Hokies begin spring football practice
March 23, 2002

Virginia Tech kicked off one of the more important spring practices in school history on a frigid Saturday in Blacksburg and set about the task of finding players to replace the many stars who departed off last season's squad. Tech practiced for two hours in just helmets and sweats - the NCAA limits the number of full-contact practices in the spring.

"I think we've got a lot of serious questions," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "I always say spring practice is so important, but this one is probably a little more important than most."

Beamer and his staff first want to get the back-up quarterback position behind starter Grant Noel settled. Bryan Randall, last year's back-up, Chris Clifton and Will Hunt all got reps Saturday in the battle for the No. 2 job. One or two of those guys will be moving to another position.

Answering questions about his arm strength, Randall threw the ball probably better than at any point last year. He was accurate and looked comfortable at the helm. Clifton also threw the ball well and made few freshman errors.

"I think we want to make a decision by the fifth day of spring practice," Beamer said. "That would only be fair to them. If they're going to work on another position, they'll need to be at the position by the fifth day, so that they can get the reps they need."

The surprise of the day came when Mibindo Dongo, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward on the men's basketball team who used up his eligibility this past season, trotted out for practice. Beamer approached Dongo about playing tight end and Dongo took him up on the offer. Dongo would only have one year to play.

"He had to duck to get through my door, so that was a good sign," Beamer joked. "Nah, I watched him play basketball and I know he's a big, tough guy with some athleticism. He's got what it takes. The problem is we're fighting time to teach him because he's never played the game."

Also on this day, Noel disputed the rampant internet rumors involving him getting into a fight in the locker room with cornerback DeAngelo Hall and having to be separated by the coaching staff. He and Hall engaged in some verbal sparring, but nothing even close to an actual fight.

"It's ridiculous the things that people say anymore," Noel said. "There's absolutely nothing to it."