Virginia Tech's Jimmy Sharpe, beginning his fourth year as head football coach of the Gobblers, has one major goal this season: a third consecutive winning record.
He also has one major means of achieving that goal: Roscoe Coles. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior tailback holds virtually every Tech rushing record. And, with quarterback a question mark, Coles may be called on even more frequently than during the last two years, when he gained more than 1,000 yards each time.
Last season, when the Gobblers finished 6-5, following an 8-3 record in 1975, Coles picked up 1,119 yards on 209 carries, had six 100-yard games, and set a school record of 214 yards against Tulsa. His career rushing total in 2,787 yards.
Sharpe's biggest problem is to find people who can take some of the pressure off Coles. Tech has two inexperienced quarterbacks, junior David Lamie and sophomore Don LaRue.
What's more, Tech lost last season's starting fullback, Paul Adams, who graduated. The two men most likely to fill that spot, converted tailback Dickie Holway and former defensive back Steve Scott, will be playing fullback for the first time.
"We'll probably use two backfields a lot just as we did our first year here," said Sharpe. The 37-year-old coach, who has been known to wear a shirt saying, "I'm a Hokie (VPI's other nickname) and proud of it!" during games, prefers to discuss his defense.
This isn't surprising since the first-team defense and the second-team offense beat the second defense and first offense, 38-10, in the spring game. The entire secondary returns as does linebacker Rick Razzano, a standout last season.
"The key to our defense will be developing depth (i.e. young players) the way we did in 1975," Sharpe said. "We're going to give the incoming freshmen a crash course in our system.
"No one game is going to make or break our season," he added. "Before the season is over we're going to have a good football team and, barring catastrophe, a winning record."
The season begins Sept. 17 with a tough opener against Texas A&M. But other than a game at Kentucky, the rest of the schedule is much more reasonable.
As long as Coles stays healthy, and the quarterbacks get him the ball 20 or more times a game, Sharpe should achieve his goal.He has the means.