Early enrollee Shai McKenzie might be the most intriguing recruit in Tech's 2014 class. McKenzie is a 5-11, 215 pound running back from Washington, Pennsylvania—a suburb of Pittsburgh. He put up astronomical numbers at Washington High School before tearing his ACL early his senior season. As a junior, he nearly eclipsed Rushel Shell's WPIAL single-season rushing record with 2,689 yards and 42 touchdowns. As a senior, McKenzie rushed for 647 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 37.4 yards per score during his junior year which climbed to 46.2 yards per touchdown last season. By all accounts I've read, McKenzie's rehabilitation of his knee injury is progressing well. After committing to the Hokies over the hometown Pitt Panthers, Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Since suffering the injury, McKenzie has had surgery and rehabilitation. He said trainers have been impressed with his progress and he expects to be ready for the start of the 2014 season." Enrolling early will give McKenzie full time access to the Hokies physical therapy and rehabilitation team.
Up until now, Whit has been an outsider with a view. His Virginia roots provided him an understanding of the history and tradition of Virginia Tech athletics, but not the minutia of day-to-day operations. By his own account, every employee has a blank slate, and he'll begin the job with no preconceived notions. He's going to put forth the effort to take the vitals of the entire department via one-on-one meetings without a timetable, but rather a sense of urgency. "We're not going to change just for the sake of change," Whit said.
That's a logical, methodical, and intelligent way for Whit, or any new CEO, to begin his or her tenure. He'd probably get more of a roar from the fan base if he came in and immediately shook some things up. However, his plan for due diligence is prudent. Competent bosses don't try to fix problems they don't understand. Furthermore, aside from Tech's recent skid, the athletics programs have flourished more than floundered under Jim Weaver. Whit may not have to drastically change the way Tech does business.
For the last three seasons Derrick Hopkins, James Gayle, and J.R. Collins have been comfort food for the Virginia Tech football program. Each was leaned upon heavily early in their respective career to contribute significant snaps in lieu of veterans in the two-deep. Now, Foster and Charley Wiles will again try to address questions about depth along the front line. The defensive end position features a group of young, talented, but unproven defensive ends behind returner Dadi Nicolas, and the defensive tackle position is down to three scholarship players for spring practice with Kris Harley's departure from the program and the movement of Wyatt Teller and Alston Smith to offensive line.
Editor's Note: Mark Trible is going to cover recruiting among other subjects for Thekeyplay.com. Mark's a lifelong Tech fan, now sports editor of FauquierNow.com with a weekly column on TheSportsFanJournal.com. Follow his work by liking his Facebook page. -- Joe
It didn't take long for Briar Woods Coach Charlie Pierce to point to junior wide receiver Brandon Polk's most valuable asset.
"He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the U.S. Army underclassmen combine," Pierce said. "He's a very dynamic player, very explosive.
"He has the ability to turn any play into a big play."
Polk is one of Virginia Tech's targets in the 2015 recruiting class. Recruited by Aaron Moorehead, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound wideout has also received offers from Stanford and UVa. among others.
The Virginia Tech football program finds itself at a crossroads. For the first time since Tyrod Taylor's senior season, HokieNation is uncertain of the future at the quarterback position. Mark Leal may end up winning the starting job in 2014, but ultimately Scot Loeffler will be measured on his quarterbacks.
Loeffler secured verbal commitments from two highly regarded class of 2014 quarterbacks, Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin. Loeffler also pursued David Cornwell (Alabama) and Jacob Park (Georgia). The first quarterback to sign with Tech was Cedar Cliff High School's (Pennsylvania) Andrew Ford. Ford, is a 6-3,193-pound lefty thrower. He's rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and a 4-star recruit by 247Sports. He was also selected as an Elite 11 quarterback. As a senior, he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania.
In the wake of recent events, what with a new AD and the KeyPlay baby showing up yesterday, I thought it would be prudent to rejoin our Hokies in 2036 to check in on the state of the program.
On this warm September day, it is Head Coach Shane Beamer's fifth season in charge and he is yet to fully replicate the success of his predecessors. Head Coach Bud Foster retired after winning his third national championship, and he will be honored at halftime today in the Frank Beamer Terror Dome, a retractable roofed, on campus dome seating 114,000, built with the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by AD Whit Babcock. The dome was named for the two time national champion coach and Frank's only disappointment is that they did not meet his request to accommodate a 1/2 mile race track inside.
The Virginia Tech basketball team lost again. The Hokies' record sunk to 8-10 Wednesday after falling to Wake Forest 77-83. That's the same Wake club that previously dropped 17 league road games in a row. Yes, the Hokies lost in Cassell Coliseum. Yes, they've now lost the last game that they will probably be favored in this year (Tech was a two point favorite). And also, yes, this may signal that it will be tough for Tech to win another game this season.
Piling on is easy at this point, but I just figured we'd start there then move on, because what happened during said loss is what I really want to write about.
The 2014 Virginia Tech football schedule has been released. Thursday night football will once again happen in Blacksburg, and all is right with the world. Spoiler alert, there are two weekday games scheduled in the 'Burg.
Aug. 30: William & Mary — Tech opens with a cupcake. The emphasis is on cake. This is the correct decision as no form of cake can be wrong.
Sept. 6: at Ohio State — Tech will be a decided underdog, but home-and-homes between major programs make college football fun.
