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August 11, 2009

Taking a look at each position on the team

By: Jimmy Robertson

Taylor anchors the QB spot as a returning starter

Tyrod Taylor

For the first time in several years, there is an established pecking order at the quarterback position, and a lot of the Hokies’ hopes for the 2009 season hinge on the play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Taylor, a junior, returns after a season in which he started the final 10 games and led the team to both an ACC title and an Orange Bowl victory. He rushed for 738 yards, second on the team, and seven touchdowns, and he completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 1,036 yards and two touchdowns.

Tech will need better numbers from him in the passing game, but the big number that stands out about Taylor is his record. He’s 13-2 as a starter, with one of those losses coming at Florida State when he was injured on the first play of the game.

For the first time, he goes into this season as the main guy at quarterback, which should have him feeling confident.

“He was a different guy this spring,” Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said. “He was more vocal and he understands the situation. The last three or four games of last year, he really started to become a quarterback instead of an athlete playing quarterback, and then he played well this spring. I expect to see a continuation of that.”

Tech, though, goes into this season without an experienced backup and that concerns the staff, especially considering that Taylor has been injured each of his first two seasons. Ju-Ju Clayton came out of spring practice at No. 2 on the depth chart. He played well this spring, but struggled some in the spring game.

“Consistency is the thing with him,” O’Cain said. “I want to see him consistently get better each and every day.”

As it stands right now, Tech’s staff plans on using Marcus Davis at receiver, but is leaving open the option of a return to quarterback, where he played for most of the spring before being moved to receiver the final four practices. Davis is one of the best athletes on the team and he will play somewhere.

The staff also plans on giving highly touted recruit Logan Thomas a shot at quarterback. Thomas played quarterback at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va., but many projected him to be a tight end at the college level.


5 Tyrod Taylor (6-0, 219, Jr.)
12 Ju-Ju Clayton (6-0, 214, r-Fr.)
7 Marcus Davis (6-4, 234, r-Fr.)
3 Logan Thomas (6-5, 230, Fr.)
16 Jeff Beyer (6-4, 214, r-Sr.)

Someone in a deep and talented backfield will need to step forward to replace Evans

Darren Evans

For the second year in a row, the Hokies have lost their top running back.

A year ago, Kenny Lewis, Jr., went down with a torn Achilles in the Western Kentucky game and missed the remainder of the season.

This time, it’s Darren Evans who is tragically out of the picture.

Evans, a redshirt sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind., tore the ACL in his left knee just a couple of days into fall camp and will miss the upcoming season. It was an early-season blow to the Hokies and to Evans, who rushed for 1,265 yards – the third-best single-season total ever at Tech – and 11 touchdowns a year ago.

Tech does have plenty of backs behind Evans, but they all lack experience.

Josh Oglesby moved into the top spot on the depth chart following Evans’ injury. Oglesby played in 12 games and rushed for 88 yards a year ago behind Evans, and is very similar to Evans in terms of stature and style. He has the same opportunity that Evans had last season.

Behind Oglesby will be two freshmen with dynamite potential in superstar-in-the-making Ryan Williams, who redshirted last season, and true freshman David Wilson, one of the nation’s top running back recruits who signed with Tech in February.

Williams was the best offensive player on the field this past spring. He provides the burst, speed and big-play capability that Tech’s offense needs. After all, the Hokies’ backs only provided three runs of longer than 25 yards a year ago. But Williams had a 36-yard run in the spring game and an 80-yard run in one of the scrimmages. He also took a 56-yard screen pass for a touchdown in the spring game.

“He brings a lot of everything,” Evans said of Williams during a preseason interview. “He has all the moves, but he also runs hard. He knows that just shaking and baking won’t cut it. I don’t think people realize how strong of a runner he is.”
Wilson rushed for 2,291 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior season at George Washington [Va.] High, and over the summer, was named the MVP of the IFAF Junior World Championship after helping lead the USA to the gold medal. In three games, he rushed for 425 yards and nine touchdowns.

