Virginia Tech enters fall camp looking to develop depth at key positions before their Labor Day showdown with Boise State. But until that depth is created, here are the guys I think the Hokies can't afford to lose this year.
1. John Graves, DT
Surprisingly, I have Graves ahead of Tyrod Taylor on this list. That's because Tyrod has plenty of talent around him on offense with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans in the backfield and Jarrett Boykin at receiver. The Hokies would lose a lot of leadership on offense if they lost Tyrod, but I think they would lose just as much without Graves on defense. The Hokies struggled on defense without Graves and as the only returning starter on the defensive line, losing him would be almost lethal as Bud Foster already has to replace six starters on D and possibly a seventh if Barquell Rivers is a no-go for Boise.
2. Tyrod Taylor, QB
Despite the talent around him, you can't plug in just anyone at quarterback for the Hokies. Tyrod brings a lot of leadership and other attributes you can't quantify. You can debate Tyrod's merits as a quarterback all day if you'd like. What it comes down to is he's a better quarterback than outsiders give him credit for but not quite as good as Virginia Tech fan's like to think. But what you can't debate is what he means to the offense in terms of leadership. This is Tyrod's team.
3. Beau Warren, C
I've used this analogy so many times that you're all probably sick of it, but I'll use it again. Virginia Tech's offense has the body of a sports car with Taylor, Williams, Evans and Boykin. But unless it has the engine of a sports car, it's not going to go anywhere. The offensive line, led by Warren, is what will drive the offense this year. If the offensive line doesn't do a better job of protecting Tyrod or become more consistent at run blocking, it will be a very frustrating season for us. Just ask Clemson about what a bad offensive line can do to submarine a team with loads of talent at the skill positions. Warren is the only senior on this year's offensive line and will be in charge of keeping it together.
4. Ryan Williams, RB
Williams is a special talent who's a threat to score on every play. You can't replace that. Having Evans and David Wilson is a good insurance policy in case something were to happen to Williams, but he brings an explosive element to the offense it hasn't seen in a decade.
5. Rashad Carmichael, CB
Carmichael has come a long way since struggling during his sophomore year. He has the chance to become a special player this year and be the next in a line of Virginia Tech boundary corners to go on to NFL riches. Without him, the secondary would lose its playmaker and force other guys out of position.