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Double Trouble

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus 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.

Kevin Jones
Kevin Jones was the most sought-after recruit in the entire country.
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.

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 really start.

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 Hokies.

Lee Suggs
In only his first season as a starter, Lee Suggs rolled up 1,207 yards on the ground and an unbelievable 27 rushing TDs.
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 five 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 shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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