As for Lewis, the starter going into last season, his status remains up in the air as he tries to recover from that torn Achilles. He has undergone three more surgeries on his Achilles since the initial one and will miss at least the first three or four games of this season. He may be out the entire year – he does have a redshirt available to him since he played as a true freshman.

Tech’s backfield also includes the fullback position, an oft-forgotten group. Kenny Jefferson, a smart, tough, dependable player, leads that pack, with Kenny Younger returning to back him up. Younger missed part of last season with a torn ACL, but will be full speed this fall.

But the tailback position is the one to watch, with Evans out of the mix.


25 Josh Oglesby (5-11, 210, r-Soph.)
34 Ryan Williams (5-10, 204, r-Fr.)
4 David Wilson (5-9, 194, Fr.)
37 Zac Evans (5-10, 190, Fr.)
20 Kenny Lewis, Jr. (5-9, 198, Sr.)

42 Kenny Jefferson (5-10, 238, r-Sr.)
31 Kenny Younger (5-11, 214, r-Jr.)
21 Joey Phillips (5-11, 214, r-Fr.)
Josh Call (5-10, 255, r-Fr.)

Boone leads a strong tight ends contingent

Greg Boone

Greg Boone and the rest of the tight ends know how to pull a prank or two on their position coach – Bryan Stinespring.

In fact, rare is the day that Stinespring, who also serves as the offensive coordinator, doesn’t walk into the position meeting room and see the diagram of a new play on the grease board.

A play that, of course, calls for the tight end to get the ball.

“We draw up stuff all the time,” Boone said. “We want to see some deep balls come our way. But he’s [Stinespring] always got some excuse.”

Tech’s tight ends caught 35 passes in 2008, and even with Chris Drager having switched from tight end to defensive end, the position returns Boone, André Smith and Sam Wheeler. One would expect them to be even more involved in the offense this season, but the Hokies have a bunch of young, talented receivers who may cut into the tight ends’ production.

“I think a lot of it will depend on what defenses do,” Boone said. “We don’t look at it as if Tyrod [Taylor] has to come our way any more or any less. We should just take what the defense gives us.”

Boone caught 22 passes and is going to be used in a variety of ways this season, as Stinespring also wants to expand Boone’s role at quarterback in the Hokies’ “Wild Turkey” formation. That includes having him throw the ball more, which is fine with him.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “My arm’s good. I ain’t lost it yet.”


8 Greg Boone (6-3, 287, r-Sr.)
88 André Smith (6-4, 268, r-Jr.)
18 Sam Wheeler (6-3, 256, r-Sr.)
86 Eric Martin (6-2, 250, Fr.)
13 Randal Dunn (6-3, 228, r-Fr)
87 Prince Parker (6-5, 235, r-Jr.)
85 Rob Stanton (6-4, 237, r-Jr.)

Young receiving group has all the tools

Danny Coale

Danny Coale might not be the biggest receiver on Tech’s roster. Or the quickest. Or the fastest.

But right now, he’s the best.

Coale certainly was the Hokies’ most consistent receiver as a redshirt freshman a year ago, starting all 14 games and leading the team with 36 catches for 408 yards. This past spring, with a bevy of talented, physical youngsters challenging him, he still came out of spring ball atop the depth chart at flanker and he goes into the 2009 season as the top target for quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Coale, like most of his comrades, spent both summer sessions in Blacksburg. He worked on his strength and his speed, but most of his emphasis centered on the intricacies of his position.

“I just tried to get better at the little things,” he said. “I worked on the way I run my routes and seeing coverages. I watched a lot of film. I think you need to be able to see what the quarterback sees. I think that’s helped me prepare for this season.”

