Work in Progress
Virginia Tech's Michael Vick is often dazzling, but he's not ready for the NFL
Michael Vick may win the Heisman Trophy and he might lead second-ranked Virginia Tech back to the national championship game, but if there's one thing he has shown as a sophomore this season, it's that he should return to Blacksburg for at least his junior year. He's not ready for the NFL yet.
That was evident in the Hokies' 22-14 victory at Syracuse last Saturday night, during which Vick was sacked eight times and wound up with 84 yards of total offense, the lowest output of his collegiate career. What's more, he netted that many yards only by scoring an insurance touchdown on a 55-yard bootleg with 1:34 to play. "We had him rattled," said Orangemen linebacker JR Johnson. "We had him down. We heard Michael Vick this, Michael Vick that. Michael Vick didn't do nothing."
Vick would benefit from playing more games before hostile crowds like the one he faced at the Carrier Dome, which Syracuse energized by taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Virginia Tech's other offensive players had difficulty hearing Vick's snap count, quite a handicap against the Orangemen's speedy pass rushers, especially junior end Dwight Freeney, who set a Big East single-game record with 4� sacks. The Hokies' offensive linemen, who call themselves the Secret Service, looked like a bunch of overfed Barney Fifes. Given the lack of protection for Vick, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer abandoned the passing game early in the second half.
Though Vick was pressured throughout the game and completed only 6 of 11 passes for 75 yards, at least he didn't turn over the ball. In his previous three games combined, he had thrown three interceptions and lost four fumbles. After a 48-34 win over Boston College on Sept. 30, during which Vick was blitzed often and completed just 5 of 17 passes, Hokies offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle said, "Michael didn't handle himself very well. He rushed himself. He didn't have his eyes in the right place."
On Saturday, Vick led Virginia Tech to a come-from-behind victory mostly by not doing anything to lose. That is the kind of maturity he needs to show more often. "It ain't about me," he said after the game. "It's about this team and what we can do. We went out there and got us a great win."
Last week Vick denied reports that he planned to turn pro after this season and said that he would return to Blacksburg for his junior year. Earlier this season Beamer had instructed the school's sports information office to inform members of the media that they're not allowed to ask Vick if he plans to turn pro. That, as Beamer should know, is a sure way to get reporters to ask the question.
Beamer also called Vick into his office earlier this month to discuss the notion of leaving for the NFL early, and Beamer says that Vick understands how inexperienced he is. "He's only played 18 college games," says Beamer. What's more, Bustle says he has given Vick only 85% of the Virginia Tech offense.
Plenty of midseason pledges to remain in college have been abandoned before the January deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, but Vick would benefit from mastering the entire Hokies offense before trying to learn the more complicated schemes in the pros.
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