Saturday, April 23, 2011
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Spring game is perfect for fans

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by college football spring games: So huge these days, you could almost slap a point spread on 'em.

Q: True enough. Alabama drew more than 92,00 fans to its spring game this year. Nebraska brought in nearly 67,000. Florida State saw more than 53,000 show up in Tallahassee. Depending on the weather, Virginia Tech could bring in 30,000 or more today. Why are seemingly meaningless spring scrimmages so popular?

A: I've wondered the same thing for many years. But I recently thought long and hard about it, letting my own biases frolic a little, and it finally started to make sense. See, I'm a baseball guy at heart. If my favorite baseball team were to come out in mid-January -- right about the time I'm sick of winter and really yearning for baseball again -- and hold an intrasquad game on a sunny day, and I was invited to view this intrasquad game for free, along with my wife and children and 25,000 people who shared my passion, yeah, you're darn right I'd be there.

Q: Where would you park?

A: First come, first serve, baby. Yet another plus. Locally, that means Fools Gold Hokies can live like Golden Hokies for one day a year, provided they get there early enough.

Q: OK, so we've established the spring game is important to fans. Given that, how will Tech quarterback Logan Thomas respond to the pressure of performing in front of all these eyes?

A: Beautifully. I don't think nerves are going to be a problem for Thomas -- today or any day. Like his predecessor, Tyrod Taylor, Thomas has a cool confidence about him. When combined with what appears to be a great work ethic and sense of humility, that should allow him to respond well to high-pressure situations. If Thomas struggles today, it will be because of physical errors that can be committed by anybody. Nothing mental.

Q: So if you're not overly concerned about Thomas, what will you be watching?

A: Gotta watch the defense, at least when the starters are in. Coordinator Bud Foster repeatedly has said that he likes his first unit and doesn't worry too much about the huge chunks of yardage the backups have yielded in scrimmages this spring. When those No. 1 guys are in there, though, will they get the job done today? Huge issue for a unit that's still young and ranked 52nd in total defense last year -- well below its usual standards.

Q: The NFL Draft starts Thursday. If you're the Panthers, who do you take at No. 1?

A: Cam Newton. Grudgingly. The potential bust factor is as high as the upside here, but Carolina has left itself little choice but to take a quarterback. Jimmy Clausen is abysmal.

Q: Does Tyrod get drafted?

A: Man, I hope so. You want to see guys like that get rewarded. But I'm going to say no. He's hell-bent on staying at quarterback, and given that, I'm thinking teams will assume they can get him into camp without having to spend a pick on him.

Q: Former George Mason basketball coach Jim Larranaga has taken the job at Miami. Good hire?

A: Nice move by the Hurricanes. Definitely better than N.C. State's recent choice of Mark Gottfried. Wonder if Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow could have landed Larranaga had Gary Williams not, in her words, "sabotaged" the search. Coincidentally, she uttered that complaint while sitting next to her fresh hire. Sweet confidence boost!

Q: So whom do you like in this weekend's NASCAR race?

A: No race this week. Easter.

Q: Hmm. Then whom do you like in the Tech spring game?

A: Give me Maroon and the 2 1/2 points.

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