Monthly Archives: June 2011

John Wall should stick to basketball.

The Nationals won their seventh game in a row as they took down the Orioles (eight today). John Wall threw out the first pitch and my goodness, it was awful. Possibly one of the worst throws I have ever seen.

Here was the exchange between MASN announcers F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter:

“That was a bounce pass. That was fine,” Santangelo said.

That was horrible,” Carpenter countered.

Yep, sure was.

Also of note: The Nationals are in sole possession of third place in the NL East. Don’t think I’ve ever said that before.

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Part 1: Q&A with Hokie Annual’s Chris Colston.

Below is the first of a two-part interview by Matt Worner (aka @HokieGuru) with Chris Colston of Hokie Annual, an extensive guide to all things Hokie Football. The 128-page book is a steal at $14.99 and can be purchased online here as well as a number of  stores in Northern Virginia listed at the bottom of the post.

Part one of the interview consists of Colston’s background in covering Virginia Tech, Hokie Annual and questions about the 2011 Hokies offense. Part two covers defense an special teams. 

HOKIE GURU: So, how did you decide to go to Virginia Tech? @VTCaps wants to know wants to know what sold you on being a Hokie. Also, please tell the readers here a bit about your background some of my followers (many from the Generation Y crowd) might not know you (yes that means you’re getting older lol… unfortunately, that means I, the Generation Xer, am, too, lol).

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: I’ll tell you a story I’ve never told anyone before. One soft-infested summer, I believe it was the summer of ’71, I strolled the southwest Virginia woods when I saw a shadow looming before me. From behind a maple strode a six-foot high turkey, snood a-wagglin’. He lunged, pecked and disappeared into the wilderness, leaving me standing there, blood-a-drippin’. But unlike a werewolf, who changes shape only the night a full moon, I became a Hokie for the rest of my life.

The next fall I attended my first game, where from the high corners of the West stands, amid a ketchup-packet-squirting battle with my younger brother, I watched the passing exploits of Don Strock.

I went on to attend Virginia Tech (1976-1980) and earned a degree in Marketing Management. I worked in the athletics department for 11 years as editor of the Hokie Huddler before moving to USA Today Sports Weekly and then the daily USA Today. I’ve written four books on Hokies football: “The Hokies Handbook”, Frank Beamer’s autobiography “Turn Up the Wick,” “Tales From the Virginia Tech Sidelines”, and the “Virginia Tech Football Vault.”
Hokie Annual

HOKIE GURU: For the average football fan, tell us about the Hokie Football Annual.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: It’s everything you want to know about the Virginia Tech football program, written by someone bitten by the Hokie Spirit. I consider myself an avid Hokie consumer, and I asked myself, “What would be my dream Virginia Tech publication?” The answer is the Hokie Football Annual.

We made some huge improvements over our premiere issue last season, and I think anybody who buys the HFA is simply going to love it. It’s the perfect magazine to take with you this summer, be it the beach, lake or whatnot.

It’s also a heck of a deal at $14.99. I just picked up the Athlon ACC book, which sells for $8. I finished all the Virginia Tech info in about 15 minutes. The Hokie Football Annual is 128 pages of 100% Virginia Tech football, with stories in there you just aren’t going to find anywhere else, like the Round Table, the Recruiting Q&A, the tailgating section, the uniforms section, the anecdotes from former players, the 2007 Rewind, the all-time Tech team…I mean it just goes on and on. I think once somebody reads it, they’re hooked.

HOKIE GURU: For the record, I have read the Hokie Football Annual from cover to cover and I think it’s awesome. It really gives the reader a true insider’s perspective on Virginia Tech football (especially on the logic for the coaching changes). The publication does a great job talking about the state of the program, the roster, and the coaches. You also get those nuggets like who the epic tailgaters are. Every Hokie I know will love the Hokie Football Annual.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: Well thank you, oh great Guru! I appreciate that very very much. I tried to give a true perspective on the program, not the in-house spin; having said that, I’m a diehard fan, and I love the program. I’m still close to the people in the athletics department, and I think they do a great job there. Having written a couple of historical perspectives on the football program, I really appreciate what Frank Beamer has done, and what we have right now. We’re truly blessed.

