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Sports Online with Angie Watts

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Angie Watts, The Post's beat writer for Virginia Tech football, was on Sports Online answering questions about the No. 2 Hokies and their date with No. 1 Florida State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. Watts predicts the game will be very close but the Hokies should come away with a victory.

washingtonpost.com: Welcome everybody and thanks to Angie Watts for taking time to be with us. We've got a good number of questions about the Hokies that we'll be getting to momentarily.

Hanover, Md.: How would you compare Virginia Tech's offensive line vs. FSU's defensive line? Is Virginia Tech going to have a rough time running the ball, or will it be a toss up?

Angie Watts: Florida State's defensive line is a good one. They allowed teams just 2.8 yards per carry this season, so Virginia Tech will have to work to run the ball. The Seminoles are much stronger up the middle (with tackles Corey Simon and Jerry Johnson) than there are at the defensive end positions. That may prompt the Hokies to run Andre Kendrick and Shyrone Stith more on the option than the straight up-the-gut running that Coach Beamer usually prefers.

Raleigh, N.C.: Does Virginia Tech's bowl appearance now make it a "national school?" I always thought that it takes a series of successful seasons to for a school to be considered as a "powerhouse," as far as recruiting goes.

Angie Watts: You're right, one bowl appearance doesn't make a team a "national school" as far as recruiting goes, even if that appearance is in the Sugar Bowl. The reason Virginia Tech is having so much success recruiting this year is a combination of its appearance in the national championship game this year and its previous success. The Hokies are one of only eight teams in the country that have gone to seven straight bowl games. The others are your more typical national powerhouses: Florida State, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Tennessee and Kansas State.

Arlington, Va.: How will the long layoff affect the Hokies?

Angie Watts: It's impossible to tell how the layoff with affect either team. If you remember, Florida State wrapped up its season on Nov. 20 so they will have had an even longer break than Virginia Tech, which finished up Nov. 26. To offset the layoff both coaches have said they plan on having a scrimmage as close to Jan. 4 as possible to keep the team in a rhythm.

Fairfax, Va.: Angie,

I am a very proud '94 Tech graduate and have been living in northern Virginia since graduation. I'm glad to see that Tech is finally getting some media coverage in the metro area. Do you think this will continue after the national championship game is played or is this hype just a free ride on the "VT bandwagon"?

I think that no matter what happens, Tech deserves a lot of recognition for being a great national representative for the state. I hope everyone gets behind them during the bowl game!

Angie Watts: I think you will see the increased coverage of Virginia Tech in the Washington Post as long as the Hokies stay ranked in the Top 25. The problem is that neither the University of Virginia nor Virginia Tech is considered a "local" school to the Washington-area so when the teams play poorly--and interest diminishes-so will the coverage.

Ellicott City, Md.: Do you think the Hokies will use their standard bump and run, man to man defense on Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans, or will they try to zone and double to keep from giving up the big play?

Angie Watts: From what I've heard, the Hokies plan on playing Peter Warrick as aggressively as possible, something they feel other teams have neglected to do. Virginia Tech will continue to play the type of football that got it to 11-0, which is putting nine men in the box. Though I'm sure they will develop a few new looks for Warrick and Dugans, I would expect them, for the most part, to play them in single coverage and look to put pressure on Chris Weinke.

Blacksburg, Va.: FSU's schedule isn't that much better than Virginia Tech's and the Hokies beat their common opponents by a greater margin. Therefore, I was wondering why people make a big deal out of Va. Tech's strength of schedule -or lack thereof-?

Angie Watts: The overall competition in the ACC is better than the Big East, though not by a huge margin. The difference in the strength of schedules was in the non-conference games. The Seminoles played Louisiana Tech, Miami and Florida. The Hokies played James Madison, Alabama-Birmingham, Clemson and Virginia. As much as Coach Beamer likes playing in-state schools like James Madison, that did hurt Virginia Tech this season.

Arlington, Va.: As a Tech graduate, how special was it for you covering Va. Tech's Dream Season? Also, at what point in the season did you think Va. Tech could run the table?

Angie Watts: As a Virginia Tech graduate, this was certainly a great season to cover the Hokies. I am, however, in a different position than most Virginia Tech alumni who just go to the games to cheer!
I think it was when Michael Vick completed that first pass to Terrell Parham on the game-winning drive against West Virginia with 1:15 to play that myself and the other reporters covering the Hokies looked at one another and said, "It's just meant to be for this team this year." That's when I thought they'd run the table and be in the Sugar Bowl.

Hanover, Md.: Do you think Virginia Tech's defensive line will have many problems with FSU's offensive line? Will Corey and the boys be able to consistently put pressure on Weinke?

Angie Watts: No, I don't think that Virginia Tech's defensive line will have too much trouble against Florida State's offensive line. The Seminoles have not been able to do much with the running game this season--they average just 3.5 yards per carry and Travis Minor is the team's leading rusher at 815 yards on 180 carries. When Corey Moore and John Engelberger don't have to worry too much about the run, that's when they are usually at their best--like they were against Clemson.

Oklahoma City, Okla.: With many players leaving this senior laden team, what are Virginia Tech's prospects next year of being a top 10 team?

Also, has this year made a notable difference in the quality of the recruits who are committing to Tech?

Angie Watts: Virginia Tech is only senior-heavy on defense. Offensively, the Hokies will lose starting center Keith Short (who missed the Syracuse and Rutgers games with injury) and wide receiver Ricky Hall, who split starting duties this season with Emmett Johnson. The rest of the offensive starters are back. Defensively the Hokies will lose seven starters, including their entire front four. Still, Virginia Tech's starters on the defensive line--Corey Moore, John Engelberger, Nathaniel Williams and Carl Bradly--play only about 10 snaps per game more than the second-team unit, which consists of just one senior. The defense will certainly be weaker, but should be offset by the offense.
As far as recruiting goes, the Hokies are having their best year ever. It seems a lot of top-quality players are looking for the opportunity to play with Michael Vick.