Led by Coale, the receiving group figures to be a strong one. Jarrett Boykin played as a true freshman a year ago and led the team in receiving yards (441). Dyrell Roberts also played as a true freshman, starting five games and catching seven passes. Xavier Boyce, another freshman, played in three games before getting a medical hardship waiver with an injury.

A redshirt freshman, Marcus Davis, at 6-4, 234 pounds, possesses the size and speed to be a tremendous receiver – assuming he doesn’t go back to quarterback, where he worked for most of spring practice. Another freshman, Tony Gregory, put his blazing speed on display this spring and has a bright future as well.

Hopefully, Brandon Dillard – the lone senior in the group – can have a big year. Dillard was set to start last season before tearing his Achilles in an offseason workout, and that injury cost him the year.

With the exception of Dillard, all these guys are at least 6-feet tall. The entire group can run and should catch more than the meager two touchdown passes they hauled in last fall.

“It’s a fun group,” Coale said. “We’re all trying to get better and we work well together. We’ve got a chance to be alright.

“Last year, those of us who played, we were taking things in steps. The game was new to a lot of us. But now we’re a year older – and a year better.”


Split ends
81 Jarrett Boykin (6-2, 219, Soph.)
29 Xavier Boyce (6-4, 224, r-Fr.)
7 Marcus Davis (6-4, 234, r-Fr.)
35 Austin Fuller (6-2, 213, r-Fr.)

19 Danny Coale (6-0, 208, r-Soph.)
11 Dyrell Roberts (6-2, 191, Soph.)
83 Patrick Terry (5-11, 190, r-Soph.)
40 Tony Gregory (6-0, 183, Fr.)
80 Brandon Dillard (5-11, 180, r-Sr.)
6 Ben Barber (5-10, 208, Fr.)

Offensive linemen ready to put past behind them

Sergio Render

For the first time in years, Tech’s offensive line will actually have some depth. The Hokies feature anywhere from seven to nine players on the front wall with the ability to contribute, and thus, offensive line coach Curt Newsome may be able to employ a rotation system this fall.

Most like the thoughts of that. Most, but not all.

“I hope he’s not talking about rotating me in and out,” left guard Sergio Render said, with a smile. “I don’t want to come out unless I’m absolutely exhausted.”

Render is one of four starters returning from the unit that started the Orange Bowl and one of the nation’s best at his position. He figures to be a high-round draft choice in next April’s NFL Draft provided that he enjoys a splendid senior campaign.

Render missed spring practice while recovering from surgery performed to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, but he has worked efficiently to get himself into shape for the upcoming season. He had dropped 21 pounds and weighed 313 at the time he was interviewed for this preview – and he hoped to get down to 300-305 by the start of the season.

“I knew I needed to [lose weight] and the coaches wanted me to,” Render said. “I feel great. My shoulder is fine. I’m able to pretty much do everything in the weight room now. I’m ready to have a good season and I think the entire offensive line is ready.”

Render and Ed Wang, a fellow senior and starter at left tackle, anchor the line. The two have combined for 64 career starts.

Blake DeChristopher, who started 11 games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman, also returns, along with Jaymes Brooks, who started at right guard in the Orange Bowl (in place of Nick Marshman) and played well. He enjoyed a tremendous spring before an ankle injury sidelined him, but he’s at full speed now.

At center, Beau Warren takes over for steady Ryan Shuman. Warren did not start a game last season, but started two games the previous season. Therefore, all five of Tech’s projected starters have started at least one game.

Quality reserves await if one those starters get hurt. Richard Graham, a senior, has played everywhere on the line and his versatility helps the front. Greg Nosal, a redshirt sophomore, took advantage of Render’s injury in the spring and played very well. He possesses the instincts and athleticism to play guard or tackle. Though he needs to get stronger and add weight, Michael Via, a redshirt freshman, impressed everyone with his ability to pick up the center position this spring. And Andrew Lanier, a redshirt sophomore, worked himself into a position to get playing time at right tackle.

