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12 Aspirations for Hokie Football 2004
by Jeff Ouellet, 1/12/04

Many of us make resolutions at the beginning of each new year in an effort to fix some aspect of our personal or professional life. Obviously, the VT program needs some fixing of its own, and here are twelve things Iíd like to see in 2004. I just hope the Hokies can fulfill these aspirations better than I keep my own resolutions . . .

  1. The Hokie Nation continues to support its players and coaches during what may be a transitional period in a tough and unfamiliar conference. If schematic changes are coming, as well as a youth movement, Hokie fans may have to endure some difficult losses in 2004, but change is necessary if VT wants to compete for league championships.

  2. Playmakers emerge on both sides of the ball, specifically from the 2002 recruiting class. Many of the players in the program with the ability to be "game changers" are rising true juniors, and they need to make 3-4 big time plays per game. In particular, on defense Darryl Tapp, Jonathan Lewis and Jimmy Williams need to step up their games. Tapp and Lewis both were big time recruits, and Williams has that type of ability. On offense, Mike Imoh is a dynamic option, and he needs twenty touches a game. If it was up to me, he would be our primary kickoff returner, punt returner, and our full time third down back. The final playmaker in the class of 2002 was redshirted, but obviously Marcus Vick has to find the field. He either needs to be the Hokies quarterback, or if he doesnít win the job, he needs double digit touches in a slash role.

  3. There is no quarterback controversy in 2004. My hope is that by the conclusion of spring practice, the coaches decide on a starting quarterback and move the second stringer to another position. If Bryan Randall wins the job, Marcus Vick has the ability to be the best receiver on our team. If Marcus wins the job, Bryan would appear to have the ability to contribute on the defensive side of the ball, perhaps as a strong safety. In the event of a serious injury to the starter, of course, either one could move back to quarterback, but we need to get our best athletes on the field and it wonít happen if they both primarily play quarterback. Having Cory Holt enroll in January and Sean Glennon matriculate this fall gives the coaches two other backup possibilities if a short term replacement is needed.

  4. Our offense improves its ability to throw the deep ball. VTís passing game early in the year was efficient, but it primarily focused on throwing shorter routes. As the year progressed, teams started sitting on shorter patterns without much fear of getting beaten deep. Our quarterbacks need to improve their accuracy on deep throws, and, more importantly, a true deep threat needs to emerge. David Clowney and Marcus Vick both would seem to have the speed to separate deep, but Clowney needs to become more polished, and Marcus may be the starting quarterback. VT would like to sign four wide receivers in the 2004 recruiting class, and one or more of them may get a chance to have an immediate impact.

  5. The offensive line becomes the strongest individual unit of the VT team. While there is no minimizing the loss of unanimous All-America Jake Grove and Jacob Gibson was solid, VT returns both Jimmy Martin and Jon Dunn at tackle, a guard who might be an all league candidate in Will Montgomery, and a part time starter in guard James Miller. That is a good nucleus, and one of the center candidates (Tripp Carroll) was the most highly recruited offensive lineman ever to sign with VT. With the loss of Kevin Jones and Earnest Wilford, this group needs to be great to help the offense continue to produce while integrating new skill position talent.

  6. One tailback emerges as a solid 20 carry per game option. Cedric Humes is the starter going into spring ball, and my guess is that increased carries would cure his fumbling problem. Humes has shown flashes and is a physical slasher, but he hasnít yet established himself as a go-to guy. I am a big fan of Mike Imoh, but I would prefer to use him as a changeup player and focus on ways to get him the ball in space. George Bell, especially if he enrolls early, or another freshman tailback (Branden Ore?) could emerge.

  7. The offensive play calling shows the same creativity that was evident in the bowl game. Next year diversity will be paramount, because we donít have the same level of big-play capability without the backfield speed of Jones or the physical prowess of Wilford at wide receiver. Having Randall and Vick together opens a lot of unique playmaking opportunities, and Imohís experience at both tailback and wide receiver makes him a key piece of the puzzle.

  8. A new defensive scheme is hatched that permits three true linebackers to be on the field. I donít have a problem with the old scheme, per se, but it is extremely difficult to recruit hybrid types to play the whip and rover positions. To ask a player, as in the case of a whip, to play in the box on one play and then cover the deep half of the field in a zone on the next play takes a special athlete, and we simply havenít recruited enough players that are that versatile. On the other hand, there are three terrific linebacker prospects that redshirted last year with close to prototype size and speed (Xavier Adibi, Vince Hall, Mike Brown). If they can make plays, we need to play a scheme to accommodate them.

  9. That 2004 is the year of the redshirt freshman. The coaches have heaped praise on the redshirt freshman class, and seven of them may legitimately have designs on winning a starting spot in the spring. I have already alluded to the terrific linebacking trio of Xavier Adibi, Vince Hall and Michael Brown, but two redshirt freshman could start in the secondary as well. Michael Hinton is a jumbo corner and very good athlete, and if he is reinstated to the team, he could have an impact at boundary corner. I would also like to see Jimmy Williams moved to strong safety, which would possibly open the free safety position for Corey Gorden. On offense there are not as many new names, but Tripp Carroll and John Kinzer both will get a good look at the vacated center and fullback positions, respectively. Tight end Duane Brown and wideout Josh Hyman could certainly get an opportunity sometime next fall, although I would not expect either to get a starting nod coming out of spring practice.

  10. The veteran defensive playmaker so desperately needed last year was on the roster, but not on the field. I think that Jim Davis has a chance to be our best defensive player this year, especially after a medical redshirt season in which he bulked up to around 280 pounds. VT desperately needs an edge rusher, and I am hoping the Davis can provide it.

  11. Never, ever play zone defense. I donít know what the problem is with our zone defense. It could be coaching, it could be our personnel, it could be the personnel of the teams we play, but I hate it when we play zone defense. VT traditionally is an aggressive defense, and I think we need to get back to more man-to-man coverage. If the corners can survive, that will free up our linebackers to blitz more often and help the pass rush. I think our freshman linebackers, generally bigger than the existing group, may be tougher for backs to pick up, and they have a little more height, which could disrupt passing lanes.

  12. Jimmy Williams becomes the player in 2004 that I touted him to be in preseason 2003. When I predicted a breakout year for Williams, I really didnít think I was going out on that much of a limb. He looked great in run support late in his freshman season, and more than a few players told me he played as well as any defensive player on our roster during spring ball. He is a player that seemingly has it all Ė great size (6í3", 218), cover skills good enough to play some corner, and a willingness to hit. What he lacked last year was discipline. My proposed solution is to move him to a new traditional strong safety position this spring, as he has great size to help in run support when we go to eight in the box. He could really be valuable if we use more man coverage because he is athletic enough to cover tight ends and big receivers in the slot.

Although many of these suggestions are not unique, nor are they a panacea for all that ails the program, they would go a long way towards making sure that 2004 is a solid season that helps restore confidence to many in the Hokie Nation.

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