Stability, creative recruiting lift Hokies
Posted: Tuesday December 21, 1999 04:50 PM
By Gene Racz, Special to CNN/SI
Only seven Division I-A coaches have been at their current schools longer than Frank Beamer has been at Virginia Tech (13 years). And there's a page in the Hokies media guide with a banner that reads: Stability Equals Success.
But more than anything it's talent that adds up to wins, and no staff in the country seems better at spotting diamonds in the rough.
When Tech takes on Florida State for all the marbles on Jan 4th in the Sugar Bowl, they will be facing a Seminoles squad that has signed 47 SuperPrep all-Americans in the past five years.
The Hokies have just nine on their roster.
FSU has 22 players who were listed among the top five prospects at their positions in the country. Tech has two -- freshman quarterback sensation Michael Vick and defensive end Lamar Cobb. Cobb is the backup to Corey Moore -- the senior ball of fire who just won the Nagurski Trophy as the best defensive player in country.
Talk about uncut gems.
Moore took recruiting visits to Duke and Pennsylvania before signing with Mississippi out of Haywood H.S. in Brownsville, Miss. But Mississippi ran out of scholarships and wanted Moore to delay his enrollment. He declined and enrolled instead at Holmes Community College in Goodman, Miss., where Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles found him. Wiles had tried to recruit Moore his last season at Murray State (1995).
There's no shortage of rags to riches stories in the Hokies program.
Senior defensive end John Engelberger, a three-year starter with 26 career sacks, is a walk-on. Linebacker Michael Hawkes chose between Tech and VMI, while Jamel Smith, another linebacker, took a long look at The Citadel. Second team All-Big East receiver Andre Davis had his other college choices narrowed down to Delaware, Maine and UMass, while starting outside linebacker Ben Taylor had one other scholarship offer -- Kent.
Beamer's former recruiting coordinator John Ballein, now assistant director for football operations, said Beamer set up a points system for his coaches in recruiting.
"You get a certain amount of points for a kid if he plays or if he letters. There's a bunch of criteria," said Ballein. "You lose points if a guy goes to summer school or if he's an academic casualty or if he got in trouble off the field. If a guy walks on and earns a scholarship -- like Bud Foster got John Engelberger -- that's major points. I think it lends everybody to recruiting."
Beamer said this year's success has brought more top recruits banging on his door than ever before. He'll take a look at the best of them but adds, "You always need to know the kind of kid you're getting -- the tough kid with the right kind of attitude"
Which Kenny will start for 'Canes? While there's no mistaking who will start for Georgia Tech at quarterback in the Gator Bowl (Joe Hamilton), it's unclear whether freshman Ken Dorsey or redshirt sophomore Ken Kelly will start for Miami.
After sitting out the last three games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee, Kelly was given medical clearance to practice with the team. However, UM coach Butch Davis said he wants to "see him running at 100 percent when we start practicing in Jacksonville" on Dec. 27. Kelly appears to about 80 percent now but is confident he can fully regain his form.
"I truly hope he gets healthy enough to where he gets a chance to play some," said Davis, who also voiced concerns about Kelly's possible rustiness and ability to take and escape a hit.
"You take five or six weeks off ... you probably don't come back and play real well," Davis said.
Miami freshman running back Jarrett Payton is questionable with a right ankle sprain, but junior back James Jackson said he "feels like 100 percent" and is poised to step in as the starter.
Pasqualoni moves up in polls Kentucky has lost three of its last four while Syracuse dropped four of its last five. Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni and his Orangemen are out to salvage some pride in the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 29. Both teams are 6-5.
After the season there was a sizable public outcry to oust Pasqualoni, but the coach apparently already has received a boost in the polls.
Two weeks after losing to Miami 45-13 to close out the season, The Syracuse Newspapers commissioned a poll by Zogby International, and found that 69.7 of residents in the four-county metropolitan Syracuse area do not want Pasqualoni fired. Among respondents who identified themselves as Syracuse fans, 79.5 percent were opposed to his dismissal.
Pasqualoni said the support he's received has been "tremendously appreciated." He has a record of 74-31-1 in nine seasons as the Orangemen's head coach. SU has never had a losing record under him and are appearing in their fifth straight bowl game.
Eagles out to stop Buffs' run Colorado has the nation's longest bowl winning streak at five games and has averaged 40.8 points in that span. The Buffs (6-5) face Boston College (8-3) in the Insight.com Bowl at 1:30 p.m. in Tucson, Ariz. on Dec. 31.
The Eagles are coming off its first eight-win season since 1994, and they did it with a balanced attack and hard-nosed defense. The Eagles are 5-1 in games that were decided by a touchdown or less, a testimony to what head coach Tom O'Brien says is the improved "mental toughness" of his squad.
Gene Racz covers the Big East for Gannett (N.J.) newspapers.
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