SPORTSGreat expectations: '91 football outlook
by Jack Williams
With 16 starters back to lead the charge, Virginia Tech may field one of its strongest football teams this season, the university's first as a member of the Big East Conference.
The Techmen capped an exciting 1990 season with closing victories over three bowl-bound teams, North Carolina State, Southern Mississippi, and Virginia, and even threw a mighty scare into co-national champion Georgia Tech before losing, 6-3. Virginia Tech finished 6-5 and was ranked 25th in the United Press International poll.
The Hokies hope to build on that success with a returning cast that features seven bonafide all-star candidates. Among the team's blue-chip players are such superlative talents as offensive tackle Eugene Chung, quarterback Will Furrer, safety Damien Russell, cornerback John Granby, tailback Vaughn Hebron, flanker Marcus Mickel, and offensive tackle William Boatwright. That's the good news.
Now for the bad news. This team faces a schedule that might be better suited for the New York Giants or San Francisco 49ers. After a home opener Aug. 31 against James Madison, the Hokies play five straight road games against North Carolina State, South Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Florida State. Despite that backbreaking lineup, head coach Frank Beamer and his Hokies are optimistic.
"There is no question that our program is headed in the right direction," Beamer says. "We finished the 1990 season in Lane Stadium with a victory on national television and before the largest crowd ever to see a state game. Then during the off-year, we became a member of the Big East Football Conference, and that's going to be a big plus to our program.
"We will be a good team next fall. But a lot will help determine the final won-loss record. No one will play a tougher five-game stretch than we will when we go on the road. But if we win our share of that stretch, Virginia Tech will gain great respectability across the country."
Beamer, a Virginia Tech alumnus, goes into the season with a new five-year contract. Dave Braine, Virginia Tech's director of athletics, announced the signing of the new pact in February and said, "We think Frank Beamer is one of the best coaches in America and we want to keep him."
Beamer's strong suit next fall should be the offensive team. The Hokies return nine starters to a free-wheeling offense. Furrer, a rising senior who has caught the attention of pro scouts with his left-handed marksmanship, directs the show. He passed for 2,122 yards and 19 touchdowns in 1990 while completing 58.4 percent of his tosses. Coaches expect him to be even better now that he has two full seasons of game experience. He was terrific throughout spring practice and won the Frank O. Moseley Award as the top offensive hustler.
The rest of the backfield corps is explosive, too. Tailbacks Hebron and Tony Kennedy proved equally adept at rushing and pass-catching last season. Hebron led the Hokie rushers with 640 yards and caught 16 passes for 289 yards. Kennedy ran for 517 yards and pulled in 21 passes for 209 yards. Phil Bryant is an excellent player at fullback. He rushed for 293 yards, caught 18 passes for 160 yards, and is a talented blocker, too.
Mickel is another all-star candidate at flanker. He caught 38 passes last season for 409 yards, but, strangely, did not score a touchdown. He has breakaway speed. Chief backup will be basketball player John Rivers, who pulled off the unbelievable trick of scoring a touchdown on all four of his pass receptions in 1990.
Up front, the leader is tackle Chung, who has All-America aspirations in both football and judo. At 6'5" and 280 pounds, he packs a wallop. The pro scouts regard him as one of the best in the country at his position.
Chris Holt and Marc Verniel, both of whom saw starting duty in 1990, will share time at the other tackle. Young Bill Moss also figures in the running for playing time.
Guard Boatwright became a star performer the last five games of last season. He recently showed his great strength by winning the Virginia Power Lifting Championship. Todd Meade, a top reserve last season, figures to move into the other guard spot.
Offensive coordinator Steve Marshall says center Jim Pyne has the potential to be one of the best in the country at his position. Tight end Greg Daniels demonstrated the last half of the 1990 season that he can be one of the best in school history at the position. He caught 18 passes last season for 183 yards, and his 33-yard touchdown reception from Furrer in the win over Virginia was one of the season's most exciting plays.
With the loss of last year's leading receiver Nick Cullen, Bo Campbell and Michael Sturdivant have moved to the front at split end. Campbell is an explosive player who caught 22 passes last season for 389 yards.
Virginia Tech has seven returning starters on defense—but there are some trouble spots. The Hokies lost the top three players at defensive end.
Bryan Campbell is a strong performer at defensive tackle. He was the team's fourth-leading tackler last season with 67. Campbell won the Frank Moseley Award as the top defensive hustler in spring practice. Jerome Preston also is a returning starter at tackle and should be even better with a year of experience. Rusty Pendleton and Melendez Byrd are returning starters at inside linebacker.
The secondary should be solid. The leader will be Russell at safety. He is regarded as one of the finest athletes on the Virginia Tech team. Russell was third among the defenders with 73 tackles last season and had the pro scouts taking notice. Both starters return at cornerback. Tyronne Drakeford and Greg Lassiter came into their own the last half of the 1990 season. A big boost will be the return of Granby–a favorite of the pro scouts–who sat out last season with a dislocated jaw.
Mickey Thomas returns for his third season as place-kicker. He made 10 of 16 field goal attempts last season and was perfect on 29 extra point tries. With the loss of Chris Baucia, the punting job is up for grabs.
The Big East Conference, which enjoyed tremendous growth and success in the 1980s through basketball, now is a full-fledged football conference as well. And Virginia Tech is proud to be a member of the new gridiron family.
