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Jun
22

Virginia Tech Football Gets 6 Commitments In Last 7 Days

Anytime a school gets a handful of commitments in a single week, you should set aside some time to figure out who the newbies are.

Virginia Tech has added six separate commitments in the last seven days — running back Bryce Duke, offensive linemen Johnny Garrett and Jakson LaHue, tight end Matt Hoffman, defensive back Malcolm Jones and athlete Xavier Simmons.

Let’s take a moment to parse through each of these six commitments…

Running back Bryce Duke (5-foot-11, 196 pounds) — Leesburg, Va.

Duke - who played for Tuscarora here in Loudoun County - committed to Tech on Tuesday, giving the Hokies their first tailback in this cycle. He’s got average size and rates as a middle-of-the-road three-star prospect. 247Sports puts him 23rd in Virginia’s 2022 class.

Virginia Tech didn’t face stiff competition for Duke. Rutgers and Duke are his only other Power 5 offers, though the northern Virginia native also holds offers from App State, Cincinnati and Old Dominion.

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Jun
22

This Seems To Be A Huge Clue About Aluma's Return

If you were wondering if Keve Aluma was coming back this season to play basketball at Virginia Tech, the Hokies might have offered a pretty big clue in its push for season ticket renewals.

Aluma back in April entered his name on the list for the 2021 NBA Draft while still maintaining his eligibility as a Hokie. He said he was exploring his options, while still leaving open the possibility of coming back to play in Blacksburg another year.

Aluma was the team’s leading scorer (15.2 points per game) and rebounder (7.9 rebounds per game) while earning second-team All-ACC honors. His return would certainly be great news for the Hokies in Coach Mike Young's third season at Virginia Tech.

There has been no definitive announcement that Aluma is definitely coming back for the 2021-2022 season, but a person who I trust (who seems to know these kinds of things in Blacksburg) told me several weeks ago he would definitely be back. That’s all well and good, but I’ve seen many a situation where someone was definitely coming back…until they weren’t.

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Jun
14

After 15 Months, We Finally Crossed The Finish Line...

I still clearly remember the moment it all began: It was March 12, 2020, the Washington Nationals were playing an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, and at 1:05, my new dog Maggie and I sat in my favorite chair and turned on the television.

By the time the game ended at 4 PM, every other team in every other sport had shut down their seasons. Soon everything would be under some sort of shutdown, restriction or other regulation to execute a strategy called “two weeks to flatten the curve."

We all know how that turned out.

But today…without warning or fanfare…it is now officially over, at least the way I look at it. It would be over, I thought, when the day came where I could leave the house, drive to a stadium of my choice, and go see one of my favorite teams without any sort of capacity restriction.

With Virginia Tech announcing today that there would be no such restrictions this year, and Lane Stadium was free to be 100 percent full of orange and maroon-clad fans, bouncing up and down while singing every verse of “Enter Sandman” as fireworks went off overhead and football players tapped hokiestone with their hands at the end of a tunnel leading to Worsham Field, the last domino has fallen.

It’s over. As a Southwest Airlines commercial once noted, you are now free to move about the country.

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Jun
09

Kyshoen Jarrett Finally Comes Home To Virginia Tech

Some sports reporters will tell you they are entirely objective. They will further claim they never have and never will let their personal feelings about a player, coach, executive or team get in the way of how they cover their beat.

They’re wrong.

The truth is writers and reporters are human too. We have emotions. We make mistakes. Sometimes, we let our personal opinions dictate an angle that we take on a story. Occasionally, that’s in a negative light.

But ever so often, it’s just the opposite.

My junior year at Virginia Tech was a lot of fun, as I served as the opinions editor, sports editor and managing editor of the Collegiate Times at different points in the school year. I also got to cover Virginia Tech football that season, attending the games as a writer and reporter.

As the 2014 season came to a close, I started putting together a piece on Virginia Tech’s two senior safeties: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett. The two were great young men and I enjoyed interviewing both.

Jarrett’s interview sticks with me. He had an admirable innocence; Jarrett’s soul was honest and pure. Nothing had been given to him, yet Jarrett was still thankful that he got the opportunity in the first place. Even though football was offering him a chance to play professionally, Jarrett had already thought about how he could contribute off the field.

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May
26

In 100 Days, You Can Watch Hokies' 1st Game Against UNC

Seems like since the mask mandates in Virginia were dropped a week and a half ago, I’m finding more and more experiences closer to the normal ones I enjoyed every day before words like pandemic and COVID became mainstays of everyone’s vocabulary.

