Jimmy Kibble, Beyond Sports Network founder, former VT Punter/Kickoff Specialist from 1996-2000 named to All-Beamer first team.
BLACKSBURG — In 29 seasons at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer coached 33 different All-Americans, had well over a hundred players make an all-conference team and saw 95 get drafted into the NFL.
Plenty of talent has taken the field at Lane Stadium during the last three decades, but who were the best of the best that Beamer coached?
We at The Roanoke Times decided to try to answer the question, taking one more trip down memory lane with Beamer before Justin Fuente’s first season as the Hokies’ coach gets underway in earnest in the next month.
We set up online voting for an All-Beamer Team the last couple of weeks, creating ballots for every position and making it available to a public vote on our website. The only rule: players had to have spent at least one season on Beamer’s teams.
We tallied the results like an all-conference team — a first-team vote gets 3 points, second team 2 points and third team 1 point — and added up the totals. If a ballot had six spots, 1-2 would be considered first team, 3-4 second, etc. If a ballot had nine spots, 1-3 would be first team, and so on.
The results were enlightening, even if they succumb at times to expected online balloting issues like recency bias or revisionist history.
Using time as a baseline, the voting dispersion on the first team formed almost a perfect bell curve by some loosely defined eras.
The “Early Ups and Downs” (1987-92) and “Late Slide” (2012-15) years only had one representative apiece — offensive tackle Eugene Chung and defensive tackle Luther Maddy, respectively. “A Bowl Era Begins” (1993-98) had seven members on the first team, as did “Enter the ACC” (2004-11).
The Hokies Heyday (1999-2003) had 12 selections, although that’s with full acknowledgment that several players, like kicker Shayne Graham or punter Jimmy Kibble, straddle eras. In those instances, players were pushed into the years in which they finished their careers, since that’s when they most likely made the biggest impact.
Some picks were no-brainers. Graham (94.1 percent), linebacker Xavier Adibi (84.7), defensive end Corey Moore (82.5) and quarterback Michael Vick (81.6) all topped the 80 percent mark at their respective positions in what equaled a first-team vote.
Linebacker Vince Hall (79.0), cornerback DeAngelo Hall (75.9), offensive tackle Duane Brown (75.3), running back Kevin Jones (67.8), safety Kam Chancellor (66.9) and tight end Jeff King (66.7) were close behind.
Many positions were hard to separate. Voting for running back, center and cornerback were particularly tight, with a good number of all-conference and All-America selections to choose from.
At tailback, The Untouchables, Jones and Lee Suggs, earned first-team spots over two single-season rushing record holders of more recent years, Ryan Williams and David Wilson. So deep was the running back pool that we created two spots for tailbacks and one for a fullback, even if that put the offense at 12 players.
Hall and two-time All-American Brandon Flowers came out of the cornerback crop, ahead of Kyle Fuller and Victor “Macho” Harris.
There were so many good cornerback options that Jimmy Williams, a unanimous All-America pick in 2005, finished on the third team. Jayron Hosley, a first-team All-American whose nine interceptions in 2010 is a single-season school record, was eighth in the voting, falling just out of range to make the list.
And for as much as Virginia Tech prides itself on being “Defensive Back University,” Blacksburg might better be known as “Center U.” Jim Pyne and Jake Grove, who finished 1-2 in the voting, were both unanimous All-Americans in their senior seasons. Todd Washington, a first-team pick as a guard, should be happy he wasn’t only on the ballot as a center.
Of course, you can’t vote for an All-Anything team without some points of contention. That players like Jimmy Williams, Hosley and center Billy Conaty — all first-team All-Americans at some point in their careers — didn’t get more of the vote is a shame.
Some of that is colored by those players’ NFL careers compared to their peers. Williams was a bust with the Falcons and Hosley hasn’t made much noise with the Giants. Although this was ostensibly a vote on these players’ college careers, we made no such distinction in the voting requirements.
Naturally, players like Hall or Chancellor, who have become NFL stars, are going to get more votes. In Chancellor’s case, he only made the All-ACC second team and was a fifth-round draft pick with Virginia Tech before blossoming into one of the NFL’s premier safeties at the pro level. Tighter voting instructions might have produced a different result.
And some players, principally receiver Isaiah Ford, tight end Bucky Hodges and fullback Sam Rogers, can still author an ending to their careers that could improve their standing on these lists. All three made the second team for the time being.
Still, the voting seemed to give a fair representation of the best Beamer’s teams had to offer. The offensive line had more representatives from the first half of Beamer’s time at Tech. The top offensive backs almost all came from the Hokies’ zenith as a rushing team around the turn of the century. And the defensive backs of 2002 and beyond dominate the voting.
That fits Beamer’s career arc, which featured hard-nosed, physical teams early on, a nationally prominent rushing attack at its height and a conveyor belt of NFL-ready defensive backs in the mid-to-latter half of his coaching career.
No voting is going to be perfect — fans now get to experience the pains we media members endure in all-conference voting every year — but as far as a big picture view of Beamer’s time in Blacksburg, these lists do a decent job of showing the kind of talent that’s rolled through the program over the years.
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