The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
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Tech Talk Tuesday (football season only)
February 11, 2002
Mondayís edition of the Hokie Hotline was the 14th Annual Virginia Tech Football Recruiting Special. The guests included assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bryan Stinespring; recruiting coordinator and strong safety and outside linebackers coach Jim Cavanaugh; and Roanoke Times reporter Doug Doughty. These three guests, along with "Voice of the Hokies" and Sportscaster of the Year Bill Roth, discussed the newly signed class of 2002 for the Hokies.
Bill Roth began the show by noting that publications had listed this yearís Virginia Tech class anywhere from 17th to 30th in the country. Coach Cavanaugh began the discussion by saying that Bryan Stinespring, the former recruiting coordinator, had been the one that changed recruiting at Virginia Tech. He was the one that made a commitment to keeping the in-state players in Virginia. With regard to rankings, he said that he doesnít put a lot of stock in them. The coaches are trying to find players that fit into certain positions. He said that from top to bottom, this class is the most athletic of any of the classes that Tech has signed; and for the record, he said that he never said that last yearís class was the best ever.
Coach Stinespring said that he agreed with Cavanaughís assessment 100%. He said that he likes the versatility of the class, and that it always helps when there are players that can play at several positions. It allows them to get on the field and help the team win ballgames.
With the introductions and opening discussions out of the way, Roth began by asking about specific players. The first player discussed (not surprisingly) was Marcus Vick out of Warwick High School in Newport News. Roth asked how the process of recruiting him had gone. Coach Cavanaugh said that Coach Tommy Reamon hadnít gotten involved early in the process because Warwick was having a good season and had the chance to go to the state playoffs, so he "kept pecking along."
Cavanaugh said that he continued to recruit him throughout the process because Marcus never told him that Virginia Tech was out of it. He said that Marcus saw that the three quarterbacks from last year didnít come into the program and distinguished themselves in his eyes, so that, and the addition of Kevin Rogers as the new quarterbacks coach, really helped in the process. In the end, the family and Coach Reamon knew Rogers well, and everyone thought that the fact that Rogers will be able to focus more of his time on the quarterback position would allow Marcus to develop as a quarterback.
On the issue of how Tech will be able to keep the pressure off Marcus, Cavanaugh said that they canít. He echoed some sentiments from during the recruiting process, including some of Marcusís own words. He said that his name is Vick and it will always be Vick, whether he went to Virginia Tech or to Tennessee, Miami or "that other place." Stinespring said that Cavanaugh had been Mr. Persistence in recruiting him and that the coaches were really excited to have Marcus.
Jonathan Lewis, brother of Tech redshirt freshman Kevin Lewis, was the next recruiting subject. Coach Cavanaugh said that Jonathan comes from a very good family and that he and his brother really get along well. He mentioned that thereís a picture in the familyís house of the two brothers posing together in their high school uniforms. He said that he didnít think he would ever leave the state, and that he felt comfortable at Virginia Tech during his visits, so he came here.
Stinespring repeated the same comments, and said that it said something that a family would send another child to the same school. Everythingís good during the recruiting process, but if the family is still comfortable after that initial period is over, then that must mean things are being done the right way. Several times throughout the show, the coaches mentioned that Jonathan would have a chance to play as a freshman with the loss of the five interior defensive linemen this past season.
(From there, the discussion of the various players began to be interspersed with other discussion topics, but Iíll continue with the player discussions.) The next signee was Aaron Rouse from the Hampton Roads area. Stinespring indicated that he has tremendous upside potential and suggested that he could play free safety, inside or outside linebacker or defensive end -- an example of the versatility that he mentioned in the opening of the show. He also described Aaron as a "heat-seeking missile" that would be evident in the film clips that were being shown after the radio show.
Darryl Tapp and Lamar Veney were the next two players discussed. Coach Stinespring said that Tech recruited Darryl for two years and that heís a terrific defensive end prospect. He was a terrific high school player in a defensive scheme similar to the one that Tech uses. Heís another of the reckless, physical players that Stinespring said Coach Beamer speaks of highly. Lamar played defensive end in high school and Stinespring credited Tony Ball with recruiting and signing him.
Next in the discussion was Jimmy Williams, a junior college defensive lineman from Memphis that has been playing in California. Cavanaugh said that he was a player that the Tech coaches heard about through a lead. The coaches followed up on the lead and it eventually led to a signing. He said that the coaches follow every lead, and even though twenty of them might not pan out, the 21st might be a guy like Jimmy Williams who has the chance to come in and help the team. Cavanaugh said that he had a "hell of a season" and that he reminded Coach Wiles of a player like Waverly Jackson. Heís a big, strong guy that can run, and defensive linemen are hard to find.
