June 1, 2006
BLACKSBURG -- Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster recently returned from a long stretch of recruiting to find nothing waiting for him in the office.
"No news," Foster said, "is good news."
Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring returned to find a new tight end waiting for him. Stinespring, who has given up line duties and now will coach the tight ends, will get to teach the position to converted quarterback Greg Boone. He expects Boone to learn things quickly enough to contribute in 2006.
Foster's summer goal? Please, please, please let no one get hurt in offseason workouts. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. In 2002, starting cornerback Eric Green was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered not long before preseason camp opened.
Stinespring's summer goal? Devising a crash course for Boone, as well as tinkering with many spots on the offensive depth chart.
The contrast between the offensive situation and the defensive situation at Tech as the summer nears is striking.
Foster just wants to keep everybody healthy. Not only is his depth chart set for 2006, he probably could reel off a tentative alignment for 2007 and 2008 as well. A strong defense has been a staple of Tech's best teams, and the defense should be quite strong for the foreseeable future. In addition to current stars such as end Chris Ellis and linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, Foster talks excitedly about the futures of incoming freshmen such as linebacker Matt Wright and end John Graves, among many others.
Stinespring, meanwhile, isn't sure of his depth chart for the coming season. Sean Glennon probably will be the quarterback, but maybe not. Branden Ore will be the tailback -- unless his surgically repaired shoulder, which kept him out of school in the spring, flares up. The Hokies are trying to make true freshman Sergio Render a starting guard, trying to find two usable tight ends from a group that has yet to play a collegiate snap, etc.
Preseason camp for Stinespring will involve solidifying the quarterback position, firming up the tight end slot -- Tech still wants to use two most of the time -- and getting comfortable with the new starting guards.
Preseason camp for Foster will involve thinking ahead. He won't lose much from 2006 for 2007, and he's already thought ahead in most places. The biggest area of concern is at the two inside linebacker slots, manned so capably now by juniors Hall and Adibi.
There's no guarantee that Tech will have either player beyond 2006. Both are good enough to play in the NFL, though maybe not a year before they are out of eligibility. That will be one of the stories to watch at Tech this fall.
But whether it is after this season or next season, they'll eventually be gone. And one or the other or both could get hurt. (Adibi missed much of his redshirt freshman season with an injury.) That's the one thing that could derail the defense. At every other position, Foster has a ready answer if someone gets hurt. That's not the case yet at inside linebacker, and Foster wants to have that answer before the season starts.
The two most likely candidates are sophomore Purnell Sturdivant and incoming freshman Matt Wright. Sturdivant was sick and missed much of spring practice, but his progress has been good and Tech thinks he has a chance to be a standout. Wright is the younger brother of Tech free safety D.J. Parker.
The Hokies have developed quite a pipeline with in-state Phoebus High (in Hampton), a good thing in their eyes because Phoebus coach Bill Dee is an excellent teacher of the game whose players show up for college prepared. Adibi is a Phoebus product as well.
If Sturdivant and Wright develop as expected throughout the summer and into preseason camp, Foster can start working on his 2009 depth chart.
Stinespring, meanwhile, will keep wearing out the erasers, trying to get everything straight on the other side of the ball.
BEAMER SERIOUS ABOUT SCHEDULES
The Hokies' recent addition of Nebraska to the 2008 and 2009 schedules indicated that Tech coach Frank Beamer is serious about realizing the need for schedule upgrades.
Nothing can be done about the 2006 schedule, which features four non-conference teams that won a total of nine games against Division I-A competition last year. Southern Mississippi accounted for six of those. Northeastern would be a good game -- maybe -- for the Tech basketball team. It is an embarrassment for the football team.
But Tech will go to LSU in 2007, in addition to seeing Florida State -- finally -- in its regular-season ACC lineup. Games against Nebraska in the next two seasons make for a legitimate non-conference slate, no matter what teams fill out the other slots.
In Tech's defense, it was willing to go to Wisconsin in 2006 for a game that ESPN was trying to arrange. ESPN wanted the matchup, and Tech was willing. But it's not on the schedule, so only one conclusion can be drawn.
BASKETBALL EXPECTING NCAA BID
On the basketball front, Tech coach Seth Greenberg has gone on record as saying that his team's 2006-07 schedule will be the toughest the school ever has played. That's probably a reach, but there's no question that the schedule has been upgraded.
Entering June, Tech was four games away from having a complete slate. Out of league, the Hokies definitely will play Old Dominion, Iowa and George Washington. They also will participate in a Thanksgiving tournament that includes West Virginia, among others.
Not to knock that schedule, but it is a case of some good timing that makes the schedule sound a little tougher than it actually might be. Old Dominion, GW and West Virginia all suffered key losses from their excellent 2005-06 teams.
Meanwhile, the Hokies will return just about everybody of significance, and they will add a trio of recruits (point guard Nigel Munson, combo guard Tyrone Appleton, forward Lewis Witcher) who could have immediate impacts. They also will get back 7-0 Robert Krabbendam, who missed last season with a knee injury.
With all five starters back, Tech will go into the 2006-07 season fully expected to earn the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1996.