ACC: Torrian Gray

In Miss Lucretia Culbreth's seventh-grade science class, students were given different parts of cows to dissect. As most of the kids cowered at the sight of bloody animal hearts and livers, 13-year-old Brandon Facyson gravitated toward the organs, asking if he could touch them.

Despite being told no, Facyson's fascination with bodies and structures eventually manifested over the years into an interest in medicine. Now an aspiring heart surgeon in his freshman year at Virginia Tech, Facyson has juggled classes as a biological sciences major with duties on the gridiron, where he has matured quickly into a cornerback the Hokies are expecting to rely on this fall.

"Being in that major is a lot of work," Facyson said. "It's a lot of breaking down stuff. It's a lot of just taking my time, going out there. It helps as a football player as well, just breaking down information one step at a time and just putting it all together. And once I get it, I can just run it faster, I can understand it more and I can play faster."

The nation will discover just how fast that is come Saturday in Atlanta, where the Hokies get the first crack at Alabama in the Crimson Tide's quest for a three-peat. And Facyson has hardly been alone in shouldering a heavy workload in the lead-up to the season opener against the defending champs.

[+] EnlargeBud Foster
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneDefensive coordinator Bud Foster knows that his freshmen DBs are going to have to come up big against Alabama.
Virginia Tech has not started a true freshman defensive back in an opener since Antonio Banks took the field at free safety 20 years ago. But with all-ACC second-teamer Antone Exum still rehabbing from a January knee injury, and with his replacement, sophomore Donaldven Manning, deciding to transfer one week into fall camp, two true-freshmen corners are assured of meaningful minutes in their college debuts. And their first test will come against a preseason Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback AJ McCarron, who will be throwing to wideouts such as preseason All-American Amari Cooper.

"I'm looking at it as it's going to be a good welcome to college football," said Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech's other freshman corner.

Fuller's initiation has been a little more gradual. The fourth of four brothers to play for the Hokies -- and the younger brother of senior starting corner Kyle Fuller -- the 5-foot-11, 193-pounder arrived in Blacksburg, Va., this summer as the highest-rated recruit of a Virginia Tech class that ranked 20th nationally this past cycle, its highest in four years, according to ESPN's RecruitingNation.

Bud Foster has told reporters that the youngest Fuller is among the most ready newcomers he has ever had in his 19 years as Virginia Tech's defensive coordinator, a sentiment echoed by his position coach.

"His football IQ for a freshman is off the charts, from the standpoint that we're starting him off at nickel, saying, 'OK, let a true freshman come in just in nickel packages and let him absorb that and be good at that,'" secondary coach Torrian Gray said. "And then you find out, 'OK, we're going to play you at nickel but still play you a little bit at corner,' and there really were very few mental errors by Kendall, or if he messed up something, you'd correct him once and he was able to grasp it and move on. There's all these different nuances to each technique or coverage.

"So we put him at nickel, he's playing that. We put him at boundary corner, get some third-team reps just to keep you sharp at corner, then you get an injury at the field corner and you put him there. And there's different nuances even though corner is corner to an extent. And I'm like, 'Wow.' So that's been the most impressive thing. Just his football IQ and being able to tell him once, just how quickly he can absorb and pick up things, because I have other freshmen you've got to tell a thousand times. And it's just amazing how quickly he can absorb stuff besides being a talented kid and competitive kid."

It helps, too, having the example of older brother Kyle Fuller, another all-ACC second-teamer who has been starting for the Hokies since his freshman year.

Gray equated Kendall Fuller's family ties to the program with that of a student reading the CliffsNotes version of a book before it has been assigned in class.

"I actually wish I could have had this type of experience that they had," Kyle Fuller, who started seven games as a freshman, said of his brother and Facyson. "Both young guys coming in, that's definitely good for them. They have a good and bright future, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in the coming years."

Facyson is listed at second behind Kendall Fuller on a depth chart that figures to be in flux throughout the season, especially with Exum expected back some time in the next month or so. Facyson's first official taste of a college gridiron this weekend will come in the Georgia Dome, less than an hour away from his hometown of Newnan, Ga.

