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Quiet on the Defensive Front: DT Recruiting

Who can stuff the middle?

Who's going to step up when Maddy and Marshall leave?
Who's going to step up when Maddy and Marshall leave?
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

This year is going to be very quiet on the defensive tackle front for recruiting. Last year it was a major focus, and our recruiting numbers are already set. For the most part, the defensive tackles in Bud Foster’s system are supposed to penetrate some and get A-gap (That’s the gap in the offensive line between the center and the guards) pressure on the quarterback, but they’re also supposed to stuff the run and hold the interior for our ends to wreak havoc in the backfield. It’s why they live in an odd quasi-field between big guys, and guys that are too small getting shoved around or bowled over by the few power running games left in college football- BC and Pitt come to mind, with Andre Williams and James Conner in recent history. The dive part of the option for Georgia Tech also seemed to get plenty of yards until recently. So, we’ve been trying to rectify that of late…though still, our defensive line is on the light side. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t.

Currently, the Virginia Tech depth chart at defensive tackle looks like this. This time, I’m going to list the weights as well, just to illustrate a point.

Defensive Tackle

  1. Luther Maddy (R-Sr., 286lbs)
  2. Corey Marshall (R-Sr., 268lbs)
  3. Woody Baron (Jr., 275lbs)
  4. Nigel Williams (R-Jr., 299lbs)
  5. Ricky Walker (So., 283lbs)
  6. Steve Sobczak (R-Fr., 309lbs)
  7. Tim Settle (Fr., 315lbs)
  8. Harry Lewis (Fr., 260lbs)

(Note: Eric Whitehead was formerly a recruit for 2016, but will be going to Junior College. He might or might not ever get to Blacksburg. He, for the record, was 300lbs)

As you can see, outside of Lewis, the newer defensive tackles (which will definitely be a priority next year) are getting bigger and bigger. Foster and Wiles are starting to recognize that we’re going to have to bulk up on the line to compete at higher levels. It’s also something we’re seeing on the offensive line- Tech is deciding to do something about their chronic undersized nature. It got us plenty, but as the competition has ramped up, and plenty of schools have gotten more and more massive (Recent Miami offensive lines come to mind, with monsters like Seantrel Henderson who was close to 6’7" and weighed around 320lbs.), we’ve been left behind. However, right now, Tech is in a doldrum of DT recruiting, only receiving one commitment so far. Virginia Tech has struck out on in-state recruits listed at DT- One to Navy, one to UNC, and one to Vandy, and aren’t really in the picture at present for many more. There are still a couple of smaller-time recruits, but it’s looking kind of grim at this point.

Let’s concentrate on the one recruit we DO have, though, and that’s Clay Dean.

Clay Dean (Purcellville, VA. 255lbs, 6’-2", Defensive Tackle)

Dean is never going to get much in the way of serious recruiting looks- In fact, while being a three star (Two star on Rivals, Three Star on ESPN, both listing him at 240lbs), 247sports doesn’t have him listed as getting another offer, or having another school on his radar. He’s a kid from a AA school in Northern Virginia- but out in Loudon which isn’t known as a massive football hotbed. Basically, it seems he’s committed to Tech and the word is out that he’s not considering anyone else, so no one else is really bothering over this relatively unknown guy. If we’re going to keep him, what is everyone else missing out on?

Well, the good news is that he’s sneaky good. He’s not undersized per-se despite his lack of weight. He doesn’t get pushed around, and his frame is that kind of thick, stocky build you’re looking for in a defensive tackle. He’s a moving fire hydrant. I like the fact that he’s a pursuing defensive tackle- he’s still chasing after plays when they’re past him in depth either way, and he’s got an interesting inside move to blow by or through guards. I can tell you that he’s probably going to be another Vinny Mihota, though- too small to play major college defensive tackle, but end up as a bigger, space eating, bull-rush defensive end. Either that or he ends up playing the (bizzarely) smaller nose tackle position that Marshall now occupies. Either way, I think he’s definitely worth the scholarship offer, and I feel like he could be utilized properly- I’m not overly of the opinion that, insofar as our defensive lines have been coached, that stars matter as much. Foster, Wiles, and Gray routinely take 3-stars and make top-10/top-20 defenses.

Next time I’ll be taking a look at the absolute bumper crop of linebackers we’ve collected, and who else might be out there.