News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Wednesday, April 3, 2002
by Will Stewart,

Randall Comes on Strong

He's not likely to supplant Grant Noel as the #1 quarterback this spring, but TSL sources say backup QB Bryan Randall is playing better all the time and could give Noel a run for his money before Tech's August 25th opener.

Football practices and scrimmages are closed to the public, but sources paint a picture of Randall as a quarterback who is getting more and more comfortable all the time, particularly now that competitor Chris Clifton has been moved to receiver (as of Monday) and Randall is the solid #2.

"He (Randall) has looked the best he has looked since arriving as a freshman," one source said. "It's finally starting to click for him. He still makes mistakes, but he has been the best quarterback the last two or three practices."

Observers say that Randall's arm strength and throwing motion have improved over last season (it's worth noting that he basically threw his arm out in practice last fall and was working with a dead arm during the season). He will never be mistaken for Jim Druckenmiller, Michael Vick, or even newly-minted wideout Chris Clifton in the arm strength department, but his accuracy and precision out to about 40 yards has been very good in recent practices. On Friday and Monday, Randall hit receivers Keith Burnell and Ernest Wilford in stride 40 yards downfield on post routes.

Randall acquitted himself well in recently-completed winter workouts. In winter max testing, he was second among the four quarterbacks (Noel, Randall, Clifton and Will Hunt) in three measurements: vertical jump (33.5 inches to Clifton's 34.0), power clean (275 pounds, to Hunt's 285) and push jerk (275 pounds -- Noel had the same lift -- to Clifton's 280).

In all other winter max categories, Randall finished first: 10 yard dash (1.61 seconds, tied with Clifton), bench press (320 pounds), 40 yard dash (4.54 seconds, tied with Clifton), and NFL shuttle (4.03 seconds).

And in the back squat, Randall set a position record with 570 pounds, beating #2 Grant Noel (475 pounds) by nearly a hundred pounds. He crushed both Clifton (400 pounds) and Hunt (380) in the back squat.

Randall followed up his winter max testing with a great performance in the 6 a.m. winter workouts. He earned "Commitment to Excellence" T-shirts in five of the six workouts, easily besting his competitors at quarterback, who earned only one (by Hunt) among them.

And after a fall that saw the Tech coaches rapidly preparing him for playing time, putting him under a lot of pressure, Randall appears to be more relaxed this spring. "I see Randall around campus a lot," one source said. "First semester, it always seemed like he was depressed. I don't think I ever saw him crack a smile. I could be wrong, but I don't think he was very happy. This semester however, I have seen him around a lot and he is always smiling, laughing and having a good time. It seems like he is much more confident and happy."

Randall's strong winter and spring (thus far) have push Clifton and Hunt out of the quarterback picture, with Clifton switching to receiver and Hunt still remaining at QB but unlikely to get many reps at all this spring. It is now a two-horse race between Randall and Noel, but unless something amazing happens in the next few weeks, Randall will not be named the #1 QB over Noel before next fall, if at all. He has put forth good effort and has had a few strong practices lately, but he has to show it over time to earn the starting nod for the 2002 season.

Barring a change in Tech Coach Frank Beamer's methods of dealing with his quarterbacks, whoever is named the starter in the fall will have a stranglehold on the job. Beamer has never been one to shuffle quarterbacks in and out, not just in a game, but in a season. Beamer likes to pick a starter and stick with him. Call him the anti-Spurrier.

For now, Noel is #1. But Randall is making his case, and making his move.

Wide Receivers Struggle Early

Sources have not been kind to the Virginia Tech receiving corps. The word "drop" appears often in our email Inbox, in all its various forms. Drops, drop, dropping, dropped, you name it, the Hokie receivers have been doing a lot of it in the early going.

But with Chris Clifton and tailback Justin Hamilton being moved to receiver, frontrunners Ernest Wilford and Richard Johnson may have been jostled into stepping up their games. Upon being moved, Clifton was installed as the #2 split end on the depth chart, tied with Wilford ... and the #1 spot was blank.

If that's not a warning shot across Wilford's bow, in an effort to get him kick-started, what is?

TSL sources (and other outlets) have said since last season that Clifton is a great receiver. Such high praise as "the best receiver on the team right now" has been heaped on Clifton as far back as last fall. He now has eight practices and the spring game to learn the position, and it's not known at this time if the Tech coaches are serious about Clifton being equal with Wilford, or if they're just trying to send Wilford a message.

As for Hamilton, his move is more "situational." Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones are the top two tailback, with Cedric Humes being listed as co-#3 with Hamilton. This leaves Hamilton as the #4 tailback, but the coaches feel he is much too talented to stand on the sidelines, so they're going to get him some practice reps at wide receiver.

The Hokies are installing some three-tailback sets, and the thinking is that by working Hamilton at receiver, when he enters a game, the opposition won't know where he is going to lineup: at tailback in the backfield, at tailback in the slot, or at receiver.

TSL sources say that Wilford and Johnson (who is a co-#1 one with Shawn Witten, ahead of Keith Burnell and Hamilton) have gotten the message and appear to be stepping it up since the position changes for Clifton and Hamilton.

Spring Game Tailgate Info's annual Spring Game tailgate will be held once again this year. This time around, it is being organized by a group of message board posters who will put on a shindig that will outshine previous Spring Game tailgates. Here's the info:

The 2002 edition of the TSLMB Spring Game Tailgate Party
(hosted by F4EHokie, bourbonstreet, BayIslandHokie, BigSkyHokie, teaysvalleyhokie, and cliff!)

Here’s what will be provided:

  • BBQ Pig (yes we’re gonna do a little pig pickin’)
  • Plates, napkins, cups, utensils, condiments
  • Deli meats, buns, soft drinks, and ice

Here’s what you need to bring:

  • Your favorite adult beverage
  • Chips, salsa, veggie trays, chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad, baked beans, ham biscuits, basically anything else you want to eat. (But plan on sharing.)
  • Anything else you think fellow Hokies might enjoy.

We have ordered a 150# pig and it will be first come, first serve. Tailgating starts at 10 AM. Look for the "" banner in the west end of Lot 5 next to Southgate Dr. (see map below).

Looking forward to being back in the ‘burg and with our fellow Hokies! Spring Game Tailgate 2002

Day: April 20, 2002
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Location: see the map below

Unlike years past, the weather looks like it might be tolerable for the Spring Game. At least it is at this point in the week:

Click here for Blacksburg Weather

The Spring Game itself is free, anyone can attend, and parking is free. The game starts at 2:00.

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