September 18, the Virginia Tech football team will become a true member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. That is the date when Duke will roll the welcome wagon all the way to Blacksburg, Va., and take on the Hokies in their first ever ACC contest. The Blue Devils are 7-4-0 all-time against Virginia Tech, but the two teams last played in 1984, well before the Hokies became a national powerhouse.
Although Virginia Tech will field a formidable squad in 2004, the players who are no longer wearing the orange and maroon are grabbing as much attention as the players still in uniform. The Hokies lost 13 starters from last season, including eight All-Big East members.
“I think we have a football team that is a little too young,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “This is a team that probably has more question marks and more unknowns than we’ve had in some time. But I do think it’s a football team that has good talent—a lot of good young talent—and if we can stay healthy, I think we’ll be a good football team before the season’s over.”
Virginia Tech’s most notorious loss however, was not yielded to graduation or the lure of the NFL. Backup quarterback Marcus Vick, the brother of NFL star Michael Vick, was suspended for the 2004 season after being charged with reckless driving and marijuana possession. Vick, who was expected to challenge for the starting quarterback position, joins fellow reserves Michael Brown and Michael Hinton, who were also suspended for disciplinary reasons.
In Vick’s absence, Virginia Tech’s offense will be anchored by speedy senior quarterback Bryan Randall, who passed for 1,996 yards last season and was the team’s second leading rusher. Randall exhibited both dimensions of his game in the 2004 season opener against the USC, where he passed for 153 yards and rushed for another 82.
Junior Justin Hamilton will assume the Hokies’ rushing duties from consensus All-American Kevin Jones, who left Virginia Tech for the NFL in 2003 with a school single-season record of 1,647 yards on the ground. Hamilton was converted from wideout to fill Jones’ prodigious cleats. Junior Cedric Humes was slated to become the starting running back this season, but a broken leg in the spring prevented him from fulfilling this duty.
Hamilton’s departure to the backfield leaves Virginia Tech with a widely unproven receiving corps. Senior Richard Johnson is the Hokies’ leading returning receiver with a mere 141 yards in the 2003 season. Three-star recruits Justin Harper and Josh Morgan will be expected to catch a hefty load of passes as freshmen.
The Virginia Tech defense will be playing with a hefty chip on its shoulder this season—they are looking to redeem themselves after allowing 175 points in the final five games of last season. The Hokies lost five of their final seven games, including a 52-49 loss to California in the Insight.com Bowl.
The secondary is dangerously thin, and it was heavily exploited by the USC offense. Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns against the Hokies, who have only one returning starter among the defensive backs, junior cornerback Jimmy Williams.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.