He recently returned to Madras Middle School to catch up with Miss Culbreth, who had sparked his intrigue into anatomies with those cow dissections six years ago. She was washed over in tears upon the reconnection.

Gray could not help but laugh when asked about the initiative of Facyson, praising the freshman's maturity level and saying that he "always looks you dead in the eye." Gray, a former Hokies safety, is entering his eighth season as the orchestrator of "D.B.U." -- Virginia Tech has had a defensive back drafted in all but two years since 1997 -- and he admitted that this group, collectively speaking, is as green as any he has worked with.

Still, he has not relented on his demand of perfection from a unit that will not be given any free passes when it opens against a modern-day dynasty.

"I'm going to coach them hard, I'm going to correct them hard, I'm going to congratulate them and be very enthusiastic when they get it right and do it right," Gray said. "I'm going to be very demonstrative to get my point across if I have to [if] they're not getting it corrected at the speed that it needs to get corrected at.

"So that's just my approach to it. I can't allow these guys to be true freshmen because they're going to be playing extensively against Alabama. They've got to match my sense of urgency, so I coach that way. And for the most part guys understand why and respond and some guys don't understand why, but it's just that way right now."

2012 top Coastal Division assistants

December, 17, 2012
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Now let's take a look at the top assistants in the Coastal Division.

Duke: Matt Lubick, receivers. This one is a slam dunk. Lubick was nominated for several assistant coach of the year awards, and it is easy to see why. He coached the only trio nationally with 60 or more receptions this season -– Jamison Crowder (70 receptions, 1,025 yards, 8 TDs), Desmond Scott (61-606-2) and Conner Vernon (75-955-7). Don't forget Scott moved from running back to receiver this year as well. And Vernon is the ACC’s all-time leader in both pass receptions (273) and receiving yardage (3,630).

Georgia Tech: Mike Sewak, offensive line. Well, not much went right for the defense this year, so this one goes to a coach on the offense. The Jackets were as steady as everybody expected up front, and Omoregie Uzzi earned first-team All-ACC honors at guard. The Jackets averaged 312.5 yards per game on the ground, only a few yards shy from their average a year ago.

Miami: Jedd Fisch, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks. I am giving Fisch the nod for his development of quarterback Stephen Morris, one of the more pleasant surprises in the ACC this season. It seems hard to believe Morris was locked in a quarterback competition during fall camp given the way he played this season. Morris had 3,415 yards of total offense, the most in the history of the program, just ahead of the 3,412 yards Bernie Kosar had in 1984. Morris’ season total of 3,345 passing yards ranks fifth in program history, while his 421 attempts and 245 completions rank first and second, respectively.

North Carolina: Chris Kapilovic, offensive line. Kapilovic had plenty of talent to work with, but remember that the Tar Heels implemented a completely different offensive style and blocking scheme, and the offensive line had to learn just as quickly as the skill players. So to see North Carolina only gave up 11 sacks all season -- on 441 pass attempts -- shows just how well this group played as a unit. Guard Jonathan Cooper became a unanimous All-American, and tackle James Hearst joined him on the All-ACC first team. Kapilovic also is the run game coordinator, and, well, the Tar Heels had terrific development of not only Giovani Bernard, but A.J. Blue and Romar Morris as well.

Virginia: Vincent Brown, linebackers. Brown had two players finish in the Top 8 in the ACC in tackles. Steve Greer had another outstanding year, earning first-team All-ACC honors from the media after finishing second in the league in tackles (122). Outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds also had another productive season, with career highs in tackles tackles (90), tackles for loss (9.5) and passes defended (four).

Virginia Tech: Torrian Gray, secondary. There were not many bright spots for the Hokies this season, but I will give you one -- the secondary played pretty well. Virginia Tech had the No. 2 passing defense and pass efficiency defense in the ACC, holding opponents to roughly the same numbers as a season ago. Antone Exum moved from safety to cornerback and made the All-ACC second-team, leading the league in passes defended (19) while grabbing four interceptions.