McLean, Va.: Hi Angie,

Do you have any info on the timetable for enlarging Lane Stadium?

Angie Watts: Hi. Not sure on the timetable for the expansion at Lane Stadium, but it is in the works. For next season they are looking to add a large screen TV on the scoreboard for replays and will put in a couple thousand more seats in the south end zone.

Fairfax, Va.: My question is this: The media for a large part has looked at Tech's season with jaded eyes, in large part due to the aforementioned SOS and our propensity to drop a gimme. In interviewing opposing players, did you get a feel on THEIR thoughts on the skill level and ability of this year's Tech team? Did other teams-coaches notice a difference, something extra?

Angie Watts: That is sometimes hard to tell because all coaches (and most players, for that matter) will tell you how much they respect every team they play. But sure, the guys from Syracuse who had been very vocal before the game about how Virginia Tech had never seen a defense as good as theirs were humbled after the 62-0 loss. And, of course, every player and coach raved about Michael Vick --- they all said that he is the reason why this year's Virginia Tech team has a shot at winning the national title.

Herndon, Va.: What -if any- Florida State weaknesses must Virginia Tech attack in order to have a chance at winning the Sugar Bowl?

Angie Watts: Virginia Tech and Florida State are very similar. Both teams will look to attack the other team's secondary. That, for both the Seminoles and the Hokies, is the weakest part of the team. Florida State had a horrible time containing Georgia Tech QB Joe Hamilton--whose style of play Michael Vick very much resembles. Their defensive ends were unable to put pressure on Hamilton, and as a result he scrambled successfully and passed for more than 350 yards on the Seminoles. Likewise, Virginia Tech struggled against the pass at Pittsburgh and West Virginia, and Chris Weinke is a far better--far more poised and more experienced quarterback--than anyone the Hokies have faced this season.

Blacksburg, Va.: Had Peter Warrick not done what he did in October and been a Heisman Trophy finalist, do you think Ron Dayne would have still won the Heisman? And on a related question, do you think Vick would have been a finalist if Warrick was a finalist?

Angie Watts: Had Peter Warrick not gotten into legal trouble earlier this season he would have been a Heisman finalist. No question. It would have been a very close race between he and Ron Dayne, but yes I think Dayne still would have won the award. Afterall, each of the top five running backs behind Dayne on the career rushing list were Heisman winners. With or without Warrick in New York, I do believe Vick would have been there. He finished third in the voting, which means the player likely to have been left out would be Marshall QB Chad Pennington, who finished fifth. Warrick was sixth.

Alexandria, Va.: There have been rumors that Beamer may be looking to coach somewhere else after this season because he has taken Tech as far as he can. Do you think Beamer is looking to leave Tech and do you think he can make Tech a national team like FSU, Nebraska, etc?

Angie Watts: No, I don't think that Frank Beamer is looking to leave Virginia Tech. Would he for the perfect circumstances? Doubtful. I think he has found his "perfect circumstances" already. Beamer's daughter is now a freshman at Virginia Tech (his son, Shayne is a senior long snapper) and he and his wife, Cheryl, have many roots in Blacksburg. I think he believes he can make Virginia Tech a national contender every year ... that's why he wants to stay.

Topeka, Kans.: How hard or easy is it to get tickets for the game? Are hotels filled, or asking 3-4 day stays over the bowl date?

Angie Watts: As far as I know, it is nearly impossible to get tickets for the game through the schools, which were given just 16,000 tickets each. The best way to get a ticket is to go through a travel agency, many of which have put together full travel packages that include travel, hotel and tickets. Tickets are also being sold on E-Bay ... for a high price. Hotels are not filled, but many I believe do require a stay of 2-3 nights.

Reston, Va.: From the VT senior class this year, who do you imagine has a good chance of entering the NFL and being successful?

Angie Watts: I imagine that John Engelberger will be the Hokies' highest draft pick. At 6-4, 269 pounds he is very appealing. Someone will take a chance on Corey Moore and I think he will turn out to be very successful, though with his size (6-0, 212) he will be moved to linebacker or safety. A lot of scouts will wait to see him in workouts to see just how fast he is and whether or not they believe he can drop back into coverage. Shayne Graham should also have a productive NFL career. Other possibilities: C Keith Short, WR Ricky Hall, LBs Jamel Smith and Michael Hawkes and DTs Nathaniel Williams and Carl Bradley, though they might have to go the free-agent route.

Lebanon, Va.: Angie, what do you think will be the key match-ups when Va Tech meets Florida State on Jan. 4?

Angie Watts: The key to the game: which team can put more consistent pressure on the quarterback? If Corey Moore and the rest of the Virginia Tech defense can't put pressure on Chris Weinke, he and Peter Warrick could have a field day passing. Similarly, if Corey Simon and the rest of the Florida State defense can't put pressure on Michael Vick, he and Andre Davis could do the same.

Burke, Va.: Before you go, can you give us your prediction for the winner of the Sugar Bowl?

Angie Watts: A prediction before I go. Florida State is an awful tough team to beat in the big game. Losing last year's national championship game to Tennessee only adds fuel to their fire. Still, I think the Hokies are the better overall team. If they--particularly young Michael Vick--can continue to handle the pressure that will be placed on them as Jan. 4 draws nearer, it should be a great game. Florida State all-American Corey Simon said this week that anyone looking for a lopsided matchup should look somewhere else. I agree. This one will be tight, but the Hokies will pull it off.

washingtonpost.com: Thanks to Angie Watts for being with us and thank you to all that submitted some great questions.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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