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Extending Whit's Contract A Deal That Needed To Be Done

It’s not a huge secret that I’m not one of Whit Babcock’s biggest fans.

But today’s decision to extend the Virginia Tech Athletic Director’s contract through 2029 is an absolute no-brainer in my mind. It needed to be done.

That's because these are strange and interesting time in college athletics. With the looming specter of COVID in the background, I don’t think anyone can say for sure what’s going to happen one month from now, let alone 5 years from now. I’m sitting here in my office right now, with two tickets to a football game with North Carolina only 25 days from now.

I’m not 100 percent sure I’ll go. Or if it will even be played.

All because of COVID.

On top of that, the subject of conference realignment has come back from the dead like Lazarus, as  Oklahoma and Texas are supposedly leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025 if not sooner. This supposedly will start a string of domino-like moves that could blow up the college football landscape as we know it, with teams changing conferences and maybe even breaking away from the NCAA.

The smart play in both of these is to have an experienced AD at the helm to navigate the proper course. As Ricky LaBlue wrote in this story, Whit hasn’t been perfect, but he’s done a lot of good things. He knows the lay of the land, he has assembled a team around him, and no school wants to be dealing with a brand new person driving the bus when all hell possibly breaks lose in college sports in 2025.

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Virginia Tech Extends Babcock's Contract Through 2029

True to its historical modus operandi, Virginia Tech once again valued continuity and stability in the athletic department when the university extended director of athletics Whit Babcock Monday.

The extension, which inks Babcock until June 2029, heightens the probability that Babcock will select Virginia Tech’s next head football coach.

Whether that is a good or bad thing is yet to be determined. Excluding football for a moment, Babcock has mostly made excellent coaching hires since arriving in Blacksburg in 2014. The list is actually quite extensive.

We can start with the men’s basketball program, where Babcock has made two hires already. Buzz Williams elevated the basketball program in true mercenary fashion, coaching the Hokies to consecutive NCAA Tournament bids (including a Sweet 16 appearance) before bolting for more money in a bigger conference. Babcock then hired NRV native Mike Young, who pushed the Hokies back into the NCAA Tournament in just his second season.

Then there’s Kenny Brooks, who’s headed the women’s basketball program since March 2016 and won 63 percent of games he’s coached. Brooks’ team made their first NCAA Tournament appearance this past season.

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With Darrisaw Now Gone, Where Do Hokies Go From Here?

For the last three seasons, Christian Darrisaw has been a godsend for Virginia Tech football.

The former prep recruit turned first-round pick anchored Virginia Tech’s offensive line during that span of time, and played a critical role in the Hokies’ offense when on the field. But with Darrisaw now playing for money, the question for Virginia Tech is this:

Where do the Hokies go from here?

It’s not like the cupboard is bare. Virginia Tech has returning offensive linemen ready to go this season. Guys like Lecitus Smith (No. 54 at right), Brock Hoffman and Luke Tenuta are back in the starting lineup, and some offensive linemen who’ve been in the program are ready to fight for a spot.

But can any of them pick up the mantle that Darrisaw left behind?

Rather than one man doing it all, it needs to be a collaborative effort from the aforementioned returning linemen. Together, they can provide enough stability in production to maintain the offensive line’s position as an asset instead of a liability.

Smith has the best chance of catching on to an NFL roster out of anyone in that group. The 6-foot-3 tight end-turned guard has started each of the last two seasons, and in 2020, Smith was a Third Team All-ACC player per Pro Football Focus (PFF). ACC Network’s Eric Mac Lain put Smith on his second team.

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This Is Why I Got A Reminder To "Check On Tyrece Radford"

Now that I’m retired, I can’t shake one habit I have followed religiously from my working days.

The habit was whenever anyone mentioned a date of any significance, I’d immediately enter it into Microsoft Outlook. Didn’t matter if it was a birthday, doctor’s appointment, sporting event, or anniversary. If it had a date and I had any interest in the subject, I typed it in as an appointment so every morning I could see all the things I’d wanted to remember, but had already forgotten.

For things I REALLY wanted to remember but was sure I’d forget, I included a reminder, which you can set up for anywhere from one hour to two weeks to jog your memory while you’re on your computer about the event.

I say all this because this morning when I fired up the old desktop, waded through a pile of email, and caught up on all the snide remarks posted on Twitter, a message popped up reminding me in one week to “Check On Tyrece Radford.” That’s because one week from today could be an interesting time for the Virginia Tech basketball program.

The Hokies look good for this coming season, but the one nagging issue for them is who plays the wing. There are really only three players on the roster suitable for the wing – Hunter Cattoor, Naheim Alleyne and Darius Maddox – and they were all probably expecting to be backing up Tyrece Radford. But Tyrece entered the transfer portal a little more than a month ago, and as this story suggests, that may have been a just in case move pending some legal issues Radford has.

