Tech has first practice of 2002 season
By Jimmy Robertson
August 4, 2002

Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer and his staff conducted the Hokies' first practice in preparation for the 2002 season and the practice featured many things typical of a first practice - confusion, ragged play, terrific effort, and of course, warm temperatures.

"I thought our practice was OK," Beamer said. "The effort was good, but we were a little ragged in some areas and we expected that. I think this shows us we've got a lot of work to do between now and the Arkansas State game."

Temperatures in Blacksburg on Sunday reached the mid-90s, with the heat index even higher than that. A couple of Hokies struggled with the conditioning session at the end of practice. But Beamer hopes temperatures stay hot - and weather forecasts call for the temperatures to stay in the 90s the next few days.

"The heat is good," he said. "We've got to get ready to play in it. We've got a couple of afternoon games right off the bat and we go to Texas A&M, and we know it's hot down there. I wouldn't mind it staying hot. We may as well get used to it."

The Hokies practiced in just helmets, jerseys and shorts. Most eyes were on the knees of quarterback Grant Noel and tailback Lee Suggs. Suggs, coming off a torn ACL which cost him nearly all of last season, wore only a neoprene sleeve to keep the muscles around the knee warm. And midway through the practice, he pulled it down below his knee.

"To be honest with, it [the knee] feels better with it [the sleeve] off," said Suggs, who plans to wear it during games.

Noel, playing with a torn ACL suffered near the end of spring practice, complained only of nervousness, not his knee. He enjoyed a crisp practice after a slow start.

"I was nervous at first, but I got comfortable with things at the end," said Noel, who wore a brace. "It'll take a while to see how my knee will react to two-a-days, but I expect it to be fine. I think the more I'm on it, the better I'll feel."

Noel and Bryan Randall got the majority of the reps, with freshman Marcus Vick getting a few. Randall threw the ball very well, and Ernest Wilford made a great catch over Ronyell Whitaker during a pass skeleton session against Tech's linebackers and secondary. Also, Richard Johnson made a few nice catches and runs. But for the most part, the defense dominated as the offense struggled with dropped passes, false starts and missed assignments.

"The quarterbacks had their moments," Beamer said. "Bryan's arm is stronger now than it was last fall, but accuracy is sometimes an issue with him, as it is with Grant.

"Today, we were working with about 16 receivers and we're going to work that down to about eight here very soon. Once we do that, I think the timing will be better."

Three players dressed in blue jerseys, signifying injury. Defensive end Jim Davis is still recovering from a right wrist injury, while freshmen Jonathan Lewis and Noland Burchette are battling hamstring injuries.

Two-a-days start tomorrow for the Hokies. Tech will have one practice session in the morning and one later in the afternoon.