One thing is certain: This Hokie team is extremely talented.
Top to bottom, this is one of the better groups head coach Frank Beamer has fielded in his 22 seasons in Blacksburg, so it’s no surprise many are whispering--even shouting--about a possible national championship run.
I was at a bar in Blacksburg the night a friend walked up and said: “Darren Evans tore his ACL today, he’s out for the season.”
I wasn’t immediately sure if he was joking, but I wasn’t overly concerned. I feel for Evans, who was poised to become a household name this year coming off his MVP performance in the Orange Bowl and a 1,265-yard, 11-touchdown redshirt freshman season.
Most teams would be in big trouble losing that kind of production from a starter unexpectedly, but these Hokies are as deep at tailback as any program in the country.
Freshman Ryan Williams will lead the charge. He was already going to get playing time, as Tech backs always split the carries. Now, he looks to shoulder the load and live up to the hype generated by his high-school credentials and his electrifying performance in spring ball.
Freshman David Wilson, who already was looking to return kickoffs, will now be thrust into the mix, and he may be the fastest of the backs.
I should note that redshirt sophomore Josh Oglesby is currently listed as No. 1 on the depth chart. Honestly though, unless he’s improved a great deal and can hold onto the football a bit better, he’ll be hard pressed to earn the bulk of the caries in this group, but his experience, albeit limited, is comforting.
Oh, there’s also Tyrod Taylor. He ran for 738 yards last season, and as a quarterback is the sixth-leading returning rusher in the ACC.
The Techmen always run the ball, control the clock, and then pounce on defense and special teams. It’s not as sexy as the way USC and Texas put people away, but it’s extremely effective.
This year will be no different, but look for the Hokies to throw more as well. Taylor is finally the man at quarterback with the departure of trusted backup and sometimes starter Sean Glennon.
Taylor’s 13-2 record as a starter and four career 100-yard rushing games at quarterback--tying him with "you know who"--prove he has what it takes to lead the Hokie offense, and his receivers will help.
The trio of sophomore wideouts Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, and Dyrell Roberts all made huge strides towards the end of last season and look to keep that going in 2009.
Greg Boone, Andre Smith, and Blacksburg native Sam Wheeler provide depth and talent at tight end.
And, of course, Boone will return to his role in the phenomenally named “Wild Turkey” formation.
The 6’3”, 283-pound Boone will continue to bruise defenders for tough yardage running, and the former quarterback may even find himself throwing a bit more. Dynamic running back Ryan Williams is also expected to get some looks in this formation.
Defensively, the Hokies look to replace some key players in corner Macho Harris and defensive end Orion Martin.
Senior free safety Kam Chancellor looks to anchor the secondary after tallying 52 tackles and two interceptions last season. He’s started 28 consecutive games since the start of the 2007 season.
Up front, redshirt junior Jason Worilds hopes to have a breakout season. After recording 62 tackles and eight sacks last season, he looks to realize his full potential and become a leader along the defensive front.
This season marks the 10-year anniversary of Tech’s only national championship appearance, when a 19-year-old Michael Vick ran circles around Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. He brought the Hokies to a 29-28 lead at the end of the third quarter.
But then Chris Weinke, who was a full 10 years older than Vick, made a few plays and Peter Warrick did the rest, ultimately giving FSU the hardware.
Oddly enough, FSU head man Bobby Bowden had encouraging words for Frank Beamer this preseason.
"[Frank Beamer] hangs around so close," Bowden said. "I equate it to putting. He's lipped out so many times. One of them is going to fall here before long."
Maybe this year, Frank will finally sink a putt.