ACC reps at 2012 NCAA Champion Forum

June, 19, 2012
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George McDonald, Miami's passing-game coordinator and receivers coach, and Virginia Tech secondary coach Torrian Gray will both participate in this year's NCAA Champion Forum, an opportunity for assistant coaches looking to advance their careers.

The event will be held Monday-Wednesday next week as part of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention in Dallas. Two of the presenters will also be from the ACC in Virginia coach Mike London and Virginia executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver.

According to the NCAA, the Champion Forum "features a select group of football coaches who have been identified as potential candidates for head football coaching positions at NCAA colleges or universities. The coaches, who were selected by athletics administrators, are generally ethnic minorities who have completed the NCAA Expert program."

McDonald and Gray will both participate in simulated interview sessions and media training, along with discussions about the responsibilities that come with being a head coach and how to deal with campus and academic staffs.

Neither fan base would want to lose either of these assistant coaches, but both have built resumes worthy of a head-coaching opportunity. This is another step in helping get them there.

Virginia Tech spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
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2011 overall record: 11-3
2011 conference record: 7-1 (1st, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 3; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Logan Thomas, WR Marcus Davis, C Andrew Miller, DE James Gayle, DE J.R. Collins, DT Derrick Hopkins, DT Antoine Hopkins, ILB Bruce Taylor, ILB Tariq Edwards, OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, CB Kyle Fuller, S Antone Exum

Key losses
WR Danny Coale, WR Jarrett Boykin, TE Chris Drager, LT Andrew Lanier, RT Blake DeChristopher, RG Jaymes Brooks, LG Greg Nosal, RB David Wilson, CB Jayron Hosley, FS Eddie Whitley

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: David Wilson (1,709 yards)
Passing: Logan Thomas* (3,013 yards)
Receiving: Danny Coale (904 yards)
Tackles: Antone Exum* (89)
Sacks: James Gayle* (7)
Interceptions: Jayron Hosley (3)

Spring answers

1. Logan Thomas: The ACC is loaded with talented quarterbacks in 2012, and Thomas is among the top returners. He accounted for 30 total touchdowns last season and threw for more than 3,000 yards. He is the unquestioned leader and centerpiece of the Hokies' offense, and a strong season could result in a handshake from Roger Goodell at Radio City next April.

2. Defensive line: This unit has the potential to be the best in the conference, as it will play eight or nine men on a regular basis and be the foundation for a defense among the best in the ACC. This group led the conference in sacks a year ago and has looked every bit as capable this spring of doing that again in 2012.

3. Security: The Hokies were faced with a similar position last season, only the exact opposite: Loads of offensive talent came back and the defense had some uncertainties. Virginia Tech still reached the ACC title game and a BCS bowl, extending its nation-best streak of 10 or more wins to an eighth straight season. Entering his 26th season and first as the longest-tenured FBS coach, Frank Beamer has an established track record and knows how to get the most out of his pieces. The hard part right now is finding them on offense.

Fall questions

1. Who will replace David Wilson? Wilson is off with the Giants, a first-round draft pick following a campaign in which he ran for more yards than any running back in Virginia Tech history. Michael Holmes figures to be the No. 1 back entering preseason camp, with J.C. Coleman pushing him for time. The Hokies welcome three new backs this fall, along with Tony Gregory, who missed spring while recovering from knee surgery.

2. Who will protect the newcomer? Holmes or any of his fellow backfield mates won't have the chance to accomplish anything replicating Wilson's production if they don't get the chance. The Hokies return just one starting offensive lineman from last season and will have to adjust quickly if the offense wants to resemble last year's.

3. Secondary help. Second-team all-ACC corner Kyle Fuller is back, along with leading tackle Antone Exum. Sophomore Detrick Bonner has moved from cornerback to free safety, sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett is now at safety and Exum is now at corner. Secondary coach Torrian Gray likes to build versatility, but he will have his hands full trying to replace Eddie Whitley (graduation) and cornerback Jayron Hosley (draft).

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 15, 2012
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Happy March Madness!

