Last full-contact practice complete for Hokies
Chick-fil-A Bowl Nuggets
December 27, 2006

ATLANTA - The Virginia Tech football team went through its final full-contact practice as the Hokies continue their preparations to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Saturday night at the Georgia Dome.

In staying true to his previous bowl themes, head coach Frank Beamer, along with his staff, put the team through the paces at the same time as Tuesday's practice and at the same practice location - the Rose Bowl practice field on the Georgia Tech campus. Many reporters asked Beamer about practicing there and not at the Georgia Dome, the site of the game and the location where the Bulldogs are practicing this week. The Hokies could also practice at the Dome if Beamer so chooses, but he would have to change his practice time, which is something he doesn't want to do.

"We could have practiced at the Dome, but we would have had to have alternated practice times with Georgia," Beamer said. "I just think with these bowl games that it's really important to get a routine because there's so much going on. It's great stuff, but there's a lot going on and then there's going to be a lot of extra people around. So I think it's really important to get a routine and have a normal week of practice.

"So those are the things that made the decision for us. We practice at the same time and the facilities at Georgia Tech are very good. We can get into routine. We can practice at the same time, have our meetings at the same time and eat at the same time every day. I think that helps you get your mind right.

"I can tell you that when I first got into coaching, we'd go and play on some kind of surface and we'd be trying on shoes and worrying about what the deal was. We don't do that anymore. Whatever the surface is, indoors or outdoors, it doesn't make much difference to us. Now, this place [the Georgia Dome] is a little different, but I think we'll be fine. We practiced there Monday [because of weather] and we're going back in there Friday. So we'll be OK.

After practice, the team changed into its game-day uniforms for a team picture taken at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech's home stadium. Then Beamer and seniors Danny McGrath and Noland Burchette attended a news conference at the Georgia Dome. The three of them fielded an array of questions, most of them centered on the game.

Burchette was asked if Tech's defense could continue its amazing run. The Hokies have played near-flawless football on that side of the ball the past six games, allowing just two touchdowns in that span. Tech currently leads the nation in total defense.

"We were kind of rusty in those first couple of practices back in Blacksburg," Burchette said. "But we picked up the last couple of practice and since we got here in Georgia. We've been fine-tuning, just like with a car, and now we're ready to ride."

The players had the rest of the afternoon free before being required to attend the "Delta Football Feud" at the Marriott Marquis. Both teams ate dinner and then five players from each side participated in a Family Feud-style game. The Tech contingent then had the rest of the night to do as they pleased until the 12:30 a.m. curfew.

Thursday's schedule features much of the same for Tech - a morning practice, followed by a press conference, and then freedom for the remainder of the day.

Here are a few more Wednesday nuggets:

* On the injury front, Burchette, Branden Ore, and Ryan Shuman all practiced full speed on Wednesday. Burchette created the most concern for Tech's sports medicine staff after injuring his back in Tuesday's practice. He wore a heat pad to keep his back warm and loose, and continues to get daily treatment.

"It loosened up a lot during practice," Burchette said. "I don't think it'll be a problem during the game."

Ore, the redshirt sophomore from Chesapeake, Va., declared himself almost 100 percent after suffering a high ankle sprain in the Hokies' win over Wake Forest more than a month ago. The injury basically cost him two games, but the 1,000-yard rusher looks ready to go.

"I think he's doing great," McGrath said of Ore. "He's a special player with a lot of talent, and I don't think it takes him long to get back and to go full go. He's looking great out there."

Shuman, another redshirt sophomore, appears rusty as he tries to come back from a torn meniscus suffered in the Clemson game. Shuman hasn't played since that game, and even though he started the first six games of the season, Tech's staff hasn't named him the starter in the bowl game. Odds are good that Brandon Gore will get the nod.

"He's trying to get a little of the weight off," McGrath said of Shuman. "He gained a little during his layoff, but I think he's getting ready to click. It's good to have him back to get our depth back up and it's good to have him for this bowl game."

"I told those guys when we broke for Christmas not to eat themselves into another position," Beamer said, with a laugh. "But with Ryan, he doesn't have another position to go to."

* A bevy of former players arrived at Tech's practice on Wednesday to check on the team and to say hello to their former coaches. The list included former offensive lineman Derek Smith, former running back Ken Oxendine and former fullback Cullen Hawkins. Oxendine currently teaches at a private school in Atlanta, while Hawkins, who works in real estate development, just moved to Atlanta from Florida.

Smith lives 10 miles outside of Athens, Ga. He runs a Beef O'Brady's franchise in the town of Winder, Ga.

Also, Tony Brown showed up with his children. He played in the 1980 Peach Bowl under then-head coach Bill Dooley.

* Also attending practice on Wednesday were Mickey Matthews, the current head coach of JMU, and his son, Clayton.

Could Matthews have been giving his good buddy, Beamer, a few pointers? Well, maybe. Matthews used to coach at Georgia and helped lead the Bulldogs to a win over UVa in the Peach Bowl several years ago at the Georgia Dome.