-- The abiding football precept that Mikal Baaqee has carried through DeMatha High and four-plus years at Virginia Tech is: "It doesn't matter who gets it done as long as we get it done."
That's why Baaqee, a redshirt senior, could be seen throughout preseason camp giving tutorials to Vince Hall, a redshirt freshman, even though Hall kept gaining on him for the starting middle linebacker position he'd held for 25 games. Hall is slightly bigger, and as defensive coordinator Bud Foster says: "When he hits 'em, he knocks 'em down."
Now comes another twist for Baaqee. The season-ending injury to Xavier Adibi in the Hokies' season-opening, 24-13 loss to Southern Cal has forced Baaqee to switch positions. It involved moving only a few steps sideways, from the middle to the position called "backer" for the Western Michigan game in Blacksburg on Saturday. But he had not played backer in more than two years.
"He's good and solid," said Coach Frank Beamer. "I like what he's all about."
The move actually gave Baaqee a chance to mentor Hall close-up during the game, because Hall was promoted to starter at middle linebacker. Baaqee moved ahead of redshirt junior Blake Warren (Centreville), the starter against Southern Cal at backer, with redshirt senior Brandon Manning moving from the outside position called "whip" to provide more depth.
And it worked -- Hall led the team in tackles with 10 during the 63-0 victory over Western Michigan and Baaqee was second with eight. Hall also shared one tackle in the Broncos' backfield, for a six-yard loss.
The chance to be near Baaqee during the game, Hall said, helps "on every play."
He added: "We'll look in the backfield [for a sense of what's about to develop]. I'm like: 'Thanks.' After the game, I congratulated him: 'You did a team thing.' "
Hall has been both pleased and surprised at how generous Baaqee was during their competition, saying: "If I was in his spot, I might help [the challenger] a little bit, maybe give him the appetizer but not the whole plate. He gives me the appetizer, the whole plate and then dessert."
Foster talked about a three-man rotation at the two positions, with Baaqee relieving Hall at times and Warren getting time at backer. Warren's brother, Brett, a freshman, will work behind Hall.
The loss of Adibi was considerable, because he was athletic enough to cover top-quality backs maneuvering downfield. Southern Cal exploited Blake Warren for its final touchdown, a 29-yard pass from quarterback Matt Leinart to tailback Reggie Bush with five-plus minutes left in the game that extended its lead to eight points.
Tech has had trouble stopping game-turning long gains for a while against very good opponents. Bush was involved in the other two during USC's victory, turning a short reception into a 35-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter and beating cornerback Jimmy Williams off the line and gathering in another Leinart pass for a 53-yard touchdown late in the third period.
Baaqee played backer his first two seasons at Tech before switching to the middle in 2002, where he led the team in tackles with 112. Nearly half of those tackles were solo, and Baaqee also had eight quarterback hurries, five passes broken up, a forced fumble and an interception.
Last season was not quite so productive, with his 109 tackles third on the team after he missed the Miami game with a shoulder injury. He dropped 15 pounds, to 225, during the offseason and that should help in the open-space coverage required of the backer position. His enthusiasm on and off the field is infectious.
"It starts on the bus," defensive tackle Jim Davis said. "Those headphones on, him just rockin', so pumped up. That gets it going. Then he's flying around the ball. That kind of inspires the guys. I'm tired, but I look at him. He's still out there making plays."
Hokies Note: Suspended Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick avoided jail by pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a night of drinking with underage girls in February.
Vick, the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, settled on the plea agreement rather than pursuing an appeal of a juvenile court conviction and 30-day jail sentence on three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
As part of the agreement, Vick received a suspended 30-day jail sentence, was fined $100 and ordered to perform 24 hours of community service.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.