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If You're Looking For This Week's College Notebook...

For the last five months, we’ve been honored and proud to be carrying Doug Doughty’s College Notebook. When Doug left the Roanoke Times at the end of January earlier this year, he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do, so I offered to run it on our site, as I thought it was important for him to keep his brand going by publishing College Notebook somewhere.

Doug now has his own site on Google Sites, and you can reach the site by clicking here. To access the current College Notebook, just go up to the upper right-hand corner of his site and click on “College Notebook” and you will see today’s edition as well as past entries.

Should you forget the new web address, Doug will remain listed among our authors, so if you click on Doug’s name in our menu under “Authors” it will take you directly to Doug’s site. Plus, his previous College Notebooks he’s written the past 5 months will remain in our archives, so you can just go to our “categories” section and click on “College Notebook.”

In the website business, numbers and traffic are important, so I strongly encourage everyone to check out and support Doug’s site. And if you’re like I am, and you’ve read Doug on Thursdays for the past 45 years, you can certainly continue at his new home here.

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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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It’s Time for The Washington Nationals to Start Over

It’s never easy to admit that it’s time to hit the reset button.

But the time has come for the Nationals to face reality.

Aside from a spectacular six-month stretch in 2019, Washington has been staring mediocrity in the face for the last four seasons. They’re 45-53 this year, eight games behind the Mets for the division lead, and were just swept by the Orioles – the worst team record-wise in the American League.

An eight-game deficit isn’t impossible to overcome, but it’s still a large hill to climb. Let’s face it; the Nationals were just swept by the Orioles. The Mets look like a clearly better team, and the Phillies also seem to be in a better place than Washington.

Rizzo has stated that he’s open to selling this year, but his track record indicates otherwise. Rizzo likes to fight until there’s nothing left to fight for.

In 2021, considering how dominant the NL West has been, there is no Wild Card to fight for. Washington’s only path to the playoffs is by overcoming the aforementioned eight-game deficit in the NL East.

That’s unlikely enough on its own, but it also probably wouldn’t net the Nationals more than a participation trophy. They were dominated by the NL West trio recently, and if they were lucky enough to face the Brewers, they’d be greeted by arguably the best starting rotation in baseball.

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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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Recent Comments
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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Virginia 11th, Virginia Tech 32nd In Learfield Directors' Cup

It would have been easy to dismiss or overlook the Learfield Directors' Cup rankings this year, coming, as they did, following a school year when there was no assurance that many sports would even be conducted.

Virginia and Virginia Tech finished 11th and 32nd respectively among Division I programs in competition for the 2020-2021 Learfield Directors' Cup rankings that reflect athletic success.

There was no Directors' Cup competition in 2019-2020 due to the coronavirus. Prior to that, Virginia was eighth at the end of the 2018-2019 season and the Hokies were 49th.

Texas won the 2020-21 Directors' Cup title, marking only the second time an institution other than Stanford has taken the title. 

The ACC had six teams in the top 25, compared to the Southeastern Conference with eight.

North Carolina was ranked fourth and led the ACC schools, followed (in order) by UVa, Notre Dame, Florida State Duke and N.C. State in the top 25.

One explanation for Virginia's drop was the inactivity this year of sports such as women's basketball, which played only five games, all before Christmas, after playing 30 games the previous year.

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Unseld Jr. Named Wizards HC, Hopes to Write Own Legacy

It’s been a long wait, but the Wizards have finally chosen their next head coach.

Tommy Sheppard and company have finalized a four-year contract agreement with Wes Unseld Jr. – the son of one of the best players in franchise history. Unseld will be formally introduced as head coach in a press conference on Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET. 

It’s often difficult for NBA fans to know how qualified a first-time head coach is. Media narratives – and particularly the ideas that become popular on social media – can be misleading. That seems particularly true for Unseld, who is much more than his father’s son.

Credentials

Although the young Unseld has never been a head coach, he’s been an assistant for 16 years, and his NBA experience began long before that.

At the conclusion of his four-year playing career at Johns Hopkins, he joined Washington’s organization as a scout – serving under his father, who was the General Manager.

