June 15, 2010
Hokies in tune with grueling summer workouts

It’s summertime in Blacksburg, which means that, in one room at Virginia Tech’s football training complex, Hokies Ju-Ju Clayton, Logan Thomas and Dyrell Roberts are shuffling quickly through a cone reaction drill, while defensive tackle John Graves is showing his amazing strength by squatting 360 pounds.

At the other end of the room, David Wilson is running through his routine, while Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Austin Fuller get in their lifts a few feet away.

All of this happens while various 70s-era funky disco tunes blare over the sound system in Tech’s spacious Merryman Center. More on the music later … for real! (Hang on to your hat, Bee Gees fans).

First off, the story here is the work ethic and progress ongoing right now in Tech’s program.

“We have 80 players here for the first summer session, which is probably the most we’ve ever had,” said Mike Gentry, Tech’s assistant AD for athletic performance. “It’s one of the best groups we’ve had because they really want to be here and understand how important June and July are. All of our offensive linemen are here. Virtually the entire team is.”

The players work out four times per week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday– for two hours each day. There are two shifts, one at 7:15 a.m. and one at 1 p.m.

“This is where a team comes together. In steel, we trust,” he said, pointing at the many weight-lifting bars in his complex, while offering one of his favorite quotes.

The veteran Tech strength coach specifically mentioned quarterback Tyrod Taylor as one player who has really taken a leadership role in the summer workouts.

“When your quarterback is setting the tempo and setting the pace in the weight room, others follow,” Gentry said. “He’s a leader, and you can see it in here.”

Gentry also talked about the progress of players like defensive end Steven Friday, Graves and tight end Andre Smith.

“Andre is like a pro. He is mature. He is certainly preparing for his future,” Gentry said.

The summertime commitment reflects the focus and sense of purpose of the 2010 team and also shows the individual competition throughout the program.

“These guys know that, if they don’t really bust it now [in the summer], they’re not going to get on the field in the fall,” Gentry said. “There is a lot of competition here because there is a lot at stake. These guys are thinking about their futures and they’re preparing hard and competing.”

While there is no “Ironman” competition this summer, Gentry and his staff keep the workouts fresh for the players.

“We change the lifts every three weeks,” said Jarrett Ferguson, director of strength and conditioning for football and a former Hokie fullback. Like Gentry, Ferguson has noticed the competition this summer, and the players pushing each other.

“The toughest thing is the 400 [meters], where guys really want to finish it,” he said.

The staff takes the football team to Tech’s outdoor track and the players have a set time to sprint around the 400-meter oval. Linemen have 1:25, combo guys [tight ends, defensive ends, linebackers] have 1:20, and skill players have 1:15 to make the run.

“It’s the hardest thing we’re doing this summer,” Ferguson said. “The players push each other, help each other, and really build a bond.”

Gentry has often said he can tell the kind season the Hokies will have by the way the team works together in the grueling summer workouts. So far, he likes what he sees.

“This is one of the best groups we’ve had,” he said. “You look at Tyrod and the way he’s working and leading. Same thing for John Graves, and the other players see that. There is a great spirit of team togetherness here and the results show. Look at Darren Evans. He’s a specimen.”

Evans, who had a spectacular physical presence even before his preseason knee injury last year, showed a new-look upper body in the spring. He’ll be even more powerful by the season opener in September.

“It’s all about work and these guys understand it,” Gentry said. “If you want to get on the field, you compete now. And if you do the work now, we’ll be a better team in the fall.”

As he stood in front of a group of about 40 players during a recent afternoon workout, Gentry broke into his motivational mode as the guys focused and followed every word.

“This is going to be a tough week,” Gentry told them in his familiar baritone delivery. “This is going to be a week when we get the hay in the barn. We’re going to work really hard this week and push.”

Within minutes, the players respond and get to work.

Now understand that a workout at Tech’s football complex is not like an afternoon at your local gym. There are no TVs in the corner, and no smoothie bar in the lobby.In fact, the sign on the door says “No cell phones and no iPods allowed.” This is a work place. Every minute counts and every lift is charted, and there is a method and system that’s evolved over the years. It’s high intensity, all under Gentry’s eye.

But the atmosphere is still enjoyable and fun for the players. They see the progress their teammates are making and help each other through the most challenging and difficult lifts. Good chemistry all the way around.

And then there is the music.

“We go with retro disco or old-school funk,” Gentry said with a smile as some funky 70s tune blared over the speakers.

As with everything in Tech’s football program, there is a method to the music selection, too.

“Disco has a good tempo, and it’s music with no divisiveness,” Gentry said.

It may seem strange to hear Donna Summer, KC and Sunshine Band or Sister Sledge in a 2010 football training facility and “I’m not sure the guys even know it’s on,” Gentry admitted. But the music has a good beat, positive lyrics and the guys respond to it.

“Everything we do in here, we’ve sat down and thought it through,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have a good group of players who respond to our formula and that will help us this fall.”

Individually and collectively, the Hokies hope the brutal summer work will pay off once the season begins in September.

Winds of conference expansion finally calm
The Conference Expansion Storm of 2010 – which can aptly be called a “Texas Twister” – came and went without causing Armageddon on the college athletics standpoint. (You can print “Texas” in burnt orange font, if you’d like for good reason).

In the end however, it seems like everyone came out a winner – Texas got the money it wanted, the Big 12 - 11 -10 stayed alive. Nebraska got a new home and a seemingly better fit. The same with Boise State and Colorado.

