March 25, 2008
BLACKSBURG If Virginia Tech fans really paid attention, they could've seen this kind of conclusion coming for Branden Ore's career.
Though Ore's issues were much less egregious, the demise of his time at Tech was at least a little reminiscent of Marcus Vick's troubles.
Like Vick, Ore was given second and third chances. Like Vick, Ore didn't make the most of them. Just as Tech faced in the time immediately after Vick's departure, the loss of Ore leaves the Hokies in a backfield lurch.
Ore was kicked off the team March 19 for unspecified reasons. Sources indicated that Ore may have skipped out on offseason conditioning drills one too many times for a guy who already was on thin ice with the coaching staff.
"During recent meetings with Branden Ore, we have decided that it would be best for Branden to pursue other opportunities," Tech coach Frank Beamer said in a release, which was the only statement made by Tech's coaches. "Branden has had many great moments here at Virginia Tech, and we wish him well in the future."
Ore, the team's starting tailback, was suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl for being 45 minutes late to a pre-bowl practice in Blacksburg. After the season, he testified in Roanoke in a federal crack cocaine trial. He was riding in a vehicle in June 2006 with Tony Majette when they were pulled over during a routine traffic stop. Majette was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. Ore wasn't charged with a crime, and he testified that the crack didn't belong to him.
Gone is another starter (make that five now on offense, plus seven on defense) from Tech's already-depleted ranks. Gone is Ore's chance at becoming Tech's all-time leading rusher. (He needed only 992 yards to surpass Cyrus Lawrence, who has held the rushing title for 26 years, with 3,767.) Gone is any sense of stability the Hokies may have had on offense.
Now the hard part begins for Tech's offensive coaches. What was supposed to be a spring practice devoted to evaluating Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor for the starting QB job and finding new starting receivers now will include another pressing search for a new starting tailback.
Beamer, coordinator Bryan Stinespring and running backs coach Billy Hite will take a close look this spring at the inexperienced talent in the backfield, including Kenny Lewis, Jahre Cheeseman, Josh Oglesby, former Parade All-American Darren Evans and Dustin Pickle. Tech's depth at tailback wasn't helped by the recent departures of backups Elan Lewis and Devin Radford.
Though Kenny Lewis is the most experienced of Tech's remaining backs (111 carries for 420 yards and six touchdowns), it remains to be seen if he's the best starting option. The tailback that comes out of the spring looking the best also will have to hold off the challenges in August of incoming freshmen Ryan Williams and Tony Gregory.
Williams, a 5-10, 190-pounder from Manassas, was considered by many recruiting analysts one of the nation's top three tailback recruits. He said in January that Tech's coaches told him he wouldn't have to redshirt as a freshman. With Ore gone, his future as a freshman contributor is almost guaranteed.
HOKIES SEEKING QB OF FUTURE
After the March 15 commitment of Hampton quarterback Tajh Boyd to West Virginia, Tech is expected to shift its focus to Chesapeake's Kevin Newsome as its quarterback of the future.
Why did Boyd, who attends Phoebus High, commit so early? And why is he going out of state when Phoebus has a recent history of sending players (Nathaniel and Xavier Adibi, Elan Lewis, D.J. Parker, Steven Friday) to Tech?
In essence, Boyd's decision may have had very little to do with football. He said he's always had a desire to expand his horizons a bit.
"I kind of never really wanted to stay in-state," Boyd said. "My dad is in the military, so we're not really from (Hampton). I've always wanted to see new things."
Boyd's commitment to West Virginia also may have had something to do with what has been perceived in recent years as Tech's fairly vanilla offense. Boyd admitted that the appeal of playing in the spread offense helped lure him to the Mountaineers. He's a huge fan of WVU quarterback Patrick White.
Boyd and Newsome are considered two of the nation's top 15 high school quarterbacks going into their senior seasons. They both rolled up better than 2,000 combined yards passing and rushing last season.
Though Newsome (6-3, 210) may have a slight edge on Boyd (6-1, 195) in recruiting circles because of his size, Boyd said he didn't get the impression that Tech's coaches were recruiting Newsome any harder. Still, a lack of familiarity with Tech's coaches may have played a significant role in Boyd's decision.
"The thing about Tech was that I talked to Coach (Jim) Cavanaugh (Tech's recruiting coordinator), but I never really talked to Coach Stinespring or Coach (Mike) O'Cain," Boyd said. "For me, it's hard to want to go to a place when I hadn't really gotten to know my position coach yet."