- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

BLACKSBURG, Va. — It was no surprise Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer didn’t accept a contract extension this summer, refusing to take a raise before his nine assistants got one. It was, however, a message.

After all, how could the Hokies expect to maintain their perennial top-10 status if the coaching staff wasn’t getting paid commiserate to that level? And considering Virginia Tech’s No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press preseason poll and surprising run to the ACC title in its first season in the conference last year, Beamer wanted to make sure his assistants got their due.

“We’ve spent years trying to be what we think is a top-10 program in the country,” said Beamer, who was offered a seven-year extension at $2 million a year, compared to the $1.3 million he drew last year. “We’re very, very proud of that. Having said that, that’s the last you’ll hear me talk about it.”

The coach, beginning his 19th season in Blacksburg, has done this sort of thing before. He made the same stipulation for his coaches as part of his 2000 contract negotiation, and during a state budget freeze in 1990, he declined a raise until the faculty and classified employees received one.

This time, the extension offer came a year after Beamer guided the Hokies, picked to finish sixth, to a Sugar Bowl berth and 10-3 record (7-1 ACC) and earned ACC coach of the year honors.

As a result, the prognosticators aren’t doubting the 2005 Hokies, particularly with an offense on which quarterback Marcus Vick may be the least experienced player.

A year removed from legal troubles and a season-long university suspension, Vick will try to step out of the shadow of his brother, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, by leading Virginia Tech on a championship run, a tough challenge for someone who has thrown only 57 passes in his career.

He will be helped by what Beamer calls “the best group of wide receivers ever recruited at Virginia Tech.” The leader of that unit is flanker and return specialist Eddie Royal, whose 39-yard touchdown catch beat Miami and sealed the ACC crown in December. The others include three sophomores — Josh Hyman, Josh Morgan and Justin Harper — and junior David Clowney.

Should Vick find his wide receivers covered, he can look for 6-foot-5, 253-pound tight end Jeff King. The senior caught 25 passes in 2004, four for touchdowns, to earn All-ACC second-team honors.

On the ground, Virginia Tech returns senior tailbacks Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes, who combined for 1,325 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. They will run behind a line of NFL proportions. Seniors Jimmy Martin, Reggie Butler, Will Montgomery and Jason Murphy all weigh more than 300 pounds and will be joined by junior center Danny McGrath.

The defense will be led by All-ACC defensive end Darryl Tapp, who had 161/2 tackles for a loss and 81/2 sacks last season, and All-American cornerback Jimmy Williams.

Williams will be joined in the defensive backfield by Victor Harris, a Parade All-American considered perhaps the top Virginia high school player in 2004 and one of the nation’s top 10 prospects. Beamer said he thinks Harris will affect the defense the way Royal did the offense last year.

All-ACC kicker Brandon Pace hit 21 of 27 field goals a year ago. However, Pace failed to come through in two of the Hokies’ three defeats, missing a 43-yarder against N.C. State on the game’s final play and a 23-yarder in the Sugar Bowl, a 16-13 loss to Auburn.

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