Inside Carolina's Vote – 1st in the Coastal Division
2006 record (10-3, 6-2 ACC)
The events that transpired on the Virginia Tech campus in April have no doubt affected everyone associated with the Hokies program. Seniors OT Duane Brown and DT Carlton Powell spoke at the ACC Kickoff about playing this season in memory of the victims, and how they take that responsibility very seriously. This team was the easy selection to win the ACC this fall, and the added motivation will only make this a more complete and aggressive squad. Beamer returns 16 starters in his 21st-year in Blacksburg, and with adequate quarterback play, it could be one of his best. Their schedule is one of the toughest in the league, but with junior QB Sean Glennon entering his second season under center, and with a defense that should rank among the nation's best, Virginia Tech will be favored in all of their ACC contests.
Offense: Glennon's (2,191 yds, 11 tds, 11 ints) first season at QB was peppered with poor decisions, but there were also plenty of good plays thrown in – that experience should allow him to make better decisions this fall. This unit only averaged 292.2 ypg in total offense in '06, but with the key skill position players back, that number should go up dramatically. Junior TB Branden Ore (241 car, 1,137 yds, 16 tds) could vie for ACC POY honors, and is the primary cog in OC Bryan Stinespring's offense. Returning senior receivers Josh Morgan (33 rec, 448 yds, 4 tds) and Eddie Royal [pictured, right] (31 rec, 497 yds, 3 tds) are big-play receivers, and sophomore TE Greg Boone gradually earned playing time in '06 as the season wore on. Brown leads a young offensive line, which will start two sophomores and two juniors.
Defense: DC Bud Foster's defense has ranked #1-nationally the past two seasons (247.6 ypg in '05, 219.5 ypg in '06), and there's no reason to think that will change this fall. This unit got progressively better in '06, allowing only 29 points over the last six regular season games. With eight returning starters, this team could possibly improve on last season's dominant numbers (11.0 ppg). Seniors LB Vince Hall (128 tkl, 8.5 tfl) and LB Xavier Adibi (82 tkl, 3.5 tfl) are AA-type talents, and Chris Ellis (38 tkl, 4.5 sacks) and Powell (38 tkl, 3.5 sacks) anchor the defensive line. Juniors CB Brandon Flowers (51 tkl, 18 pbu) and CB Macho Harris (34 tkl, 1 pbu) are shutdown defenders, and senior FS D.J. Parker (41 tkl, 7 pbu) is a headhunter in the secondary.
Special Teams: Beamer Ball is alive in Blacksburg, but it may take awhile to get the kicking part squared away. Gone are placekicker Brandon Pace (18-19 in '06) and punter Nic Schmitt (42.2 avg.), and the Hokies are hopeful that senior Jud Dunleavy and sophomore Brent Bowden can fill their shoes, respectively. Morgan and Royal formed the top punt return unit (12.6 ypr, 1 td) in the ACC in '06, and they were solid in kickoff returns (20.9 ypr) as well.
Schedule: Emotionally, the season opener versus East Carolina may be the biggest game of the year. There will be plenty of tears at Lane Stadium on Sept. 1, and the Hokies must maintain their focus against a pesky ECU squad. A visit to Baton Rouge the next week will show how much Glennon has matured since the 31-24 loss to Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The ACC rotation didn't do Virginia Tech any favors, with the Hokies drawing FSU, BC and Clemson out of the Atlantic Division. It helps that BC, FSU and Miami must travel to Blacksburg, but away games at Clemson and Georgia Tech will be tough outs.
Top Newcomer: QB Tyrod Taylor. The Hampton, Va. native threw for over 5,000 yards and ran for over 2,500 yards in high school, drawing comparisons to the play-making abilities of the Vick brothers. There is a possibility that Taylor sees the field this fall in situational plays.
Key Game: At LSU on Sept. 8. If the Hokies want to make their case for the national championship, this would be the game. The ACC is lacking any other potential title contender, so for Beamer and Co. to have a shot at a top-5 program early in the season is a luxury. One of the few places louder than Lane Stadium is Tiger Stadium, so the Hokies better bring their hard hats and lunch pails.
Beamer on his team being picked to win the ACC: "All that tells me is we need to get to work. People think we can be good, but if we're going to be good we need to continue to get our offensive line better, we need to stay healthy on defense and play the way we can, and we need to kick the ball well with some new kickers. We've got some things to work on."
Brown on what to expect this season: "We have a lot of seniors on this team that's looking forward to this season, and we have a lot of talent. We think we can do some great things. We've used this incident as added motivation and added encouragement for us. A lot of us are looking forward to competing this year, and we're not just playing for ourselves, we're playing for the town of Blacksburg."
Word from the Beat: "Bud Foster's defensive piranhas are hell-bent on scoring the trifecta -- leading I-A in total defense for a third consecutive season. A team packed with eight senior returnees on each side of the ball thinks this is the year they can run the rack and play in the big game. They have a shot if a questionable offensive line can somehow block LSU's stud defensive front in Baton Rouge on Sept. 8 and quarterback Sean Glennon doesn't perform the turnover meltdown that doomed Tech in a loss to Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl." -- Randy King, Roanoke Times
S. 1 East Carolina
S. 8 at LSU
S. 15 Ohio
S. 22 William & Mary
S. 29 UNC
O. 6 at Clemson
O. 13 at Duke
O. 20 bye
O. 25 Boston College
N. 1 at Georgia Tech
N. 10 FSU
N. 17 Miami
N. 24 at Virginia