Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
To become the top team in the country, the
Virginia Tech Hokies must first become the top team in their conference. The
second-best team in the Big East, Tech will try to climb the mountain this
year and knock off the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes. If they
are successful, you can bet that the one-two punch of Lee Suggs and Kevin
Jones will play a big part in it.
It is no secret that Frank Beamer likes to run the football. So it didn't come
as a surprise that Virginia Tech racked up almost 200 yards per game rushing
last season (194.7 ypg) on 4.3 yards per carry. The way the yards were
accumulated though, was not expected.
Less than two years ago, Kevin Jones, the most sought-after recruit in the
entire country, balked at the opportunity to start at Penn State, and opted to
take Beamer up on his offer and play for the Hokies. In a press conference
that would show Jones' swagger, he came in with Penn State garb on, only to
shed it and reveal Virginia Tech attire underneath. Snubbing a starting
opportunity for a legendary in-state coach, to head south for a backup role
was a puzzling move to say the least, especially with the emergence of All-
American Lee Suggs in the Hokie backfield. Yes, Michael Vick got a lot of the
press clippings for Virginia Tech in 2000, but Suggs was the one putting up
the huge numbers, not Vick.
In only his first season as a starter, Suggs rolled up 1,207 yards on the
ground and an unbelievable 27 rushing TDs. The 6-0, 205-pounder abused the
opposition in 2000, to the tune of 5.4 yards per carry and proved to be a real
workhorse, amassing 222 carries in 11 games. He was named the co-Big East
Offensive Player of the Year and garnered Third-Team All-American honors,
leading the nation in scoring (15.27 ppg) and total touchdowns (28). Suggs
would add three more TDs in the Gator Bowl win over Clemson, proving that he
is the kind of player that shines brighter when the spotlight is on.
Kevin Jones was the most sought-after recruit in the entire country.
Not content with those achievements and still feeling room for improvement,
Suggs returned to the college ranks instead of jumping ship for the money and
fame of the NFL. A lot was expected in 2001, but dreams of a Heisman Trophy
and a shot at a national title came to a crashing halt in the season-opener
against Connecticut, as Suggs turned the corner for a big gain and took a shot
to the knee, a tackle that would end his season, before it had a chance to
That was unfortunate for Suggs, but the good news was that it occurred in the
season-opener, affording him a full year to recover and return to his 2000
form, something Suggs vowed to do.
So, with Virginia Tech's All-American now on the shelf, it was time to see
what Kevin Jones was all about.
The brash freshman from Cardinal O'Hara High School in Chester, Pennsylvania
(outside of Philadelphia) would now see significant action in his first season
in Blacksburg. Although he would split the carries with tailback Keith
Burnell, it was clear early on, that Jones was the heir apparent for the
He carried the ball 175 times in 2001, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, while
scoring five TDs. His 957 yards would lead the team. He surely would have
eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in his first season, but would only get half the
carries. Burnell would get 149 touches on the year (707 yards and nine TDs)
and fullback Jarrett Ferguson would carry the ball 35 times (156 yards and
In only his first season as a starter, Lee Suggs rolled up 1,207 yards on the
ground and an unbelievable 27 rushing TDs.
So, with the start of the 2002 season just days away, it's safe to say that
the nation's top backfield resides in Blacksburg. Keeping Suggs and Jones
fresh throughout a game should be easy, as this lethal combination may put up
mind-boggling numbers. Even though the running duties will be split again,
both backs could eclipse the 1,000 yard mark, staking claim to being one of
the top tailback tandems in recent memory.
The Hokies will surely run the ball, early and often in 2002. Leaving it in
the hands of Suggs and Jones on first, second and third downs may be a bit
predictable, but until someone steps up and stops them, why should Beamer
change the gameplan?
In 2001, Virginia Tech took a step back in the Big East, while the Miami
Hurricanes took center stage. Larry Coker and his team came into Blacksburg
last year with an undefeated season and Rose Bowl berth on the line. The
Hokies would lose the game in the final moments (26-24), but serve notice to
the 'Canes that they were a legitimate team, even at less than 100-percent.
With Miami coming into the 2002 season as the top team in the country,
everyone will take a shot at the kings of the hill.
In the season-finale at the Orange Bowl on December 7th, you can be assured
that Virginia Tech will take its run at the defending champions -- literally.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org.