Monday, August 07, 2006

Hokie Football: Catchin' Up

Several events in regards to Hokie football transpired over the weekend while I was out of town (and unable to access any computer with internet connection capability), so here's a quick recap of what I missed:

  • With less than a month remaining before Virginia Tech's home opener against Northeastern, the Hokies held their first fall practice Friday afternoon. The team workout, which reportedly had a total turnout of more than a hundred players (105 to be exact, 17 of them being D-1A college football newbies), lasted two hours, and featured each player practicing in helmets, jerseys and shorts. Practices featuring full pads for the Hokies are set to begin today.

    Following Friday's team workout, Hokie Boss Frank Beamer didn't seem too impressed with his team's overall performance, stating:
    "It was a typical first day ... we didn't throw the ball great, we didn't catch it great, the timing was off a little bit ... I think the effort's good, the attitude's good, but we've got to improve on some football."
    Again, just like Beamer's recent comments about VT's special teams last week (see the article below), his remarks aren't much for Hokie followers to fret upon, seeing as he's just going on another one of his typical rants, and in all fairness, it was the team's first official get-together since spring training ended in mid-April.

    In injury notes, Tech's secondary took a big hit talent-wise as starting cornerback Roland Minor, one of the few returning leaders from last season's top-ranked Hokie defense, suffered knee and wrist injuries following a car wreck while riding around his hometown of Washington D.C.

    According to team trainer Mike Goforth, Minor's wrist required surgery Friday to insert pins that will remain there for a period of four to six weeks, with a full recovery expected to take almost two months.

    Tech's costly loss of the experienced returnee in Minor comes at a time when the abundance of talented starters with playing time under their belt is limited, and the redshirt junior's injury will undoubtedly prompt defensive coordinator Bud Foster to rethink a few coverages heading into the earlier part of the year.

    Last year, Minor served as a talented sidekick to All-American cornerback Jimmy Williams in the defensive backfield, and on the season, the duo, combined with safeties Justin Hamilton and Aaron Rouse, combined to form a pass defense that ranked second in the nation in terms of opponent passing yards per game (149.1), second only to Miami (148.2). Also of note from that secondary was the fact they managed to only allow a total of eight scores through the air, good enough for third in the nation, all the while snatching a smooth total of 19 picks in the process, with Minor recording for three.

    Despite the fact Minor was (and, in fact, still is) expected to play an instrumental part of Foster's lockdown pass defense this year, expect true sophomore Victor Harris, one of the few freshman from last season who got to see significant playing time, to step in and fill the void left by Minor's injury.

    Victor Harris Overall, the kid's cocky, and rightfully so. He's got the speed (4.4), the durability (6-0, 200), and the swagger (his nickname is 'Macho' for crying out loud), to really emerge on the ACC scene as a star. After taking his first year to make the adjustment to college from the high school level, word is that he's developed significantly over the off-season, and is ready to showcase his improved skills come September.

    Much of Harris' time on the field last year was spent getting reps in at defensive back as well as spending significant time on special teams. Those around him have realized the tremendous amount of athleticism and potential he possesses -- Beamer and Tech's coaching staff have known this ever since welcoming the five-star recruit to Blacksburg, and are anxious to let him blossom on the season as a starter.

    One obvious example of Beamer's determination in attempting to utilize Harris' talent took place earlier this year during the team's spring training sessions. With top rushers Brandon Ore and George Bell out nursing injuries, Beamer and his staff worked the rising sophomore at running back -- point being, they had to get the kid on the field some way or another.

    Looking at Harris' new found situation though, heading into the team's season opener next month, his desired starting spot at right cornerback, playing opposite junior CB Brandon Flowers, basically fell right into his lap. Expect him to have a strong August training session, taking the time to soak in his newly acquired role and heavily prepare for the team's September season kickoff.

    Come to think of it now, as September rolls through, it'll be a relief for the young Hokie that his first few games as a starter are against some very weak competition in Northeastern, Duke, North Carolina and Cincinatti. Also a plus for Harris and the Tech secondary is by the time Georgia Tech's phenomenal supreme being at wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, and his Yellow Jackets buddies come to town, Minor should be back and ready to go, and hopefully every other Hokie will be too.

  • The USA Today Coaches' Polls were released on Friday, listing the Hokies as 16th on the list. Definitely a bit higher than I (and everyone else) would have expected, but it's nothing to get riled up about -- they're just preseason rankings, y'all.
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