Newsome also likes a couple of youngsters – redshirt freshmen Nick Becton and Vinston Painter. Neither is quite ready to step in and play extended minutes, but if they work at it, both possess the tools to be very good players in the future.

“I think we could be good, but it depends on how we come out,” Render said. “If we come out and work together and produce, we can be good. But on the offensive line, if one person makes a mistake, the whole group looks bad. That’s been our problem.”

A year ago, Tech’s offensive line paved the way for Darren Evans to rush for 1,265 yards – part of the Hokies’ 2,441 yards rushing as a team. But the passing game was another story.

Tech allowed an ACC-worst 42 sacks a year ago. In the past two years, the Hokies have given up 97 sacks – the most of any team playing Division I. In fairness, some of those sacks weren’t the fault of the offensive line. But not all of them.

“We’ve got to get rid of those,” Render said. “We know if we protect Tyrod [Taylor], then he can make plays.

“Ever since I’ve been here, people have talked about how awful the offensive line is. But we’re not as bad as people think. We’ve just got to play more as a unit. We’ve got to know our plays and we’ve got to study our opponents more. That’s what I’m priding myself on doing this summer. If we do that, I think that’s really going to help on the playing field.”


Left tackles
77 Ed Wang (6-5, 313, r-Sr.)
54 Nick Becton (6-5, 311, r-Fr.)

Left guards
70 Sergio Render (6-3, 313, Sr.)
75 Greg Nosal (6-5, 288, r-Soph.)
69 Jim Brown (6-4, 311, Fr.)

60 Beau Warren (6-3, 286, r-Jr.)
67 Michael Via (6-6, 277, r-Fr.)
58 Bo Gentry (5-10, 239, r-Fr.)

Right guards
68 Jaymes Brooks (6-2, 297, r-Soph.)
64 Richard Graham (6-6, 296, r-Sr.)

Right tackles
62 Blake DeChristopher (6-5, 312, r-Soph.)
72 Andrew Lanier (6-5, 281, r-Soph.)
71 Vinston Painter (6-5, 325, r-Fr.)

Depth could be an issue, but Tech’s starting DL could be tremendous

Cordarrow Thompson (95) and John Graves (91)

When Charley Wiles, Tech’s defensive line coach, sat down with John Graves after spring practice to discuss goals and summer plans, he knew not to waste time asking if Graves planned to stay in Blacksburg for the entire summer.

After all, no one likes working out more than Graves, even during the so-called offseason. In fact, he and a small group that included Jason Worilds, Jake Johnson, Antoine Hopkins and Demetrius Taylor often stayed 30 minutes later or more following a scheduled workout just to get in a few more lifts.

“We’re just trying to get in a little extra work,” Graves said. “We’re trying to get better. All of us want to excel in games, and hopefully, this will help us. It also builds camaraderie. Guys are helping each other and motivating each other.”

Graves and Worilds anchor what figures to be an outstanding starting unit on the defensive front. Heading into fall practice, the starting lineup featured Graves and Cordarrow Thompson at the tackle spots, providing the Hokies with plenty of bulk in the middle of the defense, while Worilds and Nekos Brown held down the end positions. All four possess All-ACC ability.

The question for this unit will be depth, particularly at the end spots. This spring, Graves spent most of his time at end, as Wiles prepared for a worst-case scenario – an injury to Worilds or Brown – this fall.

“You never know what may happen,” Graves said. “I’m prepared. I learned a lot and I feel like it [playing defensive end] went well. It wasn’t too awkward for me.”

The back-ups at end include Steven Friday, who missed most of spring with an injury, and a redshirt freshman, Isaiah Hamlette, who may not be ready for a huge role this fall. The X-factor, though, is Chris Drager, who moved from tight end to defensive end after spring practice, as the staff felt a need to solidify the end spots. The situation certainly bears watching.