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This Year's VT Corps Of Receivers Could Surprise Everyone

As I’ve written before, I have some concern about Justin Fuente’s public confidence in Virginia Tech’s passing attack, with much of it residing at the quarterback position.

But when it comes to Virginia Tech’s receivers and tight ends, there’s a much different story.

(Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics)
Tre Turner

As Fuente said at ACC Kickoff, this year’s version of receivers aren’t the kind that you can just throw 50-50 balls to consistently and expect them to come down with it. This isn’t 2016.

That's true, but in 2021, Virginia Tech does have pass catching talent that should be able to lighten the load on Braxton Burmeister.

The Hokies’ receiving corps starts with Tre Turner, who is entering his fourth year at Virginia Tech. Turner has been remarkably consistent since enrolling in 2018, as you can see in his receiving stat line since his freshman season…

  • 2018: 12 games, 26 receptions, 535 yards (20.6 yards per catch), four touchdowns
  • 2019: 11 games, 34 receptions, 553 yards (16.3 yards per catch), four touchdowns
  • 2020: 10 games, 34 receptions, 529 yards (15.6 yards per catch), three touchdowns

Essentially, Turner is the same player now as he was when he started. His production has remained steady, regardless of who is playing quarterback. Heck, Turner may be older and wiser, but he’s still listed at 187 pounds on the roster, just the same as he was in 2018.

Turner’s value comes as a big-play threat as he’s shown the ability to make some of those combat catches that I referred to earlier.

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Two Numbers To Consider: $32.4 Million, and $1.3 Billion

Back in my corporate days, we used to invite key members of the sales force to product development meetings and ask for their feedback on what they thought we needed to add to our product line.

Dozens of ideas about product other competitors had would be offered. I was the “no fun” guy at times who would ask specifically why we needed to have a version of that product, wanting to know was it their best-seller? How many floors in your territory was it on? How much volume do you think we’d do with such a group? Whose product would we knock off retail floors to make room for this new addition?

In many cases the answer was they didn’t know. They just liked how the product looked and wanted something like that in our lineup. I would then say it’d be a shame for us to go through all the expense of developing a new group, only to find out that while visually appealing, it didn’t really sell well for the competition, and thus probably wouldn’t be making any money for us either. So get me more data or the answer was no.

Then they’d call me names 😊

My point in saying this is because after reading a bunch of stories and opinions about who the Atlantic Coast should consider adding, now that Texas and Oklahoma have launched the opening salvo in another round of conference wars, is that most fans and pundits sound just like those product development meetings. They suggest and want every shiny bauble that might be out there, with little to no regard to the bottom line.

The magic number I’ve seen that should be the basis of any suggestion is this one: $32.4 million. That’s the revenue split each team got in the most recent sharing of the pot of gold the league passed out from television and revenue sharing agreements. It doesn’t mean each team brought in that much – I’m sure Clemson brought in a lot more, and teams like Boston College brought in a lot less – but that was the average.

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Doug Johnson

The Washington Metro Market.

I would think that the Washington metro TV market would be the biggest prize that the SEC would be eyeing. How can the SEC not be... Read More
Saturday, 31 July 2021 22:17
Dave Scarangella

Can't really do that with the ...

ACC leadership had everyone sign away their grant of rights for their television rights for the next 15 years, so if the SEC wante... Read More
Saturday, 31 July 2021 22:33
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With Herbert Gone, Who Fills The Void At Running Back?

Watching Khalil Herbert regularly run roughshod over much of Virginia Tech’s competition last season was a lot of fun, as the Hokies hadn’t seen a runner like Herbert since David Wilson, which marked the end of a string of exceptional Hokie running backs.

But watching Herbert last season gave me a sad feeling in the pit of my stomach. For one, I was disappointed that neither Herbert nor the Virginia Tech fanbase ever got to connect with each other in person. Hokies will never be able to physically watch Herbert play football inside Lane Stadium, and that pains me.

Secondly, I knew that Herbert was headed to the pros after 2020. Everyone knew — graduate transfers usually don’t stick around.

Herbert’s departure leaves Virginia Tech with a large void at running back, a vacancy that has many options but none that stand out.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that fifth-year back Jalen Holston is the favorite to assume most of the carries. The former Wing-T fullback has played in a lot of games over his previous four seasons — 35 to be exact — but while showing flashes of brilliance, his production hasn't been consistent. Holston averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season, just above his career average of 4.1.

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Back In The Fall Of 2011, I Just Had A Feeling About These 2

We all, as sports fans, do it.

We watch our favorite high school and college teams and think to ourselves “that guy is going to play in the pros one day,” as if somewhere inside us is some hidden NFL GM gene that just hasn’t been given the chance to see the light of day.

Most of the time, to be honest, we’re wrong.

