Different Names, Same Team

Although the names may change for year to year, head coach Rich Rodriguez sees little difference in this year's Virginia Tech team from the talented squads of previous seasons.

"It's the same team from an athletic standpoint," Rodriguez said Tuesday. They are doing a few different things offensively, but it's the same athletes making the same plays. They probably should be 4-0 right now – they're just a very good football team. They have some youth, but they also have five seniors and four juniors starting on defense, and five seniors in backup roles.

"The Tech game has always been extremely physical. We really came out that way last year, and Tech was physical too, but our guys really had a mindset of "60 minutes of get after it" going into the game last year.

"It's probably going to be our toughest place to play this year, at least so far," said Rodriguez, whose team has only ventured off campus once so far this season. "You'll have to ask me again at the end of the season to see if it was the toughest overall, but it will be loud. They have a big crowd and they are right on top of you, and there are a lot of things being said to our players on the sidelines down there. We have to count on the maturity of our players to keep focused."

Maturity was also a theme in discussing post touchdown celebrations, which have resulted in penalties for Chris Henry and warnings for other players this season. Rodriguez noted that some acts are called as penalties by some officials but not others, but made it understood that he did not view that as an excuse. He also did not blame officials if Henry was being watched a bit more closely than other players.

"He may be, but if so, that's his own fault," Rodriguez said of that notion. "[The pose] is still a gesture that draws attention to him, but it's a penalty. Kay Jay did it for or five times and was warned, but they never called it. Chris did it once, and called it. Maybe he thought that if one crew didn't call it on Kay Jay, that he could get away with it.

When asked where "the pose" came from, Rodriguez admitted that he had no idea.

"Maybe they got it from a video game or woke up from dream about folding their arms in front of 70,000 people, but we don't like that and we don't condone it. It must be part of the Kay Jay for Heisman campaign that he's running by himself," Rodriguez joked. Kay Jay is a fun guy, and believe it or not, he has gotten more humble this year.

"We still talk to him, and to everyone, about it. Players that don't hand the ball back to the official after any play run on Monday, and we had four or five out there yesterday. We just have to grow up. But I think it's getting through to some of them. Pac Man told Chris after the last one that we didn't need that. He said ‘That's going to cost us in a close game.' So, if Pac Man is leading the celebration police, I think we are getting through."


Rodriguez was again asked to compare Tech quarterback Bryan Randall to Rasheed Marshall.

"Both can run and throw, and both have taken some criticism unfairly," Rodriguez said with more than a hint of irony. "Rasheed is not as big as Bryan, but he might be a little faster. Both are very good athletes. They use him similar in some ways that we use Rasheed, but they are more traditional with two backs, while we do more with the one back set. They use him the same way in the option and reading the defense that we do, and they've probably run more option than we have this year.

"Randall is their key. The quarterback is the key in any offense, but especially for them. Everything they do revolves around him. He made some big plays against NC State, and he hurt us in the past as well."

As for his own quarterback, Rodriguez notes that his accuracy and understanding of the game have continued to improve.

"Rasheed is usually pretty quick at getting rid of the ball or taking off. We're trying to get him to step up when pressure comes from outside, but I tell him to step up and take off if it's open, because he's a weapon in the open field. He's been able to avoid interceptions a lot because of that. He has gotten more accurate this year, and he takes off and runs. He still has ways he can improve, but he is trusting the offense and what he sees more. The quarterback has to first know what you are doing, and then understand what the defense is doing. He has a better understanding of what the defense is doing this year.

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Adam Lehnortt will be limited in practice this week, but is hoped to be ready by Saturday's game. Rodriguez noted that he doesn't have a set policy governing how much a player has to practice in order to be in the starting lineup. So long as the player can take at least a few practice repetitions, and attends treatment sessions, he will start and play if able. Missing a rehab or treatment session, however, would likely knock him out.

* * *

Lawrence Audena played well in Saturday's contest, and gives the Mountaineers some flexibility at the bandit position.

He forced two fumbles, and he's a physical player, which we like to have back there," Rodriguez noted. "He has some coverage skills too."

* * *

Rodriguez quickly cut off an effort to play up the ACC versus Big East angle.

"The biggest difference between the Big East and the ACC? Not much," said Rodriguez, who has had to answer countless questions on the two conferences.

* * *

Although rainy weather is forecast for the next couple of days, the team will still practice on the grass fields today and tomorrow in preparation for the Hokies, who play on the same surface inside Lane Stadium.

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