Here at Virginia Tech, they are in the embryonic stages in the development of what they hope will become a genuine football monster.
The Hokies still have a ways to go and Coach Bill Dooley, who left a highly successful program at North Carolina to come here, is the first to admit it. But he sees the path to the top.
"When I came here, everything was down," said Dooley, in his second season at VPI. "I knew it, but I felt I could build it up. If I didn't I never would have left those bowl teams and easy street.
"Before we could do much, we had to establish morale and a good attitude. We had to open channels of communication and instill a feeling of mutual trust between the coaches and the players.
"As a result of that, we are much further along now than we were then. Now all we need are the horses. They're coming in, but we need a lot more. When I came here, we just didn't have very many good football players and that's what it takes to win football games.
"The key to our season is how far and fast our freshmen come along and if our offensive line can hold together," Dooley said.
Although the Hokies are young and not deep, they do have some talented players. Their defensive line is anchored by 260-pound Mike Faulkner, who was All-Met at Bishop McNamara, 270-pound Doug McDougald and 230-pound Danny Hill.
The strength of the team, however, lies with 235-pound fullback Mickey Fitzgerald and speedster tailback Kenny Lewis.
Tech ran from a wishbone the season before Dooley arrived and Fitzgerald dominated it. Lewis was a part-time halfback and kick returner. But Dooley is a devout 1-formation man and under him last year, Fitzgerald became primarily a blocking fullback and Lewis became a 1,000-yard rusher.
Fitzgerald and Lewis are about as different as two teammates can be, and, in their relationship lies the substance that gives Virginia Tech the closeness it feels it needs to build a successful program.
Lewis, from Danville, Va. is quiet, thoughtful and black. He would much rather lead by example.
Fitzgerald, from Lynchburg, Va., is talkative, witty and white and a very visible leader. He is also, perhaps, the best salesman Virginia Tech has.
Not only does Fitzgerald like to talk about football and how excited he is about the Hokies, but he is quick to point out that VPI is adding six floors to the main library on campus, is building a new dormitory and that a brand new College of Veterinary Medicine will open in 1980.
"I sold ads for the football programs over the summer" Fitzgerald said. "It was easy and fun. The key is just getting in the door. I'm a sociology major so I like to bull a lot, and that's what selling is all about."
Fitzgerald is serious, however, when he talks about Lewis.
"Kenny carries the mail. I just carry a few postcards. I'm sort of like his bodyguard, but we both look out for each other."
Although Lewis isn't as outgoing as Fitzgerald, he is just as confident that the Hokies will have a better team than their 4-7 1978 squad.
All discussions about the Hokies eventually come back to Dooley. At North Carolina, Dooley took a program that was just as bad as Virginia Tech's and created a national power. His Tar Heel teams went to bowl games six of his last eight years there.
Dooley excels in recruiting. Two of his prize recruits this season are 6-4, 240-pound guard George Evans and 6-5, 250-pound tackle Wally Brown.
"There is a lot of good football talent here in the state," Fitzgerald said, "but the problem is that most of the good players go to school somewhere else. You need a fence to keep them in and Dooley kind of built a fence here at Virginia Tech. He isn't going to lose very many people he really wants."
Operating in the backfield with Lewis and Fitzgerald will be sophomore quarterback Steve Casey. He is an adequate passer, but the Hokies are basically a ground-oriented team. Lewis gained 1,020 yards and Fitzgerald 545 last season and Dooley is expecting both to improve this year.
Compounding the Hokies' problems this season is a difficult schedule. They open Saturday at Louisville and then return home for six straight games. Included in that unprecedented home stand are powerful Florida State and Clemson. Their second road game isn't until Oct. 27 when they travel to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama.