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Aug
08

Pry's First Season Will Show Us A Lot About The Hokies' Future...

First-year coaches generally get a pass in college football, but I’m taking a different approach this year with Virginia Tech’s new Head Hokie Brent Pry.

The future of the Virginia Tech football program will become a lot clearer this year. Pry has his work cut out for him — the Hokies weren’t very good last year and many of the returners from that roster have been inconsistent throughout their careers.

Theoretically, this will be the worst roster Pry ever coaches while in Blacksburg, but it is also the perfect time for us to get a framework of the kind of coach Brent Pry can be. Rather than coast on the traditional hall pass that is Year One, we should be able to see Pry flexing his coaching acumen.

The strength of the decisions he makes, as well as wins and losses, will matter quite a bit this year.

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Aug
05

It's Going To Be Tough Watching Mancini In An Astros Jersey...

I had been looking forward to Monday night for weeks. It was Aug. 1, which meant one of my favorite bands, a Scottish group called CHVRCHES, was coming to The NorVa on their most recent American tour.

I left my apartment and started towards my friend’s place, as we were carpooling. And it was at that moment that I checked a notification on my phone that immediately dampened my mood.

Trey Mancini had been traded to the Houston Astros.

I spent the remainder of the drive trying to exorcise my feelings of disappointment and frustration, hoping to get rid of them all before arriving at the 7:30 p.m. concert. The performance was spectacular and I had an amazing time, but the following day forced me to fully confront my displeasure with the Mancini trade head-on.

Sure, the Orioles received a couple of pitching prospects, and those prospects have names and abilities that may one day help Baltimore win their first World Series since 1983. But it’s hard to comprehend that at the moment.

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Jul
22

A Question For The ACC Commissioner: What's The Plan, Jim?

As the esteemed owner and editor of Dulles District will attest, if you’re not getting better at something then you are getting worse.

It’s applicable in all areas of life. If Juan Soto doesn’t continue to get better as a hitter, he’ll eventually be surpassed by his peers and watch others slug their way to a Home Run Derby title. If Dave doesn’t continue getting creative in the kitchen with his signature cooking skills, I’ll eventually catch up to him.

Maybe.

But for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the plan seems to be to stand pat while the rest of the Power 5 aims at getting better. And you know what that means.

The ACC is getting worse.

Rather than lay out a vision for the ACC to solidify its future as one of the premier athletic conferences in America, newly minted commissioner Jim Phillips seemed to simply point at the ACC’s Grant of Rights and say, “we’re fine.”

Sure, on paper, the Grant of Rights, which binds member schools’ media rights to the ACC through 2036, would seem to lock each school into the ACC for the foreseeable future. But as Phillips himself noted at ACC Kickoff earlier this week, that doesn’t mean much when many of the folks at the table had nothing to do with the creation of the document.

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Jul
14

Man, I Can't Wait Until Ricky Turns 40 :)

College football is quite unstable, and this uncertainty makes it difficult to have fun conversations about the sport knowing that it all might be tilted onto its head over the next 10 years.

So instead, I’d like to write a little about the past. After all, now that I’m the ripe age of 28, I can start providing some historical context that I actually lived through and didn’t just read about.

My journey to Virginia Tech football fandom began in earnest in the early-to-mid 2000s. I could start to understand the game at this age, and NCAA Football 2005 was the never-ending fix I never knew I wanted.

This was an exciting time for the Hokies. The National Championship Game berth wasn’t that long ago, the Hokies were moving into a larger conference with a better future and Tech was always competing for conference championships. BCS bowl games were a regularity. Something was amiss if Bud Foster’s defense wasn’t one of the best in the nation.

Two linchpins of Foster’s defenses in that era are two of my favorite players to ever watch — Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall. Adibi was inducted into Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame last year and this coming fall, we’ll watch his battery mate join him.

Adibi and Hall combined with James Anderson to create one of the best and most explosive linebacking corps in the country. Adibi and Hall, in particular, were especially intimidating up front. The pair started together for the first time in 2005, immediately helping the Hokies finish first in the nation in yards allowed and second in scoring defense. Tech finished first in scoring defense the following season and in 2007, the pair’s final season, Tech finished third in scoring and fourth in yards allowed.

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Jul
06

Will Latest Expansion Cause CFB Fans To Say "I've Had Enough"?

Euphemisms can be a funny thing.

Comedian George Carlin put together a whole bit on euphemistic language back in his prime, and while that segment isn’t appropriate to link to, you can find it on YouTube as he cuts through the spin and tells you what the words really mean. I mention this because if Carlin were alive today, he undoubtedly would include the latest euphemism being funneled into our brains - “market forces” - which is essentially a replacement for people wanting to make more money.

This is certainly true when it comes to college football and the seismic news that both Southern California and U-C Los Angeles are joining the Great Lakes Conference Big Ten in 2024.

The Big Ten’s annexation of the two largest brands in California is just the latest in the Big Ten and SEC’s war on college football as we know it. And if the war continues in the direction it is going, the entire sport will devolve into a fiscal free-for-all that assuredly will destroy the college football that we know and love.

Think about this — what was the original purpose of a conference anyway? It seems to me that it provided schools nearby like-minded opponents that could be used as a way to elevate each institution’s national profile. Virginia Tech benefits from playing Clemson, Wake Forest benefits from playing North Carolina and Northwestern benefits from playing Michigan.

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Jun
13

While Loss Was Disappointing, Season Meant Something For Hokies

If you've seen the movie "Moneyball", you may remember when Brad Pitt - who portrays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane - masterfully delivers this blunt quote in the middle of the film:

“If you lose the last game of the season," Beane says, "nobody gives a s***.”

While this quote oversimplifies every team’s season but the one left standing at the end, the sad reality is that there is some truth to it. No matter how outstanding a team may play for a majority of the year, losing the last game of the season puts a damper on everyone's memories of the journey to get there.

Virginia Tech baseball is experiencing this sad truth right now. The Hokies’ 11-2 defeat to Oklahoma in Game 3 of their NCAA Super Regional series will probably leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of everyone associated with the program. Fans will undoubtedly be disappointed in how things ended, but nobody will be more upset than the players and coaches who lost the game.

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Jun
08

Mancini's Career Year Hasn't Affected His Uncertain Future

If this is really the end for Trey Mancini’s career in Baltimore, he sure is going out with a boom.

The 30-year-old slugger is having one of the best seasons of his career, slashing .303/.374/.448 and sporting a career-high 138 OPS+. Baseball Savant, which measures advanced metrics, tells a similar story, as Mancini sits in the 96th percentile in expected batting average and in the 92nd percentile in expected slugging.

Sadly, Mancini’s resurgence has been marred by the elephant in the room — the Orioles’ refusal to commit to Mancini long term.

The Orioles and Mancini agreed to a one-year deal this offseason with a mutual option of $10 million for next year. Even as Mancini puts together the best performance of his career, the chances of a rebuilding club committing to $10 million for a 31-year-old first baseman/designated hitter is quite low.

It isn’t like the Orioles couldn’t afford him. The club carries an $11 million club option on journeyman starter Jordan Lyles, who’s been relatively reliable this season. Outside of Lyles and John Means’ $2.9 million contract, no other money is currently on the books for the Orioles.

Not only has Mancini been the Orioles’ best hitter this season, but he isn’t blocking anyone in the minors. Mancini has spelled his comrades in the field just 23 times this season, compared to 30 games when Mancini has served as the designated hitter. Nobody in the minors has proven they’re ready for that role yet — the closest option has been Tyler Nevin, a Mark Trumbo-style fielder with an OPS+ of 74.

Despite all of this, Mancini sounds like he’s accepted that his time in Baltimore is limited.

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Jun
03

Nobody Is Laughing At The Baltimore Orioles Anymore

The greater baseball world has spent the better part of the last three years clowning the Baltimore Orioles, mocking the club’s poor performance and low payrolls, while the franchise attempts to reinvent itself and collect younger talent.

To be clear, the on-field product in Baltimore has been awful since 2018. After a disappointing 2017 season, the Orioles flat-lined in 2018 with a 47-115 record. The club hasn’t won more than 54 games since and in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Orioles still only won 41 percent of their games.

Those outside Baltimore expected the same in 2022, but fans knew differently. We knew the curve was beginning to turn, and with the arrival of The Savior (Adley Rutschman) and some all-around growth, suddenly nobody is laughing at the Orioles anymore.

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May
06

Hokies Depth Chart Right Now Is One Big Unanswered Question...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

It’s been nearly a month since Virginia Tech wrapped up their spring practice schedule and since then, I’ve spent far too much time thinking about hypothetical depth charts and special packages that we might see in 2022.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time coming to grips with a hard truth — this year’s roster has too many questions for my liking.

Surprisingly, my main concerns have nothing to do with quarterback. Grant Wells played rather well in Virginia Tech’s Spring Game and while Jason Brown wasn’t very productive, he spent much of his afternoon trying to escape Tech defenders.

And that’s a great place to start.

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Mar
31

Spring Has Sprung For Hokie Football And It Feels...Different

Things really are different this spring in Blacksburg.

We’ve officially rotated back to football season and nothing feels the same. Literally every aspect of the program feels dramatically different right now — and that’s a good thing.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

We can start with the football program’s roster of players, which has new faces at many positions. Nobody knows who is going to play quarterback, though two of the favorites — Jason Brown and Grant Wells — are new to the town.

The lack of familiarity continues on offense. Jadan Blue probably has a starting spot locked down at wide receiver, but he’s still learning his way around campus. Da’Wain Lofton has a new number (3), but at least he knows where the position rooms are. Kaleb Smith is the lone Blacksburg vet in that position group, meaning several fresh faces are going to get a look.

The offensive line is a toss-up as you generally don’t replace three starters overnight. Johnny Jordan, Slias Dzansi and Kaden Moore are still around, but most of the remaining offensive linemen on the roster are newbies.

Linebacker might be the only spot where many of the same players are still around, but more guys are getting added to the room. Brent Pry’s preference for the 4-3 defense means the Hokies need more bodies there. JR Walker has already transitioned over to linebacker, as have the McDonald twins. One of those brothers, Jorden, has already shifted to defensive end. Who knows, more changes could be coming.

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Mar
15

Blueprint Of A Comeback: How The Hokies Bounced Back

As I watched Virginia Tech seal the program’s first-ever ACC Championship in men’s basketball, I began re-tracing the Hokies’ steps in my head.

You remember the Hokies sitting at 2-7 in the conference, reeling from a buzzer-beater defeat at the hands of Miami in Cassell Coliseum? I mean, how could you not? It was Virginia Tech’s third-straight defeat, a streak kicked off by an inexcusable loss to Boston College.

Tech fans across the spectrum admitted, either internally or externally, that this season probably wasn’t going to end in an NCAA Tournament appearance. No matter what folks say on Twitter these days, we all thought the same thing on Jan. 27 — barring a miracle, Virginia Tech’s season was essentially over.

An attempted resurrection would require some key improvements and changes, all of which came to fruition down the stretch. Virginia Tech not only salvaged their season, but ended on an impressive run that featured consecutive wins against the conference’s top three tournament seeds — Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke.

So what changed? How did we get here? It’s worth a deeper examination.

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