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
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Iona and Mississippi Valley State. Misery loves company.

Video: Hokies DB coach Torrian Gray

December, 30, 2011
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Heather Dinich talks to Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray about the Sugar Bowl matchup with Michigan.

Greetings from New Orleans

December, 30, 2011
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NEW ORLEANS, La. — Welcome to the football capital of the season, home of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, a Saints game on Sunday, and the BCS national championship. The Hokies took over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for practice this afternoon, and several of the defensive assistants were made available to the media, along with Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. All of the coaches were laid-back, in good spirits, and defensive line coach Charley Wiles was particularly entertaining and engaging.

The good news: There haven't been any injuries yet that will sideline any Hokies for Tuesday's game against Michigan. The hard artificial surface is beginning to wear on some of the players, and they're getting adjusted to the indoor lights, but the controlled climate will be good for ...

The bad news: Virginia Tech is down two kickers, and Beamer said today that recent practices haven't provided any answer. And no, Danny Coale won't be receiving, punting, returning punts AND kicking field goals. Starter Cody Journell spent almost a week in jail after felony breaking-and-entering charges, and then one day after he was released, his backup, fifth-year senior Tyler Weiss was sent home on a Greyhound bus for breaking curfew.

Justin Myer is expected to handle the placekicking duties against Michigan, but Michael Branthover is also an option. Myer has a strong leg, but he has struggled with his accuracy. He is 0-for-2 against Virginia Tech. Prediction? If he has to make a choice — go for it or kick a field goal, Beamer might try and goferit when he usually wouldn't in some situations.

The majority of questions today were about how Virginia Tech plans to account for Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, and it's the key to the game. While the Hokies' defense has spent plenty of time going against former quarterback Tyrod Taylor in practice, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said Robinson is faster than Taylor, and that nobody on the team could simulate what Robinson does. This will be a big test for a young defense, but Beamer said linebacker Alonzo Tweedy (ankle) is close enough to 100 percent.

"I don’t know that he’s totally 100 percent, but I think he’s close enough that he can be back to the old Tweedy,” Beamer said. “We need that. I think he gives you some options back in there defensively and on our special teams."

Gray said there's been an "edginess" to the Hokies' defense in their bowl game preparations, so it sounds like the guys are ready to redeem themselves from their performance against Clemson, but this will be an even bigger challenge.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 20, 2011
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"Well, I'm gonna park the cars and get check the luggage, and well, I'll be outside for the season." -- CWG

More staff changes for Virginia Tech

February, 22, 2011
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Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain will take over the play-calling duties, but Bryan Stinespring will retain the title of offensive coordinator, the school announced on Tuesday. Shane Beamer, who was previously announced as the running backs coach, will now also be the associate head coach.

Additionally, Stinespring will take over the offensive tackles to go along with his current coaching duties with the tight ends, and Curt Newsome will now coach just the offensive guards and the center position, as opposed to the entire line, which he coached the previous five seasons.

On defense, Torrian Gray will take over the rovers position and will now coach the entire defensive backfield. Beamer previously announced the hiring outside linebackers coach Cornell Brown, who will also help out with the defensive ends.

Friday mailblog

February, 11, 2011
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Don't forget to get your ACC love letters in, guys. Until then, here's the regular weekly mailblog ...

Brian in New York, N.Y., writes: Since the rumor mill has a potential match-up between the Canes and FSU on Labor Day I wanted to ask you how big of an advantage, in your opinion, is it for Miami to play FSU and host OSU early in the season. While the faces and names on the field will be largely the same as 2010, the plays/schemes will be completely different and there will be little (and for FSU no) scouting tape available. Do you think this gives Miami a better shot at pulling off some early upsets?

HD: I understand what you're saying, and it could be a factor, should the schedule play out that way, but I think it would be better for Miami to play a few cupcakes first to get some of the kinks out. You almost always see mistakes and sloppy play in the first few games of the season -- even from programs that aren't going through a change in staff and philosophy.


