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April 6, 2009

Hokies have some answers to questions in place, but spring practice will answer the rest

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech head coach Frank Beamer recently spent 22 minutes on a teleconference, fielding questions from media hounds the way Macho Harris fields punts.

Of course, Beamer doesn’t quite return the answers as briskly as Macho returned those punts during his stellar four-year career. But Beamer steadily provided some answers to several questions, at least as best he could, just a few days before his team began its spring ritual in preparation for the upcoming 2009 season.

Among those launched his way (and his responses) included:

  • Who is going to emerge as a back-up QB (Greg Boone excluded)? – “Both Ju Ju [Clayton] and Marcus [Davis] have the ability to play. Now, how quickly they can play and how quickly you feel, ‘Hey, we’ve got the backup we want’ – that remains to be seen. I still think Ju Ju has a lot of Bryan Randall qualities and Marcus is tall and athletic and played quarterback in high school his senior year. I was impressed with him. I’m eager to see how they play this spring.”
  • What’s the deal at the linebacker spots? – “It’s open, but you’re talking about some good athletes and good players. It’s going to be interesting in the spring to see how those guys come along and become consistent players. But that’s a wide open position for us.”
  • How do you think Ryan Williams will fare? – “We fully expect him to be in the middle of things. The defensive people were impressed with him when he was on the scout team last year. He’s certainly got the ability. The learning won’t be an issue. We expect him to be fully involved at that position.”
  • Who will emerge as the kicker and the returners?

This is the question that intrigues your resident keyboard mule because special teams tend to get excluded in conversations about teams during the spring. And for the third straight year, the Hokies will be introducing a new kicker to the college football scene.

Not that it hasn’t worked out. Two years ago, Judson Dunlevy was a machine, and then last season, Dustin Keys drilled a single-season school-record 23 field goals (out of 29 attempts).

Of the contenders for the kicking job, only two – Justin Myer and Tim Pisano – have played in a game. Myer kicked off 62 times a year ago, while Pisano kicked off four times. Neither has attempted a field goal in college. Neither has Matt Waldron, another walk-on, nor obviously incoming freshman Cody Journell from Giles [Va.] High.
Breaking in another new starter at such a critical spot for the Hokies makes Beamer wince, even with such a rich tradition of special teams success.

“I wish we weren’t having a new kicker every year, but that’s the way it is,” he said. “The good part about it is that we’ve got good kickers to work with. I think one of these guys, and maybe a couple, will step up. But they all have the ability to do so and that’s the good part.

“I want to see consistency. We’ve got some good candidates. That’s the one thing we’ve found here at Virginia Tech. A lot of people send tapes in here and we usually have some good kickers in our program. We have some good kickers now. The one who is the most consistent is going to be the one who is our guy.”

Analysis of the kicking situation should only be scrutinized slightly more than the return situation, where Harris, a first-team All-ACC defensive back, excelled as both a punt returner and kick returner. Making the situation murkier, Kenny Lewis is out this spring with an injury and Davon Morgan will only participate in non-contact drills. Both returned a handful of kicks a year ago.
Though he redshirted a year ago, Williams got plenty of reps in practice – and Beamer wants to get his explosive ability on the field. Brandon Dillard, back from injury, and Patrick Terry also will get looks.

For sure, these and other questions have been posed. In some cases, Tech’s staff knows the answers.
As for the rest, the answers will be forthcoming.

Carmichael the fastest Hokie

The strength and conditioning staff also tested players in the 40-yard dash at the annual Pro Timing Day held on Tech’s indoor track at Rector Field House. Rashad Carmichael, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound cornerback, recorded the fastest time among the players with a time of 4.26 seconds. The rising redshirt junior from Clinton, Md., just edged fellow defensive back Cris Hill, who ran a 4.30.

Here are the top results in the 40:
Rashad Carmichael (4.26)
Cris Hill (4.30)
Tony Gregory (4.33)
Patrick Terry (4.38)
Dorian Porch (4.43)
Danny Coale (4.43)
Lorenzo Williams (4.45)
Jacob Sykes (4.45)
Alonzo Tweedy (4.45)
Tyrod Taylor (4.48)

Former player passes away

Allen Whittier, a former Virginia Tech football player, passed away in early March in Chestertown, Md. Whittier played at Tech from 1957-60 and was a two-time All-Southern Conference selection as an offensive tackle and an honorable mention All-American during his senior season in 1960. He served as the team captain of the 1960 squad.

After a stint serving his country in the Marine Corps, Whittier played briefly for the New Orleans Saints and the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League. He ultimately got into coaching and he later retired from the Virginia State Department of Corrections.

Whittier is survived by a wife, two daughters, two sons and six grandchildren. One of his sons, Scott, played football at the University of Maryland in the late 1980s.