VA Tech Player Masters 'Call of Duty'


BLACKSBURG -- So here is what we know for sure: Virginia Tech guard David Wang is one of the world's best video game players.

Yep. Of the millions of people who play "Call of Duty" on their Xbox 360 consoles, Wang can go toe-to-toe with them all. Last fall, after he broke his foot and could barely walk, he sometimes spent six to eight hours a day playing online.

He says he peaked at No. 35 in the world rankings -- a feat one gamer on Twitter jokes is more difficult (and prestigious) than winning the Heisman Trophy.

"I brag about it all the time," Wang said during Tech's media day Saturday. "I welcome any challenges on the team. Most of them know that I'm pure domination on the controllers."

I know what you Tech fans are probably thinking. "Umm. ... We'd prefer to know whether he, and the other new starters on the offensive line, can provide 'pure domination' the field this year." That's fair. We'll get to that.

But first, we need to pause and salute the quirks, the personalities. Because the Hokies didn't just lose four starting offensive linemen from last year. They also lost some great characters.

Jaymes Brooks was one of the happiest guys on the planet -- a team-chemistry major, if you will. Blake DeChristopher? Well, he used to step out of his body and let us media types interview his beard, if that tells you anything.

Some of Tech's best O-linemen over the years have doubled as their most interesting characters. Sergio Render. Jake Grove. Matt Lehr.

"Oh, this group has plenty of personality," offensive line coach Curt Newsome said with a laugh. "There's no question about that."

It's a relief to see that Brooks and DeChristopher didn't just pass along tips on technique to the younger guys. They also gave center Andrew Miller three -- count 'em three! -- nicknames, depending on how he wears his facial hair.

Full beard? That's just "Miller," the tough guy. Clean-shaven? Well, then he becomes "Andy," the little-kid form of Andrew. The best, though, is when he has only a mustache. Then Miller morphs into "Officer Steve."

"They might have caught it off a movie or something," said Miller, who was sporting the "Miller" look on Saturday. "It's been mentioned that I look like some guy off of 'Super Troopers.' I think it looks good."

Miller is the only starter back on a line that includes Nick Becton at left tackle, Wang at left guard, Brent Benedict at right guard and Vinston Painter at right tackle. Tech fans are understandably concerned about this.

"You can tell the Hokie fans, they might be a little uncomfortable, but they're not the only people that are uncomfortable," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. "Any time you lose four starters that played that much â? That's a lot of snaps. That's a lot of experience. There's trepidation in you, I can tell you that, when you go into this thing."

Stinespring added that he loves the way they're working. Newsome said that, too. But just how important is how well they are bonding, building friendships off the field that increases the trust factor on it?

"It's been going really well, actually," Wang said. "People kind of expect us to butt heads and not really mesh well, but I came in with Andrew my freshman year and we've become really good friends. We've figured out how each other plays and we go with each other. It's gotten to the point where we almost don't need calls.

"With Nick on my side, I've played with him on second string a couple times and in practice we take a lot of reps together."

The universal opinion is that this might be the most athletic line Tech's ever had. All that's missing is experience.

Says quarterback Logan Thomas: "We can do a bunch of different things with those guys just because they can move their feet a lot better than we could in the past."

That's reassuring, but so is this: Benedict has dropped 30 pounds since last year to become more mobile. Painter is a weight-room legend. Becton played meaningful snaps the past two years as a part-timer.

And yes, Wang has hung up his video-game controller to concentrate on football.

"We haven't been in full pads yet, but I like how competitive they are," Newsome said. "I like how athletic they are. They haven't had a ton of snaps, but I like what they're all about."

Quirks and all.


(c)2012 The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, Va.)

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