HOKIE GURU: Please tell Virginia Tech fans what the 16th Tenet is for a True Hokies Fan. I don’t want to give too much away here in the book, so I’m not going to ask you everything that’s in there.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: One of our features is “25 Tenets For True Tech Fans.” (I could use the term rules, but they’re more like guidelines.) No. 16 is this: If a UVA fan overplays the “You Wouldn’t Be in the ACC Without Us” shtick, remind him/her that the Hokies hired former Cavalier Ricky Stokes as our head basketball coach, so they actually OWED us a favor.

HOKIE GURU: Also, for the record, I disagree with you… I think we go 11-1 (yes, we are beating both Clemson and Miami)… you say we’re going to lose to Clemson… no way… an unseasoned QB in Lane Stadium vs. Bud Foster’s defense? SMH, man lol… Clemson’s Tajh Boyd will be in Bud Foster’s lunch pail by night’s end on October 1, 2011.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: We made those predictions in February before seeing Logan Thomas in the spring. We were actually hunkered down in the Greeks Cellar, over a pitcher and some spanokopitas (best I’ve ever had, by the way) the day Frank Beamer hired Cornell Brown.

Had I seen Logan play, I would’ve predicted 11-1 as well. (Which, by the way, was my prediction in 2010, and Tech finished the regular season 10-2, so maybe I did the right thing.)

I honestly think Virginia Tech has a great chance to go undefeated during the regular season. There is no glaringly tough opponent. The Hokies get three of their toughest opponents, Clemson, Miami and North Carolina, at home.
Offense

HOKIE GURU: How much different will the offense be under Mike O’Cain (h/t for the question to @accsports  and @mengus22 ?) More specifically, with the great group of experienced receivers that we have, do you think we’ll look to the pass more? (h/t: @TheLuxSports  and @nturnage )?

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: Last year Tech ran 62% of the time. I think you could easily see at least a 50/50 run-pass ratio this year, if not 55% in favor of the pass, for a number of reasons.

The depth at running back isn’t what it was last year, and the returning receivers are terrific. With Mike O’Cain, the quarterbacks coach, calling the plays, there’s a much better chance of a mind-meld with Logan, and that has me very excited. Plus, Logan can make some of the throws that Tyrod Taylor, because of his height, simply couldn’t make.

Bryan Stinespring and Mike O’Cain aren’t going to let talent like Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts go unutilized. Plus, expect to see David Wilson as a big receiving weapon as well.

HOKIE GURU: Another offensive question (and I’m not talking vulgarities) comes from @Hokie8807: We’ve seen that Logan Thomas has all the physical tools to be successful, but he’s still only thrown 26 passes in his career. How can Mike O’Cain adjust the playbook so that the game doesn’t move too fast for Logan? Can he do that without becoming too predictable in the play calling? Also, there have been a lot of comparisons of Logan Thomas to other QBs – what QB does he most resemble to you? (h/t: @ACCBlogger) Is he ready to take over for @TyrodTaylor? (h/t: @Bob_Swagg) For the record, no one will replace Tyrod (who is not replaceable in Hokies lore), but will be taking over as QB.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: Ideally, Virginia Tech will have a core group of plays installed in August that it can execute to perfection. You really don’t need a huge playbook to be successful. Better to execute 10 plays well than 50 plays with mediocrity. With no big Top 5 opponent early this year, the Hokies can afford to do that, then add plays as the season goes along.

I am not going to make the too-easy Cam Newton comparison. One guy nobody has brought up yet when talking about Logan is Ben Roethlisberger. But they’re both big, tough guys with good arms, and yeah, Ben can run a little bit too. But seriously, it is WAY too early to make any comparisons for Logan, because we simply haven’t seen enough of him in game situations.

He’s definitely ready to continue the Tech tradition of quality quarterbacks. While he won’t have Tyrod’s grasp of the offense initially, he can do some things Tyrod can’t do. I am extremely excited about watching him play this year, as much as any player Virginia Tech’s ever had. We had heard rumblings about how Michael Vick was tearing up practices during his freshman year, but nobody really knew how good he was going to be till he got on the field for real.

