10 Questions: #9 – Who will be “Macho”?

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Who will be “Macho”?

Macho Harris was a great football player for Virginia Tech, and it wasn’t just because he always played his assignment well, tackled well, and generally shut down the passing game on his side of the field.  It was because he was a playmaker in every sense of the word.  He had a knack for doing big things exactly when the Hokies needed it.

Macho Harris had this big interception against Nebraska.

Harris had 15 interceptions during his career (third all-time behind Gene Bunn’s 18 and Tyronne Drakeford’s 16) and returned four of them for touchdowns (tops all-time).  From viewing his college highlights on YouTube, he was very close to returning three more for touchdowns.  He carried the ball for the Hokies, he played a little wide receiver, and he had a huge kickoff return touchdown against the Clemson Tigers.

Here’s a quick timeline of Macho’s critical plays:

Sept. 23, 2006 – Harris returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining to seal a 29-13 win over Cincinnati.  It was his second interception of the game.

Sept. 1, 2007 – Harris returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown in a very close 17-7 win over East Carolina.

Oct. 6, 2007 – Harris had an interception, knocked out a Clemson wide receiver with a violent hit, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Sept. 27, 2008 – Harris had a big interception early in the game against Nebraska that he nearly returned for a touchdown.  It set up Tech’s first touchdown of the game.  He later returned a punt to the Nebraska 33 yard line that set up another touchdown.

October 18, 2008 – Harris returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to keep the Hokies in the game against Boston College.

December 6, 2008 – Harris forced a huge fumble at the VT 2 against Boston College in the ACC Championship Game.  The play saved a touchdown.

I’m probably missing a few, but you can watch his highlights from the 2007 season below.

Need more proof that Macho was a playmaker?  Here’s some.  He had more defensive touchdowns in his career than the Hokies have scored as a team over the past four seasons:

2012: 0
2011: 0
2010: 2
2009: 1

Rashad Carmichael returned a couple of picks for touchdowns (one each in 2009 and 2010), as did Jeron Gouevia-Winslow in the 2010 ACC Championship Game, but that’s it.  There have been no defensive touchdowns scored in the last two seasons.  Tech has remained a good defensive team, but they’ve lacked that “it” factor.  The only time the defense has actually scored was on that Jack Tyler safety against Florida State last season.

Tech was able to cover up for a bad offense from 2006-08 by scoring an amazing 14 defensive touchdowns during those three seasons, and to me, it was Macho Harris who stood out the most in his ability to make plays.  It’s completely unfair to ask the defense to score a bunch of touchdowns, but it might be necessary if the Hokies want to seriously contend for an ACC Championship.

Who is going to make those plays for the Hokies?  The guy who seems the most like the playmaking type is Antone Exum .  His critical fourth quarter interceptions against UVA and Rutgers were big-time plays, and though he didn’t score a touchdown on either one, Tech would not have won either game without him.  Unfortunately Exum is recovering from a torn ACL, and we don’t know when he’ll be back to 100% and in football shape.

With Exum a question mark, who is most likely to step up and play the role of Macho Harris?  I’m not sure, but if such a player is found, I hope he’s accompanied by a Xavier Adibi and a Chris Ellis as well.

Will Stewart’s Take:  Wow, that’s kinda depressing. To give you an idea of how that looks, click here to see the “BeamerBall” page in this year’s media guide. It lists the defensive and special teams touchdowns under Frank Beamer. It’s loaded with entries … up till 2011 and 2012, when it gets scant. And as Chris pointed out, none of the few TDs in 2011 and 2012 were defensive.

But it’s not a just a defensive playmaking issue, it’s a special teams playmaking issue, as well. Click here to see the blocked kicks by Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer. After a couple decades of blocking kicks at a prodigious rate, the Hokies have blocked just a small handful in the past four seasons (2009-2012). Two of those were PATs (so what), and the punt blocks in the last three seasons have been against Austin Peay, App. State, and a partial block against Boise State that still went 13 yards.

This isn’t a revelation. We know that game-turning plays on special teams and defense have declined drastically in the last two seasons in particular. David Wilson had two huge kickoff returns in 2010, but 2011 and 2012 were quiet on that front.