In the middle, things are more tenable. Taylor is the perfect back-up and is considered a co-starter, and Hopkins could be a standout – he had two sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the spring game. Kwamaine Battle also improved tremendously this spring.

As a unit, they know they need to be good. Great defense starts up front.

“That’s our goal – to be the best,” Graves said. “We have the potential. As long as we stay focused and stay away from injuries, we should be fine.”


Stud ends
47 Nekos Brown (6-2, 244, Sr.)
33 Chris Drager (6-3, 247, r-Soph.)
54 Isaiah Hamlette (6-4, 246, r-Fr.)

6 Jason Worilds (6-2, 256, r-Jr.)
82 Steven Friday (6-4, 235, r-Jr.)

Nose tackles
91 John Graves (6-3, 279, r-Jr.)
56 Demetrius Taylor (6-0, 274, r-Sr.)
93 Kwamaine Battle (6-0, 283, r-Soph.)
45 Joe Jones (6-2, 244, r-Fr.)

95 Cordarrow Thompson (6-2, 307, r-Sr.)
98 Antoine Hopkins (6-0, 299, r-Fr.)
53 Dwight Tucker (6-1, 283, r-Fr.)
59 Courtney Prince (6-2, 270, r-Fr.)

Johnson and Rivers out to make names for themselves at LB spots

Jake Johnson

Year in and year out, Tech’s defense features some of the nation’s best players, and in particular, linebackers.
But heading into this season, more than a few Tech fans will need to scan the game program to find the names of the projected starters.

The names are Jake Johnson and Barquell Rivers, and between them, they have one career start. In fact, all of the scholarship linebackers are redshirt sophomores or younger.

Rivers, though, eased the mind of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Bud Foster with a solid game against Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl. Starting in place of an injured Brett Warren (knee) at mike linebacker, Rivers played his position well and made a huge fourth-down stop near the goal line – a play that helped the Hokies to a 20-7 victory. He also played well this spring, solidifying his spot, and more importantly, Foster’s trust.

Johnson, who was a backup at mike last season, won the job at backer with a tremendous spring. He was the team’s most improved defensive player this past spring.

“The backer position was wide open and the coaches thought I could produce there,” Johnson said. “I think I was able to show them that. I love the position and I think it’s a good fit for me. We do a lot of blitzes off the edge and do some things in coverage. I get to hit receivers coming over the middle. It’s a fun position.”

Johnson, a weight room addict, was a little heavy, by his own admission, when he arrived on campus a year ago. But he spent this spring and summer getting his weight down and his body right for his new position, and he resembles the physical specimen many saw in his recruiting photos when he committed to Tech.

“I feel good,” he said. “I wanted to lose weight and I did. My conditioning is good. I came in at 245 pounds, and in the spring, I dropped to 230 and then to 220. Now, I’m back to 235, but it’s good weight. I knew I had to do something, so I put in some hard work, got in a little extra time in the cardio room and started eating healthy. Now I’m ready.”

Inexperience reigns behind Rivers and Johnson. At mike, redshirt freshman Bruce Taylor will back up Rivers, while true sophomore Quillie Odom and redshirt freshman Lyndell Gibson will back up Johnson. Only Odom played among those three a year ago – and he only played 45 snaps, most of those coming on special teams.


Mike linebackers
52 Barquell Rivers (6-0, 234, r-Soph.)
51 Bruce Taylor (6-2, 236, r-Fr.)
94 Mark Muncey (5-11, 217, r-Sr.)

36 Jake Johnson (6-2, 234, Soph.)
38 Quillie Odom (6-2, 230, Soph.)
39 Lyndell Gibson (5-11, 222, r-Fr.)
40 Tim Richardson (5-10, 238, r-Jr.)

Tech features depth and experience at both whip and rover

Dorian Porch

A year ago, Dorian Porch was not in the best of moods.

And he readily admits he was to blame for the problems.

