ACC preview: Vick gets another shot to be second coming
By Dennis Dodd
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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BLACKSBURG, Va. -- This is where the brand name was born. All those Michael Vick Nike ads? All those ankle-breaking moves that re-defined the modern run-pass quarterback? It all started here.
Mike Vick put Virginia Tech on the map. His baby brother almost found the campus in his rear-view mirror.
1. Florida State
2. Boston College
3. N.C. State
6. Wake Forest
1. Virginia Tech
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Georgia Tech
5. North Carolina
Off. player of year:
Calvin Johnson, Ga. Tech
Def. player of year:
Matias Kiwanuka, Boston College
Coach of the year:
Tom O'Brien, Boston College
Marcus Vick, the 21-year old brother of Michael, has two years to live down the infamy he has created for himself. The redshirt junior quarterback was suspended for the 2004 fall semester after a pair of unseemly incidents that cast doubt upon his character and his worth to the program that his brother made famous.
Marcus was suspended after a February 2004 night of drinking and partying with underage girls. He eventually pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge. In July, while the first case was going on, he was charged with reckless driving and marijuana possession.
To a lot of coaches, those back-to-back dust-ups might have been grounds for dismissal.
"Maybe at some schools," Marcus countered, "it wouldn't be an issue at all."
Young Vick is not defiant. He walked into the interview soft-spoken, wearing a stylish G-Unit shirt and baggy jeans. Like a lot of college kids, he is stifling a yawn -- at 10:15 in the morning.
"When you see people," Marcus says explaining his current philosophy, "be polite to them."
But at Virginia Tech, apparently, the last name Vick still carries a lot of cache as long as little brother can still carry the ball.
Crass? Maybe, but to coach Frank Beamer, Marcus has performed his penance. Now it's a matter of Vick helping defend the ACC title that the Hokies won without him last season.
"He understands how fragile this thing can be," Beamer said. "He's a wonderful kid, good person. He made some questionable decisions. But there's a lot of things that are exactly right about Marcus."
Three years out of high school, Marcus Vick has played just one season. (Getty Images)
Ever since Marcus came out of Newport News, Va., in 2002, he was heralded as The Next Michael. The only difference was that one (Michael) was left-handed and one was right-handed. But three years removed from high school football, Vick has seen the field in only one season -- 2003.
He's thrown 57 career passes, averaged 2.8 yards per carry. Yet one publication picked him as the preseason All-ACC quarterback. The kid is savvy enough to realize that doesn't happen, given his past problems, if his name was Marcus Smith.
"I really don't know what his legacy is (here)," Marcus said of his famous brother. "I don't feel like I have to live up to what he did back in '99 and 2000. I just want to play my game. Take my time."
Time, though, is getting short. Hokie Nation is expecting nothing short of a shot at a national championship, the one Michael almost delivered single-handedly in '99.
"I think about it every day," Marcus said of the Sept. 4 opener at North Carolina State. "How it's going to be when we first break the huddle? To actually be the starting quarterback."
For the first time. Like Marcus, Michael had a redshirt year to absorb college football. We'll see how Marcus measures up to Michael's first season in '99 in which he finished third in Heisman voting.
The difference is that this time there will be more expectations than surprise.
"He needs to be the leader," Beamer said, "the guy who takes charge. I'm hoping this story has a great, great ending."
The story has had a heck of a middle. Marcus could inject some significant drama into "How I Spent My Football Vacation." During his time off, he basically shuttled between his mother's home in Virginia and Michael's mansion in Atlanta.
"(After the suspension) I just put my head down. She just gave me a hug and told me it was going to be all right," Marcus said. "Same thing with my brother."
Days in Atlanta were spent playing Madden, hanging out at Falcons practices and smacking golf balls across a lake in the back yard of Michael's mansion.
Just because, you know, they could. That's what the idle rich do.
