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7 Virginia Tech
Phil Taylor
August 20, 2007
Set for a title run, the Hokies will lift spirits in Blacksburg
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August 20, 2007

7 Virginia Tech

Set for a title run, the Hokies will lift spirits in Blacksburg

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VIRGINIA TECH'S SEASON will be about far more than football. The horror of the campus shootings in April, when a gunman killed 27 students, five faculty members and himself, still reverberates throughout Blacksburg, and the Hokies realize that part of their purpose is to help the university continue to heal. "I really want to give our community something to smile about," says coach Frank Beamer.

His team should be quite capable of accomplishing at least that much. With another edition of what has become its trademark defense--speedy, swarming and stingy--Virginia Tech appears to be the class of the ACC and a serious contender for a berth in the BCS championship game.

The 2006 defense allowed only 11 points per game, best in the nation, and for the second straight year the Hokies surrendered the fewest yards per game in the country. Hard as it may be to believe, this year's unit could be even better, with eight starters returning, including fifth-year seniors Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall, the two linebackers who seem to be in on every tackle.

Hall (6' 1'', 240 pounds), the team's leading tackler over the last two years and an all-ACC selection as a junior, is a ferocious hitter who excels against the run and is similar in stature and style to Zach Thomas, the Miami Dolphins' Pro Bowl middle linebacker. "He's one of the best players I've ever coached in terms of instincts and vision," says defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who begins his 21st season with the program.

Because of his speed and pass-coverage skills, Adibi (6' 2'', 236) is the perfect complement to Hall. In addition to intercepting three passes last season, Adibi forced three fumbles and returned another fumble for a touchdown to seal a victory over Wake Forest. "He can go sideline to sideline to make a tackle, and he can run with players coming out of the backfield," says Beamer. "Xavier is a classic big-play guy."

With Adibi and Hall as the foundation, the defense seems well-equipped to uphold Virginia Tech's proud Lunch Pail defensive tradition. Since 1995 a battered lunch pail has served as the symbol of the defense's blue-collar approach. A huge replica hangs in the Merryman Center, the athletic-department headquarters, and one can be found on the sideline at every practice and game. "It's part of our mentality," says Hall. "Our goal isn't to be flashy or call attention to ourselves. Every snap is about getting down to serious, hard work."

Support for Virginia Tech will come from all around the country. "It may be for a sad reason, but everyone seems to be pulling for us," says senior left tackle Duane Brown. "In a way, I think we'll kind of be America's team. People who don't even follow Virginia Tech tell me, 'I'll be rooting for you.' "

But the cheers that the Hokies care most about will come from their university family. With students, faculty and the rest of the community eager for the chance to celebrate instead of mourn, the rewards of their hard work will be greater than ever.