Hokies go through practice No. 2 in New Orleans
By Jimmy Robertson
December 31, 2004

NEW ORLEANS - For the second straight day, the Virginia Tech football team practiced at the practice fields at Tulane University in preparation for the Sugar Bowl, and this practice was the most physical practice planned for this week.

Even though it was Thursday, the Hokies held their normal "Tuesday" practice as head coach Frank Beamer and his staff keep the team on its regular game-week routine. Tuesday practices feature the most hitting, including the infamous middle drill, and this Tuesday practice was no different.

The middle drill features the offense versus the defense - without any defensive backs or wide receivers. The offense runs strictly running plays, and the running backs can only run between the tackles. Both lines try to establish dominance of the line of scrimmage, which only helps them during an actual game.

The overall practice went well, with the exception being an injury to Chris Ellis. The redshirt freshman defensive end from Hampton, Va., sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the middle drill and sat out the rest of practice, with an ice pack wrapped around his knee. Tech's sports medicine staff anticipates Ellis playing against Auburn, but plans on monitoring him closely the next couple of days.

The injury, though, concerns Tech's staff because Noland Burchette, another defensive end, has been bothered with shin splints. Burchette's injury isn't serious, but the staff wants to limit his work as much as possible, and without Ellis, that makes doing that difficult.

Before practice, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and five defensive players - Darryl Tapp, Jim Davis, Mikal Baaqee, and Vinnie Fuller - got to meet the press at a press conference held at the Hyatt hotel.

Like Beamer the day before, Foster got asked every question imaginable - about Auburn's running backs, about Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell, about Tapp and what he brings to Tech's defense, and about Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges' comments that he (Foster) was the 'guru' of the eight-man front defense.

"I've got a lot of respect for Al. He's one of the outstanding offensive coaches in the country," Foster said. "But he used that 'guru' term too loosely. I just know this - I'm a better coach when I have good players."

Interestingly, Foster also was asked about his interest in being a head coach some day. As most know, his name has been mentioned for jobs in the past several years, and he turned down an opportunity in 1998 to be Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator at Florida, a job that many felt would lead to a head coaching job.

"That's one of my goals," Foster said. "I've had some opportunities to interview for some jobs, but that doesn't drive me every day. What drives me is that I work for good people, I enjoy working with young people, I have a great staff around me, and hopefully, the right situation will come up. But I've been in Blacksburg for 18 years, and I'd be happy if I can stay 18 more."

After the press conference, Foster and the players went to practice. Later that evening, the players went to another bowl function, while the athletics department staff went to Zeke's for the AD's dinner. Each year at the bowl, Tech AD Jim Weaver takes the staff out to dinner to show his appreciation for their hard work during the season.

More Crescent City clips

  • Tech defensive backs coach Lorenzo Ward received plenty of attention at Tech's practice after several news outlets in South Carolina reported that he was a candidate for one of the openings on Tommy Bowden's staff at Clemson.

    "I haven't been contacted by anyone at Clemson," Ward said. "So there's really not much to say."

  • Tapp, Tech's starting defensive end, received a ton of questions concerning his brother, Charles Tapp II, who currently is serving in Baghdad, Iraq. Charles Tapp is a captain in the Air Force and is serving a three-month tour in Iraq.

    "We talked to him on Christmas morning," Tapp said. "He's doing as well as could be expected. It's been a battle for me to keep my mind off of him, but I try to stay focused on football and school work, and not worry about him. I just try to stay focused on the things I can control. I don't watch television or read the newspapers because I want to keep my mind off him as much as possible."

  • Beamer, the Hokies' head coach, has been pretty much all business since arriving in New Orleans, but he hopes to sneak out in the next day or so. He loves the city mainly because of its great restaurants and also for another reason.

    "I told you guys back in Blacksburg that I'm pretty good at black jack," Beamer said, laughing. "I hope to get down to the casino [Harrah's] and see if I'm still good. I haven't had the opportunity to get down there yet, but I hope to."

  • Tech's players reported coming across some of Auburn's players on Bourbon Street and other parts of town. And they say that Auburn's group of players has been friendly for the most part.

    "They're cool guys," Fuller said. "They're cordial."

    Fuller, though, expressed a little surprise when he and some others came across Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell.

    "To be honest, I thought he was a tight end," Fuller said. "I didn't realize who he was until someone said something."

    Campbell, by the way, stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds.

  • When asked who was having the most fun in New Orleans, Green gave his answer without hesitation.

    "Jason Lallis," he said.

    Why?

    "He likes to eat," Green said. "And there's plenty of great food here."