October 25, 2006
BLACKSBURG -- The 2006 Virginia Tech football season already has resembled the 2003 season, in that there have been a rash of early suspensions. It's also resembled 2003 in that the Hokies started fast and then slipped.
Now it looks as if it may resemble 2003 in another way: a two-quarterback system.
Tech coach Frank Beamer sounded those ominous words shortly after the Hokies ended a two-game losing streak by beating up Southern Mississippi. Sophomore Sean Glennon started, as he has all season.
Redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker went in for one unproductive series in the first half and a couple more in the second before leading Tech to a late touchdown. He ran for 26 yards. The staff, Beamer said later, would meet and talk about how to best use Whitaker.
Here's some unsolicited advice: Use him all the time, or use him as a backup. Period. Think back to 2003, and how well the Bryan Randall-Marcus Vick thing worked. A reminder: It didn't. Though Randall started every game, Vick played a lot more in some of them, and that uncertainty about his job kept Randall from exhibiting the leadership skills that became evident the next season. It didn't do much for his play, either.
Glennon hasn't given any indication yet that he's a leader on the Randall level or, really, on any level. That takes time. That takes getting established in his position. And, with Whitaker probably about to get more playing time, Glennon hardly is established in the position.
On the Hokies' list of problems during their two-game skid, Glennon was on there. He had five turnovers in the two losses, three of them fumbles. He wasn't protected well, and he didn't seem to be handling that lack of protection.
But Glennon is far from the top of the problem list, with that protection being the clubhouse leader. It was much better against Southern Miss, but that was Southern Miss.
When he's had time, Glennon has been effective. He's clearly growing into the role. It's a role he earned in the preseason.
Whitaker didn't dazzle during his brief performance, but Beamer loves a quarterback "who can make plays with his feet." Glennon isn't a serious running threat, though he's no slug. But on the "make plays with his feet" scale, he lags well behind Whitaker.
If that's what Beamer and his staff want, then get Whitaker in there and let him play and play and play and develop. Otherwise, stick with the kid who improved significantly between spring practice and summer drills, the kid who settled the quarterback controversy during the first week of August.
Playing two is very rarely a good idea. All Tech needs to do is look back at 2003 to find a perfect example of that. As in this season, quarterback play was well down the list of problems the Hokies had then. The issue became a major distraction for a team that didn't need one.
Why repeat that?
WINNING HELPS REDUCE TENSION
It's amazing what winning can do. Tech is back to being one happy family again. Check back in two weeks, after games against Clemson and at Miami, to see if that's still the case.
A quick review: The Hokies disintegrated during their 22-3 loss at Boston College. Television cameras caught rover Aaron Rouse and linebacker Vince Hall arguing on the sidelines. Those same pesky cameras also caught outside linebacker Brenden Hill dancing as the BC band played "Sweet Caroline" in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles were ahead 20-3.
End Chris Ellis, suspended the previous game after being arrested, had more personal fouls (three) than tackles (one). Two days after the game, Beamer dismissed redshirt freshman William Wall, a promising defensive end, for an accumulation of discipline problems.
Beamer talked to Ellis, he talked to Hall, he talked to Rouse. He took Rouse's starting job and gave it to Cary Wade, though both played a lot during the Southern Miss game.
Hill apologized, explaining that he was merely trying to ease some of the tension that clearly was building on the Tech sideline. He said he was not being disrespectful or trying to make light of the Hokies' situation.
Tension is part of the game, even when things are going well. The best teams learn how to handle it, how to deal with issues when no one is watching. The cameras catch all. Just ask Vick, whose middle finger to the West Virginia crowd -- an act he thought was quick and discreet enough -- became highlight-reel fodder within hours.
Numerous Tech sources indicate that all really is well, that the team had several productive sessions where it talked about the problems and the tensions. Rouse and Hall, both intense competitors, know things have to be handled better.
That's easy enough to say, though, particularly after an easy and decisive victory such as the one the Hokies enjoyed against Southern Miss.
Let's see what happens when things get tough again, and they will.
EARLY HOOPS STAR: WASHINGTON
A few basketball observations based on all of one intrasquad scrimmage, so take them for what they're worth:
If Deron Washington really can shoot from outside, he's going to be a handful. Washington knocked in five three-pointers during the session. When someone came out to defend him, Washington blew past the defense for an easy slam. He finished with 25 points.
Freshman forward Lewis Witcher is a Coleman Collins in waiting. Nobody knows how much he'll be able to help this season, because he needs to gain some strength. But he has a Collins-like game and should prove a worthy replacement when the already-graduated Collins finishes his eligibility this season.
Zabian Dowdell's shooting percentage fell off from his sophomore to his junior season. The guard seemed to short-arm a lot of shots that went off the front of the rim. He did that a few times in the scrimmage, too.
Jamon Gordon, Dowdell's fellow senior guard, still gets into the lane as quickly as anybody and rebounds as well as any guard in the country.