Porch spent last summer working an internship for a residential property management company in Largo, Md., and he came back in poor shape. As a result, he saw Davon Morgan move ahead of him on the depth chart and ultimately win the starting job at rover.

“The situation I was in, I let my teammates down as far as my conditioning,” Porch said. “I felt it was my fault. I wanted to go to the coaches and say I needed a chance. But I understood where they were coming from. That drove me to work harder, and when my time came, I was ready.”

Porch got his opportunity when Morgan tore an ACL in the Nebraska game. He started for Morgan the final nine games of the season and played every down during that stretch. In the regular-season finale against UVa, he made the game-saving interception late in the game, and in the Orange Bowl, he led the Hokies with eight tackles.

He continued his solid play this spring, and unlike last summer, he spent his entire time in Blacksburg, working out. Now, he goes into the season No. 1 on the depth chart.

“I look back on it and I have that drive to produce and correct the mistakes I made last year,” Porch said. “I have that drive to come out on top. I don’t have any excuses.

“My goal is to make as few errors as possible and make the plays I’m supposed to make. It’s funny, but if you just do your job, then the plays will come to you.”

Now healthy, Morgan will push Porch, creating a nice competition between two good players. He played well in his five starts last season and possesses the ball skills to make a lot of plays in coverage. Steady Matt Reidy, a special teams standout, goes into the season as the third rover.

At whip linebacker, Cody Grimm and Cam Martin return to battle for the starting nod. The two will split time either way. Grimm was tremendous last year, finishing third on the team in tackles (71), second in tackles for a loss (14) and tied for second in sacks (7.5). Martin, who missed spring practice with a knee injury, will be ready once the season starts. He had 51 tackles and a pair of sacks a year ago, starting 13 games.

Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Alonzo Tweedy and Zach Luckett are the remaining whips. Luckett, who was moved from the receiver spot, returns after missing last season (suspended). All figure to help out extensively on special teams this season.


Whip linebackers
26 Cody Grimm (5-11, 204, r-Sr.)
41 Cam Martin (6-1, 212, r-Sr.)
43 Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (6-2, 200, r-Fr.)
28 Alonzo Tweedy (6-2, 185, r-Fr.)
18 Zach Luckett (6-3, 203, r-Jr.)

24 Dorian Porch (5-11, 206, r-Sr.)
2 Davon Morgan (5-11, 201, Jr.)
23 Matt Reidy (6-1, 215, r-Sr.)

Virgil ready to assume role at boundary corner

Stephan Virgil

Tech’s list of distinguished boundary corners is quite impressive and lengthy and includes the likes of Macho Harris, Brandon Flowers, Jimmy Williams and DeAngelo Hall.

Now it’s Stephan Virgil’s turn.

Virgil, a rising senior who started all 14 games as a field corner a season ago, flips over to the other side to handle the boundary corner duties with Harris’ departure. He tied for the team lead (with Harris) in interceptions with six (to go along with 43 tackles and four pass break-ups) and the two of them were the main reasons why Tech ranked tied for second in the ACC with 20 interceptions last season. Now, Virgil hopes to make an even bigger impact in 2009 at one of Tech’s premier play-making positions.

“I’m excited about it,” Virgil said. “There are a lot more opportunities to make plays at the boundary corner, not just in the passing game, but in the running game. I’ll feel more at home there. There will be more contact and I like being in the mix of things. I feel like I have the complete game to play at boundary.

“I learned a lot from watching Macho and Brandon and watching Jimmy on film. I’m trying to take what I’ve learned from them and put my own little twist on it.”

Virgil and returning free safety Kam Chancellor anchor the Hokies’ secondary. Chancellor, a senior, got off to a bit of a slow start in his first season at free safety but made more and more plays down the stretch. He intercepted a pass and broke up two others in the Orange Bowl and enjoyed an outstanding spring. He and Virgil both have all-conference ability.

