Tech begins preparations for upcoming season
By Jimmy Robertson
August 11, 2001

BLACKSBURG - Tech's full-fledged football practice possessed everything one would expect - searing heat, Ronyell Whitaker talking trash, a few heated exchanges between members of the offense and the defense and high intensity from everyone as the Hokies began preparation for the upcoming season.

"I thought it was a good practice and a good way to start the season," said a sweat-drenched head coach Frank Beamer. "There was some intensity and there were people out there making plays. And there was some confusion. But we're going to get that straightened out."

On occasion, several scout team players - mostly the freshmen - weren't sure which groups to work with during the practice and the end result was a lot of players switching from one area of the practice field to the other.

"You know, we're on a new practice field so there were some people who weren't sure who went where," Beamer said. "But we're going to meet this afternoon as a staff and we'll get the confusion squared away."

The heat reached the upper 80s during the two-hour morning session and the humidity was stifling. Sixteen sports medicine personnel roamed the practice checking on players and checking the temperature and humidity every 30 minutes. They also kept fluids within arm's reach of the players. Head trainer Mike Goforth reported no heat-related problems.

The practice included three sessions of pass-skeleton drills where the offensive backs and receivers went head-to-head with the defensive linebackers and secondary. Quarterback Grant Noel looked sharp in his first practice and showed no ill effects of the knee injury suffered a couple of weeks ago and freshman Chris Clifton raised some eyebrows by throwing some darts. Clifton arguably possesses the strongest arm and throws the prettiest ball of Tech's three freshmen quarterbacks.

"Grant looked good today and Grant's going to be alright," receiver Emmett Johnson said. "He's not a question mark at all. And I like that Clifton kid. He's looking good."

A few scuffles broke out during the practice. Receiver Ernest Wilford and safety Vincent Fuller engaged in a little pushing during a blocking drill before being separated and offensive lineman Matt Wincek and defensive lineman Cols Colas did the same after Colas got a little to close to Noel, bumping him during a drill.

"I'm taking care of my quarterback," Wincek said. "That's the bottom line. You're not going to touch my quarterback.

"I think it's just a case of it's hot and tempers flared. Cols is a good guy. We won't let this spill over off the field. We're all after the same thing here."

Whitaker was in midseason form, taking no mercy on Tech's freshmen. A few samples:

To Kevin Jones: "That stuff worked in high school, but it doesn't work here. There's too much speed on this defense. You better find some new moves."

To Bryan Randall: "Throw this way, Randall. Throw this way. C'mon."

To Chris Clifton, who overthrew a receiver being covered by Whitaker: "Are you out of your mind, Clifton? Are you out of your mind?!? You better throw to the other side."

The practice also featured a new, aerodynamic look from defensive tackle Channing Reed. The senior reported to practice with a shaved head, getting rid of the dread locks. It marked his first haircut in four years and he dropped a helmet size with the haircut.

"I may have to go down to medium," said Reed, who keeps the hair in a bag in his locker.

"I was just tired of it. I had it for four years. My helmet wasn't fitting. It was too hot and too much to take care of. There were more reasons to get rid of it than to keep it.

"Coach [John] Ballein and Coach [Billy] Hite were on me to get it cut. They're happy now and so is Coach Beamer. He said I may get more girls now. We'll see."

Tech practices again from 3:15-5:30 this afternoon. The Hokies alternate two-a-day practices, so their next two-a-day will be on Monday. Sunday's practice runs from 3:15-5:30 p.m.