Virginia Tech Hokies Are Ranked No. 7 in Preseason Associated Press Poll

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 23, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 22 -- Talk of Virginia Tech's chances to make a national impact is common in this college town. It has infiltrated sports talk radio airwaves and has surely been a topic over beers at the Hokie House. Even Coach Frank Beamer has not shied away from the conversation.

Those expectations are still just expectations, even though the Hokies were ranked seventh in the Associated Press preseason poll, which was released Saturday. The ranking matches their highest preseason position, in 2005.

"The seven ranking is great for us," quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "We just have to go out there and prove we deserve to be in that spot."

Florida is ranked first, becoming the most overwhelming preseason favorite in the history of the AP poll. The Gators received 58 of 60 first-place votes, or 96.7 percent.

Florida is poised for what could be a momentous season. The Gators return 17 starters from last year's national championship team -- including every player on their defense's two-deep roster -- and their quarterback, Tim Tebow, already has established himself as a college football legend. Florida also does not face Alabama or Mississippi from the Southeastern Conference's Western Division.

The previous highest percentage of first-place votes for the AP preseason poll, which started in 1950, was 95.4 percent for Southern California in 2007. That year, the Trojans received 62 of 65 first-place votes.

Texas, which received the other two first-place votes, is ranked second, followed by Oklahoma, Southern California and Alabama. The Crimson Tide will face Virginia Tech on Sept. 5 in Atlanta; it is a game people have circled in Blacksburg.

"The priority right now is to work with the people that's going to be on the field against Alabama," Beamer said Saturday after Virginia Tech's second intrasquad scrimmage at Lane Stadium. "We've got to narrow some things down."

At backup quarterback, the coaches said they planned to redshirt Logan Thomas, but added that he would continue to see practice time as the co-backup quarterback with Ju-Ju Clayton and could play if Taylor gets injured. At running back, the decision temporarily has been taken out of the hands of the coaching staff because of injuries.

Darren Evans, the Hokies' leading rusher and most important offensive weapon, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 11, and two of the three remaining running backs have missed practice time over the past week.

On Saturday, Josh Oglesby and David Wilson sat out the Hokies' scrimmage. Oglesby has missed time with an infection in his left heel, while Wilson is recovering from a sprained left shoulder. Both could have played, but the coaches gave them more time to rest.

The other running back, Ryan Williams (Stonewall Jackson), had five carries for 22 yards and a touchdown before exiting with a minor left ankle sprain. Williams, who sat on a bench with ice on his ankle at the end of the scrimmage, was not made available to comment.

All three of the running backs were expected to practice next week.

The Hokies open with high hopes because of their talented defense and experienced offense. But with continuing concerns at running back -- perhaps Virginia Tech's biggest offensive asset entering preseason practices -- there are issues to iron out over the next two weeks.

"We're just going to go out and play," wide receiver Danny Coale said earlier this summer. "You can't get caught up in the rankings. They don't mean anything right now. We got to go out and prove whatever we are ranked."

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