But I seem to recall one weekend in September of 2011, where, as my Dad would say, “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then.” 

It started on a warm Friday night here in Ashburn. The two local high school football powers – Stone Bridge and Broad Run – were finally playing each other for the first time. As I live one mile from Broad Run and a mile and a half from Stone Bridge, I can tell you it was an electric evening on September 23, 2011. The game was at Stone Bridge, and it’s the most packed that field has even been or ever will be.

Walls of people were on both sides of the field, people were ringed around the fence, and local media, former players, and just about anyone who was anyone in Ashburn were standing on the sidelines. So were a number of players from what was then called the Washington Redskins, including Santana Moss.

Despite the huge buildup for the game, it started off looking like a dud. Broad Run sprinted to a 24-0 lead at halftime, and it looked like the huge gathering was going to see a rout by the upstart Spartans when Broad Run took the second-half kickoff and drove down to the Stone Bridge 1, facing a third and goal.

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This Was Like Being Given A Mountain Of Hokie History

It is no secret that the internet can be one of the biggest, most toxic bastions of negativity, rudeness and know-it-all-ism mankind has ever created. Its lack of civility, kindness and grace has driven me to the point that I wonder every morning why I even bother logging in to social media.

But occasionally amidst this giant overgrown colossus of thorns, a rose emerges. Such was the case 12 years ago when a total stranger on Twitter mentioned her children’s enjoyment of bobbleheads. She was in my town and I had a few extra ones of the original Skreech, as well as some other Nationals gear.

We met up at a local coffee shop. I gave her the merchandise. She tweeted to all her friends I wasn’t a stalker (which we laugh about to this day). We’ve been great friends ever since.

Then in 2019, with everybody in this region trying to get tickets to the Nats’ first appearance in the World Series, she texted me she has two extra. My wife and I were there that night the World Series finally returned to DC, and I have a bunch of wonderful memories from that I’ll enjoy the rest of my days.

All because of that bloody thing called Twitter.

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Hokie Hopes In 2021 May Once Again Rest On QB Position

To be honest, I'm worried about Virginia Tech’s quarterback position heading into the 2021 season.

Justin Fuente, however, does not share the same concern.

“I feel better about us throwing the ball right now since I’ve been here,” Fuente said at ACC Kickoff last week. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to throw the ball 60 times a game. I feel better about it.”

It is important to note that Fuente excluded his 2016 team from that assessment. Still, while I appreciate Fuente’s confidence in Braxton Burmeister, I am curious as to where the confidence in the team’s starting quarterback comes from.

It could be from Burmeister’s end of the 2020 season, which was a marked improvement from his previous track record. In limited snaps, Burmeister completed 10-of-12 throws vs. Clemson for 127 yards, and the following week, Burmeister went 15-of-22 for 212 yards and a touchdown.

Or it could be from the cadre of weapons surrounding Burmeister in the passing game. While none of Virginia Tech’s pass catchers could be considered among the nation’s best, there are potent weapons in the war chest. Tre Turner returns as the No. 1 receiver alongside slot receiver Tayvion Robinson, while tight end James Mitchell represents Tech’s best chance at another high draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Again, I appreciate the confidence, but it may not be all that justified. At least yet.

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Next Round Of Expansion Wars Could Be The End For NCAA

I have been reading quite a few posts and stories offering strong opinions on realignment in college football now that Texas and Oklahoma appear to be on their way to the Southeastern Conference. And most seem to have the same thing in common.

They’re totally missing the point.

This, I’d say to those scribes and posters, is not about football. This is about money. Power. Self-determination for a select group of schools to do what they want to do. It’s the beginning of the end for the NCAA with the football brand names breaking away into 4 super conferences so they can not only do what they want, they can keep ALL the television revenue.

It’s also about the long-term survival of ESPN.

I realize many will argue against this notion, saying it’s not fair, particularly to the smaller schools. But in the words of The Godfather, “This is nothing personal. It’s strictly business.” And in the world of business, the big guys call the shots, and that’s why they spend all their time endlessly trying to get bigger.

Let’s pretend you own a company called the SEC. You’re the top brand in the business. You have a sizable say in what goes on because of it. You now get to cripple a competing organization by taking their best two brands and are now even more powerful.

Why would you stop there at 16 teams?

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Dave Fulton

Mattresses

Let's hope the ACC doesn't "Go to the Mattresses." For years we bragged of the ACC's high academic standards. Then Louisville was ... Read More
Sunday, 25 July 2021 10:11
Guest — Ken J.

The ACC Will Be Fine

No worries about the ACC at all. They will be fine. If it was meant for them to fold or be greatly reduced, it would've happened... Read More
Monday, 26 July 2021 14:49
Doug Johnson

In The Prescient Words of Clem...

Leave the NCAA. Take the cannoli.
Wednesday, 28 July 2021 01:02
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