Versatility Brings Out the Best in Stone Bridge's Tanner Karafa

At the end of his junior season, 6-foot-3 tight end Tanner Karafa earned new responsibilities.

When Ashburn's Stone Bridge High School lost a linebacker due to injury in the playoffs, Karafa got the call.

There wasn't much time to learn how to play outside linebacker.

"We put him on the edge and told him to go get the football," Bulldogs Coach Mickey Thompson said. "He came up with a lot of amazing plays, but didn't know how to make many reads.

"You can't just go to linebacker and play."

Happy Birthday, Thekeyplay.com!

Four years ago today, the website went live online. What began as a humble hobby has grown into a small business, but more importantly a thriving online community.

I've said it a billion times before, but you, the readers and posters, are second to none. Word of mouth, especially on social media, was crucial for our growth. Over the last four years you denizens of our virtual space have cultivated a special place for intelligent discussion of football and all things Virginia Tech, while understanding the former is not that serious a topic of discussion. That is a rare occurrence for a sports website. So thank you!

Catching Up with 2015 Commitment DuWayne Johnson

Last Sunday evening I spoke with 6-1, 160 pound H.D. Woodson defensive back DuWayne Johnson. Johnson committed to the Hokies on February 8th while attending a Virginia Tech junior day event.

Although, he didn't intend on giving his verbal while on the trip. "When I went down there, I had no idea... I didn't plan on committing when I was in town. It just happened."

What To Do With James Johnson?

Editor's Note: Pierson and Brian had an epic debate discussing the pros and cons of retaining/dismissing James Johnson. Enjoy it. --Joe

Pierson: My wife and I watched Taken 2 last night. Aside from rationalizing how producers actually thought they could pass Maggie Grace as a 17-year-old, it's easy to be endlessly entertained by Liam Neeson "doing what he does best" and hunting down vindictive Albanian mobsters. After establishing himself with powerful roles in The Mission and Schindler's List, he began to move into this uber-intimidating, "world beater" type role in films like Batman Begins and Taken. The older Neeson gets, the more he's typecast as a soft spoken badass. The A-Team? He is Hannibal—nothing more needs to be said. The Grey? Neeson is surviving in the wilderness, showing the wolves who's boss. Non-Stop? I'd be willing to bet the movie was pitched as Taken at 35,000 feet. And for what it's worth, he will always be remembered as Ra's al Ghul.

Where am I going with this?

ACC Tournament Preview, Power Rankings Style

As an undergrad, I'd sit at home and tell myself it was okay that I didn't go anywhere for spring break because March Madness was happening. Now that I'm out of college, nothing could possibly get in the way of my absurdly high basketball viewing habits.

We haven't talked about the conference (basketball-wise) on the website much, but given that the "BRAND NEW, BIGGER AND BETTER ACC TOURNAMENT" starts today I figured that there was no better time to write about it than now.

Well that, and I wanted to write about winning basketball teams once this season.

I ranked each of the 15 teams in the tournament by how high I think their chances are to win the thing.

Hokie Hoops: Build a Compelling Basketball Environment

Finally, after what was possibly the worst two-and-a-half month stretch in the history of Virginia Tech men's basketball, the 2013-14 season is over. I know there's a conference tournament game still to come (and yes, a singular game, let's not kid ourselves), but I think it's time to assess the most dilapidated sport on campus.

Now I know what you're all thinking, that winning cures all ills and if new Athletic Director Whit Babcock fires head coach James Johnson, everything else will sort itself out. While that is definitely up for debate, this problem stems from something deeper than just the product on the court.

Fixing the problem that the men's basketball team has become goes much further than the job of one man. We can all have our disagreements over whether or not JJ should retain his post, and I'm sure Babcock has been thinking long and hard about that decision. However, what Whit needs to look at is how to undo the damage done to the program by years of inattentiveness. A general malaise and lack of creativity has cut this program off at the knees, and it has finally caught up to it in the program's worst season.

Class of 2014 First Look: Holland Fisher

No member of Virginia Tech's incoming class is perhaps as highly anticipated and shrouded in mystery as Holland Fisher. Fisher, an Under Armour All-American safety from Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia, was one of the highest ranked players in the Hokies' 2013 signing class. Tech had to fend off a late push for Fisher by Alabama that included breakfast at Nick Saban's house. In the end, Fisher remained committed to Virginia Tech, but had to prep at Fork Union. Fisher signed with Tech again last February, and now that he's qualified will enroll in Tech's first summer school session on May 27.

For me, that is where the mystery begins. Fisher was regarded as a preeminent safety prospect. At 6-2, 210 pounds, Fisher harkens back to the days of the big, intimidating Hokie safety ala Kam Chancellor or Aaron Rouse. However, when I watched high school film of Fisher, he was used almost exclusively at the inside linebacker spot. Fork Union used Fisher as a free safety, but FUMA head coach Mark Shuman told the Roanoke Times Doug Doughty, "Holland Fisher played free safety, had one interception, had a couple sacks. He's a pretty good player. I think Fisher will be more of an outside linebacker. He's got good speed, good range. With what they like to do, I think he'll that rover-whip type guy."

2015 DT Aaron Crawford Talks About His Recruitment

On Tuesday night I talked to 6-2, 290 pound defensive tackle prospect Aaron Crawford (Stone Bridge) about his recruitment. In addition to Virginia Tech, Virginia, Old Dominion, Maryland, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Duke have offered Aaron a scholarship. He's leaning towards pursuing something along the lines of a business or economics degree in college.

Aaron last visited Blacksburg on February 8th for a Virginia Tech junior day. He said of the trip, "It was great." He was able to spend time with Bud Foster and Charley Wiles. Aaron said of Coach Wiles, "He's a great guy, feel like he really knows what he's talking about." Aaron plans on returning to Tech again during the spring, and he'd like to commit right before his senior season at Stone Bridge begins.

Class of 2014 First Look: Isaiah Ford

As I discussed in my film review of Cam Phillips, a pressing need for the Virginia Tech offense was developing a true split end that can beat man coverage and stretch the field vertically. The Hokies passing game was better than expected last season, but the lack of a deep threat allowed opposing defenses to play their safeties in inverted coverage, often coming forward immediately at the snap without needing to worry about providing deep help to corners in man coverage. This had two effects. First, defenses had safeties flying into the box to stop the run just after the snap. This allowed defenses to play seven men in the box, and bring a safety late from angles that the offensive line and tight ends could not identify prior to the snap. Second, it meant that the safeties could help the linebackers and nickel corners on the crossing routes and misdirection routes that Coach Loeffler had the most success with throughout the year.

It's The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

It's the least wonderful time of the year. C'mon, let the Andy Williams wash over you...maybe it will even make you smile. God knows we could use some of that right now. Football season is over. Basketball season is wrapping up. Mother Nature continues to give us the middle finger with this relentless barrage of the Polar Vortex and major snowstorms. Uncle. For the love of all things holy, Uncle! Two weekends ago I was drinking margaritas with the windows down, and the next I'm ice skating outdoors the day before a storm named Titan is about to roll into town. That brief glimpse of spring I experienced two weeks ago might have been the best and worst things for my psyche.

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