Roth and Burnop talked about how much Tech fans are being asked to do, as far as increased season ticket costs, purchasing of club seats, and donations for the South end zone. Burnop remarked that with the economy being down, and in the wake of the attacks of Sep. 11th, it's remarkable that Hokie fans are contributing so much.

Grant Noel's Appearance

Tech QB Grant Noel was on the show next (an unusual appearance by a current player on the Hokie Hotline). The following is a transcript of his interview with Roth and Burnop.

Roth: Now that you've had a couple of months to reflect back on the season and the Gator Bowl, how do you think you did?

GN: I thought it was a great experience for me. I accomplished a lot of things that I wanted to do. It was really fun, and looking back on those things, I'm excited about next year.

Roth: A lot of people are excited about the quarterback position at Tech, but you know, you don't hear your name. You hear Marcus Vick's name. That's the second year in a row we've heard that. Last year, everybody was so excited about Bryan Randall. How does that make you feel personally?

GN: Personally, you know it kind of upsets me a little bit. A lot of what people said during the season bothered me. The way I came out and played in the Gator Bowl, I'm not one to float my own boat and talk about myself, but I think I've got a chance to say a few things, and that's what I want to do. It really upsets me. That same thing happened last year, and it's happening again this year, and you know, I take credit for not playing well in one game, and that's the Miami game, I took full responsibility for the way I played in that game.

But a couple of those other losses, people want to put them on me, too, and all I've got to say to people is, if you want to really criticize me, go back and watch everything and find out what the real problems were in some of those other games. But to judge a player by one game is totally, you know, I think it's unfair. For the way I played in the Miami game, and then to come back and sit around for a month, and let all that marinate, and then to come out and play as good as I did in the Gator Bowl, and for people to still shut me out Ö that takes a lot for a person to come back and rebound like that and play as well as I did in the Gator Bowl. That's something for me to build on, and I'm excited about it, and I'm excited about our new quarterback coach. Rickey Bustle, I think he helped me a lot, mentally with the game, but I think Kevin Rogers is going to come in and do a lot of things for my mechanics and add to my mental part of the game, as well.

Roth: Anybody who watched football practice last year knows that you and Coach Bustle had a very unique relationship. At times on the field, it was a fiery relationship. He would get up in your face, and you would get up in his. He's gone now, so you can talk about that. There wasn't any other player since I've been here at Virginia Tech who had that sort of relationship with his position coach.

GN: I think we had a great relationship. That's kind of how a quarterback needs to be. A quarterback has fire in him, and he needs a coach who's going to let that come out sometimes. But I think people realize that was our relationship, and they didn't think anything of it. I talked to Coach Bustle on the phone a few days ago, and we're good friends, and we talked about a lot of stuff off the field, and different situations.

I think ever since high school we've been able to talk about things. It's been a good relationship that we've had. Sometimes I didn't agree with things he did, and he didn't agree with things I did, and we let each other know sometimes. But I think that's good.

Burnop: Grant, expectations were awful high. You had some big shoes, to fill. I mean, they were huge. And then you lose Lee Suggs in the first game, and you've got four new offensive linemen. Talk about that a little bit.

GN: That's hard, and some people don't take that into consideration. There for a while we were doing pretty well with it. We had a few bad weeks, the Syracuse week, and the Pittsburgh week, the whole team all the way around. We came back and won those next two games, and then we got into that big Miami game, and everyone played hard, the whole team did. Everyone knows what happened in that game.

I'm looking forward to this year. I think some of those guys, our offensive line, are going to be better than last year. They got some experience, and we've got some guys who are going to step up and play better than they did last year.

Burnop: The game plan was different in the Gator Bowl. Talk a little bit about that. You had some crossing patterns thrown in there and played a little different game.

GN: It was, and I think Coach Stinespring is going to be a great offensive coordinator, and he showed it in that game. We came out and threw in the first play of the game for about 20 yards. Offense is all about confidence, and we came out there in our first drive, and you try to run the ball two times and get stuffed like we did in some games, and have to rely on the pass to dig us out, and it doesn't happen, then you're offense is having second thoughts, and your confidence is down.

