After surprising practically everyone last year by finishing 9-3 with a football team that returned just three offensive starters and was picked fourth in the BIG EAST Conference, Virginia Tech will open its 1999 season with 14 starters and 53 lettermen returning.
"We are excited about the upcoming season," says head coach Frank Beamer, whose Hokies closed out the '98 season with a 38-7 romp of tradition-rich Alabama in the inaugural Music City Bowl. "I like our possibilities, but we must stay focused and continue to work hard."
Two of Tech's main points of emphasis during spring practice were the quarterback position and the defensive secondary.
"When you are replacing players at quarterback and players in the secondary, especially replacing people with a lot of playing experience, it is a concern," admits Beamer. "Those are positions that affect you quickly."
Beamer and his staff were extremely impressed with redshirt freshman Michael Vick, who emerged from spring practice as the top choice for the starting quarter back duties vacated by Al Clark. The Hokies also got solid spring performances at quarterback from rising redshirt junior Dave Meyer and redshirt freshman Grant Noel.
"We didn't go into spring practice saying we had a No. 1 quarterback," says Rickey Bustle, the Hokies' offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. "We let the players battle it out."
There may still be some battles for starting jobs in the secondary where rising junior cornerback Ike Charlton is the lone returning starter. Some of the top candidates for the three openings are rising senior Anthony Midget, redshirt freshman Ronyell Whitaker, and redshirt sophomore Larry Austin at cornerback; redshirt junior Nick Sorensen and redshirt sophomore Reggie Samuel at free safety; and redshirt juniors Cory Bird and Phillip Summers at rover.
Perhaps the best news for the newcomers in the defensive backfield will be the fact that every starter (and all but one backup) at Tech's front seven defensive positions return. That means one of the Hokies' strong suits again in '99 should be pressuring the passer. And that translates into a little less pressure on the secondary.
Tech's returning players are led by senior defensive end Corey Moore, who earned first-team All-America honors in his first season as a starter. Moore was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year after posting 67 tackles and leading the league in quarterback sacks with 13.5.
The Hokies also return their all-time scoring leader, place-kicker Shayne Graham. The three-time, first team All-Big East kicker set a school record for points in a season last year with 103 and was ranked third nationally in field goals and 10th in scoring. He enters his senior season with 264 points, just nine points shy of becoming the top scorer in BIG EAST history.
Tech is scheduled to open the 1999 football season against James Madison University at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field on Sept. 4. Back to Contents
Virginia Tech chose a winner when it hired Bonnie Henrickson as head women's basketball coach two years ago. Now, the Hokies are keeping a winner; they've offered Henrickson a contract extension that will keep her at the Tech helm until 2004.
In two seasons as Tech's head coach, Henrickson has amassed a 50-13 record and helped the Hokies capture two Atlantic 10 Conference championships. In 1998-99, she led the Tech women to a school-record 28-3 mark and the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
"I am very appreciative and excited about the opportunity to continue my coaching career here at Virginia Tech," says Henrickson. "Through the support of (athletic director) Jim Weaver and the athletic family, we are building a very special program here at Tech." Back to Contents
Ricky Stokes, who spent last season as the associate head coach at the University of Texas, was named head coach of the Virginia Tech men's basketball program on March 24.
"Virginia Tech is a great academic and athletic institution," says Stokes. "I am looking forward to the challenge, and I'm ready to take the men's basketball program to new heights."
Stokes, a native of Richmond, Va., has been involved in eight NCAA Tournaments (once reaching the Elite Eight and twice the Sweet 16) in his 11 seasons as a full-time assistant coach. He also was a part of four NCAA Tournament teams at the University of Virginia, where he played from 1980-84.
In addition to Texas, Stokes was an assistant coach at Bowling Green, Wake Forest and Virginia. Stokes succeeds former coach Bobby Hussey. Back to Contents