Kendall in Sumter, S.C., writes: Like everyone else, I was shocked at how well Clemson was able to recruit this year. I hope all of the players turn out to be under-rated and Clemson has a banner few years ahead. But one thing still bugs me: Did Dabo not recruit a kicker? Clemson's kicking game contributed mightily to the losing season (the Auburn game is the first one that come to mind, followed closely by the game against FSU). Does Dabo know something that the rest of us don't or does he think someone already on the roster will finally step up? Just wondering if he's commented about it.

HD: He's done better than comment about it, Kendall. He recruited one. Ammon Lakip, from Alpharetta, Ga. He's rated No. 12 at his position by ESPN.com.


JT in Orlando, Fla., writes: Maryland's recruiting class seemed a little below average. I read that Edsall excels at taking average talent and getting the best out of it, similar to Gary Williams. What are your thoughts on this?Thanks,JT

HD: ESPN Recruiting gave it a C+, so it would seem to me it's slightly better than average. You're right, though, about Edsall's reputation as a recruiter. He won at UConn with mostly under-the-radar guys. He even went to Canada to get one. Edsall has blasted the star system before, and he's big on evaluating guys and developing them. They obviously did a good job, considering the Huskies made it to a BCS bowl last year, and developed four first- or second-round NFL draft picks two years ago. He never really got any of the big-name players in the state of Connecticut, especially in the Southern part, but he did get good players who didn't have egos. The Maryland/D.C./Virginia area is filled with talent, but with Virginia Tech, Virginia and Penn State all more than aware of it, Edsall will have his work cut out for him.


Robert in North Carolina writes: Hey, Heather... Looks like you missed Marshall Williams getting an invite to the NFL Combine. Last time I checked, Wake Forest was an ACC school. Come on.

HD: You're right. My bad.


Trevor in North Dakota writes: Hey Heather, what's the word on Storm Johnson? I was surprised they didnt redshirt him last year. He seemed to show flashes last year. Is he going to challenge Miller for the starting spot this year?

HD: Lamar Miller and Mike James have a proven track record and have to be considered the favorites for the starting spot. Miller is a very special player, and those within the program think he could be the next great Miami running back. James is consistent, a leader, smart and good in the passing game. Al Golden has said it's an open competition, though, and if Johnson proves to be the best back, he could earn the starting job. From a pure talent perspective, Miller and Johnson are the best on the roster.


Ben in Blacksburg, Va., writes: How long do you think it will be fore Torrian Gray is given a promotion at VT or finds a D-coordinator job at another school? He has been the defensive backs coach for a few years now and our secondary has been arguably the most consistent part of our team. He is also our best recruiter and has gotten off to a fast start in 2012. Who knows if Bud Foster will ever move from blacksburg, but Gray has got to be drawing some attention around the country.

HD: Great point, Ben, he's definitely made a name for himself there and should be considered an attractive candidate for the next step at another school. The secondary has become a strong tradition of the Hokies' defense, and he was responsible for the top two recruits already in the 2012 class. Hokies fans should hope he remains a secret.


Neil in Boston writes: Hi Heather,Since I'm routinely confused by who is/isn't required to sit out a year with this kind of transfer, can you educate on why Forcier (seemingly) won't be required to take a hiatus? Keep up the good work with the blog.

HD: Thanks, Neil, but Forcier will be required to sit out 2011. He'll have two years of eligibility remaining and can play in 2012.
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was reluctant to travel all the way from Blacksburg, Va., to Delray Beach, Fla., to woo a recruit until one former player persuaded Beamer to put in the effort to get to know a kid named Jayron Hosley out of Atlantic High School.

Former cornerback Brandon Flowers, also a graduate of Atlantic High, didn’t have to say much -- only that Hosley was just like him.

“He told them, ‘he might even be better than me,’” Hosley said with a smile. “That’s a big compliment coming from Brandon, being a great corner that he was coming out of Tech. That was big.”