The next group of players discussed were wide receivers Robert Parker, Brenden Hill and Fred Lee. Stinespring said that Hill and Parker have good size and upside potential. He also mentioned that Parker had been named the sleeper of the year in the state. He had been a tight end in an option offense, but he was moved to wide receiver. He was one of the players that really wanted to come to Virginia Tech, which means a lot to the coaches. Finally, he said that Fred Lee was a guy that theyíd talked about before and that he wanted the next time that he talked about him to be when he was wearing orange and maroon.
Two cornerbacks from Florida, Demetrius Hodges and Antoine Rutherford, were the next two players discussed. Roth pointed out that Florida has been a productive area for the Hokies, especially in the secondary. Cavanaugh said that both can run, but that Rutherford had an ACL injury and might not enroll at Tech until January if his knee doesnít heal enough. Hodges is very quick, but is a little smaller.
Brian McPherson is another defensive back in this class, and he had a great showing at Virginia Techís football camp. Stinespring mentioned that he had done everything that the coaches had asked, and that he was the kind of guy that "jumped out kicking and screaming in camp."
Noland Burchette is a tall, lanky, 225 pound defensive end. He plays basketball, can run, and is very athletic with great hands. Heís a good player who committed early to Tech after receiving offers from Maryland and NC State.
Offensive lineman Jimmy Martin worked very hard during his time at Fork Union Military Academy. He went from 305 to 265 before arriving at his current weight of 270. Cavanaugh said that there isnít a lot to do at Fork Union other than eat, march and study, so that gave him the chance to attack the weight room. The coaches said that they like the way he moves, and Stinespring mentioned that heíd like him to play next year.
Defensive tackle Chris Burnett is a player that the coaches were very familiar with from the summer camp, and heís another player that really wanted to come to Tech. Stinespring said that he plays a very physical brand of football, and that heís the kind of player that comes to play on Saturdays.
The remaining players that were mentioned during individual questions or within discussions of other topics were Cary Wade, Nic Schmitt, Brandon Gore, and Mike Imoh. Coach Stinespring said that Tech was very fortunate to sign Mike Imoh, who was the best running back in the state.
An e-mail question asked whether Tech had pulled a scholarship offer from Stefan Orange after Cary Wade committed to Tech. Coach Cavanaugh said that Wade was another player that really impressed the coaches in camp, but that he really didnít know the answer to the question.
Players That Got Away
The coaches didnít spend a lot of time on a few of the players that committed to other schools, but they did briefly mention a few. London was a player that had a lot of pressure on him as the son of a minister. He thought that maybe he would feel a little less pressure going away to school rather than staying in state. Maybe something just clicked for him out at UCLA. He said that he wished him well, and that maybe theyíd meet up with him in a bowl game.
An e-mail question asked if there had been any unethical recruiting as a result of Virginiaís increased emphasis this year. Stinespring said that he hadnít seen any, but that didnít mean that things didnít get heated. Cavanaugh countered that itís not a "love-fest" out there and that sometimes they have to get after it, but that he only goes with the things that he sees and hears.
That eventually led into a discussion of the Patrick Dosh situation. Roth mentioned that Coach Beamer had said that, under the circumstances that Florida was under, the whole situation didnít bother him. Coach Cavanaugh said only, "I wish him the best of luck." There were a few delayed chuckles from the audience, so Iím not sure what else might have been going on there.
There were a variety of other discussions during the showís hour and a half. In one discussion during the showís second segment, Bill Roth mentioned an article that quoted Virginia coach Al Groh on his 2002 recruiting class. Coach Cavanaugh said that he really didnít want to comment on another schoolís recruiting class, saying that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." He pointed out that UCLA had a great class four years ago and that theyíve been 17-17 with no bowls in the three seasons since then. Notre Dame had a top five recruiting class in four of the previous five years, but their coaching staff all got fired after this past season. He also mentioned Nebraska and asked when the last time was that they had had a highly rated recruiting class. He said that they had really cranked things up in the 1996 Orange Bowl against Tech without worrying about recruiting rankings.
He mentioned Lemming as one of the writers that provides the recruiting rankings, but said that the only writer that heíll listen to is Doug Doughty. He said that a lot of times fans just want to get "juiced up" about something, and that when your team is 5-7 and not going to a bowl, you just need something to get juiced up about. Stinespring added that "a lot has been said and done, and in the end you need to do a lot more than you say." He said that he was going to just sit up there on the stage, tuck in his sweatshirt and go look for a chess game. That brought out more than few laughs from the audience.
The group discussed how the recruits are ranked, and Doughty admitted that where a player visits is an important consideration. One recruiting analyst for college basketball has been accused of elevating a playerís rank as soon as he visits North Carolina. Coach Cavanaugh pointed out a guy like Aaron Rouse. He was a player that committed early to Virginia Tech, but wasnít as highly regarded a recruit as another player in the same area. However, Rouse got ten of the eleven votes for defensive player of the year in his district. In the end, he said that the fans shouldnít worry about it, especially the alumnus that called him at 4:30 in the morning.