Time for a sigh of relief from the office of ACC Commissioner John Swofford who, only weeks after finishing a tremendous television contract renegotiation, wondered if his counterpart in Birmingham would be making a move in this scenario.

We will never really know what the SEC’s plans were. Mike Slive, the conference’s commissioner, was remarkably silent over the past few weeks, and the SEC won’t even confirm that there were talks – or even a game of under-the-table footsie – with Texas A&M.

Plenty of reporters stretched innuendo to fact and that caused some consternation in many quarters. Don’t mess with Texas?In this instance, apparently not. But speculation does not equal expansion and that’s a new chapter for journalism students to study for years.

Armageddon did not happen. If there were four 16-team leagues, then the following premise might change, but at the moment – and probably for the next decade – for both the ACC, and Virginia Tech specifically, this week’s result is a good one.

While many Tech fans grew excited when the school’s name was brought up as a potential new member of the SEC, the reality of a switch never seemed to add up on any front. Financially, ethically, morally, institutionally, politically and geographically, it just never computed.

A conclusion that many had was that the money would be greater in the SEC. A misstep in the logic here is assuming that any new member of the SEC would receive a full conference share of the massive and lucrative pie.That’s not the way it works in any league. I spent a good 30 minutes on the phone Tuesday with a major television executive, someone in the know who had been at the table in the recent ACC negotiations and who has years of experience on these issues.

As we’ve learned, Nebraska isn’t going to get a full share right away in the Big Ten, and as Tech fans have seen in its moves to the BIG EAST and then the ACC, there is a ‘equity buy-in period’ over several years before the revenue kicks in. In Nebraska’s case, the Cornhuskers are essentially paying their own way into the Big Ten because of subscriber fees in Nebraska for the Big Ten Network.

However, there is no “SEC Network” that derives its revenue off cable fees and 14 years remain on that league’s current CBS/ESPN contracts. Would any new SEC member (Texas A&M or Virginia Tech or whomever) expect to receive the same revenue of say a Tennessee or South Carolina if that league did expand? Of course not. And they wouldn’t, unless they bring $20 million in annual value to the table themselves.

Throw in millions of dollars of exit fees to the current conference and you can see why it wouldn’t make sense financially whatsoever for any ACC team to move to any another conference, especially when you take into account the revenue from the new television arrangement that the ACC just cut at a reported $155 million per year.

From the ethical, moral, institutional and political perspective, the ACC is the right place for Virginia Tech. It has been for 50 years and will continue to be the right fit. No need to recap the events of 2003, but we all remember the series of events which led to Virginia Tech’s inclusion to the ACC. What made it right in 2003 makes it right today.

And finally geographically, there are few day trips in the SEC. You can drive down and back to most ACC schools regardless of where you live in Virginia. The same doesn’t hold true for Starkville.

I’m a big fan of the SEC and have really enjoyed the experience over the past couple of years when the Hokies have played Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama in football. I’d like to see it more often, to be honest.

But without question, the ACC is the perfect home for Virginia Tech athletics from just about every possible angle. The financial windfall is about to hit and our constituents are engaged with fans from other schools in our region on a daily basis. We’re seeing huge progress in our baseball and basketball programs, and our track teams both just finished in the top 10.The foundation is set and now it’s time to build, and the ACC is the perfect home for all our sports.I’m all for playing Alabama every year, but let’s make it happen in a BCS game.

NOTE: Please take the time to read Andy Staples’ story in Sports Illustrated on this issue and see how he used the Freedom of Information Act to get Big 12 Commissioner Don Beebe’s confidential ‘white sheet.’ It’s a great read.

Got a nickname idea for No. 34 Williams and No. 32 Evans … Hokies get their kicks on ROUTE 66!! LOL. Aaron Frampton, ’95, Lawrenceville, Georgia (via Virginia Beach, Virginia).

Thanks Aaron. I’ve got that Manhattan Transfer CD somewhere at the house.

Great write-up on Coach John Wooden. Being an ex-Hokie athlete and meeting many coaching greats, I can understand your excitement and feelings about meeting him, especially at his home. What a great honor! Keep up the great work. Look forward in seeing you this upcoming football season. Lenny Luongo, Class of ’69. GO HOKIES!

No question. An observation. You and all of us can pay back Coach Wooden. Walk the walk. As a parent with three Hokies in my family, I believe your reference to Ut Prosim is the key. Ron Ovelgoenner, Roanoke, Virginia.

Lenny and Ron,
Thanks for your notes and for everyone who commented on the John Wooden piece.

With 21 of 22 Boise State starters back, why move the game to Labor Day Monday, which eliminates some of the student body from attending and does not give Tech’s new defense a chance to get a few games under their belt? James Delaney, Fair Haven, New Jersey.

I could give you a couple of million reasons why this game is being played on Labor Day. The bottom line is the bottom line. But in reality, it was time for Virginia Tech to take advantage of the Monday night football window that has been reserved for FSU and Miami over the years.It will be a ratings bonanza.

Will Metallica be playing “Enter Sandman” live at FedEx Field before the Boise State game?Nothing can ENERGIZE the crowd like the greatest guitar riff ever. Sam Mosley, Fairfax, Virginia.

As of now, there are no plans for Metallica to perform live. Maybe they’ll play a recording, though. The Redskins game ops people are pretty savvy, so I’m sure they’ll do something fun. Also, I’m not sure Enter Sandman is the ‘greatest guitar riff ever.’ It doesn’t make my personal top three:

1. Hotel California, The Eagles.

2. Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd

3. Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple

Follow Bill on Twitter: twitter.com/VTVoice

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