STL: Another season, and the Hokies are in position to play in the ACC Championship Game once again (albeit needing help from UNC-Chapel Hill on Saturday). Let's say the Hokies beat the Hoos but miss out on a trip to Charlotte. How are the Tech faithful going to feel about the season?
GC: I think it will be viewed as a disappointment throughout the fan base, but don't take that as a sign that Tech fans think their team deserves to be there. Tech has had their chances and played their way out of that conversation, so regardless of the rhetoric coaches and players try to use, we all understand that if Tech gets into the ACC Championship game, they're in fact backing in rather than earning their spot.
STL: Bud Foster's name has, again, come up in a school's coaching search, this time at UConn. We all know that defense and staff continuity have been two of the biggest pieces of Tech's continued success over the past generation. What would it mean for Beamer et al if Foster departed to Storrs?
GC: It would be a HUGE loss, and one that I'm not sure the program could sustain. Foster means so much to this team and that's one reason the Hokies have made it such a point to keep him around. For the record, I don't think it very likely that he will be moving on, at least not to that job, this off-season. He was quoted this evening as saying it's a "tough job." Foster has been the target of bigger coaching searches than UConn, and his criteria has always been, given his age, that it would have to be a place where he could compete right away. In Frank Beamer's biography this summer, he even sounded resigned to the fact he may never be a head coach, and seemed to accept that, saying that he doesn't see himself stepping away from Tech. So yes, it would be an unbearable loss for the program, but it's probably not happening because of UConn.
STL: Logan Thomas was once hailed as one of college football's most surefire NFL prospects. Over the last two seasons, though, he's appeared far more pedestrian. The arm talent is undeniable. Does he have the head for the next level? What do you being the best-case scenario for Thomas in the pros, and what is the most likely case?
GC: Like you said, it's hard to predict given his body of work. His talent is undeniable, as his 2011 season and subsequent flashes in 2012 and 2013 attest, but certainly he's among if not THE most enigmatic players in the country. He's the most enigmatic player I've ever covered in any sport. His performance this year has been fairly good given what he's had to work with, also a problem in 2012, but it only grades as slightly higher than last year from a statistical perspective. He's had two or three REALLY bad games, with the Alabama game being almost solely on his receivers (9 drops and 2 non-efforts that resulted in incompletions or interceptions), but I tend to believe that with better talent, effort and experience around him, he's much more like his 2011 self. Tech relies on him so heavily, and as of the Maryland game he was responsible for 77% of the Hokies offensive yardage this year, much higher than any of the Heisman candidates.
He also hasn't had the best coaching, though I believe this year he has improved under Loeffler, and that's one thing NFL Scouts and GMs keep in mind. If they think they can harness that talent in a way that Tech couldn't because they ran a prehistoric offense or didn't have the coaches to allow him to develop (they'd be right in both cases), then it makes sense to take a gamble on Thomas. But I have to say my expectations have been tempered regardless. I still think he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but a comparison that is now cropping up that I've made all-along, projecting him as a very similar player to Josh Freeman, might say it all given his recent career trajectory.
STL: Are you going to buy any of the Tech cologne? Will you sprinkle it on your boots during deer season?
GC: I am not. Even though in college my nickname was Brian Fantana for my exquisite cologne collection, that one would never find its way into my medicine cabinet. Additionally, I've never actually been deer hunting. I just don't see the appeal.
STL: Despite on-field struggles, Virginia has re-established an in-state recruiting foothold. Other top recruits from the Commonwealth are looking to the big out-of-state programs (Christian Hackenberg to Penn State, Da'Shawn Hand to Alabama, and Derrick Green to Michigan all come to mind). Are Tech fans worried about losing out on the biggest pool of the Hokies' recent rosters? Where will VPISU turn to replace its Virginia pipeline?
GC: I think there is always going to be a strong presence in-state for the Hokies. Frank Beamer has identified that as something he covets, and even if his recruiting of the top prospects in-state recently doesn't necessarily back that up, they still find a way to harvest diamonds in the rough and sleepers like they've been doing for the past two decades. It's obviously disheartening to be the most accomplished football school in the state and not landing the best players on a yearly basis, but this isn't new, and Virginia is a pretty damn good recruiting state. So those players who choose to play at national powers instead are going to happen regardless. As for where else Tech will go? I would say they'll stick to the east coast, moving up and down the mid-Atlantic and even reaching as far as Florida in the south, where they usually recruit well, New Jersey in the north, where they had a pipeline half a decade ago and perhaps as far west as Ohio, something they've been pushing lately. But the key is the Commonwealth, and they need to do a better job of locking down that talent to be successful.
STL: How excited are you for basketball season?
GC: More so than when the season started :)
STL: Normally, I ask for predictions. I think we all expect this game to be one-sided, possibly even to the point of being over by the half. So as a change of pace: What does North Carolina need to do to beat Duke and open Tech's door to Charlotte? Can the Hokies beat Florida State, and what is it going to take to do so?
GC: I don't think it's that cut and dry. I think this is just like every other game for Tech, in that they struggle on offense, have very few but costly defensive lapses and let UVA stay in the game way longer than they should. For what it's worth, I'm predicting a 17-13 Tech victory.
But back to your question. I think UNC will have to play much more disciplined football than I've seen them play this season. Duke has some legitimate weapons, as we've both seen, that can take over the game. They have to force Anthony Boone to make good throws under pressure and stop the inside running game of Brandon Connette. Ultimately, I have Duke in this one, and don't understand why Vegas doesn't like them even if they lose, so I don't know that the last part of your question means anything anymore either. BUT, not to play spoiler, I'll still answer.
I think yes, if GOOD Logan Thomas shows up, Virginia Tech CAN beat Florida State, but it's highly unlikely. Tech's defense would be the best Florida State has seen all year (or at least on par with Florida, and we'll see how that goes this weekend), so they might be able to keep them in the game. But unless Florida State is overlooking the Hokies or the Jameis Winston scandal takes too much of a toll on the team and distracts them, I think it's definitely Florida State's game to win.
STL: What's one nice thing you can say, on behalf of Hokie fans, about the University of Virginia?
GC: The most redeeming thing about UVA is their academics. I know quite a few Virginia graduates and they're always well-educated and well-rounded people. Whether that's the university's impact on them or the kind of person it tends to attract, I'm not sure, but at any rate, it's an attribute.