"Every time I left the house he wanted to know where I was going, what time I was going to be back," Marcus said. "He (was) lacking trust in me."
Who will win the ACC?
There is no better support system than that of a loving family. But this is so different. No one needs to tell Marcus that offspring of superstars not only have to live in the shadow, sometimes they are swallowed by it. Ask Frank Sinatra Jr., or any Bowden not named Bobby. All talented in their own way, but not their fathers.
Next up, the usual crap from the stands. Marcus has provided quite a back story for the taunts. Vick is counting on it.
"All they can really do is sit on the sidelines and talk," Marcus said. "It's those quiet stadiums -- those are the ones that get you."
There will be few quiet stadiums in the ACC. The whole conference will be gunning for Vick in particular and the Hokies in general. He might have grown up underprivileged but now he is the brother of a superstar spending an offseason hitting golf balls in the back yard.
Young Vick has proved little on the field, but plenty off it. That's why a legacy does matter. Marcus recently bonded with his 3-year old nephew -- Michael's son -- Mytiz. Marcus marvels at the kid's calves, swears he's going to be a sprinter. Maybe a quarterback, who knows?
"Don't know yet. I think he's going to be right-handed, though," Marcus said. "I feel like I have to leave a positive image behind."
Predicted order of finish:
1. Florida State: Bobby Bowden could play both quarterbacks (Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford). The point is, in the old days both would have spent at least a couple of years on the bench before they got their chance.
2. Boston College: Does anyone else think BC can win the Atlantic? The Eagles last won fewer than seven games in 1998. They've won at least eight four years in a row. They are coming off a share of the Big East title and a 9-3 season. BC hosts FSU in Week 3. That might be a showdown for the Atlantic.
3. N.C. State: The shine has worn off Chuck Amato a bit. The defense led the nation last year but the offense didn't measure up. The key to a turnaround is better ball security. Only three teams were worse in turnover margin.
4. Maryland: There's little reason to think the Terps will be better than last year's unwatchable 5-6 squad. There are only 11 starters back from Ralph Friedgen's first non-bowl team. Fridge is upset at the lack of productivity at quarterback.
5. Clemson: How thin is the ACC at quarterback? Charlie Whitehurst (seven touchdowns, 17 interceptions) was the media's pick as the All-ACC quarterback.
6. Wake Forest: Hopefully, Jim Grobe can use Wake as a steppingstone to a bigger, better program. He drives opponents crazy with his game planning. The Demon Deacons believe they can shock the world -- sort of -- Sept. 10 at Nebraska.
1. Virginia Tech: Beamer doesn't necessarily have to rely on Vick's arm. There are his legs and those of tailbacks Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh. Defensive end Darryl Tapp is set for an All-America season. The schedule comes down to opening day against N.C. State and a visit by Miami on Nov. 5.
2. Miami: Just can't bring myself to pick the Canes to win the Coastal. It comes down to this: Is Miami going up or going down? Larry Coker is breaking in a new quarterback and has lost one, two and three games the last three seasons. What would be a run of excellence at other schools is reason for concern in Coral Gables. Plus, Virginia Tech has won seven of the last 10 meetings.
3. Georgia Tech: Chan Gailey is off to the best three-year start by a new coach since Bobby Dodd (21-17). Yet high expectations and a mild heart attack in the offseason cloud the picture. Quarterback Reggie Ball has to have a breakout year.
4. Virginia: The best system in the ACC hasn't translated to the best record. Al Groh has recruited like a madman. Now the Cavaliers must take two out of three from Florida State (Oct. 15), Virginia Tech (Nov. 19) and Miami (No. 26) for the season to be a success.
5. North Carolina: John Bunting delivered an upset of Miami and a bowl when no one gave him a chance of surviving. Now with 16 starters returning, dare we say the Tar Heels might be on their way back?
6. Duke: Eight victories this decade. Twenty-three lettermen are gone from last year's 2-9 team. Next question?