[+] EnlargeJayron Hosley
AP Photo/Michael DwyerSophomore cornerback Jayron Hosley grabbed eight interceptions this season.
Hosley is only a sophomore, but if this season has been any indication of what lies ahead, Beamer might want to send Flowers a little thank-you note. Hosley enters the Discover Orange Bowl against Stanford tied for the national lead in interceptions with eight and leads the country in interceptions per game with .67. He was a first-team All-America selection by the Walter Camp Foundation, and will be integral to the Hokies’ chances of an upset over Stanford, which features a sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick in quarterback Andrew Luck (if he comes out).

“J-Hosley, man, he definitely brings a lot to the table,” said cornerback Rashad Carmichael. “He’s a playmaker -- I think one of the most pure corners I’ve ever seen. When he first came on campus, I was like, 'this guy’s a corner. That’s what he do.'”

Hosley, who grew up about 30 minutes from Sun Life Stadium, said he will have 15 or 20 family members in the stands, “depending on how many tickets” he can get.

“My family is definitely looking forward to it,” Hosley said. “They want me to go out there and put on a show and do what I’ve been doing all season. They want to see me grow even more.”

So does secondary coach Torrian Gray, who’s had to “push and nudge” Hosley to be a little more aggressive. Gray said Hosley had the ability to play as a true freshman last year, but lacked a sense of urgency to be a starter.

“He’s a very quiet, laid-back kid,” Gray said, “almost too laid-back for my personality because I want you to be in it, communicate, talking, and that’s not how Jayron is. That’s the reason for his progression being kind of slow, but he’s a smart football player. Once he gets it, he’s got it.”

This year, Hosley got it -- just ask NC State.

Hosley had six tackles, four pass breakups and three interceptions against quarterback Russell Wilson, one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC. He clinched the win against the Wolfpack with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. He also had a critical fourth-quarter interception he returned 32 yards in the win at Miami, and two interceptions against North Carolina.

“I’ve always said when he first got here as a true freshman he has an ‘it factor,’ and you can’t teach it, whatever it is,” Gray said. “His ‘it’ is to be able to make interceptions, make plays on the ball and finish plays. For him to have some of the games he’s had, kept us in games or won some games for us, I can say that kind of took me by surprise for him to come on this quickly.”

Hosley has also been an electric returner, and brought a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown in the win over Central Michigan. He has returned 19 punts this year for 239 yards (12.6-yard average) and a touchdown. He has 37 tackles this year, including one for loss, and seven pass breakups.

“I’m glad we came and got him,” Beamer said. “He’s just an exceptional player. He’s kind of got it.”

Flowers had ‘it’ too.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
12:30
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I heard you missed me ...

  • Move over Myron Rolle, you've got some company. BC lineman Anthony Castonzo has been nominated for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Congrats to Castonzo, who is a well-spoken, hard working player who deserves a shot at both the NFL and the scholarship.
  • Former Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer's failed drug test at the NFL combine was the result of prescription medication to treat a pre-existing condition.
  • Clemson has elbowed its way into a three way race against the SEC for quarterback Christian LeMay, who has narrowed his choices to Clemson, Auburn and Georgia.
  • Marc Verica appears to be the front-runner to be Virginia's quarterback, but can the Cavaliers win with any of their QBs this year?
  • Former FSU cornerback Patrick Robinson should be a valuable commodity in this NFL draft.
  • Optimism has returned for Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray.
  • Wake Forest's offense stepped it up a notch in Saturday's spring game.
  • NC State's receivers lived up to the hype against a secondary still struggling to find its identity.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 13, 2010
4/13/10
12:30
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Hello, ACC world.

Virginia Tech alleges illegal GT blocks

October, 26, 2009
10/26/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Not that it's going to help the Hokies now, but Virginia Tech secondary coach Torrian Gray told Kyle Tucker of the Virginia Pilot that Georgia Tech made four illegal blocks on free safety Kam Chancellor, and that the Hokies sent the ACC video for proof and the conference officials agreed.

"There were a lot of illegal chops coming at me, some of everything," Chancellor said. "There’s nothing we can do about it.”



The only thing the Hokies can do now is continue to win and cheer for either Wake Forest or Duke to knock off the Yellow Jackets. By Virginia Tech bringing this up to ACC officials, though, other coaches will now be looking for it.

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