BLACKSBURG—Michael Vick, Virginia Tech's redshirt freshman quarterback with the cannon arm and swift legs, is a little too robust for his teammates these days.
"We've been in the indoor facility and the lighting isn't quite as good in there as we would like," said Hokie coach Frank Beamer, whose team began spring drills last weekend. "If we don't get outside soon, I think he's going to break all the fingers of our receivers. He zips that ball, boy. One of our tight ends came out of practice yesterday with a sore chest - not from being hit by somebody else, but from being hit by the ball."
All this, of course, will do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Tech fans who already are comparing Vick to ex-Syracuse star Donovan McNabb. On a team that has experience just about everywhere else, Vick is viewed as the X-factor.
Such talk might overwhelm most freshmen, but Beamer has no such worries about Vick.
"One of the attractive things about Michael is, not only is he such a talent, he's also a pleasant kid and a smart kid," Beamer said. "He takes things in stride. It's not going to be a pressure issue. We understand, and he understands that things don't happen right away. It takes time to get things down. You know, when that ball is snapped there's a lot of stuff going on.
"We're going to give him time to develop and try not to rush this thing. It' s going to take time for him to be a great player. He's a great talent now, and in time I think he's going to be a great player."
Although Vick is considered a lock to start the Hokies' season opener next fall, it's not set in stone yet. Officially, Tech has no first-string quarterback now. For the next few days, work will be split evenly between Vick, junior Dave Meyer and freshman Grant Noel. Beamer expects one to emerge, hopefully before the first of three scrimmages and certainly before the spring game on April 17.
Even with Vick's talent, there is one thing missing: experience. Vick, after all, has not taken a snap at the college level. Beamer admits that's a concern, but expects the veterans around Vick to make the transition easier.
"I'm really hoping our offensive line will develop quickly - - we're young there, too," Beamer said. "But basically, we've got some people who have been around at least one year, and our backs are good and our receivers have the potential to be very good. So hopefully, we can develop around him so that there's not so much pressure on the quarterback."
Vick will have last year's leading receiver returning in Ricky Hall, but the rest of the corps will be young. Beamer believes sophomores Emmett Johnson, Andre Davis and redshirt freshman Terrell Parham have the potential to be quality wideouts.
Tech lost top rusher Lamont Pegues, but returns backup Shyrone Stith (770 yards, 18 fewer than Pegues) and starting fullback Jarrett Ferguson.
On defense, Beamer has no worries about his front seven with ends Corey Moore and John Engelberger coming back. But the Hokies must replace three starters -- Keion Carpenter, Pierson Prioleau and Loren Johnson -- in the secondary.
"Cory Bird has had a great offseason -- he's our starting rover right now," Beamer said. "(Anthony) Midget and (Ike) Charlton would be our starting corners and (Nick) Sorensen would be our starting free safety. I'll tell you, though, the two corners who are going to challenge are (Ronyell) Whitaker and (Larry) Austin. I'm sure they will challenge for playing time, and they may challenge for first team.
"We don't have a lot of question marks this spring, but the ones we have are big ones. I think the best thing about our secondary is we have some experience up front, so the quarterback isn't going to sit back there and hold the ball for very long. Offensively, we need to do the same for Vick or Meyer or Noel -- whoever the quarterback ends up being."