Vick: Taking the next step

It’s unfortunate and disappointing that Virginia Tech is not playing today in the ACC Championship game. But then again, the Hokies were not championship material and struggled to play like the team that everyone expected them to be this season. Since 2005, the Hokies have never had an easier path to the ACC Championship game than this year. However, the Hokies have never appeared as dysfunctional and played as inconsistently as they did this season.

Former Hokie Dwight Vick is a contributor to

Entering the season many knew Miami was going to self-impose sanctions for a second straight in the wake of NCAA investigations into violations by the school. Therefore it was obvious the ‘Canes were going to be ineligible to play for the ACC Championship. Plus, we all knew the University of North Carolina was ineligible to play for an ACC Championship as well. With that in mind, one would think it was a safe bet that the Hokies would be able to beat Georgia Tech, Duke, and Virginia at home – good thing I’m not a gambling man.

In reality, the average sports fan knows that speculation, assumptions, and predictions are not determining factors as to whether a team will have a successful season. I can still remember this summer when I was overwhelmed with anticipation and curiosity about the upcoming season. I remember reading about the recruits who verbally committed to Virginia Tech early this summer. I remember examining the schedule and thinking there are a few tough games but overall the Hokies should be okay right?

Well ... not really.

What was supposed to be another 10-win season and a run at another ACC Championship turned into a season filled with struggles, growing pains and inconsistent leadership. Suddenly, fans and observers of the Virginia Tech program were wondering if the Hokies were going to lose to Duke at home. What a drastic change from last season when the Hokies won 11 games and received an invite as an at large team to play Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

The Hokies completed this season with a 6-6 record ending the season with a win over the Virginia Cavaliers, 17-14 last Saturday. I know what a few of you may be thinking, 6-6 what an ugly record. 6-6 screams mediocrity and underachievement. And trust me – no matter how long you stare at your computer screen, the record is not changing. Not the surprise this season we were looking forward to right? Well … not really.

During the course of the last 20 years the Hokies have produced outstanding playmakers, Heisman candidates, and made special teams exciting. Lane Stadium remains one of the best places in the country to watch a college football game and no other college football program has a better game day entrance than the Hokies. The Hokies still remain one of the premier football programs in the country. The Hokies have great facilities, a passionate fan base, and there are definitely some future “Legends of Lane” waiting to make an impact on the field for the Hokies. But if the Hokies don’t take the next step as a program, the traditions and successful seasons will quickly become a distant memory.

So what are the next steps are for the Hokies? Well it’s not just coaching changes, uniform changes, adding a new jumbotron or landing a 5 star recruit to play for the Hokies. Those would be great changes. But I think it is critical that during the off season, leaders emerge. The coaches need to challenge the players; Head coach Frank Beamer needs to challenge the coaches; and the Athletic Department needs to challenge Coach Beamer.

The coaches need to take a trip down memory lane and refer back to the 1995 season. It was the 1995 season in which the “lunch pail” mentality was adopted by the Hokies. That tradition can only reign supreme if the entire program gets back to work. It’s time for the Hokies to regain their edge, play with a chip on their shoulder, and return to being one of the mentally tough teams in the country.

There are some critics that believe the Hokies have become somewhat complacent and even satisfied with their success. I seriously doubt this is the sentiment in Blacksburg but I do believe that this season serves as a reminder that the Hokies and their fans are uncomfortable with being irrelevant. And why should we be comfortable with being irrelevant? Trust me a subpar season is not acceptable in Blacksburg. Regardless if you want to label this season as a down season or a rebuilding year, I’m sure we can all agree this season was not Virginia Tech football. It’s time to take the next step. Let’s go to work!

Vick’s Viewpoints

-Shout out to Antoine Exum who led the Hokies with a team-high four interceptions this season. He was selected second-team All ACC cornerback. Given how he started the season, I was not sure he would be named all-conference this season but Exum played extremely well the second half of the season. Exum is definitely not a man short on confidence.

-I really love the way Martin Scales stepped up this season. A true definition of class, leadership and patience. I’m proud to call Scales a Hokie.

-How great has Jack Tyler been this season? I really enjoy watching him play.

-When Coach Frank Beamer was asked about the departure of Maryland from the ACC to the Big Ten, Coach Beamer responded “Sorry to see them go. I don't know how much it will affect our conference. I don't think it will have a great impact on our conference ... I'm sure financials were involved.” Well so far Maryland departing from the ACC has resulted in a huge increase in rumors and speculation around conference realignment. Seems like everyone has their own theory, sources and expectations on what should happen for every conference. Here is what I know – no matter the conference the Hokies are in, they still will need to play great defense, be more efficient on offense, and more consistent on special teams. Put it this way, no matter the conference, football principles remain the same.

-It’s not how you start but how you finish!

-Thank you to both Randall Dunn and Alonzo Tweedy for stepping up big during the last few games.

That’s it for now and let’s go Hokies!

Following Dwight Vick on Twitter @Vick757

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