To sum up the discussion of recruiting rankings, Roth asked Doughty whether Virginia had won a decisive victory in the in-state recruiting battle with Virginia Tech. He seemed to squirm a little over the question and wondered aloud why he was being asked such a tough question. Roth said that if they were interested in getting answers to easy questions, they would have invited Randy King. In the end, though, he said that Virginia had indeed had a better recruiting class than Tech. Two of the factors that he gave were an edge in out-of-state recruits and size of the class. Roth pointed out that Virginia had been rated with a better class than Virginia Tech in four of the previous seven years -- a fact that seemed to take Doughty by surprise.
A caller named Steve asked whether computer message boards had a negative effect on the recruiting process. Coach Cavanaugh said that if he were to answer that question, that heíd "pull the plug on the whole operation." He said that he thought they caused more problems than they were worth, but that he didnít know that they had any effect on recruiting. He said that heíd never heard a recruit say that they had a negative effect. Coach Stinespring said that he isnít on the boards much, but that didnít mean that he doesnít scroll through them occasionally.
A big concern that both of the coaches mentioned were the "dot-com" recruiting services. Each said that they thought there might be some influence there and that some of them might be "working" for certain schools.
A caller asked about Brandon Goreís ranking and asked why offensive linemen are not listed as highly as the skill players. Doug Doughty mentioned that Stinespring had argued with him a few years ago that offensive linemen shouldnít be rated as high. The coach countered that the lineman in question at the time was leaning toward Virginia and that if heíd been leaning to Virginia Tech that he would have argued the other way. He also admitted though, that the skill positions are the ones that have the chance to put the points on the board.
Roth asked about the players that might play next year. He mentioned Nic Schmitt and Marcus Vick as two possibilities. Coach Stinespring said that he ideally wanted to redshirt them all, but that situations arose on occasion that dictated otherwise. Still, he said that he didnít like to mention names in the event that he missed someone or that it didnít come to pass, resulting in the fans believing that things didnít pan out for the player. He did say that in the case of junior college players, they werenít recruiting them to come to southwest Virginia for the fishing. Jonathan Lewis was another player with an opportunity to play next year.
Coach Cavanaugh pointed out that itís not always a case of the players abilities, but that the situations might dictate that a freshman may have to start. For instance, this past year Tech lost five defensive tackles. In that case, defensive tackle recruits would be the most likely to come in and play as true freshmen. He also said that the coaches wonít play a freshman just a few plays all year. If Tech plays him as a freshman, theyíll play him.
Bill Roth brought up the quarterback situation for next year. He pointed out that Grant Noel had been the starter this past season with Bryan Randall, a true freshman, as his back-up. Two additional freshmen, Chris Clifton and Will Hunt, had redshirted, and now there was Marcus Vick. Stinespring agreed with that assessment and asked what else he wanted to talk about. He said that Noel was the starter for now with several players ready to challenge for that spot.
Stinespring said that the coaches need to make a decision and that they would boil it down to a starter, a back-up and a number three quarterback, and that the top two would be getting the reps in practice. He said that he doesnít like to give three quarterbacks reps, but that the third needs to have good virtual reality skills. He said that one in the group might be a good outside linebacker for Coach Cavanaugh and that much had been made of Chris Cliftonís abilities at wide receiver. He said that the players would get on the field and that if too many of them were on the sidelines eating popcorn, heíd probably be over there with them.
J.D. called and asked Coach Cavanaugh if the coaches had any rituals following the recruiting process and asked Coach Stinespring if they were recruiting his nephew, Kenny Carmichael. Stinespring jumped on the questions and said that they were really looking for a center because they havenít had too many centers worth much since Keith Short left. He and Roth hinted that the caller was probably a prank from the aforementioned Short, but Stinespring offered an apology if there really was a J.D. out there.
Another caller asked Doughty to give some of his top recruits among the juniors. He said that he knew the coaches couldnít help him out with this one, but that the current number one was Nathaniel Adibiís brother Xavier Adibi, a 6í-4", 225 pound running back and linebacker. Number two was a linebacker named Vince Hall from West Branch High School. Brandon Brown, a 2000 yard rusher, was the third player mentioned.
Coach Cavanaugh had the final word of the evening on the fan interest in recruiting. He said that itís a lot of fun for the fans and they all have opinions. He said even some coaches at other schools have opinions on recruiting. He said itís a chance for the fans to get to know the players, and that itís generally a good thing as long as it doesnít get crazy. His final comment assured the crowd that, "We want to win!"
-- Apex Hokie