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, October 21, 2002
The Hokies’ march through the Big East continued with at 35-14 dismantling of the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers on Saturday. However, as Halloween approaches, the Hokies’ schedule is starting to look scarier. With the first BCS poll also making its 2002 debut, the Hokie Hotline was on the air. Bill Roth took your calls and hosted Hokie Head Football Coach Frank Beamer. Also joining the Hotline this evening was Hokies’ Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster.
Bill started tonight’s Hotline with a look at the news of the day. The Hokies held firm in both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25. The first Bowl Championship Series Poll came out as well today. The Hokies are ranked 4th and Big East foe Miami is ranked 2nd. Several Hokies took home Big East honors this week. Senior TB Lee Suggs was the Big East Offensive Player of the Week while teammate Sophomore CB DeAngelo Hall captured Co-Special Teams player of the week with Temple’s Makonnen Fenton.
Coach Foster’s Segment
Coach Foster started his portion of the show with some disappointing news. R-Junior LB Vegas Robinson suffered a high ankle sprain in the Rutgers game and is out for the game against Temple on Saturday. R-Freshman LB James Anderson will get the start in his place with r-Freshman LB Blake Warren and r-Junior LB Chris Buie filling in at backup. Coach Foster stated that Anderson is the most improved football player the team has and deserves the start. Warren is also coming off some injuries, but will see some playing time.
Bill asked Coach Foster about the defensive unit’s play against Rutgers, and he stated that, on the whole, he was pleased. He did state that he was disappointed on the lack of execution the defense displayed on some key third down plays, one of which resulted in a Rutgers’ touchdown. He did say that the run defense was outstanding, allowing -7 rushing yards. He also felt the unit pressured the quarterback well.
One player singled out for his contribution on Saturday was Freshman FS Jimmy F. Williams who had a key interception which snuffed out a Rutgers scoring drive. Williams was playing in relief for r-Senior Willie Pile, who was out of the game temporarily due to injury. He felt that Williams was going to be one of the best players ever to play at Virginia Tech. He emphasized the importance of the play in the secondary, which was a theme throughout his segment.
Bill in Lynchburg called in asking if the coaching staff changes the defensive scheme from week to week. Coach Foster called the game a chess match and that strategies change each week. In this past week’s game, he felt the drops into coverage in the secondary were not as crisp as they should have been. He also felt that the secondary broke out of their zone coverage to chase receivers instead of playing their portion of the field. He continues to believe that making teams throw against the Hokies is the key to winning football games.
Bill Roth then asked Coach Foster about a review of Senior CB Ronyell Whitaker in the Sporting News. The piece critiqued Whitaker and described him as "good athlete…good cover guy…gets himself out of position". Bill asked if Coach Foster felt this review was fair, and Foster said he felt it was a good assessment. He also stated he wanted to see more consistent play out of the secondary as a whole and that is why Freshman CB Vinnie Fuller and r-Junior CB Garnell Wilds would see more playing time this week against Temple. He stated that if a player misses a tackle at the line, another player can fill the gap and it doesn’t cost you more than a few yards. When the secondary gets beat, it can cost you the football game. He stated that the increased playing time for Fuller and Wilds was in no way a demotion for the starters, but a way to get these younger players in the games who have earned more playing time.
Walter in Galax called in asking about the Temple offense. Coach Foster stated that their offensive unit, which is returning about 10 starters from last season, is led by Senior RB Tanardo Sharps, who is averaging 125.2 yards a game so far this season. Coach Foster also stated that Temple likes to use multiple receiver sets and the Hokies have to make sure this team gets no big plays for scores. He also stated the team needs to play a complete game by eliminating the turnovers and penalties which have plagued the Hokies in recent weeks. When asked by Bill if this Temple team could defeat the Hokies at home if Tech plays like it played against Rutgers, he stated very frankly that they might.
Jerry on a cell phone asked about the team’s thoughts on the first BCS rankings, specifically Notre Dame’s placement in front of the Hokies. Coach Foster stated that the staff has told the players not to talk about the early rankings and to focus their mental efforts on this week’s opponent. Bill Roth also pointed out that while Notre Dames’ SOS is currently ranked #1 by the computers, this ranking will drop in the coming weeks as they play Navy and Rutgers.