The starting job at field corner remains a little up in the air, with Rashad Carmichael, Cris Hill and Eddie Whitley all fighting for it. Carmichael, a redshirt junior, is the fastest player on the team and probably is the leading contender because of his speed and experience. But Hill, a redshirt sophomore, was vastly improved this spring and Whitley, a sophomore, is a physical presence whom the coaches like. He also possesses the versatility to play at safety, too.

Heading into the fall, Hill backed up Carmichael at field corner, while Whitley backed up Virgil at boundary. But things could change.

“All those guys are great guys and they love to compete,” Virgil said. “They all bring different things to the table. Rashad has the speed, and Cris has speed and technique. Eddie’s more physical. They’re all competitors and they’re going to compete until the end for that job.”

At safety, the backup is Lorenzo Williams, who played mostly on special teams as a true freshman a year ago. He suffered a knee injury halfway through the season and missed some time, and that may have hindered him this spring. He possesses the physical skills needed to be a good safety, but defensive backs coach Torrian Gray wants to see him make more plays.

Virgil, though, is the key to this defensive backfield. He missed part of spring practice while taking care of his academic responsibilities but worked extra hard over the summer to make up for it and to prepare for the task of replacing Harris, a playmaker who earned All-America honors by three organizations last year (Associated Press, The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated).

“I feel good,” Virgil said. “I’ve gained weight and I’ve gotten faster. I feel like I’ve done what I need to do in the offseason to hold up the boundary tradition. Now I need to do it on the field.”


Field corners
21 Rashad Carmichael (5-10, 184, r-Jr.)
9 Cris Hill (5-11, 185, r-Soph.)
30 Germond Oatneal (5-11, 182, Soph.)

Boundary corners
22 Stephan Virgil (5-11, 191, Sr.)
15 Eddie Whitley (6-1, 184, Soph.)
37 Jacob Sykes (6-0, 193, r-Soph.)

17 Kam Chancellor (6-4, 229, Sr.)
14 Lorenzo Williams (6-2, 211, Soph.)
1 Antone Exum (5-11, 209, Fr.)

Bowden seeking to put past behind him

Brent Bowden

Brent Bowden isn’t quite sure what happened at the beginning of last season.

Coming off a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 42.5 yards per punt, he expected to be launching rockets down the field during his junior year. Instead, he mis-hit a bunch, and though he finished the year with a 40.4-yard average, he gave his honest assessment of his season.

“I was really disappointed,” he said.

Bowden stayed in Blacksburg the entire summer for the first time since he arrived on campus and he enters his final season with a new attitude. Long gone are the thoughts of hang time and yardage and winning all-conference honors. Instead, he has slightly more modest goals.

“I want to have fun,” Bowden said. “This is my last season and I want to help the team in any way I can and enjoy it.

“Last year, I had a great camp and thought I was going to do better than I did the previous year. For whatever reason, those first few punts, I was so nervous. I was putting so much pressure on myself, and I hate to say this – I became a head case.

“When I went out and relaxed, I did so much better. I think I added two yards to my average the last six games.”

For a team that likes to play the field position game, Bowden will be a key performer for Tech. So, too, will be the field-goal kicker, and right now, that figures to be Matt Waldron, who was sensational during spring practice.

“He’s my best friend and roommate and I know how bad he wants it,” Bowden said of Waldron. “He’s always accurate. From 45 yards and in, he’s going to make it.”

The return game figures to be sparked by both Ryan Williams and Dyrell Roberts, who will attempt to replace return standout Macho Harris, an All-American defensive back a year ago. True freshman David Wilson could also be in the mix.


49 Matt Waldron (5-11, 190, r-Sr.)
48 Justin Myer (6-0, 198, Soph.)

97 Brent Bowden (6-3, 201, r-Sr.)
30 Brian Saunders (6-0, 197, r-Jr.)

50 Collin Carroll (6-3, 243, r-Soph.)
63 Matt Tuttle (6-0, 228, r-Sr.)