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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Former Navy LB Caleb King killed in fighter jet crash

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A routine U.S. Navy training flight that ended in tragedy had a college football connection.

Earlier this week, two Navy aviators were killed when a fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West, Florida, this past Wednesday.  Those who lost their lives were, according to the Associated Press, Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King, who served in the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron Two One Three (VFA-213).  Johnson was the pilot of the aircraft.

“[T]he aircraft crashed on final approach to Boca Chica Field following a training mission,” wrote.  While details are scant at the moment, below is from that website’s report:

The crash happened around 4:30 p.m., Hecht said. Both pilots onboard the Super Hornet ejected, he said. Initially, Hecht said a search-and-rescue effort for the aircrew was still ongoing around 6 PM, but later he said the pilots were recovered within minutes and taken by ambulance to the medical center.

An eyewitness, Barbie Wilson, told the crash “looked like something out of a movie.”

Wilson, who lives on the back side of the air station, said she stopped to watch an F/A-18 flying overhead, as she often does, and was shocked to see what appeared to be a massive malfunction in midair.

“Literally, the wings went vertical, and there was a fireball, and it just literally dropped out of the sky,” Wilson said.

King (pictured, left) was a linebacker for the Midshipmen football team from 2009-11.  He played in 38 games during his time at the military academy.

“Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the entire King family,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said in a statement. “We lost a dear brother and warrior. The entire Navy Football Brotherhood mourns the passing of a great American. We love you Caleb!”

Temple’s on-campus stadium plans stall after city council meeting

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The dream of Temple football playing in an on-campus stadium appears as though it’s on hold after a Philadelphia city council meeting got heated once again and resulted in the pulling of support by a key local leader.

Per KYW 1060, City Council President Darrell Clarke told the radio station that he would not support the reported $125 million project at a meeting earlier this week. Though the university leadership remains focused on making the new stadium happen eventually, the dwindling support from those in the community have basically stalled the effort and puts into question where the team will play football in 2020 and beyond.

Protestors against the stadium being built already interrupted a town hall meeting on the project last week.

“We do not feel that a 35,000 seat stadium fits in a residential block,” said Reverend Bill Moore, who is part several local groups pushing to ax the project.

Temple had signed an extension on their lease with nearby Lincoln Financial Field (the home of the Philadelphia Eagles) but that agreement runs only through the 2019 season. The hope had been to get the new on-campus stadium built by the time the 2020 campaign rolled around but that is looking increasingly unlikely as local residents — and now city council members — become more and more vocal in their opposition to the project.

The university has not issued a formal statement on their next steps after this latest setback but at least the team itself is moving forward as usual with spring football already under the way in Philly.

Study says War Memorial Stadium needs millions in upgrades to remain in use for Arkansas games in Little Rock

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Just like an old house, older stadiums require tons of money to keep them up to date. Those in the state of Arkansas are very aware of that when it comes to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that a study commissioned by the state has found that roughly $17 million worth of repairs, maintenance work and improvements are needed at War Memorial if the 70 year old venue wants to remain in operation. The timeline for such changes were listed as anywhere from three years for “critical” issues to five years for other items, which come as part of a whopping $160,000 study from Conventions Sport & Leisure International LLC.

The millions of dollars of work required is notable because the Fayetteville-based Razorbacks have annually played a game at the stadium in Little Rock dating back to 1948. The team will not only host their first spring game under new coach Chad Morris at the venue but will also play Ole Miss in Little Rock during the upcoming season. That contest is the last scheduled game for Arkansas at War Memorial however as the contract to hold games there is expiring in 2018.

It remains to be seen what the next steps are for UA football, the state and the venue are. Even prior to this most recent study being commissioned, the Razorbacks were looking to have as much as $10 million worth of work done at the stadium to meet their own requirements and those of the SEC in general for conference play.

“Discussions are continuing” Kevin Trainor, associate athletics director at Arkansas, said in an emailed statement to the paper.

Could this be the last we see of the Razorbacks in Little Rock? Given the history between the city, stadium and team it would seem doubtful but somebody’s got to pay for renovations and it may be a while before anybody ponies up the cash needed to get the venerable old building up to date.

Sean McDonough on leaving Monday Night Football: College football is more fun

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While we’re not exactly formal media critics here at CFTalk, you really don’t have to have too much experience watching television to know that ESPN’s Sean McDonough calling Monday Night Football the past two years was a bit of a round peg in a square hole. The veteran play-by-play man has called a lot of major sporting events over the years but was known to most prior to his NFL stint as one of the regular voices on the college football circuit after all.

McDonough is just now starting to open up about his departure from MNF and is perhaps not surprisingly excited at the prospect of returning to the college level, which he insists was his decision. Awful Announcing passes along an interview he did with Boston area radio program The Kirk & Callahan Show this week and let’s just say that McDonough confirms what we already know about which sport is better if you’re picking between the NFL and college football.

“I say that after a lot of reflection and mostly a lot of belief that, ultimately, what is the most important thing in life is to be happy,” McDonough said. “As much as it was a great honor to be the voice of ‘Monday Night Football’ –– and you guys know me well enough, and certainly a lot of my friends and family do –– it wasn’t a tremendous amount of fun the last two years. When I took my ego out of it, when the conversation about a reboot of MNF came up, when I took the ego part of it out, and rationalized it, I really could be fine with  not being the voice of MNF, then it became easy. I love college football. For me, it’s more fun, and that’s a personal taste.”

Amen Sean, amen.

While it is great news that CFB is getting back McDonough, the sport’s gain is tempered by the loss of fellow play-by-play man Joe Tessitore, who will be taking over in the MNF booth calling games. Something says that the esteemed JoeTess will do a great job calling NFL games every Monday night but will, like McDonough, come to miss the excitement, wild endings and colorful presentation that happens at the college level every Saturday.