Playmakers needed. All applicants welcome. Apply at the Merryman Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

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35 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. It’s probably just wishful thinking, but I have the feeling that we’re due for a burst of scores from our D and STs If you’re looking for one guy who could have a breakout year both on D and for our STs, I nominate Kyshoen Jarrett. Watch out for Donovan Riley when he’s on the field too. He probably takes too many risks for Coach Gray to fully trust him, but he’s come up with some big plays in the Spring Game and scrimmages.

  2. The 2 Greatest Names on the Va. Tech D through the years, Macho Harris and Jock Jones. On Offense, Mickey “The Incredible Hulk” Fitzgerald. They shoulda had names for Rick Razzano and George DelRicco, besides “Bad Asses.” Oh heck, I forgot about William “Killer” Yarborough, Wayne “Hospital” Ward, “Touchdown Tommy” Fransisco and Edwards. Oh Yeah, also Roscoe Coles “2 Too Fast.”

  3. I’d like to add that we _did_ block a punt in the ACCCG against Clemson; the refs just blew the call.

  4. Touchdowns by the defense and special teams are worth more than the points they put on the board.
    I keep going back to the 2003 game vs a very good Miami team. DeAngelo Hall takes a fumble for a touchdown early in the game. The play completely took the wind out of the Hurricanes (pun intended). Miami was never in the game after that. VT won big and Miami lost the next week to a mediocre UTenn team before turning things around and winning the Big East title and the Orange Bowl finishing season at #5.

  5. I hope the coaching staff forces all of our secondary players to watch the video included in this story of Macho Harris’ highlights, and burn it into their skulls what it takes to make VT work. I hope it sets a fire under their butts to get this type of play into our expected results category. Macho was one of my all time favorites, and a local to boot, so I hope the coaches can get his type of effort into the minds of the current players because that’s what it will take!!

    NKHKIE

  6. Thanks will, another good article loaded with facts ! “Macho’s” don’t come around every year But I was glad to see One play in Orange & Maroon ! He wore the #1 with pride !

  7. “Quien es mas macho? Senor Llamas? Or senor Montalban?”

    I can’t be the only one who thought of that from the headline…can I? I know there are other old people here….

      1. I know of at least one old people – I was in the VPI Class of “62, which started with 4,800 students. I have a pencil tray made of the wood from Miles Stadium. Jerry Claiborne used to call me every Friday night to go over his game plan with me. (But first he had to hear me relate how I won the Korean War!) I started a petition to demolish Miles and was beaten up by four guys from the Class of ’18! But I won, and there was a petition to name the new stadium after me. It had only one signature and failed. You’re welcome. Go, Hokes!

  8. Man I miss that ball-hawking defense. And look at the way the kids celebrated big plays. I don’t remember seeing any of that enthusiasm last season, before or after games had already been decided.

  9. Maybe we can have an offense that can score on their own, rather than relying on the defense to do it for them. Now wouldn’t that be something.

    1. I’d rather have both units score, plus special teams, but yeah, the ownership of scoring rests first with the Offense.

  10. I miss the swagger and confidence with which Brandon Flowers and Macho Harris played. That tandem was sick. They woofed and they backed it up — in a big way. They were just so good — coverage, tackling, ball skills, playmaking. I loved that 2007 defense w/ those two + Hall, Adibi, Ellis, etc.

    Those were the days.

    1. Jimmy Williams (cb) and Aaron Rouse too. Nothing was more bad*** than when Rouse crushed some dude over the middle, the guy just laid there, and he did the rocking the baby motion (put the guy to sleep)….don’t remember what game or anything but remember the play and the celebration.

    2. Ronyell Whitaker, D-Hall, Flowers, Mach, J-Williams—–those guys had swagger. All the sissy fans cried about all of the personal fouls those guys would get, and they would taunt the opponents—and everyone wanted this group of “choir boys” we have had the last couple of yrs. Something to be said about being a little rough and tough and getting a few personal fouls. Some won’t like it, but tell me how different we have looked since we have started to “clean up” this image. This is football, and like the Notre Dame guy said, “You can’t have a bunch of choir boys.”

