Wednesday, April 26, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com
Spring Football Update
As Spring Football winds down and the Spring Game approaches, it's time to take stock of the players who have stood out and the players who haven't been heard from. Since practices are closed to the public, most of what we can surmise is merely a guessing game with info culled from the various available sources: The Roanoke Times, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Hokie Huddler, HokieSports.com, television, and last but not least, "sources" that communicate mostly through email.
With its dearth of games and a lack of publicly viewable scrimmages, Tech Spring Football more than ever operates on "buzz," but considering the sources of information available to us, the "buzz" is hard to sort through. It's hard to know what to take seriously, and what not to.
The Hokie Huddler and HokieSports.com are tightly controlled info, the newspaper coverage of spring practice has been spotty, and television is simply unable to provide any depth of coverage. During the spring, football fans want to know who's stepping up and who's not, who's in the lead as the players jockey for position, and who is falling by the wayside, injured, or not in school.
That type of information has been in short supply, and it's hard to sort through what we do hear and determine what's PR and what's the truth. And sometimes, players get attention simply because they're playing a high-profile position or the successor to a former star, not because they are distinguishing themselves on the practice and playing fields.
Having said all that, as the last few days of practice unfold, here's our take on what we've heard so far from different sources, some of which you have seen, and some of which you haven't.
Players Making Noise
Here are the players that are being touted through all the different sources, official, unofficial, and mainstream media. Some are getting rave reviews from all sources, others are getting props from just a few different places:
Nathaniel Adibi, Kevin Lewis, and Mark Costen -- Adibi is the heir apparent to the throne abdicated by Cornell Brown and Corey Moore as they moved on to the NFL. He is being touted as the real deal, and Jimmy Robertson even called him "Other than Michael Vick, the best talent to enroll at Tech in the past four years." This comment ran on April 12th, and the Roanoke Times quickly picked up on it and featured Adibi in an article two days later.
In short, we hear that the defensive line as a group is doing well, and that's impressive, given that most of them are young, and they're going up against a veteran offensive line.
Carter Warley -- Shayne Graham's successor has gotten a lot of press because, well, he's Shayne Graham's successor, but by all appearances, Warley hasn't disappointed. The job was supposedly open to competition from Jon Mollerup, but Warley has distanced himself with his work in the scrimmages, where he has performed fairly consistently, hitting field goals of 29, 39, 40, 44, 47, and 49 yards.
By contrast, Mollerup did hit a 52-yarder in one scrimmage, but the lion's share of the ink and attention has been on Warley. Coach Beamer speaks highly of him, being quoted as saying, "Sometimes it will take your breath away when you look at him kick," and "He continues to be one of the bright spots of spring practice."
Willie Pile -- at the beginning of spring practice, Pile was tabbed as the frontrunner for the safety spot ahead of Deon Provitt and Sam Fatherly (according to the April 17th Hokie Huddler). He has distinguished himself and is now strongly in the lead, more than ready to fight off a late challenge from 2000 recruit Kevin McCadam, who will enroll in the fall. It's hard to see McCadam catching up now.
I named Pile the sleeper of the 1998 recruiting class but had just about written him off. No one was talking about him, he wasn't putting on weight, and although he is a talented athlete with a nose for the ball when it's in the air, he didn't seem to be a hard-nosed football player.
But he has been all over the scrimmage reports, registering tackles and picking off passes. And he even got some recognition from Jimmy Robertson, who gave him a nod for making not one hard hit, but two in a row in a recent scrimmage.
Anthony Davis -- I had to laugh the other day. I found a sheet from the Recruiting Roundup at Boomer's/Greg Roberts Sports Club the year that Davis was recruited. On it, I had scribbled the note, "Davis: kind of fat, but moves okay." Davis is now listed at 6-4, 318, and no one's calling him fat now, and yes, he moves more than "okay."
Robertson recently raved about Davis's mean streak and the battles that he and Adibi engage in during practice. And in a recent column, Jack Bogaczyk of The Roanoke Times revealed that Davis has one of the coolest nicknames on the planet: "Big Nasty." Davis will be a true sophomore next year.
Lee Suggs -- Suggs has had some strong statistical showings in the scrimmages, and the buzz says Kendrick better watch his back, because Lee's gaining on him.
Larry Austin -- a direct quote from Robertson: "The guy having the best spring of any defensive player is cornerback Larry Austin."
Ron Moody -- a walk-on receiver who's right there, battling with the incumbents.
Missing in Action
Then there are the players who haven't generated any coverage or discussion at all. This doesn't mean that they're not performing, that they're slacking off, or not panning out. In many cases, they're injured, or they're doing fine and just haven't been mentioned by anyone. But for whatever reason, these are the guys who aren't standing out.
Lamar Cobb and Ron Cook -- these two are battling it out for the position opposite Adibi. And no one's talking about them. Cook had two sacks in an early scrimmage, but that's about it.
The Linebackers -- we've heard about the position changes (Taylor to backer, Sorensen to whip, Houseright to mike), but we haven't heard much more than that. We've heard that Taylor "brings athleticism" to the position, Sorensen "will be fine and needs a little more seasoning," and we've heard about Houseright's nagging injuries.
To be fair, Houseright logged five tackles in one scrimmage, and Sorensen had two sacks in another. But as a group, these guys have been fairly quiet, and that includes T.J. Jackson, too. They have each done good things here and there, but no one is standing out here like Adibi and Lewis have on the defensive line.
Ronyell Whitaker -- a star in the making, Whitaker has not been heard from this spring. Nothing. Zilch. He's the frontrunner for punt returning duties, but his prowess as a cornerback, which I for the record think is considerable, has not been talked about.
The Receivers -- Andrae Harrison has been slowed by a groin injury and didnít even make the scrimmage reports until the last one, when he caught two passes for 29 yards. Many fans were eager to see the much-hyped Ernest Wilford in the Spring Game, but Wilford recently suffered a bad ankle sprain and is out of it for the remainder of the spring.
And there are have been reports (surprise, surprise) of dropped balls in practice and scrimmages, and statistically, no one in this group has stood out, although each has had their moments. Andre Davis caught a 25-yard TD and Emmett Johnson caught a 35-yarder, but that's about it.
The Punters -- Hellooooo? (echo) Hellooooo?? (more echoes) Anybody home?
Stay Off the Field: in prior years, the spring game has been a casual affair, and fans have been allowed to go down on the field afterwards and mingle with players and (gasp!) recruits. Not so this year. No one will be allowed on the field after the game. So, if you were thinking about tearing down those brand new goal posts after the game was over, forget about it.
Recruits in Town: there will be 50-75 recruits at the game, depending upon the weather, so if you see any tall, muscular young men walking around in groups, be polite, but remember, don't mingle too much, and keep the chatter down to a minimum. And don't encourage them to go to Tech -- that's a recruiting violation.