Robert in Richmond called in asking where he could direct a letter with concerns about the lack of television time devoted to broadcasting last week’s and this week’s games. Coach Foster urged the caller to instead write a letter of congratulations to Hokie AD Jim Weaver for the work he has done in making this year’s team the most televised in history, with 10 of 14 games being aired (this, of course, will include the bowl game). He also urged similar praise for Coach Beamer in creating such a marketable product week in and week out.
Steve in Blacksburg asked a pointed question regarding possible changes in the starting defense. When Coach Foster asked for more specifics, the caller responded, "the corner…before we get real hurt." Coach Foster stated there would be no changes made at this time and again praised the play of Whitaker, Hall, Fuller and Wilds.
Darrell in Floyd continued the questions about the secondary, asking if the coaches had urged Ronyell to end his aggressive trash talking on the field. Coach Foster felt that this was not a problem and that a player’s concentration and focus on the opponent, his position and technique is what truly defines a player.
Chris, class of 2005, emailed regarding Chris Buie and possible playing time this season. Coach Foster stated that Buie is a good player who got passed on the depth chart. Coach Foster also stated that this is a performance-based business and he wouldn’t play a player simply for the sake of getting him into the game. With the injury to Robinson, Coach Foster will be watching Buie’s practice progress with increased scrutiny to judge if he is ready.
Mike is Roanoke called in stating he observed r-Junior SE Ernest Wilford, who had his best game of the season, sprinting out of the huddle several times when the pass play was called for him as the primary receiver. Mike felt this was a possible tip to opposing defenses and Coach Foster thanked the caller for his astute observation and stated he would pass it along. Mike, whose eyes seems keener than most, also observed an improper mark of the ball after a Rutgers’ penalty in their favor. Coach Foster said the staff did not see any sort of false mark.
Les in Roanoke called in asking about the progression of Junior DT "Big" Jimmy Williams. Coach Foster stated that Williams saw playing time against Boston College and Rutgers and continues to get into better playing shape.
Coach Beamer’s segment
Bill started the Coach’s segment asking him about the one thing he truly didn’t want to discuss: the BCS poll. Coach Beamer stated that he felt it didn’t matter a lot at this point in the season. Coach felt that for the Hokies to be a factor, they would have to play smarter, better, and take care of the little things.
When Bill asked if he thought there would be more than two unbeaten teams at season’s end, he stated that his concern was the play of the Hokies during the stretch run and that, like Rutgers, each team on the schedule would give Tech their best shot the rest of the season. Coach Beamer did say there were a lot of positives to take away from the Rutgers’ game including the poise of Sophomore QB Bryan Randall, Ernest Wilford’s excellent play, and the play of "The Untouchables."
As for the things the teams needs to work on, the penalties and turnovers halted momentum on several drives. He pointed to the kicking game as an area that needs some attention. He also stated that the fans didn’t support "The Walk" as they normally do and that the stands were slow to fill, which he feels takes away from the energy of the team and Lane Stadium. When Bill asked him if the number of penalties called concerned him, Coach Beamer said he felt that some of the calls were "nit-picky" and he did send some to the league office for review. He did say that better play and decision making would have resulted in less scrutiny by the officials.
Steve in Chads Ford, PA. called in asking about r-Freshman DT Chris Pannell. Coach Beamer stated that he is an athletic guy who is playing his way into the lineup and will have a good future with the Hokies.
Bill in Roanoke called in stating he felt that Notre Dame should be penalized in the BCS rankings for playing as a 1-A Independent, rather than as a member of a conference. Bill Roth stated that it was too early to get too wrapped up in the early BCS race and that Notre Dame’s strength of schedule would drop in the coming weeks. The caller then asked about the possible use of instant replay in the college game. Coach Beamer stated he thought this would never happen, unless the NCAA developed an "elite" 1-A division. He stated that the logistics of instant replay at schools such as Arkansas State would be too expensive for the university to implement.
Jeff in Knoxville called in with high praise for the blocking of r-Junior FB Doug Easlick. Coach Beamer and the coaching staff were equally impressed, naming Easlick Offensive Player of the Game for the Hokies. Coach called him a "good, smart, tough player." Jeff also asked about more utilization of the tight end in the passing attack. Coach stated that r-Junior TE Keith Willis had a catchable ball thrown to him early in the game and offered that "if you catch one early, we’ll go to you late."
Greg from Roanoke called in with a concern about the increasing length of time it is taking for fans to enter Lane Stadium Coach Beamer reiterated the importance of getting the fans into Lane early and said he would look into the situation.
