I dont particularly like Mel Kiper, but things are slow, and its worth the read. This is my favorite part: With so many veteran standouts moving on from the interior of the front seven, expect opponents to run right at the Hokies early. Moving on were five DTs and three inside LBers, led by David Pugh and Chad Beasley on the line and Ben Taylor, Jake Houseright and Brian Welch at ILB. http://espn.go.com/melkiper/s/2002/0724/1409490.html Everybody at Virginia Tech knew that adjusting to life without superstar QB Michael Vick wouldn't be easy in 2001, which is why a record of 8-4 seemed satisfactory. And it could have been even better had the Hokies not come up just short in their attempt to knock off eventual national champion Miami on Dec. 1. As things turned out, the Hokies dropped four of their last six games after a 6-0 start, including a 30-17 setback to Florida State in the Gator Bowl. This season presents a number of challenges for coach Frank Beamer and his staff, which includes new offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring (former coordinator Rickey Bustle is now the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette). Hokies RB Lee Suggs injured his knee in the first game of 2001. Entering preseason practice, the major areas of concern are QB, WR and the interior of the front seven on defense (at DT and ILB). OFFENSE The QB position is up in the air. The uncertainty was created when incumbent signal-caller Grant Noel suffered a non-contact knee injury just two days before the spring game. Despite tearing the ACL, Noel opted against surgery, knowing that he has no eligibility remaining after this season. He's back throwing the football and will wear a brace on the knee when drills begin Aug. 4. Even though Noel plans to be ready, sophomore Bryan Randall is coming off a spring session that saw him take a lot of snaps as he worked on developing into a more accurate passer. Also keep an eye on Michael Vick's younger brother, Marcus Vick. Word is he will be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job. If he's not ready, a redshirt year is the obvious alternative. Whoever ends up under center when the Hokies open the 2002 campaign at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg (against Arkansas State on Aug. 25 ), he will lean heavily on the running exploits of senior Lee Suggs. Reported to be 100 percent from the season-ending knee injury that occurred during the opener against Connecticut last season, Suggs could catapult himself into the Heisman hunt with a quick start. Defenses will also have to deal with the skill level of yet another blue-chip performer in the backfield, sophomore RB Kevin Jones. Jones might even split time with Suggs, presenting a lethal one-two punch. Mike Imoh, a highly regarded incoming freshman, might also be able to push his way onto the field. With all the depth at this spot, Beamer and RB coach Billy Hite plan to experiment with highly regarded redshirt freshman Cedric Humes at FB once practice begins. With all the competition, Keith Burnell (who was shifted to WR in the spring) transferred to Delaware, where the senior will be eligible to play this season for the Blue Hens. With versatile FB Jarrett Ferguson moving on to the NFL, the new starter has some big shoes to fill. Ferguson excelled as a lead blocker, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and scoring 15 career rushing TDs. He also excelled as a pass receiver out of the backfield (25 catches last season). Humes is in the mix, along with junior Doug Easlick, who was Ferguson's backup last season. At WR, the Hokies have to compensate for the graduation loss of Andre' Davis and Emmett Johnson. Keep in mind, Davis was also a dangerous punt returner, averaging almost 16 yards per return. The No. 1 option figures to be angular junior Ernest Wilford (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), provided he shows the necessary game-to-game consistency. Possession receiver Shawn Witten will be on the other side, with converted tailback Justin Hamilton and sophomore Richard Johnson competing for the third WR spot. With the questions at WR, you could see some immediate contributions from talented incoming freshman Fred Lee. The TE spot has yet to be settled, with junior Keith Willis and sophomore Jared Mazzetta battling for the starting job. The Hokies' offensive line figures to be a more physically imposing and athletic starting unit than last season. Keying this unit is junior Jake Grove, who moves back to his more natural center position after working at guard last year. Anthony Davis started every game at LT last season. On the right side, the coaching staff reportedly has high hopes for sophomore Joe Dunn (6-7, 325). DEFENSE With so many veteran standouts moving on from the interior of the front seven, expect opponents to run right at the Hokies early. Moving on were five DTs and three inside LBers, led by David Pugh and Chad Beasley on the line and Ben Taylor, Jake Houseright and Brian Welch at ILB. That's a lot of lost veteran leadership to compensate for in just one season. But the Hokies do return a host of proven standouts at DE. Heading the list are juniors Nathaniel Adibi, Cols Colas and Jim Davis, along with senior Lamar Cobb. Of this group, Colas is the most underrated, while Davis outperformed Adibi in the sack department last season and is the Hokies' major force at creating disturbances in the backfield. Sophomore Kevin Lewis and former walk-on Mark Costen will take over starting roles at DT, but there will be plenty of competition at this spot. Freshman Jonathan Lewis is considered a quality recruit and could work next to his brother Kevin on the interior. Also in the mix will be heralded juco recruit Jimmy Williams (6-4, 300), who comes to the Hokies from Pasadena Community College. A pair of redshirt freshmen, Jason Murphy and Tim Sandidge, will also work hard to push their way onto the field at DT. Adequately replacing Taylor, Houseright and Welch at linebacker won't be easy. Taylor was the headliner, recording 100-plus tackles each of the last two seasons. Stepping into one of the starting roles at ILB will be athletically gifted junior Vegas Robinson (6-0, 240), who showcases impressive sideline-to-sideline speed. At the other ILB spot, sophomore Mike Baaqee and redshirt freshman Blake Warren (son of former Washington Redskins TE Don Warren) are battling for the starting job. With battle-tested seniors Ronyell Whitaker and Willie Pile working at CB and FS, respectively, the Hokies have the nucleus of what could be a solid deep patrol. The reason for such optimism is the presence of super blue-chip sophomore DeAngelo Hall (5-11, 202), who could emerge as one of the top cover men in the nation this season. While Hall is a potential star in the making, converted senior CB Billy Hardee must adequately replace Kevin McCadam (fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons) at the critical SS/rover spot in the Hokies defensive structure. Kicker Carter Warley, who connected on just 11-of-21 FGs and was only 5-of-10 from 30-39 yards out, figures to be challenged in August by freshman Nic Schmitt. OVERVIEW While the Hokies definitely need the benefits of the Arkansas State game as they attempt to solidify questionable areas such as QB, DT and ILB, they really don't have the luxury of time when it comes to easing into the rough part of the schedule -- which comes far too early. In September, the Hokies have to deal with LSU and Marshall, both at Lane Stadium, before traveling to College Station to face defensively strong Texas A&M. Their first Big East game is at Boston College on Oct. 10. On offense, the big question is whether QB Noel can hold up coming off the major knee injury. Keep in mind, even when he was at full strength, he wasn't one of the conference's top QBs. Randall lacks experience, and expecting Marcus Vick to push his way onto the field might be too optimistic. Remember, even Michael Vick red-shirted his first season with the Hokies. Whoever is under center will lean on a deep and highly skilled backfield to carry the bulk of the workload. Suggs is a tremendous performer when at full strength, and Jones showed flashes of big-time ability as a freshman last season. In the fall, it will be interesting to see if the highly regarded Humes can make the transition from tailback to FB. Wilford will be on the spot at WR, a position where freshman Lee could be called on to make significant contributions. The line figures to be fairly solid. Defensively, Adibi, Davis, Colas and Cobb figure to keep opposing QBs running for their lives, but the new starters have to perform at least adequately along the interior. The same is true at ILB. The secondary looks excellent on paper, with Hall ready to make a name for himself nationally. Hardee's performance at SS/rover is key. And with so many problems putting three points on the board last season, Warley or freshman Schmitt must provide the necessary improvement.