After eight years in his role of personnel and advance scouting, Unseld was promoted to assistant coach, a role in which he stayed from 2005–11. He initially served under Eddie Jordan, followed by Ed Tapscott (interim) and Flip Saunders. Throughout much of his time in Washington (including as a scout), he was credited with formulating the team’s offensive game plan. He also held a secondary coaching/scouting role with the Mystics of the WNBA.

When the Wizards opted to not promote him to a higher assistant position, Unseld departed to join the Golden State Warriors staff. He was on Mark Jackson’s first season at the helm – the first, strike-shortened year of the “Splash Brothers” era (Steph Curry and Klay Thompson).

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Buy or Sell: The Unanswerable Question For Washington

At 42-47, you probably wouldn’t think we’d be having a conversation about the Nationals being in the playoff hunt, since for much of this season, they haven’t looked like a particularly good team.

Yet Washington is only six games behind the Mets for the NL East lead, and Ronald Jr.’s ACL injury effectively removes the Braves from the discussion – Thursday night's acquisition of Joc Pederson notwithstanding.

The margin for error is still relatively thin, especially considering that a Wild Card bid seems almost completely out of reach – the Nats are nine games behind the Padres for the No. 5 seed.

Still, this team won the World Series two short years ago, their upside increases tremendously with Stephen Strasburg and Kyle Schwarber, plus Mike Rizzo rarely sells and almost always buys at the Trade Deadline.

Suffice it to say, the Nationals will return from the All-Star break with their eyes on a playoff chase. So, what does that mean for them in the near future?

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Recent Comments
Guest — Doug Johnson

Excellent Analysis, plus Very ...

Stephen, I really like your writing style and wordsmithing abilities. The email for this article reached out and grabbed me and k... Read More
Friday, 16 July 2021 11:02
Dave Scarangella

All I know is when I want to f...

I text Stephen. He's got a stat to back up every one of his opinions too....
Friday, 16 July 2021 11:14
Stephen Newman

Thanks for the kind words!

Thanks so much, Doug! It's always great to hear that people enjoy my writing, especially since I'm a young writer. I hope to keep ... Read More
Friday, 16 July 2021 13:18
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Sometimes, A Favorite Place Is More Than Just A Restaurant

Tuesday, I found myself in a restaurant, something I can’t say I’ve done much of in the last 16 months.

The reason was because 65 years prior, I was born. My wife decreed that on such a milestone occasion, it didn’t matter if I wanted to stay home and eat a bologna and swiss cheese sandwich. I even offered to microwave it and add pickle, but she said no. On a 65th birthday, something more special was in order.

So after 24 hours of diplomatic negotiations, I finally agreed on going for lunch to a place called Ford’s Fish Shack. They have several locations here in Loudoun County, but the first one was in Ashburn, and it’s special to me. It’s the smallest of their locations, but that weakness is also its strength. The place has personality.

I don’t like to wait in line for much of anything, so I called ahead to ask if I needed reservations, even mentioning I wanted to come when it was least crowded, as there are two booths on each side of the restaurant that are my favorite ones. Part of it is these booths are big and comfortable, and part of it is I’ve had many special memories there, almost always in those two locations.

The young lady on the other end of the phone said they don’t usually reserve a specific table, but to come over around 2 PM and they would work everything out. That’s the thing about Ford’s I enjoy so much. I know none of them by name, am not friends with the owner, and am just a nameless, faceless person who eats there several times a year.

But when it comes to service, my experience has been they have always had a “if we CAN do it to make you happy, we WILL” attitude. And of course, their food is every bit as good the 15th time you’ve eaten there as it is the first. I once had a meal that wasn’t exceptional, mentioned it in passing on the way out the door, and soon found myself getting a visit for someone who ran the place before I could get to my car.

They’re just good people.

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Recent Comments
Dave Fulton

Congrats

Congrats on passing one of life's milestones. Hope your special place is able to work things out.
Thursday, 15 July 2021 21:31
Dave Scarangella

Thanks! And usually at our age...

When we talk about passing something in life that involves a stone, we're talking about something else entirely ... Read More
Thursday, 15 July 2021 21:59

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

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