Hall Likely Out For Sugar Bowl
News From The Big Easy

January 1, 2000

When asked to sum up Ricky Hall's chances of playing in the Sugar Bowl, Tech trainer Mike Goforth shook his head.

"The Big Man upstairs has got to take care of this one," he said.

Hall, one of the Hokies' starting receivers, broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during a pass skeleton drill in practice Friday and more than likely will miss Tech's national championship game with Florida State on Jan. 4th. He spent nearly the entire practice Saturday in the training room at Tulane University in hopes of getting the swelling down so that he can play.

"Pain is going to be the biggest problem," Goforth said. "If he can play with a lot of pain, then he'll play. He's not going to do any more damage to it."

Goforth said he has seen one other player play with this type of injury - a kid at Tusculum where Goforth worked for a while several years ago.

"But it was a little different," Goforth said. "He broke his from the top. Ricky broke his from the bottom and that's a little worse. The combination of running full speed and cutting on the artificial turf [of the Superdome] will make it tough for him to play."

Goforth said Hall is receiving inferential current to help keep the swelling down. Hall also has a custom-molded plastic splint to put inside his shoe to help if he's is able to play.

Hall suffered the injury while trying to catch a pass in the non-contact drill. He came down on his foot the wrong way and broke it. But he said he's going to play.

"I need to play and I want to play," Hall said. "I just have to keep rehabbing and get ready to go. I'll wear a splint and see what I can do. I have to suck it up if at all possible and help this team. It's all a matter of what I can handle."

Hall, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior from Chester, Va., caught 25 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns this season. He also served as the Hokies' punt returner, setting a single-season school record with 510 return yards. He led the Big East with a 12.8 average and earned first-team all-conference honors as a returner.

"We'll wait and see," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "It's a tough blow for him and for the team. We'll just have to see and hope if can play."

A dilemma for Ball:
Hall's injury, combined with the injury earlier in the week to Emmett Johnson, put receivers coach Tony Ball in a bit of a quandary. Johnson dislocated the index finger in his left and returned to practice Friday to test it. Johnson showed few ill effects of the injury, catching several passes during drills.

"It's an opportunity for me to step up," he said. "As soon as I saw him hurt, I knew I had to step up. I'll approach this game the same way as I do all this others. I'll be ready."

Johnson started six games this season at split end even though Hall actually played more snaps this season. The 6-3 sophomore from Chesapeake, Va., caught 10 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown.

The injury to Hall also means more reps for true freshman Shawn Witten, The 6-1, 184-pounder, who will be moved from split end to flanker, caught six passes for 55 yards this season.

"I'm excited," he said. "I love playing in this situation. But I'm sorry for Ricky. He's a senior and he helped get us here. He deserved this. But the rest of us will have to step us."

Ball added, "He's [Witten] a cool customer. He's played both positions [split end and flanker], so it won't be too much of a transition. He and I will camp out together and go through as much stuff as we can. We'll see what he's got."

Charlton to return punts:
Hall's injury also forces Beamer to find another punt returner and it probably will be starting cornerback Ike Charlton. The redshirt junior, who has returned punts in the past, hasn't returned one this season.

"I'm very confident," he said. "This is just another opportunity for me to get the ball in my hands and make some plays."

"He's got some experience doing it," Beamer said. "I feel fine with Ike back there. He's very capable. He's got the ability to take one back."

Ronyell Whitaker, a redshirt freshman cornerback, may also see some time as a punt returner.

Ready for battle:
Speaking of Whitaker, he expects to see a lot of action his way because the Seminoles know he suffered a sprained knee earlier in the week. Whitaker has practiced at full strength the past couple of days.

"The boys have been teasing me, telling me they're going to come at me and cut me," Whitaker said. "I know they've read about my injury in the paper. I'm fine now. I'm not worried about them coming at me. I just have to play the techniques that the coaches taught me."