A young fan called in asking if Coach Beamer and Running Backs Coach Billy Hite coach Sophomore TB Kevin Jones on his cutback runs, one of which went for 58 yards, electrified Hokies everywhere and made highlight shows across the country. Coach Beamer stated that he, of course, taught KJ everything he knows. He did say that while he was on the head set, he listened to Hite and Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring during the play. He stated that Coach Hite had a few choice words as Jones reversed his run to the far side of the field. He did say that those words quickly turned to praise as he picked up blocks downfield and eventually scored a touchdown.
Elizabeth from Tallahassee, FL. (and a Seminole) asked if the staff has reminded this year’s team of the infamous home loss to Temple in 1998. Coach Beamer said he hasn’t addressed that loss yet, but it shows how a game in hand can turn on a couple of breaks and a big play or two. He also added that this Temple team is much better than their 1998 predecessors.
Bill then asked that while this young Hokie team has handled an early tough schedule well, and has proved itself up to the challenge, can it now handle the perils of success and the possible comfort than can accompany it. Coach Beamer felt that is exactly what happened on Saturday as the team got up by 21 points early on, and everyone eased up in their intensity, including the coaching staff and fans.
David in Lynchburg called in stating that Virginia Tech had the greatest coaching staff in the country and the Hokies’ continued success hinges on keeping this staff together. Coach Beamer agreed and stated they must make every effort to keep this staff at Tech. He said that continuity looms tremendous on the recruiting front. The relationships forged over years with the same college coach and high school coach working together forms a solid trust.
David also asked about the conditions of the field on Saturday. He felt the field was wet and resulted in poor footing and playing conditions. Coach Beamer stated that the maintenance crew had been pumping the field for two straight days. He also stated that temporary rye grass that has been used for quick growth on the field becomes slippery when wet. He stated that the Bermuda turf is a great playing surface and the introduction of heaters to the root system in December will continue to strengthen Worsham Field.
Mike from Roanoke wondered about the strategy of redshirting Freshman QB Marcus Vick when the Hokies will need talent like his as the schedule gets tougher late in the season. Coach Beamer agreed that a move such as this is a little bit of a gamble. He did say that Randall, Vick, and the recruits they were hoping to bring to Tech would create stability at the quarterback position for the next several years, which he feels is a cornerstone of consistent programs.
Phil in Lexington called in praising the crowd in Lane Stadium on Saturday as they stood in support, respect and in ovation for Lady Hokie Basketball player Rayna DuBose as she was honored during the first half of the Homecoming game. He also asked about the use of the screen play to counteract the pass rush Randall is seeing from opposing defenses. Coach Beamer said this is a play that the Hokies will use more in the coming weeks.
A caller in Cary, NC had a question concerning the coaching of the punt return team and how a fair catch is called. Coach Beamer stated he felt this was one of the toughest assignments a player could handle during a football game. He stated he does not tell DeAngelo Hall when to signal for a fair catch. He did feel this task has become a little easier with the use of a "6-yard halo", or cushion, around the punt returner the opposing team must respect, which is an increase of 3 yards from last season.
Bill in Ruckersville called in asking if the Hokies have reached the status where players come to you instead of the staff having to go and get players to come and play at Tech. Coach Beamer stated he thought we do get more attention from good players, but that nothing replaces the attention his staff places on going out and finding good players.
Rick in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. asked how the Big East teams are selected for their respective bowl games. Bill stated that after the BCS and Gator Bowl selections, the conference places the remaining eligible teams in their post season games. The affiliations this season include the Insight.com Bowl, the "San Francisco" bowl, and the new Continental Tire bowl game in Charlotte, NC.
Richard in Roanoke called in with concerns about the kicking game. Coach Beamer stated this is an area the Hokies are working on. He feels the "Pride and Joy" will continue to improve and they are but a beat or two away from getting to the punter. He feels that the kick return team, coached by Billy Hite, is a block away from returning a kickoff for a long gain. Coach also feels the kickoff coverage unit needs to do a better job of getting to the ball. He continues to feel Freshman K Nic Schmitt is going to do a tremendous job for the Hokies. Coach Beamer feels he has the right attitude, and although he has missed both of his field goal attempts so far, he is perfect on hitting his extra points. The Hokies practiced inside today, and he felt Schmitt was getting a good explosion on the ball as he kicked into a net.
News and Notes: