We saved the most critical position for last in the depth chart debates. With the departure of Jason Worilds to the NFL and the graduation of Nekos Brown, both starting positions at defensive end are up for grabs for the first time since 2004. The Hokies have a lot of freshman with potential who will need to step up and provide depth or win starting jobs at defensive end.
Tech's success on defense in 2010 will depend on its ability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. That starts with the defensive end, meaning there will be a good deal of pressure on guys with very little experience this upcoming season.
Starters: Steven Friday, Sr.; Chris Drager, Jr.
Possible Backups: Isaiah Hamlette, So.; James Gayle, Fr.; Tyrel Wilson, Fr.; Duan Perez-Means, Fr.
Outlook: Friday is the most experienced defensive end, which isn't saying much. He's played here and there the last two seasons, but hasn't been incredibly impressive. He will need to make big strides this offseason and become an anchor at end for the Hokies to be nearly as effective on defense as they have been in recent years.
Drager was converted to defensive end from tight end after spring 2009. However, he's had a short learning curve at the position, played in all 13 games and was in on 6.5 tackles for loss. I expect him to continue to improve at end and win the other starting job opposite Friday.
The Hokies won't be able to survive with only two defensive ends, meaning young players are going to have to step up this offseason. Hamlette played against Marshall and BC last year, but did not have any stats. He may get pushed to the back end of depth chart if the freshmen live up to their potential.
Gayle and Wilson spent the 2009 season as redshirts and are both highly-touted prospects from the 757. While Gayle probably has the higher ceiling, I think Wilson will be the first one ready for primetime. Perez-Means signed with Tech last year, but did not enroll after having shoulder surgery.
The Hokies have no margin for error at defensive end, which makes it the most critical position this offseason. Bud Foster has to find a pair of players who can get pressure on the quarterback and build depth between now and the first weekend in September. That's a pretty tall order.
Up for Debate
- Who should start at DE?
- Which young players will be the first to see the field?
- How worried are you about DE in 2010?