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January 10, 2011

Hospital visit a huge success

By: Jimmy Robertson

A six-person Tech contingent visited the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital to meet with ailing children as part of an official Orange Bowl function.

Orange Bowl officials raved about the six-person Tech contingent that visited the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital to meet with ailing children as part of an official Orange Bowl function. The Hokies’ group consisted of injured players who weren’t playing in the Orange Bowl – Dyrell Roberts, Lyndell Gibson, Lorenzo Williams, Tony Gregory, Jacob Barron and Kwamaine Battle – and they handed out Tech shirts, hats, footballs and bags, brightening the kids’ day.

“This is a blessing to me,” Gibson said. “It’s a way of giving back. I know when I was a kid, I wanted to see big-time people. It was fun. Being able to be that person who is special to them and to see them, it’s a great thing.”

Gregory, a redshirt freshman who tore his ACL in the North Carolina game, knows what it’s like to be in a hospital. He’s actually torn the ACLs in both of his knees and spent plenty of time in recovery.

“Their situation is much more serious than mine, but I know what it’s like to be laid up,” Gregory said. “You can’t do the things you want to do or see the things you want to see. For someone or an organization to come and shed light or bring joy, it’s a sight to see.”

Players debate bowls vs. playoffs

At the official bowl press conferences in Fort Lauderdale, an Orange Bowl official asked players whether they preferred bowl games or whether they wanted to see a playoff system.

The majority of Tech players interviewed, roughly 12 or so, preferred a playoff system. That contingent included tailback Ryan Williams, defensive tackle John Graves and tight end Andre Smith.

“I know the perks and everything with a bowl game is fun,” Williams said. “You get a lot of gifts and you get to stay in a nice hotel. That’s cool, but I really want to know who is the best team in the nation and I don’t think these bowl games solidify that.

“Just like us. We got beat by JMU and then won 11 straight. Later on in the season, that’s when teams gel and that’s when you find out who’s the best team. That’s why I really wish there was a playoff system.”

Those who supported the bowl setup included tailback Darren Evans and rover Davon Morgan. Both felt a playoff would mean too many games for such a physically demanding sport.

“The bowl experience is great,” Morgan said. “There are already enough games, and I think it’s good to get away. I’ve been down here [to the Orange Bowl] three times and I’ve enjoyed it every time.”

Typically, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Tech coach Frank Beamer held opposite views. Beamer has long been an advocate of the bowl system, while Harbaugh prefers a playoff.

Changing positions – again?

After a terrific spring practice as a tight end in 2009, Chris Drager willingly moved to defensive end after Tech’s coaching staff saw a need to develop some depth along the defensive front.

Now, he may be on the move back to his original position.

“It’s hard to say. I guess Coach Beamer and I are going to meet sometime after the bowl,” Drager said three days before Tech’s Orange Bowl appearance. “I know we’ve got a lot of talent at defensive end. Guys like Jimmy Gayle and J.R. Collins have more potential than I do, and they [the coaches] probably want to work more with them.”

The issue is Tech’s lack of depth at tight end. Andre Smith, who caught 20 passes for 195 yards and five touchdowns, departs, and the only returner with any significant experience is Eric Martin. Guys like Randall Dunn and walk-on George George played sparingly.

Drager started 12 games as a defensive end and finished with 34 tackles, including six for a loss, and two sacks. As a tight end in 2008, he caught three passes for 37 yards.

“I love defensive end,” he said. “But I feel like I’m probably better as a tight end. To be a 4-3 defensive end, you’ve got to be freakishly athletic and that’s just not me. I’m a good athlete, but I don’t think I’m a freakish athlete.

“If he [Beamer] decides to move me, then I don’t think it’ll be a big transition. I’m glad I’ve gotten to play both positions. I think that’s given me a better understanding of both positions. I enjoy both, so we’ll see. It’s a win-win situation for me.”