But to come out and do little short things that are going to get positive yards like we did in the Gator Bowl, that gives you confidence. Offense is not like defense. Defense plays on Ö it's like they're on a high wire, but your offense has to be calm and collected, and he (Stinespring) gave us a chance to get into that mode.

Roth: Spring practice is coming up. What do you have to do to improve as a quarterback, as you see it?

GN: Spring practice for me is going to be just repetitious, I think. I'm going to come out and work on some things I need to do, and get comfortable in the pocket. Throwing the ball, just little things, just keep doing them over and over repetitiously, again. But after playing a year, I think things are going to come easier to me this season. I've talked to some guys from the past, after they played a season, Druck and Mike (Vick), and I'm anxious for this upcoming season. It's going to be different for me, and I'm really excited about it.

Burnop: You've been through the trenches, Grant, you've worked your way up. You know how it is as a freshman, you watched Bryan Randall come in and struggle. How about a couple words of advice for Marcus Vick?

GN: You know, for him, there's a lot of hype around him, and that's understandable. But you can't come in and try to do too much. Bryan was thrown to the fire. It was something we had to do, we were limited at quarterback in our depth and experience. But Marcus just needs to take one day at a time. Hype, it can hurt a player, because you're expected to do too much. Some guys just aren't going to do much when they first come in, most guys aren't. Mike, I think if he had had to play, he would have struggled. I think that redshirt season for him was the best thing that ever happened to him. But you know, just take it one day at a time, and I think things are going to get smooth.

(Roth and Burnop then talked with Grant about how he's going to Spain over spring break.)

Roth: Have a terrific trip over there. There are a lot of Hokie fans that are pulling for you.

GN: I know they are. The majority of them are, and there's a few that aren't. Donít get me wrong, I do appreciate the ones who are positive. They know what's going on, and that means a lot.

Roth: Lot of pressure being a Division 1 quarterback, and this is part of it.

GN: Yeah, it is, and that's fine, and it's going to help me out in life. Any quarterback will tell you that it's going to prepare you for a lot of things down the road.

Roth: Mike, Grant's got tough shoes to fill. And now, not only is Michael's shadow still cast, Michael Vick, but now Marcus is here as well. Regardless of what he does in a game, there are always going to be comparisons to the guy he replaced, and now to the guy who is probably going to replace him.

(In response, Burnop commented that the losses weren't all Grant's fault, and Roth said that he likes the way Noel "stands in there and answers questions." That was the end of the Noel section of the show.)

Mike Gentry's Comments

Roth asked Mike Gentry, Asst. AD of Athletic Performance, about the speed and max testing that just concluded, and Roth asked him what impressed him in testing. Gentry answered that it was the improvement that the kids made.

Cols Colas, Vegas Robinson, and Doug Easlick were called out as doing well. Josh Spence made Elite Athlete status (Excalibur Award), and has really come on in the strength and conditioning program, now that he has settled at fullback. Keith Burnell ran a 4.21 forty, setting a Tech record. QB Bryan Randall made Super Iron Hokie, breaking Vick's squat record with 530 squat.

Roth asked about Gentry's early impressions of the team heading into the 2002 season, and Gentry said it was too early to tell and that they had a long way to go. VT needs to develop some leadership, and that will come from 6 am workouts, spring football, summer programs, and the early fall. Roth remarked that Jarrett Ferguson and Taylor were great leaders, and Gentry agreed.

Roth asked Mike Gentry to name a player he thought would step up and surprise people in the coming season. Gentry answered with the name Chris Clifton, calling him "a winner." He then went on to compliment Ron Moody, Chris Shreve, and Will Montgomery.

Roth and Burnop then closed with some final comments, wrapping up the last show of the 2001-2002 academic year. As the Hotline signed off Monday, it was Day 877 in Virginia Techís continuous possession of the Commonwealth Cup, and Day 1,221 in Tech's possession of the Black Diamond Trophy.


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