School's in session a little early for several of Tech's freshmen
The Roth Report
July 11, 2001
By Bill Roth

Rumblings and rantings from mid-summer in College Town, USA:

Let's start with Tech football's impressive incoming class of freshmen.

Think back to the day your folks dropped you off for your freshman year at college. Remember that feeling you had in the pit of your stomach? The trepidation? The anxiety? The combination of excitement and fear of really being on your own for the first time leaves just about every incoming freshman with a feeling of uneasiness in his stomach.

Now, imagine you're a Virginia Tech football recruit, expected not only to perform well in the classroom, but also perhaps even play for the Hokies this fall. And if you're a quarterback, that means possibly contending for the starting position.

That's the scenario facing three incoming Tech freshmen - Will Hunt, Bryan Randall, and Chris Clifton - this July in Blacksburg. Those three have joined a handful of other incoming freshmen on campus this month to take summer classes and get a head start on practice.

Tech's transition program - which is available to in-state minority students only - affords kids like Randall, Clifton, running back Justin Hamilton, and defensive back DeAngelo Hall a chance to take classes during Virginia Tech's second summer session and become acclimated to a college atmosphere- and life on their own. Tuition is covered by their scholarships.

While several other freshmen (the non-Virginians and non-minorities) are paying their own way to attend summer classes in Blacksburg, the benefit of Tech's transition program has become a priority for Tech's coaching staff this year. Before this July, Derek Carter, Reggie Samuel, and Keith Burnell were the only Tech football players over the years ever to enroll in the unique program, which, in essence, eases young men and women into college life with classes such as 'Studying Strategies.' This year, Randall, Clifton, Hall, and Hamilton are taking advantage of the program, which allows incoming freshmen to get a head start on their academics.

Big boost for 18 year olds
"It's a huge, huge help for those guys to get nine hours in the summer like this when there's a more relaxed atmosphere," said Colin Howlett, the assistant coordinator of the Student Athlete Office of Academic Enrichment Programs. "They get ready for fall when the pressure of academics can really tighten up on you, with 12 or 15 hours of classes plus football and traveling."

Incoming freshman Greg Burnop, J.D. Zeigler, Jeff King and Hunt are all also enrolled in classes this summer.

"I needed to get an early start if I am going to battle for the quarterback position," Hunt said. "I need to start going over film with the coaches, so there's a better chance that I can play."

Hunt said he's been following the weight program he was sent by Mike Gentry, Tech's assistant AD for athletic performance, and the basic offense and terminology, which he received from offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle. Now in Blacksburg, Hunt's learning to live on his own and how to handle the rigors of college academics. By the end of July, he'll know the playbook, plus have finished a class on European History.

For Randall, living away from home has been a major adjustment.

"Life's been a lot faster than high school," Randall said. "Since you're on your own, you have to make the right decision. You don't have your parents to tell you to do this and that. You've got to look out for yourself. You've got to get used to the pace."

And how about doing your own laundry?

"I've been known to mix colors of my clothes," Randall joked, admitting his white socks are now pink. "I threw colors and whites together. Next time, I'm gonna take my time and do it right."

In the meantime the pile of clothes on the floor grows with each passing day. "Oh yeah, I'm gonna get a couple of wears out of something before I wash it," he joked.

Put away those redshirts, please?
Tech's freshman as a group would like to play this fall. But they are quickly recognizing the demands on their time will be much more intense than what they've ever experienced in their lives.

"There's no BS'ing around here," Hall said. "You've got to do the work and you have study hall every day. That's getting us prepared for college life and what's going to happen in the regular season."

As for Kevin Jones, Tech's all-world tailback recruit from Chester, Pa., is spending his summer in town as well.

"I think it's important to get started early," the Pennsylvania product said. "I just wanted to get started working with the team and the coaches instead of sitting at home. I wanted to work out with the players here."

For Hamilton, the pace of Blacksburg is much different from his life in Clintwood, Va.

"College is a fast pace," he said. "There is no time to rest in your studies, no time to rest in your practice, no time to rest at all. You have to have very good time management skills to achieve your goals. It's important, and it keeps you in line and keeps you focused."

It's also meant learning to cook a little bit.

"We cook it all," Hamilton said. "Beans and franks. Ravioli out of the can and into the microwave. Can't beat it!"

The next month will be a learning and invaluable experience for this group of freshmen who have big goals for this season and beyond. And this summer, they're getting a crash course in 'Independence 101.'

"Nobody can do things for you," Hamilton said. "Doing your dishes, washing your clothes, getting up for classes nobody is going to do it for you. You've got to take care of business yourself."

Freshmen are psyched for QB battle
The three freshmen quarterbacks are all well aware of what's at stake for the team and individually when two-a-days start in August. All three would like to start and have been told they'll each get a good look this fall.

"The hardest part for me is learning to read defenses," Hunt said. "I really didn't do much of that in high school, and I'm willing to work as hard as I can to accomplish that this summer.

"I can do a lot of things. I throw off the run really well, and most of the time, I made my best plays when I was improvising. That's when I'm most dangerous."

But can a freshmen quarterback win at this level of college football?

"I think so," he said. "The group is a really talented bunch. The skill position people here are great, and the linemen are great and the coach is the best in the country."

For Clifton, the weight room has been a big challenge thus far.

"I have never worked out at this level before, so that's been real tough," he said. "I think Coach Gentry will help me a lot. I'm kinda light (185 pounds) and I'm sure coach can help me with that."

At 6-foot-4, Clifton has the build to add 25 or 30 more pounds and still be a mobile quarterback - a position he'd like to play at Tech. Right now, he recognizes he has a lot of work to do in the weight room, but "I'm still looking forward to competing for a quarterback position for this fall. It will be exciting."

As for the very impressive Randall, the state's player of the year is a picture of composure and maturity.

"He's 18 going on 30," one Tech assistant said.

"This is going to be a lot of fun, and I'm excited about the challenge of competing for the job and working hard to learn here," Randall said. "The school work, the football, the working out and the practice you've got to be on the ball to keep up with both school and sports.".

His goals before two-a-days start next month?

"Right now, I am focused on academics," he said. "There is a time when there's got to be something after football, even when you go to the pros, when you get too old or have to retire. You have to fall back on that education, so it's important to get it now. Plus, you have to stay eligible to play.

"As for football, my goal is get back into lifting and running shape and get off to a good start. I want to give my best effort to get the starting position."

Initial impressions of Tech
All of the freshmen who are enrolled for the second summer session have spent time in Blacksburg either on their recruiting trips or other visits, but this month marks the first time they've actually lived here and worked out in the Merryman Center.

One who has been a thorough joy to speak with is the charismatic Hall.

"At first, we thought everyone was going to be in competition with each other, but it's like the complete opposite." Hall said.

"We got (juniors and seniors) coming up to us shaking our hands, asking us to come work out with them. They're getting us ready to play, not worry about 'oh uh, that guy is gonna take our shine.' It's not like that. Everyone is here to win.

"That family atmosphere you hear about is not a bunch of crock like it is at those other schools where the players say 'you ain't all this and you ain't all that.' It's not like that at all here."

"They are treating us like we are already part of the team," Jones added about Tech's upperclassmen. "We still have to prove ourselves, but they are treating us like we're part of it."

This is a much different group of freshmen than we've ever seen in Blacksburg. This is a collection that is not only deep on talent and one with plenty of hardware from the high school awards circuit, but a group with a legitimate mature attitude. It's a group that has also bonded well this July.

"We are like brothers," Hamilton said. "Being on our own. It's a good experience for all of us. This is a very special class. We have competitors. Nobody wants to sit on the bench and we want to play and play early."

A Sweet Suite
The room assignments are set for this coming fall at Tech, and the following players will be sharing a suite at Tech's Cochrane Hall - wide receiver Fred Lee, Jones, Randall, Hamilton, Hall, Clifton, and lineman Jason Murphy.

"We are gonna have THE ROOM," Jones bragged. And he's probably right.

By the way, Lee and Jones will both play for the Pennsylvania team in the Big 33 all star game against Ohio on July 21 in Hershey, Pa.

Hokie Hotline starts August 13
This year marks the 48th year Tech football will be broadcast to a state-wide radio audience, and the 2001 debut of The Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline, featuring head coach Frank Beamer, will air Monday, August 13 from 7-8:30 p.m. The show will originate from the Gobblertown Tavern in Christiansburg and will air every Monday night throughout the season.

Once again this year, Tech coordinators Bud Foster and Rickey Bustle will be part of the weekly call-in show. The toll-free number to call (888-TALK-ISP) is the same as previous seasons.

Beamer, by the way, won the Distinguished Virginian Award at last week's Virginia Association of Broadcaster's convention in Virginia Beach.

The coach, along with wife Cheryl, were honored at the association's awards banquet held at the beachfront Cavalier Hotel (note the irony in that venue, eh?).

Also congratulations to Tech affiliates WINC-AM, Winchester, WJMA-FM, Orange, WYCB-TV, Bristol, and WAVY-TV, Norfolk, who each won various news and public service awards.

Hokie Club/Beamer dinners
The annual Richmond Hokie Club 'Beamer Dinner' will be July 26th at the Richmond Marriott. The following night, the Roanoke Hokie Club will hold a similar event in the Star City.

Those of you who have attended these events in the past know they're one of the best events of the year (other than a home football game), so make sure you contact your local Hokie Rep or the main office in Blacksburg to get your tickets.

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