Virginia Tech's current designation as ACL U has more to do with
anterior cruciate ligaments than with the protection of civil
liberties. Starting quarterback Grant Noel tore his left ACL in
April during a noncontact drill, and rather than opt for
reconstructive surgery--which would end his college career--Noel, a
fifth-year senior, will play with the tear. He spent the past
four months strengthening his knee through exercise and physical
Noel's injury is not the first ACL nightmare for Virginia Tech.
Senior running back Lee Suggs (1,207 yards, 27 touchdowns in
2000) was lost for the 2001 season after he tore his left ACL in
last fall's opener against Connecticut. After reconstructive
surgery, Suggs says his knee is feeling as good as new. How the
fragile ligaments of Noel and Suggs hold up will determine
whether the Hokies will be a national power or a knock-kneed
also-ran. "Playing after [Michael Vick], there have been a lot of
critics, and that motivates me," says Noel, who promises to be
under center against Arkansas State on Aug. 25. "I'd like to shut
all those people up."
If Noel can't make it through the season, coach Frank Beamer has
a talented sophomore quarterback in Bryan Randall and a heralded
freshman recruit named Marcus Vick (brother of you know who). The
backfield should be among the best in the country with Suggs and
a star-in-the-making in sophomore Kevin Jones (957 yards in '01).
Aside from health, the biggest question is whether the
inexperienced receivers can take the pressure off the tailbacks.
On defense Virginia Tech must replace six starters. While junior
linemen Nathaniel Adibi and Cols Colas and a veteran secondary
should help, the Hokies suffered yet another heartbreak when
junior cornerback Eric Green tore his left ACL in late July
during a workout. So it goes for ACL U. "We're a team that's hard
to put a true evaluation on," says Beamer. "There are just a lot
of unknowns." --Richard Deitsch
COLOR PHOTO: DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES IN HIS GRASP Adibi, a junior end who made 41 tackles in '01, will be called on to take charge of an inexperienced unit.
2001 RECORD: 8-4 (4-3, T3 in Big East)
FINAL RANKING: No. 18 AP, No. 18 coaches' poll
Big East wins for the Hokies since conference play began in
1993, the most of any member school. Miami is second with 82.
An opposing coach's view
The big, talented Hokies have an abundance of weapons
"At 6 feet and 211 pounds, tailback Kevin Jones is strong and
physical. He runs a little too upright, but when he gets out in
the open he's something.... Quarterback Grant Noel doesn't make
mistakes. He controls the tempo of the game.... Center Jake
Grove, tackle Anthony Davis and guard Luke Owens are solid....
The defense has a hard-nosed, blue-collar mentality.... Safety
Willie Pile is a quasilinebacker. If you don't watch him, he'll
make a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage."
Aug. 25 ARKANSAS STATE
Sept. 1 LSU
21 at Texas A&M
28 at Western Michigan
Oct. 10 at Boston College
Nov. 2 PITTSBURGH
9 at Syracuse
20 WEST VIRGINIA
Dec. 7 at Miami