The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
When: every Monday from 7:00-8:30
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Tech Sports Tonight (football season only)
Monday, September 9, 2002
Hokie football fans everywhere know their beloved football team is entering the heart of its "season within a season". The Hokie Hotline was on the air this evening as the football team makes preparations for the visiting Marshall Thundering Herd on Thursday. Bill Roth took your calls and hosted Head Football Coach Frank Beamer from the Gobblertown Tavern. Also joining the broadcast this evening was Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster.
Bill started tonight’s Hotline with the news of the day. In a move that gives the Hokies even more national exposure, ABC has picked up the Texas A&M game regionally. The game time, originally at 7 PM, has been moved to 3:30 PM, EST. The viewing areas include Texas, Virginia, Maryland and DC. The newest polls are also out, and being idle isn’t such a bad thing for the Hokies. The Hokies moved up 1 position in each of the Coaches’ ESPN/USAToday and AP polls to #9 and #11 respectively.
Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster
Bud Foster was Bill’s first guest tonight. The talk immediately turned to this week’s opponent, Marshall University. Coach Foster gave deserved praise for Herd signal called Byron Leftwich. He felt that he is the most accurate QB that the Hokies have seen in a long time. Foster also commented on Marshall’s great receivers and a good offensive line.
One of the guys who will be trying to break through that offensive line is DE Jim Davis, who seriously sprained his ankle in practice yesterday. Coach Foster stated that Davis would play, all though he is using crutches and was held out of practice today as a precautionary measure. Coach Foster stated Davis was a little sore, but today he felt better and the staff is taking great care of him. Coach Foster did state that suspended CB Ronyell Whitaker would start against Marshall. While Whitaker was on suspension, he continued to practice and they expect him to do well. Coach Foster did comment on the solid play of freshman Vincent Fuller and that he will continue to see time at that position with Whitaker.
Joe in Buena Vista started his question with a comment calling Coach Foster "the best defensive coach in the country." Joe then asked about JUCO transfer DT "Big" Jimmy Williams and when he will play. Coach Foster stated that Jimmy is still in the process of getting his academic records in order. Once the administrative part of the transfer is completed, he will need to get him in playing shape. Practice shape and playing shape are two different levels and by Coach Foster’s estimate, Williams will see significant playing time towards the middle/end of the season. Joe also asked about the keys to containing the high octane Marshall passing attack. Coach Foster offered that part of the defensive strategy would include some 4 to 6 man blitz packages.
Drew in Salem called in voicing some seemingly pretty popular opinions among the Hokie faithful. The first comment voiced praise for the defensive line, DE Davis and DT Kevin Lewis in particular. The second comment concerned the play of returning CB Ronyell Whitaker and his lack of concentration and consistent play. Coach Foster stated that not only is Whitaker consistent, but also was, in his opinion, the steadiest defensive player last season. He believes that a play here or there last season, or Whitaker’s sub-par play in the 2002 Gator Bowl against FSU, crystallized his performance in many fan’s eyes inappropriately. Coach Foster did once again offer his praise for the consistent play of Vincent Fuller and that he has two starters at the boundary corner position that will play equal amounts.
Jeff in Raleigh called not so much with a question, but with a plea to Hokie fans everywhere: Get Loud! He stated that the Marshall QB has free reign to call his own plays, which results in quite a bit of audiblizing at the line of scrimmage. The best way to disrupt that communication is when Hokie Nation gets cranked up to full tilt at Lane, much like it did against LSU, which resulted in many early wasted timeouts. Coach Foster wholeheartedly agreed with this game plan. He also added that while Marshall runs a no-huddle offense, it is not in an "up-tempo" style.
Bill then asked Coach Foster what effect Tech’s unusual schedule had on the team. Coach Foster stated that they treat the day of the game as the "Saturday" of game week and simply count backwards, since bowl games are sometimes played on off days of the week. This week has not been a short week, so it has given the team ample time to prepare for Marshall.
Roth then came with a loaded question. He was complimentary of the Marshall QB, but asked Coach Foster how good was he since he plays in the Mid-Atlantic football conference. Although Coach Foster wants to see him in person before making an assessment, he compared Leftwich to Miami QB Ken Dorsey. When asked about the toughest QB that he has ever faced, Coach Foster stated that former Orangeman QB and current Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was the toughest to prepare for. His reasoning was that you had to defend the whole field against McNabb not only for the pass, but for the run as well.
Drew asked about the Hokies’ defensive line match up with the offensive line of Marshall. Coach Foster was complimentary of the Marshall O-Line, but stated he likes his defensive line’s chances on Thursday. He felt the real key to this game is to control the line of scrimmage, completely eliminate Marshall’s running game, and turn their offensive attack into a one-dimensional threat.
Roth then asked how LB Vegas Robinson has worked his way so quickly into the Hokies starting line-up. Coach Foster stated that Robinson played behind "one of the best football players I ever coached": former Hokie LB Ben Taylor. He offered that Robinson has played with discipline, much like the Hokie defense in general. He stated that thus far, the defense has given up only one big play (the touchdown vs. ASU) and that LSU’s longest play from scrimmage was 17 yards.
In closing, Bill Roth commented that in review of the Marshall-Appalachian State game, this Leftwich-led Marshall team reminded him of previous Hokie opponent: East Carolina under QB David Gerrard. Coach Foster agreed with this assessment and added that Leftwich is not as mobile as Gerrard.
