News With Commentary by TSL Staff
Friday, August 16, 2002
Whitaker, Cobb, Parham Suspended
The Richmond Times-Dispatch broke the news today that All-American candidate cornerback Ronyell Whitaker will be suspended for the Hokies' first two games, and that defensive end Lamar Cobb and receiver Terrell Parham will be suspended for the season opener against Arkansas State.
The reasons for the suspensions were "violation of team rules," with no other details given. It is not known if the suspensions are related or arise from the same incident.
Rumors had been circulating about Whitaker's status for months, and speculation said that his suspension would be for multiple games. The brash and talented cornerback, who often draws criticism for his on-field demeanor and praise for his off-field demeanor, was suspended for the Temple game last year for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Whitaker's suspension means that the Hokies will be missing two of their top four cornerbacks for the first two games. Junior Eric Green recently had knee surgery and is lost for the season, which he will take as a redshirt year. Out of four returning corners with significant experience, only true sophomore DeAngelo Hall and redshirt junior Garnell Wilds are left to man Tech's secondary.
The Hokies are well-stocked at the defensive end position, with Cols Colas, Nathaniel Adibi, and Jim Davis able to pick up the slack in Cobb's absence. Jason Lallis, who saw playing time at DE last year but moved to defensive tackle recently, will provide backup at defensive end against Arkansas State, the only game Cobb will miss. Lallis played DE for 61 snaps last season, including 15 against Virginia, and had Tech's only sack against Miami.
Parham, a redshirt senior who has been rumored to be in and out of head coach Frank Beamer's doghouse for years, plays the split end position, where he competes with Richard Johnson for playing time behind first-stringer Ernest Wilford. Parham had been earning positive reviews from the coaches for his efforts so far in fall practice, and Johnson is currently suffering from a bruised foot.
Reviewing the cornerback position, where the suspensions will do the most damage, DeAngelo Hall is being proclaimed as perhaps the best cornerback who will ever play at Tech, and one of the best football players, period. As a true freshman last year, he played in all 11 games, started one, and had 42 tackles and three interceptions.
Wilds has one career start, that coming last year against Temple, when he interecepted two passes. He played in all 11 games last year, started one, and had 27 tackles and two interceptions.
Hall turned in the fastest 40 time of the defensive backs last February with a 4.31. Whitaker had a 4.45 and Wilds a 4.54.
While Whitaker is out, Hall and Wilds will be backed up by redshirt sophomore Vinnie Fuller, who practiced and played at safety last year. He played in ten games and had 12 tackles. With a 4.33 forty time, Fuller is nearly as fast as Hall and faster than Wilds, but he has no game experience at cornerback and has only been practicing there this fall, in anticipation of Whitaker's suspension. Redshirt freshman D.J. Walton (4.71 forty) will also be in the mix.
Fuller will also back up Willie Pile at the safety position, where true safety Jimmy Williams has been impressive in fall drills. Williams will get playing time, but with his inexperience, don't look for him to be on the field a lot in the LSU contest.
Whitaker is a top-notch cover corner, but he had a rough 2001 season at times. A critical interference penalty against Syracuse in the third quarter kept an Orangemen drive alive, enabling them to kick a field goal and stretch a 17-7 lead to 20-7. Tech went on to lose, 22-14, and Whitaker took some of the heat for Tech's loss.
Against Florida State in the 2002 Gator Bowl, Whitaker suffered key lapses in concentration and technique that allowed Florida State receiver Javon Walker to haul in three passes for 150 yards and 2 TD's in the fourth quarter while being covered by Whitaker. The Hokies were outscored in the fourth quarter 17-0 on the way to a 30-17 loss.
Whitaker is also reviled by some old-school Hokie fans for his constant jabbering and trash-talking on the field. But off the field, he is a smiling, magnetic personality that is well-liked by most who meet him.
But regardless of whether you're in the pro-Whitaker or anti-Whitaker camp, or somewhere in between, there is no question that his suspension comes at a critical time and will compromise the Hokies' ability to defend against Louisiana State in game two.
Fortunately for the Hokie defense, at least from a numbers and experience standpoint, Whitaker will return in time to face the vaunted Marshall passing attack and their Heisman Trophy candidate, Byron Leftwich.