One simple pleasure always occurred around Memorial Day. While I follow all sports, I’m first and foremost a football guy. I played it as a kid, I understand it, and I look forward to football season every year. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about the Nationals, Capitals, basketball or racing, but if I can only watch one sport, football is going to be the pick.

My wife has even asked many times over our 40-year marriage how many days there were until football season, because she knows the odds of me going anywhere on a Saturday or Sunday is pretty close to zero. I’m going to be parked back in my office, where I have a setup of more television screens than any sane man would have, and I watch every game I can. Since there are snacks, Maggie the WonderBeagle joins me, usually sleeping on my lap.

So every Memorial Day, to be prepared for such a question, I pull out a spreadsheet that is designed to provide an answer. It has three columns, and you can see it in the upper right part of this post. It tracks six events that are important to me: The first NFL exhibition game (the Hall Of Fame Game), the first NFL regular-season game, the first college football game, the first Virginia Tech game and the first WFT exhibition and regular-season games.

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May
22

I Dare Not Even Think This, But Holy Crap....

If you’ve been a Hokie fan for over 50 years like I have, you know the drill.

We all carry it like the 1.500-pound gorilla on our back it is: Virginia Tech has never won a national championship in any NCAA team sport. In fact, I can only think of two instances where the possibility even crossed my mind.

One was a warm September afternoon in Blacksburg where a redshirt freshman name Michael Vick flicked a ball 70 yards on a line for a touchdown, then came back a few minutes later and ran 60 yards up the middle for another score.

I eloquently turned to my wife and said “holy crap, this is the guy we’ve waited our whole lives for. Maybe he can get us over the top.”

He came close on another warm night in New Orleans, but didn’t. Since then, I haven’t thought there was a serious possibility of it happening again.

Well, until tonight.

I was watching the Virginia Tech women’s softball team take on Brigham Young in Tempe, AZ, much as I do every Hokie team that makes it to the postseason. But for the second time in my life, I uttered another “holy crap” and tried to suppress my imagination.

They’re that good, folks. They could win it all.

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May
18

Hokies Add Another Big With Clemson Transfer Lynn Kidd

Yesterday, Virginia Tech needed an associate head coach, and they got one in Mike Jones.

Today, Virginia Tech was in need of another big man. They got that too.

After earlier in the week entering the transfer portal, 6-10, 230-pound Lynn Kidd has decided to move from Clemson to Virginia Tech. He was a true freshman last season, meaning he has four more years of eligibility.

When signing with Clemson, ESPN had him ranked as the No. 77 prospect in the country. At the time of his signing, he chose Clemson over Virginia Tech, Miami, Wake Forest, Auburn and Florida, but was seldom used last season by the Tigers.

He appeared in only 7 games last season and played only 33 minutes. He only scored 8 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.

But he was also ranked as a 4-star and at 230 pounds, has room to grow. He didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do at Clemson, but has a big upside, as in high school he was a consistent scorer and rebounder. He may not be done growing yet either, as in researching this, I found high school stories of him as a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, listing his size at 6-9 and 220.

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May
17

The Man Who Probably Made It All Happen? Oliver Purnell

While Hokies fans are sitting back and celebrating their good fortune in the hiring of DeMatha Coach Mike Jones as associate head coach at Virginia Tech, perhaps we should all pause and raise a glass to the person who probably made all this happen.

To your good health, Oliver Purnell.

If the connection isn’t clear, let’s take a look at the career of one Oliver Purnell. He started as a player at Old Dominion so long ago, I cheered for him while in high school. When he finished as a player in Norfolk in 1975, he was a graduate assistant at ODU for two years. He moved up to being an assistant at ODU from 1977 to 1985, then became an assistant under Lefty Driesell at Maryland for 3 years before getting his first head coaching job.

The position was at Radford, and when he assembled his staff in 1988, one of his assistants was a local guy named Mike Young. The two would work together during the 1988-89 season before Young would leave for Wofford.

Purnell would leave Radford too, heading back to be the head coach at Old Dominion from 1991 to 1994. One of his best players on those ODU teams was….Mike Jones.

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May
17

Hokies Make Home Run Hire Of DeMatha's Mike Jones

In what has been a poorly guarded secret this weekend, Mike Young and Virginia Tech made a home run hire today as the Hokie basketball program named DeMatha head coach Mike Jones as associate head coach to fill the vacancy left by departing coach Chester Frazier.

