Hokies faced new challenges in spring football practice

by Dave Smith, Bran Messerly, and Mike Montoro

Just three months after completing the greatest football season in school history, Virginia Tech's football team faced what head coach Frank Beamer called the most competitive and wide open spring practice in his 13 years at the helm. The Hokies opened 2000 spring practice with 11 starters and 39 lettermen returning.

Tech fielded one of its deepest and most experienced teams in 1999. The results were an 11-0 regular season and a trip to the Nokia Sugar Bowl, where the nationally second-ranked Hokies fell to No. 1 Florida State in the national championship game.

The '99 season brought unprecedented exposure and respect to the Tech program. But the season also brought to a close the careers of 20 seniors, including seven who were starters on defense and five who formed the heart of Tech's kicking game. Coupled with the loss of key junior starters Ike Charlton and Shyrone Stith, who opted to enter the NFL draft, Beamer and the Hokies face some strong challenges heading into the 2000 season.

"I feel good about this football team, but I can't remember a time when we had so many positions--both starting and backup--to fill," Beamer says. "We're going to attack the season the same way as 1999, but without the experience."

Beamer and his staff will still have plenty of talent to work with.

In redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Vick, the Hokies have a truly special player who has the ability to take over a game with his play-making ability as both a passer and runner. The offensive line, where four starters return, has the experience and depth to be one of the Hokies' best ever. And the receiving corps, led by record-setting redshirt junior Andre Davis, has great potential despite its youth.

Even on defense, where the Hokies suffered their heaviest losses, there are a number of positives, beginning with senior rover Cory Bird. One of the team's unsung heroes last season, Bird appears ready to take a leading role for a new wave of Tech defenders.

There will also be plenty of the Hokies' defensive trademark-speed. Tech's two major position changes for the springswitching senior Nick Sorensen from free safety to outside linebacker and moving junior Ben Taylor from outside linebacker to an inside linebacker positionwere both made to add speed to their new positions.

"I think this is going to be a fast defensive team," Beamer says. "We may not be particularly big, but we should be very athletic."

Dave Smith is Virginia Tech sports information director, and Mike Montoro and Brian Messerly are assistant information directors.

Don't Miss the Party of the Year!

Hokie Bird with cake
Event: 2000 Hokie Bird Birthday Party
September 16
Time: 11:30 a.m. (before the Virginia Tech-Rutgers football game)
Location: Lane Stadium
Guest List: By invitation only--members of the Hokie Kids' Club
For more information, visit and click on the Hokie Kids' Club link or e-mail

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