2005 ACC Preview/Prediction: Virginia Tech, Coastal Division #1

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Note:
For a breakdown of the ACC’s football
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Virginia Tech Preview

Bird�s
Eye View:
A lot of factors are aligned to enable the Hokies to occupy the
top spot in many preseason ACC rankings. First, and most importantly, they have the
most favorable schedule of all the Coastal Division contenders as they don�t
play FSU, while Miami, Georgia Tech and Boston College (the second place team in
the Atlantic according to some) travel to Blacksburg. The three biggest
intradivisional rivals for the Hokies are well placed, with VT having Ohio at
home the week before Georgia Tech, BC on a Thursday night the week before Miami
(i.e., a nine day layoff), and an off week before the Hokies travel to
Charlottesville. Road games in Raleigh and Charlottesville won�t be easy, but
given the overall strength of the conference it�s tough to envision a better
slate.

VT has a lot of experience, with fourteen starters returning from last
season�s ACC title team, so the returnees understand the commitment necessary
to continue the �culture of winning�. Finally, the Hokies expect to have
full seasons from perhaps their most gifted offensive and defensive performers:
quarterback Marcus Vick and linebacker Xavier Adibi. Their impact will be more
significant than most ACC media types realize.



Areas of Strength (offense):
The skill position personnel overall is as good as it has ever been in
Blacksburg, and that includes the 2000 team that featured the triumvirate of
Michael Vick, Lee Suggs and Andre Davis. Potentially, I think this is the best
group of wide receivers Frank Beamer has ever had, and the running game should
be greatly improved with a healthy Cedric Humes, Mike Imoh available from game
one, and two talented redshirt freshmen trying to impress with limited carries
(George Bell and Branden Ore). Marcus Vick is an enormous talent, and he�s got
weapons everywhere to support him.

Areas of Concern (offense):
The o-line should be a strength with three seniors starting, and a possible
fourth, if Reggie Butler wins the left guard job over Brandon Gore.� I do feel like the first team line is more than
capable. However, proven depth along the line is
nonexistent. The top three backups (assuming Butler starts) include a redshirt freshmen
(Nick Marshman at right guard and two juniors who haven�t
played much (Brandon Gore at left guard and Danny McGrath at center). All show signs of being good players,
but the question is whether that progress will be reflected after the ball is
snapped.
The Hokies unfortunately lost a promising
backup, Sergio Render, when he wasn’t cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Render
will have to enter VT in January 2006 instead.

Areas of Strength (defense):
On defense, the front seven is as good as anyone in the conference. VT has three
high level players at defensive end, and that position probably is the most
critical to Bud Foster�s defense. Jimmy Williams will be a lock down corner,
and although not household names yet, both Roland Minor and Brandon Flowers
will be ACC caliber players at corner despite their inexperience.

Areas of Concern (defense):
Depth is likewise a concern right now on the defensive line. If Darryl Tapp
slides down to defensive tackle in passing situations, that provides the staff
with significantly more flexibility, but as of now the staff can only feel
comfortable with six players: Tapp, Noland Burchette and Chris Ellis at end, and
Jonathan Lewis, Carlton Powell and Tim Sandidge (with limited snaps) at tackle.
Incoming freshman William Wall should figure in quickly. Both safety spots are
unproven, although I think VT can count on solid play from Aaron Rouse and Cary
Wade at rover. Free safety is an open issue with D.J. Parker and Justin Hamilton bringing unique strengths and
weaknesses to the table. The battle to start at free safety has been one of the most
interesting this fall.

Key Game: Versus Miami. One
year into ACC membership and this already seems like the best football rivalry
in the conference (Miami-FSU isn�t a rivalry again until the Noles win a
couple). The head to head winner this year has a big advantage in the race to
Jacksonville.

Fearless Predictions: After
a tough opening game at N.C. State, Marcus Vick plays very well and emerges as a
leading candidate for ACC Offensive POY. Although Jonathan Lewis doesn�t make the first
team all conference (four defensive ends do), he is
the best at his position in the ACC. The one player Hokie fans least want to see
talking to Mike Goforth: left tackle Jimmy Martin. His loss for any significant
period of time would be disastrous for the Hokies� chances. VT drops one
conference game during the regular season on the road but still wins the
inaugural ACC Championship game.

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