Originally created 09/24/05

Defenses in spotlight when Hokies, Jackets meet



BLACKSBURG, Va. - Jimmy Williams smiles and rubs his hands together, leans forward in his chair and seems to hope his fidgeting will make Saturday come sooner.

The topic is Calvin Johnson and Damarius Bilbo, Georgia Tech's standout wide receivers, and the cornerback for the No. 4 Hokies is eager to try and shut them down.

"A lot of people say he's one of the best receivers in the nation," Williams said of the 6-foot-4 Johnson, the more heralded of the pair. "I'll give him that."

The 6-3 Williams is also among the best, and so adept at coverage that he's had to prepare for the likelihood that teams will throw away from him all season.

He'll see if the No. 15 Yellow Jackets (3-0) are avoiding him Saturday when the Hokies (3-0) host Georgia Tech, which has completed 13 passes each to Johnson and the 6-3 Bilbo.

Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball is listed as questionable after missing last weekend's victory against Connecticut with viral meningitis, but the Hokies expect him to play. That would give the Yellow Jackets a full complement of offensive stars with tailback P.J. Daniels, who has topped 100 rushing yards in each of his last four games.

Williams said he and his teammates in the secondary, which was labeled a question mark before the season because three starters are new, will be prepared.

"All it takes is really one big game or one big play for the other secondary players" to gain their confidence, he said. "They're feeling good, feeling confident."

Rover Aaron Rouse had two interceptions in a season-opening victory against North Carolina State, and corner Roland Minor had one each in 45-0 shutouts against Duke and Ohio University. The Hokies also lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing 5.3 points per game, and haven't allowed a touchdown since the first series of the season.

Still, it's Williams who stands out when opposing wideouts watch film.

"Physically, he's probably one of the biggest corners in the nation," Bilbo said. "I've been watching a lot of film on him, and the guy plays like a linebacker, so with two big guys out there knotted up against each other, it should be a good matchup."

So, too, should the matchup between the Hokies' offense and Georgia Tech's defense, which has matched last season's total with 10 interceptions and leads the nation in turnover margin, getting three more per game than its offense has given up.

The Yellow Jackets may not have two-time All ACC defensive end Eric Henderson, who has an ailing right ankle, but they create problems by blitzing on almost every play.

"There's holes, but just trying to find the holes is the issue," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "This is different than the normal thing we've seen."

The challenge of solving the blitz falls to Marcus Vick, who has been efficient in the Hokies start. The first-year starter has thrown only 56 passes, but leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with six touchdowns, and has only one interception.

Pressure, tight end Jeff King said, hardly seems to phase Vick, even though he's been sacked eight times in three games.

"He's handled it well," King said. "Obviously he's taking care of the football."

The Hokies also have pretty good support for their quarterback, with the tailback tandem of elusive Mike Imoh and powerful Cedric Humes, King, and a fleet set of wide receivers that hasn't needed a breakout game because the Hokies have coasted.

Gailey, though, need only think back to last year to remember what the receivers can do. Two of them, Eddie Royal and Josh Morgan, caught long touchdown passes from Bryan Randall in the final 5½ minutes as the Hokies rallied for a 34-20 victory.