The thing that excites me about Logan is the combination of off-the-chart physical attributes with strong intangibles.

HOKIE GURU: Also, what are your thoughts on the backup QB situation? (h/t: @DougHead)

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: It will be Ricardo Young or Mark Leal, depending on who performs better in August.

HOKIE GURU: Our next question comes from one of our friendly rivals, @BCHysteria. He asks us who will be tougher to replace: Tyrod Taylor at QB or Ryan Williams/Darren Evans at RB?

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: Actually I don’t have any worries there at all. I’m more concerned over who will replace Chris Hazley and Brian Saunders. David Wilson has a bigger upside than Evans and is probably faster than Ryan. He just needs to stay healthy. I think Logan will be fine at QB.

HOKIE GURU: @BCInterruption asks will Kevin Rogers’ past work experience at Virginia Tech gives Boston College an edge when the two teams hook up in October (I vote no as this is the Homecoming game, but please smack down our rival, okay? haha.)
HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: Well, Bud has made so many tweaks to the defense since Kevin was here, that I’d say the advantage isn’t all that great. The biggest advantage is that BC has a really good coach.

HOKIE GURU: And @CougarTrainee  (the godmother of @MDavis_7) wants to know if you think her godson should go pro after this year or wait another (my personal opinion is that he should wait one more, but I’m selfish as a Hokies fan and he needs to contact his family and his agent on this subject)… what are your thoughts?

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: Oh my goodness. Marcus had, let’s see…19 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns last year. And you’re already talking about turning pro? Really? How about this: focus on 2011 and have the best year possible as one of four strong receiving options. Then come back in 2012 as the primary receiver, have a monster year. Maybe THEN think about the NFL.

HOKIE GURU: And we’ll close with my question… what are your biggest concerns and what are you most excited about on offense?
No question, my biggest concern is David Wilson’s health (and Logan Thomas). Those two can’t get hurt. I wonder about our field goal kicker too.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: What excites me most: a 6-6 QB with a big arm who can run; his ability to hit Marcus Davis on a quick slant on the dead run; an offensive line with depth; Boykin and Coale; a salty tight end who used to play defense; and the mind-meld play-calling of Logan and O’Cain.

HOKIE GURU: I have many DMV (e.g. DC/Maryland/Virginia… Washington DC-Centric) followers… where can my followers buy that publication in a traditional brick and mortar store? FYI, here’s the cyberspace hyperlink (http://www.chriscolston.com) and it’s cheap… $14.99 plus shipping and handling… it’s an awesome Father’s Day gift and a great purchase that will help you get fired up for the 2011 Hokies football season.

HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL: We really amped up our distribution avenues this year. It is available statewide at most Barnes & Noble stores, Giant food stores, Target, Food Lion and Borders. In June it will be available at Kroger. In southwest Virginia it’s available at most Stop-In stores, Gobbler Gear in Salem, and University Bookstore, Volume 2 Bookstore and Tech Bookstore in Blacksburg. And yes, you can always order online at www.chriscolston.com.

Here some traditional brick and mortar locations in Alexandria, VA or Arlington, VA where you can buy the Hokie Annual:

• Target, 6600 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA
• Target, 3601 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria, VA
• Bottom Dollar, 8750 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA
• Barnes and Noble, 3651 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria, VA
• Giant, 5870 Kingstowne Center, Alexandria, VA
• Giant, 3680 King Street, Alexandria, VA
• Giant, 3131 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA
• Giant, 7558 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA
• Barnes and Noble, 2800 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 500, Arlington, VA
• Borders Books and Music, 1201 Hayes Street, Suite C, Arlington, VA
• Borders Airport, 105 Air Cargo Road, Arlington, VA
• Giant, 3115 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA

HOKIE GURU: Thank you so much for spending time with us, Chris!! GO HOKIES!!

We thank Chris Colston of the 2011 Hokie Football Annual for spending some time with us. I can’t imagine a better publication to take with you to the beach this summer. It also makes an excellent Father’s Day gift.

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Bubba Starling another “once in a generation” talent.

Today’s MLB draft has been called one of the deepest draft classes in the last five years. It also features another “once in a lifetime” talent in Bubba Starling, a 6’5″, 193 boy wonder from a small town just south of Kansas City.

