CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 16 Virginia Tech

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2011 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in ACC (1st in Coastal)

2011 postseason: ACC title game (38-10 loss to Clemson); Sugar Bowl (23-20 OT loss to Michigan)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 21/No. 18

Head coach: Frank Beamer (251-121-4 overall, 209-98-2 in 25 seasons at Virginia Tech)

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Stinespring (23rd season at VT, 11th as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 28th rushing offense (186.9 ypg); 66th passing offense (226.1 ypg); 35th total offense (413 ypg); 57th scoring offense (27.9 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: three

Defensive coordinator: Bud Foster (26th season at VT, 18th as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 14th rushing defense (104.1 ypg); 31st passing defense (200.6 ypg); 10th total defense (304.6 ypg); 7th scoring defense (17.6 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: nine

Location: Blacksburg, Va.

Stadium: Lane Stadium (66,223; grass)

Last league title: 2010

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
For eight straight seasons, and 11 of the past 13, the Hokies have finished the season with at least 10 wins; with nine returning defensive starters from a Top 10 unit in 2011, you might as well go ahead and pencil in nine straight 10-plus win seasons.  A possible reason to reach for the Sharpie?  Quarterback Logan Thomas, a player who for whatever doesn’t get a lot of run nationally but is nonetheless an absolute star at the position.  The schedule also sets up nicely, with ACC home games against Georgia Tech, Florida State and Virginia

The Bad
Gone is running back David Wilson, who set the school’s single-season rushing mark last season.  Also gone are four starting linemen, three top receiving threats, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.  That’s a significant amount of turnover in one offseason, especially at the skill positions.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that two of the toughest conference games on the slate come on the road — at Clemson and at Miami in back-to-back weeks.  Perhaps it’s time to back off the Sharpie and put the pencil back firmly in hand.

The Unknown
To be blunt, who the hell is going to replace the production lost with Wilson’s departure?  Between him and third-leading rusher Josh Oglesby — Thomas was second with 469 yards — the twosome combined for 2,080 of the 2,147 non-Thomas rushing yards; both are no longer Hokies.  The top three players on the depth chart entering summer camp are some combination of Michael Holmes, Martin Scales, J.C. Coleman and Daniel Dyer.  That quartet combined for a total of 30 yards and as many touchdowns as I had in 2011.  In fairness, Holmes redshirted as a true freshman last season while Coleman was an early enrollee member of Tech 2012 recruiting class.  The point still stands, however — the running back position is the biggest question mark for the Hokies entering the 2012 season.  Well, that and the offensive line, which is a potentially lethal 1-2 combo for Beamer and his Hokies.

Make-or-break game: vs. Florida State, Nov. 8
The Hokies reside in the ACC Coastal, and their stiffest competition is some combination of apathy, boredom and lack of resistance.  Miami and Virginia are likely a year or two away from serious contention; Duke is, well, Duke; North Carolina is on probation and thus ineligible for the postseason.  That leaves the Hokies with Georgia Tech, and leads me to the Seminoles of the Atlantic as the most pivotal game for the Hokies’ 2012 future on the national stage.  The best news for the Hokies is they get the Seminoles in Blacksburg.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Logan Thomas
As I hinted at above, I’m borderline astonished at the lack of attention Thomas gets nationally.  As a sophomore last season, Thomas set school records with nearly 3,500 total yards and 30 total touchdowns.  The ceiling is high for a player as talented as Thomas; expect him to reach that this season even as he will be surrounded far and wide by inexperience.  And, Hokie fans, enjoy him while you can as he’s not long for Blacksburg as the NFL is already sniffing around the immense potential.

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Drag racing accident leads to arrest for Mississippi State commit

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Mississippi State commit Nathaniel Watson has gotten himself into some legal trouble before his arrival at Mississippi State. Watson, currently a high school senior, was charged with assault first degree and a handful of traffic violations following a traffic accident earlier this month. Another student from Watson’s high school was arrested for reckless endangerment and other traffic violations as well. The two are accused of drag racing.

“The accident occurred after Tyrone Davis, also a student at [Maplesville High School], lined up in front of the school with his vehicle along with Nathaniel Watson’s vehicle for a race, witnesses stated that they lined up side by side and floored it, and both vehicles were squalling their tires and fishtailing up the highway heading into town,” according to an Maplesville Police Department press release (via The Clanton Advertiser). “As the racing vehicles topped a hill, an oncoming car caused Nathaniel Watson Jr. to swerve and lose control striking a power pole, cutting it in half and knocking power out to portions of Maplesville.”

A passenger in Watson’s vehicle suffered a crushed femur, fractured pelvis, a broken right arm and internal injuries. Neither vehicle involved in the accident was insured. Watson currently awaits a date in court in a county court. There has been no update or comment from Mississippi State’s football program or head coach Joe Moorehead about Watson or his status with the football program at this time.

Watson signed with Mississippi State on February 7. The wide receiver and two-sport athlete signed with Mississippi State over Auburn.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.

Purdue raises $388,000 in beer and wine sales at football games

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Around the nation, college football attendance took a downward trend, but the Big Ten was the rare conference to see an increase in attendance. At Purdue, not only did more fans attend games in the first season under new head coach Jeff Brohm, but Purdue saw a revenue surplus fueled by the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages at football games.

According to The Journal & Courier, Purdue athletic department recorded $567,000 in gross revenue, of which $388,000 was generated from the sale of beer and wine last fall at football games in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was the first time alcohol sales had been expanded to the entire football stadium, as opposed to limited offerings in premium sections of the stadium.

“In general, it was very positive and it added to the game day experience. Fans responded to it,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “We’ve talked to our concessionaire group (Levy Restaurants) about how we can improve the operation so we don’t create bottlenecks and long lines that cause people to miss extended periods of the game. It was a really good start.”

The success of expanded alcoholic beverages at football games at Purdue continues a growing trend of alcoholic sales at athletic events around the country and will only help to encourage other schools to explore similar options if they have not already. Ten schools in the Big Ten already offer alcohol sales to fans at football games, but Purdue is just one of four to currently offer the sales throughout the majority of their football stadium.

The games that saw the most amount of money spent on alcohol at a Purdue home football game were the Michigan and Indiana games, with $88,341 and $98,223 spent on alcohol, respectively. Bottoms up, indeed.

The other chunk of revenue that helped pad Purdue’s budget sheet was a season-opening game in Indianapolis against Louisville. The game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and each school received a check for $805,267.