QB Nick Johns Waits on a Hokies Offer

Usually each weekday morning Leesburg, Virginia resident Nick Johns travels about an hour-and-fifteen minutes to Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. "It's a tough commute, but you get used to it."

Yesterday However, the 2015 quarterback took a trip to Blacksburg, his first since visiting for the Maryland game last season. Nick told me he has scholarship offers from Maryland, Virginia, and N.C. State, but Virginia Tech has not offered as of yet.

"I'm still waiting [on an offer from Tech], I was kind of expecting one today.

"Coach Loeffler came to watch me throw about a month ago, Coach Loeffler and Coach Moorehead. He said he was impressed. He wanted to get me down to school, and he wanted to pick my brain apart and see what I knew, see what I need to work on, and see how I had been coached up these past 3 years. I thought I impressed him a lot, our relationship is going to continue, and hopefully I pick one up soon."

Position Battles and What to Watch for Prior to the First Spring Practice

Here we go folks. Spring football kicks off today with a 4:30-6:30 PM practice. There's an air of excitement around the Hokies. The hires of Whit Babcock and Buzz Williams have energized a fan base that has been in a state of malaise due to the perception that Virginia Tech athletics were stagnant. With additional resources being devoted to recruiting staff, and a gorgeous, state of the art indoor practice facility on the way, the only thing that could derail forward momentum would be a mediocre football season.

To the casual observer, a blah year is certainly a possibility. The Hokies have major question marks at quarterback, running back, defensive line, and linebacker. While the candidates to fill those positions are talented, none have game experience.

Yesterday, Hokiesports.com released the initial spring football depth chart. There were few surprises. However, the depth chart hints at story lines to watch this spring.

Talking Recruiting with 2015 DT Darvin Taylor

Like last recruiting cycle, there's elite defensive line talent in the Commonwealth of Virginia for 2015. Six-foot-three, 295-pound, Thomas Dale defensive tackle, tight end, and right tackle Darvin Taylor is a blue chip prospect that the Hokies are trying to land to bolster the interior of their defensive line. As of right now, Darvin has 19 scholarship offers and according to his father, Darvin L. Taylor, he's visited nine different colleges over the past year-and-a-half, including visiting Tech 3 or 4 times. Darvin and his family plan on visiting Tennessee, Clemson, and Virginia Tech this spring/summer before he commits.

Darvin told me last Friday he'll chose to play in a, "Place that kind of feels like home ... a place that I could see myself living for four to five years."

Additionally he's looking to play for a position coach that's, "More like a father figure, not like a friend." Someone he can trust.

Hokies 2.0

By now everyone has been energized by the buzz emanating from the rebooted athletic department. OK, almost everyone has.

The following quote was part of Whit Babcock's opening statement from his press conference last Monday.

"We are prepared, within reason, to invest for a favorable return. Sometimes you have to spend to acquire talent in this profession and we're prepared to do so if it's the right person and right fit. We won't spend frivolously, but we must be aggressive if this opportunity presents itself."

It's evident he's a man of his word.

An Open Letter to Buzz Williams

Dear Buzz,

Wait, is that too casual? Mr. Williams? Coach? Dad? I'll call you whatever you prefer to go by, as long as you promise to actually show up and coach the Virginia Tech basketball team.

Forgive me if I sound a little skeptical, it's just that four days ago I was drafting a column that detailed realistic candidates for the men's basketball vacancy (a list that you were not a part of), and you took the job a day later. Did you kill a piece chock full of jokes about Mick Cronin's Napoleon Complex? Yes, but let's not get off on the wrong foot. I'm not mad that I had to scratch the column, it just still doesn't seem real that you actually agreed to coach the Hokies.

2014 Spring Football Lookahead: Inside Linebackers

Even though Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards were only full time starters for two seasons, their dependable play week in, and week out, made me feel like they were in the lineup forever. As spring practice kicks off, Bud Foster finds himself with perhaps the most inexperienced group of linebackers he's had since Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson started against Alabama in 2009. Tyler and Edwards set a high standard for preparation, communication, and execution which are all paramount for a system in which every player must defend their appropriate gap or watch the ball carrier go off to the races. Chase Williams, Deon Clarke, Andrew Motuapuaka, and Dahman McKinnon are each talented players, but they have big shoes to fill behind a defensive line that only returns one starter.

Whit Babcock: "We have a plan"

Yesterday, I watched new Athletic Director Whit Babcock win his 40-ish minute press conference on the future of the men's basketball program. That's the last time I'll prefix "new" to his title, even though his appointment as AD began on March 1st. After firing James Johnson, Whit's sleeves are already rolled as he searches for Virginia Tech's next basketball coach.

Even though he was engaging with the media, it felt as if he was speaking directly to the fans. Without divulging specifics and compromising the search, Whit did an excellent job of outlining the process, expectations, and possible outcomes. If you're considering investing in the program, i.e. donating to the Hokie Club, his candidness, forthrightness, and transparency has to make you feel better about stroking a check. The honesty from up top during this period of transition is refreshing.

The CliffsNotes are as follows:

2014 Spring Football Lookahead: Offensive Line

Despite winter's last ditch attempt to keep its bitter grip on the weather, spring football is just around the corner. Virginia Tech begins spring practice on March 27th, with the practice sessions culminating with the Maroon–White Game at 2:00 PM on Saturday, April 26th. In the weeks leading up to the game, I will take a short break from the Class of 2014 First Look series to preview position battles critical for any potential return to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game. A successful season requires continued improvement on the offensive line. Coach Jeff Grimes left Blacksburg for LSU in the offseason, and Coach Stacy Searels has been hired build on the solid foundation that Grimes put in place.

James Johnson Fired

HokieSports.com announced James Johnson was released as men's basketball coach. The following statement is from new Athletic Director Whit Babcock.

"I want to thank Coach Johnson for his dedication and hard work for our university and our basketball program over the past seven years," Babcock said. "A change of this significance affects many people and is never taken lightly, but I felt a change and a new direction was necessary for the long term, best interest of our department."

Johnson took over a program that had been gutted, and was in need of a rebuild. However, he could only muster 6 ACC wins in two seasons of play.

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.

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