Starling’s lore is founded on 500-foot home runs, 395 yard rushing performances and roof-lifting dunks. Where those who have not seen him doubt his god-like talents, those who have are able to back-up the phenom’s generational talent.

[Read: ESPN profile on Bubba Starling. Definitely a must-read.]

Already committed to Nebraska to play quarterback, Starling will have to make a life-changing decision when he is drafted later today. Which way he is leaning remains unclear, though he has said he will be ready for practice in Lincoln when practice begins in late July.

The question is whether Starling truly is a “once in a generation” talent. The past two MLB draft’s have been host to two other generational talents, the National’s Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. It can be tough to justify three consecutive years of praise for top talent in the draft, so the superlatives laid on these three may only be justified when the trio have actually excelled in the majors. By then, there will likely be others who will have the generational tag bestowed upon them.

What they have at this point in their lives is promise. In the 46 years of the MLB draft, no number one pick has ever made it to Cooperstown.  Even if they are not labeled the “once in a generation” talent by the end of their careers, they will need to show their worth. They will need to prove their talents as they have done on the lower levels of competition they’ve excelled at.

While it is incredibly possible Starling, Harper and Strasburg will excel in the majors, it is also possible they can flame out. Strasburg’s first season was cut short by Tommy John surgery and his violent throwing motion has been called into question very early on.

We’ve also been warned to be wary of the generational superlative. Ryan Leaf  could never cut it in the NFL. Sam Bowie’s talent could not overcome his injuries. Kwame Brown was too young and inexperienced. Tony Mandarich cracked under the pressure.

The list goes on and on.

Things change when you play in different environments and there’s a reason to wary when Starling isn’t in Kansas anymore.

Whether Starling lives up to the hype in the bigs (or even opts to go the baseball route altogether) will take time to evaluate. For now, though, we should praise this mammoth talent from a small town south of Kansas City.

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Gibbs, players present murky picture of winning after labor strife.

Joe Gibbs knows a thing or two about NFL lockouts.

Twice the legendary coach won Super Bowls during shortened seasons due to labor strife between the owners and players. He has spoken out against the current lockout of the players, saying the situation could have major detrimental effects on the most popular sport in the country.

He may not like it now, but Gibbs has certainly benefitted in the past from labor strife, so it’s no wonder current New York Jets coach Rex Ryan has reached out to the current NASCAR team owner for advice.

“He said take this time to get better,” Ryan said to the New York Post about his conversation with Gibbs. “Take time to gain an advantage on your opponents and whatever you think that is. He gave me some ideas and I followed them to a tee.”

The 1982 season was cut to just nine games and the Redskins took advantage of the revised 16 team playoff schedule. Winning six of the final seven games, the Redskins ended up cruising through the playoffs and a 27-17 Super Bowl win over the Miami Dolphins.

The 1987 was shortened by just one game, though weeks 4-6 were played by replacement players. Still, Doug Williams made a name for himself in franchise lore with his incredible demolition of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

Two labor strife situations, two Super Bowls for Gibb’s Redskins. Whether Gibbs really had an advantage in strategizing for shortened seasons is irrelevant to the Redskins for next season since Mike Shanahan is the coach now. What’s important is how the players are able to come back to prepare and focus on the season is what really matters.

The players have held three workouts at area high schools so far, with 41 players showing up to prove their dedication. Unfortunately, these workouts amount to little more than glorified scrimmages. And that’s being generous to the word glorified.

The workouts signify little more than player unity during the lockout. There are no coaches to rectify mistakes, no cameras to film the practice which the players could look at later, and no true direction for what to expect. We still don’t know whether we will see NFL games this fall, a depressing fact to deal with.

Maybe the Redskins had the best teams in the shortened 1982 and 1987 seasons, maybe they just got lucky. Maybe off-season workouts gave Gibb’s teams a leg up on the competition, maybe this years players-only workouts will too.

Nevertheless, we won’t know anything about real football until the lockout ends and the players are able to report to the training facilities in preparation of the new NFL season. Until then, good luck dealing with the grueling hours of closed door meetings and players-only workouts.

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