The Virginia Tech wrestling team opened the season with seven straight dual meet wins, including a convincing 23-14 win over No. 9 ranked Edinboro. Unfortunately for the Hokies, since then the season hasn't been quite as smooth. Tech lost to 15th ranked Virginia on November 24th, and then while wrestling at the Las Vegas Invitational, Hokies 141 pound wrestler Devin Carter, injured himself during a match (which he finished and still won).
According to WaPo's Mark Giannotto and the Richmond Times-Dispatch Mike Barber, Stacy Searels will be Virginia Tech's next offensive line coach. Searels coached the offensive line at Texas from 2011 through 2013, but was not retained by new Texas coach Charlie Strong.
Searels may seem like an off-the-radar hire, but given Beamer Co.'s working relationship with the previous regime at Texas, and Frank Beamer's friendship with Mack Brown, it makes sense.
In addition to his tenure at Texas, Searels has experience coaching at other major programs (table via texassports.com).
Virginia Tech's running game was maddeningly inconsistent over the course of the 2013 season. Outside of Trey Edmunds' performance against Miami, the Hokies could not establish the power running game especially in the red zone. With only scat backs and players converted from other positions littering the depth chart, Virginia Tech actively recruited several running backs that had the size, strength, and speed to be an every down workhorse back in Blacksburg.
Editor's Note: Bumped to the front because I'm a sucker for numbers. Thanks for writing, Sammy. --Joe
Last week, news broke that Virginia Tech offensive line coach Jeff Grimes would be departing Blacksburg after one season for the same position at LSU. Grimes is originally from Texas, played his college ball at UTEP and this move gets Grimes closer to his Texas roots. However, the cold, hard fact is at the end of the day, Grimes likely left Virginia Tech because LSU made him a far more lucrative offer than the Hokies could.
As Joe pointed out in an earlier post, Grimes is probably in line for a significant pay raise from the Tigers. This has sparked terrific debate and conversation among the Hokie Nation and right here on The Key Play on both coaching salaries and Hokie Club contributions.
And here I thought the first bit of news in the morning would be the announcement of the new o-line coach. Instead, Hokies verbal, offensive tackle Brady Taylor, committed to Ohio State.
Taylor was in Columbus for an official visit this past weekend which took place two weeks after receiving a scholarship offer from his hometown team. Many recruitniks believed Taylor would flip on his visit. He didn't. However, it was reported yesterday. he'd return today with his mom to speak with Urban Meyer.
It's day 52 of what has become the most interesting thing to hit the Cassell Coliseum floor since the Red Pandahalftime show.
52 days ago, center Cadarian Raines was pulled from the Furman game after just three minutes, never to check back in. Rumors were flying about Raines possibly mouthing off to head coach James Johnson, who then promptly took disciplinary action. Since then, however, Raines has played a total of 56 minutes out of a possible 360 over the last nine game, a punishment that has turned into something much more.
Even worse? We have no idea what Cadarian did.
It seems as though the initial reports are true and Grimes will be leaving for Baton Rougue. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Mike Barber spoke with Billy Ray Mitchell's high school coach, Chris Partridge. Mitchell is an offensive lineman that verbally committed to Virginia Tech on July 2, 2013. The following is from Barber's report.
Every single basketball team has a hierarchy of players and personnel that rank in matter of importance to their team. It's something that has been a part of basketball longer than any other facet of the game (yes, it's even been around longer than Billy Packer). There are players that impact the course of a season (think Michael Jordan), players that have the potential to impact a few games here and there (think Toni Kukoc) and players that have no bearing on the season whatsoever (think Jud Buechler).
It's the reason that the talented kids in youth basketball are considered "ball hogs", many college and NBA superstars are considered "prima donnas" and why guys like Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari or Gregg Popovich can command high multi-million dollar salaries. They're incredibly important to their team, and they know it.
I have few thoughts on the heels of Jeff Grimes reportedly interviewing for the vacant LSU offensive line position. As many of you know, I'm a glass half full kind of guy, so I'll begin with something positive.
This is a good thing for the program—no, not Grimes actually leaving. If you've read anything French wrote last season you'd know that Grimes is a talented position coach and a fine recruiter. Where I'm going with this is in any industry the best want to hire and work with the best. Even if you haven't followed along with the film reviews here, LSU courting Grimes should make you feel good about Beamer Co.'s hire a year ago.
Following the Commonwealth Cup victory, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, o-line coach Jeff Grimes, and running backs coach Shane Beamer faced the challenge of putting together a running attack without the team's best back, Trey Edmunds. Without a proven runner that could present some kind of threat between the tackles, the Hokie staff had to leverage some unique offensive concepts and new players to catch the talented UCLA Bruins front off-guard in the Sun Bowl.
With Ken Ekanem and Dwayne Alford being a bit of an unknown quantity at stud defensive end (James Gayle's position, usually lined up over the right tackle, often to the tight end side), news that Marshall, who has experience at both defensive end spots, is a pleasant surprise. Traditionally, Bud Foster uses his best all around defensive end at the stud position to help take on the run at the point of attack (which is also the same reason that the stud end doesn't always produce the number of sacks that you would expect from your best pass rusher–often a tight end can be aligned to chip him). Marshall's bigger frame may be well utilized at the point of attack.