The football conference includes Big East Division I-A football members Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Miami of Florida, along with newcomers Virginia Tech, Temple, Rutgers, and West Virginia.
The formation of the Big East Football Conference, officially announced Feb. 5, turned heads in the college football world. Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese says, "We'll be active and aggressive. We have an excellent group of institutions steeped in football success."
At the time the conference was formed, officials hoped that a conference schedule of five games could be played by 1995. Coaches, however, were so enthused over the potential of the conference that they made a commitment to play a full seven-game season by 1993.
"That means you are going to see a big change in the Virginia Tech schedule soon," Virginia Tech Athletic Director Dave Braine says. Although Virginia Tech this season plays only one Big East team, West Virginia, Braine is juggling games to create a better line-up next season. The conference will award the championship this season to the team with the highest ranking on the coaches' poll.
Like Big East basketball, Big East football will have plenty of television exposure. In addition to the network television and ESPN games, the Big East has formed its own "Game of the Week" package that will air throughout the season. Virginia Tech will appear on the Game of the Week schedule twice this season.
The Big East has also joined with the Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame in seeking major bowl tie-ups for those teams with the top records each season.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech football coach says, "I am delighted that Virginia Tech has joined the Big East Conference. All of us connected with Virginia Tech football look forward to the rivalries and the challenges that lie ahead. When we concluded our 1990 season in Lane Stadium on national television before the largest crowd ever to see a game in Virginia, I think that signaled the start of a new era in Tech football. It proved we had taken a big step forward. Now, the new conference affiliation give us the potential to go to an even higher level."
The Hokie Huddler, the sports tabloid of the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, provided information for this article.
VIRGINIA TECH FOOTBALL 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Attention All Artists! - 1992 marks the 100-year-anniversary of Virginia Tech football. The Virginia Tech Athletic Department is sponsoring a design contest for the development of a logo and theme for the centennial celebration. This contest is open to anyone with a concept that would represent the centennial of Hokie Football.
We suggest that a theme or slogan for the celebration be submitted with each design. This theme should communicate the concepts behind the logo and the centennial. Logo-only entries also are welcomed.
All entries should be no larger than 8 1/2 x 11 inches. No restrictions apply to the method of design except that the concepts of nostalgia, tradition, and quality should be incorporated into all logos and themes.
Entries will be judged on overall design creativity and how well the logo captures the nature and feeling of the centennial celebration. The creator of the winning logo will receive $150 and a pair of 1992 Football Season Tickets.
Please take the time to fill out and return the attached registration form or call (703) 231-4223 to register by phone. Once registered in the contest, you will receive copies of all registered trademarks of Virginia Tech. Please use these trademarks in your designs to ensure authenticity. Entries can be mailed to: Virginia Tech Athletic Department, Director of Sports Marketing / Logo Contest, P.O. Box 158, Blacksburg, VA 24063-0158
Entries can also be delivered by hand to Room 353, Jamerson Athletic Center, on the Virginia Tech campus.
Jack Williams is the Virginia Tech Athletic Department's director of media relations.
'91 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 28 at Oklahoma 2:30 pm Oct. 5 at West Virginia 12:00 pm 12 FLORIDA STATE 12:00 pm (at Orlando) 19 CINCINNATI 1:00 pm 26 LOUISVILLE 1:00 pm Nov. 9 AKRON 1:00 pm 16 EAST CAROLINA 1:00 pm 23 at Virginia 12:00 pm
Virginia Tech Network affiliated radio stationsBlacksburg WKEX 1430 AM Blacksburg WJJJ 1260 AM Bluefield, WV WKOY 1240 AM Bristol, TN WJTZ 640 AM Charlottesville WKAV 1400 AM Christiansburg WVVV 104.9 FM Clifton Forge WXCF 1230 AM Clifton Forge WXCF 103.9 FM Crewe WSVS 800 AM Crewe WSVS 104.7 FM Culpeper WCVA 1490 AM Danville WVOV 970 AM Front Royal WFTR 1450 AM Front Royal WFTR 95.3 FM Galax WBRF 98.1 FM Gloucester WXGM 1420 AM Hillsville WHHV 1400 AM Hopewell WHAP 1340 AM Lebanon WLRV 1380 AM Lewisburg, WV WKCJ 105.5 FM Lynchburg WLVA 590 AM Marion WOLD 1330 AM Marion WOLD 102.3 FM Martinsville WMVA 1450 AM Narrows WNRV 990 AM Norfolk WNIS 850 AM Norton WNVA 1350 AM Norton WNVA 106.3 FM Onley WESR 1330 AM Onley WESR 106.3 FM Radford WRAD 1460 AM Radford WRIQ 101.7 FM Richmond WGGM 820 AM Roanoke WSLC 610 AM Rocky Mount WNLB 1290 AM Staunton WTON 1240 AM Tazewell WTZE 1470 AM Tazewell WTZE 100.1 FM Washington, DC WQRA 94.3 FM Warsaw WNNT 690 AM Warsaw WNNT 100.9 FM Welch, WV WELC 1150 AM Welch, WV WELC 102.9 FM White Sulphur, WV WSLW 1310 AM Wytheville WYVE 1280 AM
Fairfax County, VA Media General Cable Channel 30 carries all Tech Sports Network programs to 175,000 subscribers in Northern Virginia. Fans anywhere in the U.S. or Canada can check scores of all Tech football and basketball games by calling 1-800-225-5453.
Virginia Tech Magazine, Volume 14, Number 1, Fall 1991