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Hokies aware of Vols' safety Berry

ATLANTA – Safety Eric Berry has forced Tennessee’s opponents in the Southeastern Conference to account for his presence on the field. How will Virginia Tech cope with him?

“We’ve asked Tennessee to put a little red light on top of Eric so we know where he is all the time,” said Bryan Stinespring, the Hokies’ offensive coordinator. “They haven’t really gotten back to us as to whether they’re going to do that.”

While that might have been wishful thinking on Stinespring’s part, the No. 12 Hokies (9-3) have made an effort to not focus too much attention on Berry when they take on the Volunteers (7-5) on Thursday in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

“You start focusing a lot on one element, you’re not taking care of all the elements that you need to do,” Stinespring said.

Berry should be a big factor in the Volunteers’ attempt to slow Hokies running back Ryan Williams and the running threat from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who said he expected to collide with Berry at some point Thursday.

“The tape I’ve seen, he’s rolled down and they use him as an extra linebacker,” Taylor said. “I’m sure we’re going to see each other.”

Berry is an all-over-the-place presence on the field. His 14 career interceptions illustrate his ball-hawking nature in coverage. But he is known mostly for playing with the ruthlessness of a linebacker; he is a punishing hitter who has cataloged a long reel of cringe-inducing collisions.

“That is something I do take a lot of pride in, not only making big hits, but just going all out,” said Berry, a junior who will announce after the bowl whether he is leaving early for the NFL draft. “The way I hit represents how I play, and that’s hard every play. If I’m going to tackle somebody, I’m not going to hold anything back.”

With that mind-set, Berry, the winner of the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, has been terrorizing opponents all year. But as kickoff approaches, the Hokies are trying not to think too much about it.

By Mark Viera  |  December 31, 2009; 12:45 PM ET
 
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