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Five Minute Guide to '99

17 Virginia Tech

A freshman quarterback could put some flash in the Hokies' offense

Sports Illustrated
  Corey Moore
All-America Moore may be small, but he's too quick for most linemen to block.   Courtesy of Virginia Tech
John Engelberger embodies what Virginia Tech has been. He arrived in Blacksburg in 1995 as a 6'4", 210-pound walk-on, then used a Navy Seal's work ethic to transform himself into a 6'4", 269-pound All-Big East defensive end. Yet he receives virtually no attention -- which is how he prefers it. "I get five media guys in my face, I can't talk," Engelberger says. "I can't even give a speech in class. I told my Spanish professor that I'll take a zero before I speak."

Anonymity also defines Virginia Tech, which has been to six straight bowl games without gaining anything resembling national acclaim. But the coaches don't mind having players who are unspoiled by media attention. "The difference between here and Alabama," says tight ends coach Danny Pearman, a Crimson Tide assistant from 1990 to '97, "is that here you don't have to kiss their ass to get them to play."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick embodies what Virginia Tech would like to become. The Hokies have made it to those six straight bowls with little offensive flair. Of their 12 First-Team All-Big East offensive players in the last six seasons, five were linemen and four were kickers. Enter the 6'1", 211-pound Vick, with a strong left arm and quick feet.

When last year's starter, Al Clark, and backup Dave Meyer suffered injuries, coach Frank Beamer resisted the urge to throw Vick out there. Beamer instead returned free safety Nick Sorensen, who had been a quarterback as a freshman in '97, to the other side of the ball for three games, and Virginia Tech made do, winning two of them. Judging from the comments of some of Vick's coaches and teammates, Beamer's patience will be rewarded. "Syracuse is getting ready to find out how we felt the last four years," says running backs coach Billy Hite, alluding to the frustration of facing a quarterback as talented as the Orange's Donovan McNabb.

On defense Engelberger and senior Corey Moore are the best pair of linemen on any team in the nation. Moore is 6 feet and 212 pounds. In theory offensive linemen, who often outweigh him by 100 pounds, should smother him. But he's so quick that few get a clean shot at him. Engelberger can play end and tackle and doesn't care which, as long as he's rushing the passer. While three quarters of the Big East's best secondary of a year ago is gone, the Hokies still have talent there. Sophomore cornerback Larry Austin played well on special teams as a freshman, and Sorensen is back at free safety.

Under Beamer, Virginia Tech has become a perennial Big East power, with two conference titles in the last four years. The goal is to become a perennial national power. If Vick has the star quality the Hokies think he does, they will be hard-pressed to stay anonymous.

-- Ivan Maisel

Fast Facts

1998 record: 10-3 9-3 (5-2, tied for 2nd in Big East)
Final ranking: No. 23 AP, No. 19 coaches' poll

1998 Averages Offense Defense
Scoring 31.2 12.9
Rushing Yards 178.4 102.2
Passing Yards 138.4 182.7
Total Yards 316.7 284.9

Key Games
Schedule strength: 70th of 114

Oct. 2 at Virginia
The last time the Hokies won in Charlottesville (1995) they finished the season in the Sugar Bowl.

Nov. 13 vs. Miami
To the victor will go the Big East championship, most likely. The Hokies have won the last four meetings.

Bottom Line

If Vick helps the offense catch up with the defense, Virginia Tech will be looking at 10 wins this season.

Top 25 | The Master List | Lower Divisions
Five Minute Guide to '99

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