Head Football Coach Frank Beamer
Bill Roth greeted his next guest with some kudos from some pretty high places. Today’s episode of Pardon the Interruption, which is hosted by Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, included comments from former Auburn Head Coach and current ABC college football analyst, Terry Bowden. He informed Coach Beamer that Mr. Bowden called Virginia Tech, "the best coached team in the nation." In typical fashion, Coach Beamer deflected this praise to his coaching staff and the fine work they do week in and week out.
Coach Beamer then gave out some interesting and extremely promising statistics about the makeup of the current Hokie football team. He stated that out of 115 players, 60 are freshmen and 25 are sophomores, and they make up 73% of this football team. Of those 60 freshmen, 9 true freshmen and 15 redshirt-freshmen are playing right now. While there are 17 juniors and 13 seniors on this team, and there are some talented players there, the future looks very bright for the young Hokies.
Jeff in Christiansburg called with a very timely and thoughtful question concerning a ceremony honoring former Virginia Tech football player and Marshall assistant coach Frank Loria. In describing his former teammate, Coach Beamer called him "the darndest player…none of us could run, but he would hit you with such quickness, like a karate chop." He also called Frank Loria, "a good person, a great football mind, and someone who understood the game of football." Coach Beamer stated that the ceremony would be held between the 1st and 2nd quarters of Thursday’s game, and that Frank’s wife, Phyllis Loria, would be in attendance.
Adam in Blacksburg called in later in the show adding that Rick Tolley, Marshall’s Head Football Coach who also lost his life in the 1970 plane accident, was also a former football player and a 1961 graduate of Virginia Tech. An article concerning the Marshall football tragedy of 1970 can be read here: Marshall Football air tragedy
The most intriguing topic of discussion came when Bill Roth asked Coach Beamer about the quarterback situation. Coach Beamer started by saying that Hokie fans everywhere need to appreciate the hard work that Grant Noel has been doing to get back in the lineup, and that he wishes everyone knew what Grant has endured to play football for the Hokies.
There is a chance that Noel could be ready to be the backup to Bryan Randall on Thursday against Marshall. Noel has worked the past day or so and there has been some slight swelling in the knee. The team will have to wait until Thursday to determine if Noel will be able to play. Coach Beamer also stated that Marcus Vick has been accurate and participated in some of the best passing drills of practice, completing 10 out of 10 passes at one point. There is a meeting set for tomorrow to further discuss the QB situation.
When Roth pressed on whether or not Vick would play, Beamer was very hesitant to push Vick into action, and would play only if he absolutely had to. This re-emphasizes the team’s desire to keep Vick’s redshirt status. Coach Beamer stated that Will Hunt is also being considered for the backup role.
There were a tremendous number of calls and emails to the Hotline tonight and Bill got as many of them in as possible. Here is a list of the callers and their questions:
Betty in Roanoke was disappointed that the team did not bring out the United States’ and Virginia State flags before the LSU game. Coach Beamer assured us that this was an oversight that would not occur in the future.
An email questioned Randall’s decision to be so quick to tuck the ball and run. Coach Beamer felt that he didn’t understand this criticism of quarterbacks who had the ability to run the ball, and if the defense will give it to you, you should take it.
Steve in Goodview asked about the status of "Big" Jimmy Williams. Coach Beamer stated that he would be on the practice field very soon regarding a very positive report that he received today.
Drew, a young Hokie fan in the audience, asked about the proposed redistribution of season tickets to those folks who give the most money over folks who have been with the Hokies through the lean years. Coach Beamer quickly deflected that question towards AD Jim Weaver, but added the team appreciates all fan support.
Brian in Chesterfield asked about the Hokies’ lack of passing in the second half of the LSU game. Coach Beamer stated he understood the concern and that the Hokies are developing to the point that the fans will see more passing in the offensive game plan. He offered that Marshall would be pushing the Hokies to throw this week and that it all comes down to winning the game.
John in Blacksburg asked a question concerning the liberal substitution that the Hokies used in all positions of the team during the LSU game, except for the offensive line. Coach Beamer stated that while the young guys were coming along fine, in a game against a team like LSU, you need your best linemen playing.
Chuck in Christiansburg called wondering if there was a chance that the Hokies might lose both their outstanding tailbacks to the NFL draft after the season. Coach Beamer, who said he felt a lot better before Chuck’s call, stated the rule is that you have to stay in college for three seasons (including a redshirt year, if one is taken). Note that Michael Vick played only through his redshirt-sophomore season (meaning that he was at Tech for three years) before declaring early for the NFL draft and being taken number one by the Atlanta Falcons.
Kelly in Blacksburg stating that he is a former Cornhusker fan, and when he was re-stationed to this area, he looked for a new team to support that played football in the same fashion as Nebraska. He now, of course, roots for the Hokies. Coach Beamer had high praise for the Nebraska program and added that both he and Strength Coach Mike Gentry had visited the Cornhuskers to provide off-season clinics in the areas of the kicking game and conditioning. Coach Beamer stated that since the teams would rarely meet, unless it was in a bowl game, the tips shared with the Husker staff would not work against them.
Coach Beamer ended the Hotline tonight and repeated a common theme offered by both Coach Foster and the callers: Get Loud! Coach Beamer stated several times this evening that the complete involvement of the fans inside Lane during the LSU game a huge key to that win, and that the Hokies on the field would need that same effort on Thursday night.