  11. Id like to see little JCC coming off the edge on the punt block team with Dadi on the other side

  12. Regarding blocked punts. Some of the most exciting plays in the Beamerball era have been blocked punts. In particular I remember the one in 2001 IIRC against Miami for a TD late in the game that nearly won the game and would have been their only loss in their last MNC year. Lane stadium exploded and the applause meter went off the charts like I don’t think it ever has before or since.

    But at some point in the past few years opposing coaches have figured out various ways to stop Tech from blocking punts and kicks. We have become predictable, and despite Beamer’s sage planning of putting his best athletes on the field on special teams, the blocks are mainly a memory nowadays.

    I think Beamer has countered by putting more emphasis on returning kicks, and there seems to have been moderate success in returns. It seems like there have been more kick returns for TDs and long distances since the blocks have declined. Maybe that assessment is incorrect in my mind because blocks are somehow more exciting and thus more memorable.

    But no matter who the next Macho is, Beamer has got to figure out how to counter the anti-blocking tactics of our opponents. We need to somehow get back to our rightful place as national leader in blocked kicks. That used to be talked about by the announcers every time we were on TV. Not so much anymore.

    Blocked kicks are perhaps the biggest momentum changers in college football. They give the underdog a chance, or if you’re behind they can be a 14 point turnaround. Beamer and Tech can help out their anemic offense with a return to days of yore when blocked kicks ruled in orange and maroon!

    1. It’s a good question whether we have had more punt returns since our blocks dropped off? Even if we have had more returns, we would take the blocks if we could get them. The fear of blocks also caused more short or shanked punts. Another question I have is how many roughing the kicker penaltys we’ve had to get those blocked punts. It seems like the penaltys went up as the blocks went down. Which is ultimately why Beamer quit going for the blocks.

      Someone said JCC might be a good blocker I guess because he’s fast. While his speed is good, I would think someone taller with longer arms would be better.

      We need to start glorifying these blockers more. Everyone remembers the blocked punt but who remembers the player? Where are the stats for players who blocked punts?

      1. I’ve posted a few times on this, but long story short….For maybe 8 years or so now, going for a blocked punt has usually hurt us more than it’s helped us. We’ve gotten way more drive extending leading to score roughing the kicker penalties than we have gotten blocked punts that led to a score and mattered (IE, blocking a punt that sets up a score vs Austin Peay, when we won easily, isn’t a block that mattered).

        1. FWIW, here are the numbers going back to 2010:

          Blocked kicks by VT:
          XP vs 2010 BSU, 2010 Stanford
          Punt vs 2010 BSU, 2011 Appy St, 2012 Austin Peay

          Blocked kicks against VT:
          XP vs 2010 FSU, 2010 UVA, 2011 Marshall
          Punt vs 2010 BSU, 2012 Miami

          Roughing the kicker Penalties by VT:
          Punt vs. 2010 NCSU, 2010 JMU, 2010 BSU, 2011 Michigan, 2011 Clemson (twice), 2012 Rutgers

          Opponent roughing the kicker penalties:
          2010 BSU, 2010 Duke

          That is three punts we’ve blocked. Two were against Appy St and Austin Peay, and the third was against BSU who both blocked one of our punts and we roughed their kicker, so that was a net loss in the game.

          Over the same period, we’ve had two punts blocked and committed 7 roughing the kicker penalties. And we lost all of those games except for Rutgers.

          Gotta admit, I kinda cringe we I see the team go for the punt block instead of set up a return anymore. While I agree blocking a punt is probably the single biggest momentum swing you can create in a football game, getting a roughing penalty is just as big in the other direction.

  13. Not this year, but in future years I expect it to be Kendall Fuller barring injury. I just don’t think any of our current starters on defense is that type of player maker.

    1. Just getting ready to post: “Kendall Fuller” anyone???

      At least some avenue of hope.

      I find it funny, we must the only “big time” college football program bemoaning our Defense not scoring enough… LOL

      1. We’ve been indoctrinated into Beamer-game plan of old –

        defense stops opponent scoring
        defense scores some of their own
        special teams add enough to win
        offense didn’t turn it over, get pat on backs

        I know that is kinda cynical, HS, so blast me good. LOL

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