A year ago Virginia Tech's running back tandem of senior Lee Suggs
and sophomore Kevin Jones were dubbed The Untouchables. This year
junior DeAngelo Hall has a moniker that's a bit more pedestrian.
"I was running back and forth between cornerback and wide
receiver in spring practice, and the coaches kept forgetting
where I was, so they made me wear this fluorescent vest," says
Hall. "It wasn't long before I became The Crossing Guard."
Inspired by the 2002 performance of Ohio State sophomore Chris
Gamble, who played cornerback and wideout, several coaches are
considering using their best athletes on both sides of the ball.
Among the new two-way men, Hall, who played corner last season,
is likely to be among the standouts. He excelled on double duty
at Deep Creek High in Chesapeake, Va., and, at 5'11" and 198
pounds, he has the athleticism to pull it off. "The man can dunk
a basketball, do flips on command, just about any freaky athletic
thing you ask him to do," says quarterback Bryan Randall. Hall
also may be the fastest player in college football. After
spending the winter practicing with the track team, he ran the 40
last February in 4.15 seconds. "Our only concern is that we don't
burn him out," says defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Virginia Tech wants to push the limits in many ways this year.
The Hokies got off to an 8-0 start in 2002 but suffered an
emotional 28-21 defeat to Pittsburgh and lost three more games. A
20-13 San Francisco Bowl victory over Air Force marked the
program's 10th straight postseason appearance, but it wasn't the
marquee bowl expected at midseason. With nine starters returning
on defense, plus the stellar junior backfield duo of Jones and
Randall--he passed for 2,134 yards and rushed for 507 last
season--Virginia Tech has the personnel to get off to another
strong start and this time extend it through December.
The upperclassmen agree that this group seems unusually dedicated
winning. Over the summer Hall discussed how his roommate, junior
Richard Johnson, whose starting receiver job is threatened by
Hall's two-way duty, volunteered to tutor The Crossing Guard on
running routes. "He's just saying, May the best man win," says
Hall. Catchy nickname or not. --K.K.
COLOR PHOTO: DARRON R. SILVA/NEWSPORT WRAP STAR Hall, who had 55 tackles and four interceptions, hopes to become as productive on offense as he was on defense.
2002 RECORD 10-4 (3-4, T4 in Big East)
FINAL AP RANK 18
RETURNING STARTERS 18
KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)
RB Kevin Jones (Jr.)
871 yards and nine TDs as a backup
QB Bryan Randall (Jr.)
Big East record 504 passing yards vs. Syracuse
CB DeAngelo Hall (Jr.)
Three-way guy? 16.0-yard avg. on punt returns
DE Nathaniel Adibi (Sr.)
Nine sacks and six other tackles for loss
C Jake Grove (Sr.)
Candidate for Outland and Lombardi trophies
Consecutive seasons in which Virginia Tech has had at least one
shutout; the Hokies have blanked opponents 16 times in that span.
The Hokies are deftly managing the quarterback battle between
junior Bryan Randall and freshman Marcus Vick, defusing media
speculation by stressing that Randall will enter the season as
the starter and quietly boosting Vick's confidence by planning
to give him equal first-team reps in preseason practice.
AUG. 31 CENTRAL FLORIDA
SEPT. 6 JAMES MADISON
18 TEXAS A&M
OCT. 4 AT RUTGERS
22 AT WEST VIRGINIA
NOV. 1 MIAMI
8 AT PITTSBURGH
15 AT TEMPLE
22 BOSTON COLLEGE
29 AT VIRGINIA