Word had spilled out over the weekend that he would soon be a Hokie assistant, but Dematha pushed back on those reports. Today, Jones and the school officially announced he was leaving and heading to Blacksburg.

What makes this such an impressive hire for Young and the Hokies is Jones’ recruiting connections. Frazier had been a major factor in his ability to scout and persuade prospects to come to Blacksburg, something that helped the program make a quick turnaround from when Buzz Williams left for Texas A&M. They needed to find someone of equal ability to replace him.

"Virginia Tech is first and foremost getting a great person who not only fits our program, but embodies what our University is about," Young said in a statement released by Virginia Tech. "Mike Jones is a tremendous basketball coach, who brings a wealth of success from DeMatha and USA Basketball. I have had the privilege of watching Mike over the years and have continually been impressed with his ability to teach the game of basketball and mentor players. We are excited to add him to our family and look forward to continuing on what we have built over the past two seasons."

Jones has been the head coach at DeMatha since the 2002-2003 season, where a number of major college prospects have passed through. He currently has five former players in the NBA, including 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, and also has extensive ties to USA basketball. He was set to serve as the 2021 USA Men’s U16 National Team head coach, but withdrew Monday from that position after accepting the Virginia Tech job. 

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May
16

It Wasn't Just A Good Weekend. It Was A Great Weekend.

As sports weekends go in the Nation's Capital, local teams may have just finished a rare great one.

Think about it. The Capitals won an opening-round Stanley Cup playoff game. The Wizards rallied to win and clinch an 8th-seed in the NBA playoffs. The Nationals won a series on the road. Plus the Mystics opened their season, DC United took to the pitch, and even the Washington Football Team and Hokies down in Blacksburg had an eventful last few days.

Not  bad. Not bad at all. Here are the details:

Capitals Win A Postseason Thriller

Caps fans had their hearts in their throats early when starting goaltender Vitek Vanecek left in the first quarter due to injury, leaving the game in Craig Anderson’s hands. Anderson only had two starts this season, his last win was in May of 2017, and while they said he was 39, it was just barely. He'll be 40 this week. So on top of concerns for injuries to TJ Oshie and the return of Alexander Ovechkin from injury, Caps fans had plenty to worry about.

But soon after realizing Anderson was even on the team, Caps fans realized they were seeing a calm, experienced goaltender who kept the Boston Bruins in check. Tom Wilson scored the game’s opening goal, showing he can score AND fight, then Jake DeBrusk responded – which was also the play on which Vanecek left with an injury. The call-and-respond action continued in the second period, when Brendan Dillon and Nick Ritchie traded goals, and the teams held each other scoreless throughout the rest of regulation.

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Nov
08

For Virginia Tech, It May Be A Case Of Kill...Or Be Killed

Last night, I posted something about the state of the Virginia Tech athletics program after yet another depressing loss by the football team, and in doing so, committed a sin I have often scolded others for doing.

I identified a problem, but I didn’t offer any solutions. And as even Maggie The WonderBeagle knows, anyone can complain. But it’s all just mindless noise if you don’t talk about how you’re going to fix it.

I’ve never been an athletic director, but I’ve been a businessman for many decades and the challenges the Hokies are facing right now aren’t that different. You have a product that was once thought of to be in high demand and of great value, but now the product is faltering. The lack of enthusiasm and the eroding perceived value of ticket price to experience are serious trends that can throw many a company up on the rocks.

Which is why you always have a Plan B. It happens eventually to everyone.

So what would I do if I were AD? I can tell you one thing you should not do: Change coaches. That’s admitting defeat as well as signaling to everyone that rebuilding is coming and people need to be patient. People are tired of being shut in their houses during this pandemic, they’re cynical and they are in no mood for a “be patient and one day all will be well” speech.

I mean, look at the Washington whatever they’re called in the NFL. They’re on year 37 of their rebuilding. Big chunks of their fans are no longer being patient. They’re also no longer being fans of the team.

What you should do, however, is recognize there is a problem and come up with short-term moves to try to shore up confidence the athletic department at least knows what it’s doing. They cannot afford to be as tone deaf as they were yesterday, as after the crushing defeat, season ticket holders and Hokie Club members got a renewal email asking that fans pay up for 2021 season tickets BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

That’s rubbing salt in the wound, as well as making people think “do these people even have a clue?”

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