Frank Beamer remembers when the students wore their apathy on
their heads. "I'd go around campus," the 14th-year Virginia Tech
coach recalls of his early seasons in Blacksburg, "and see kids
wearing North Carolina hats, Notre Dame hats. It drove me crazy."
The students on campus are far more likely these days to sport
Beamer-approved headgear. Last season's appearance in the
national-championship-deciding Sugar Bowl was Tech's seventh bowl
game in seven years. The Hokies intend to use that game, a 46-29
loss to Florida State, as a springboard to college football's
upper echelon--the ranks of teams that annually contend, more or
less, for the national title.
Why not? Since Beamer's arrival Tech has gotten more than its
share of blue chip athletes from in--and out of--state. Recruiting
has recently become much easier. In addition to its handsome
campus and sparkling athletic facilities, Virginia Tech also
boasts the country's most electrifying player in Michael Vick, a
talent so transcendent that he has become an icon for the
The losses incurred by the defense stand as testament to the
excellence the Tech program has achieved. Four players from the
'99 unit went in the NFL draft, and another four signed
free-agent contracts. This season only one defender, senior rover
Cory Bird, returns to the position at which he started last fall.
Gone are the defensive front, two linebackers and both corners.
But Tech expects big things from down linemen and rising juniors
David Pugh and Chad Beasley, already accustomed to making big
plays in backup roles. New cornerbacks Ronyell Whitaker and Larry
Austin are faster than last year's starting duo.
Beamer seems less concerned about the defense than he is about
the special teams. Virtually everyone having anything to do with
last fall's kicking game--holder, snapper, returners, kicker,
punter--must be replaced. Also of concern: Unlike last year, the
Hokies need to go on the road for their toughest conference
games, against Syracuse and Miami.
If his team stubs its toe, the coach can live with that.
"Consistency is the key," Beamer says. What he seeks to avoid is
being "the kind of program that does it a couple years in a row,
then drops out of sight." This year, at least, everyone is still
1999 record: 11-1 (7-0, 1st in Big East)
Final ranking: No. 2 AP, No. 3 coaches' poll
Differential in points scored and points allowed per game in '99,
the largest in the nation.
An opposing team's coach sizes up The Hokies
"Their defense does an outstanding job of creating negative
plays. They'll stunt and blitz and put pressure on the
quarterback. Sustaining a running attack is difficult against
their front seven....You have to get big plays out of your
passing game. With their pressure and scheme you get a lot of
one-on-ones with the corners. You have to take advantage of
that....[Linebacker] Nick Sorensen is one tough, heady player."
Strength: 60th of 115
Aug. 27 GEORGIA TECH
Sept. 2 AKRON
7 at East Carolina
30 at Boston College
Oct. 7 TEMPLE
12 WEST VIRGINIA
21 at Syracuse
Nov. 4 at Miami (Fla.)
11 at Central Florida
["TELLING NUMBER" COMPILED BY DAVID SABINO]