Ore kicked off team; sources say Hokies coaches grew weary of player's attitude
"During recent meetings with Branden Ore, we have decided that it would be best for Branden to pursue other opportunities," coach Frank Beamer said in a statement released by the school Wednesday. "Branden has had many great moments here at Virginia Tech, and we wish him well in the future."
Beamer did not offer details for Ore's removal, but according to people with knowledge of the situation, the coaching staff simply grew impatient with Ore's lackadaisical attitude and lack of commitment to the team. The Hokies waited for Ore to mature for more than two seasons and gave up after he failed to reach what once seemed to be enormous potential.
A redshirt senior, Ore played in all 14 games last season, starting 13. He led the Hokies in rushing with 992 yards and was second on the team in scoring with 10 touchdowns. In the Orange Bowl, a 24-21 loss to Kansas, he rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Ore was in and out of Beamer's doghouse during his three-year career in Blacksburg. Before his sophomore season in 2006, Ore withdrew from classes during spring semester and returned home to Chesapeake, Va., where he worked at a 7-Eleven warehouse. At that point, Virginia Tech's coaches were already frustrated with Ore skipping workouts, classes and mandatory study halls.
"I think players and coaches have to have a relationship," running backs coach Billy Hite said in October 2006. "At that point, I had no relationship with Branden. I'd never had him in the office just to talk about life. It was always for something Branden did wrong. One mistake always led to a second and a third. He was on the fence."
Hite could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. Beamer refused comment beyond his statement.
Ore seemed to get off the fence as a junior, when he ran for 1,137 yards and 16 touchdowns. But after what seemed to be a breakout season, he was severely out of shape when he reported to training camp before last season. He had returned home during summer school rather than remain in Blacksburg with his teammates, many of whom were participating in the team's voluntary conditioning program.
Running behind a rebuilt offensive line last season, Ore failed to gain 100 yards until the Hokies' 11th game. He averaged only 3.7 yards per carry and had only two 100-yard efforts in 14 games. Then Ore was suspended from playing in the first quarter of the Orange Bowl because he was late for a bowl practice.
Five days after the game, Ore testified in a federal drug case in Roanoke, Va., in which his close friend was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. The charges stemmed from a June 2006 traffic stop in Blacksburg. Ore testified his friend, Tony Majette, tossed a bag of cocaine in his lap after police stopped the car. Ore was never charged and testified the drugs did not belong to him.
Ore's loss figures to be a big blow for a Virginia Tech offense that last season ranked 110th in total yards in Division I-A (330.5) and 53rd in points scored (28.7). The Hokies return quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon, but must replace the bulk of their receiver corps. Junior Kenny Lewis Jr., a former minor league baseball player, ran for 205 yards and four touchdowns last season. Junior Jahre Cheeseman ran for 133 yards and one score.
The Hokies redshirted two highly touted running backs last year -- Darren Evans of Indianapolis and Josh Oglesby of Garner, N.C. In February, Virginia Tech signed one of the country's top tailback prospects in Ryan Williams of Manassas, Va.
Mark Schlabach covers college football for ESPN.com.