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Um, Has Anyone noticed that the Virginia Tech Hokies have a Def__se?

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The Virginia Tech Hokie Defense might not be as dominant as most Hokies might think. A review of the Line and Linebackers shows a serious hole in the zone, and that spells serious difficulty covering running QBs, Options, and beakaway passes under the zone.

More of this from Marshall in 2015, please
More of this from Marshall in 2015, please
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Oh this is not going to be the most popular of our reviews.  You see in the world of college football the words Hokie, Foster, and Defense are all interchangeable.  I don't remember a single season... well ok, maybe the 2012 season where we had nothing to start the season with, where Virginia Tech wasn't in the top defenses conversation.  We might have done a side-step on Beamer Ball and Special Teams for a few years.  Other teams made adjustments.  We started salting non-starting players into the formations; and we got bitten too often by penalty issues relating to contact with the opposition punters.  So the "Pride and Joy Squad" sort of languished in "Indifference and Yawn" status.  The Defense, however, always bubbled to the top.

This season is no exception, and we might have the finest defensive line and defensive back roster in more than a decade.  There are at least five Defensive Linemen who will get seriously high draft attention over the next two or three seasons.  Several others will get serious lower round attention.  The Defensive Backfield possesses a Fuller (always a good thing) and is populated by names of players who had significant roles and contributions last season.  I will grant you the lament of the mediocrity that plagued us, but the DBs improved steadily over the season.  The team that won the Military Bowl was not the team that was trashed by East Carolina.

Before we get to the missing piece, let's look at the embarrassment of riches, the Defensive Line(s), yes, we have enough talent to have a serious good Three Deep:

Stud

Tackle

Nose

End

Nicholas

Maddy

Marshall

Ekanum

Mihota

Williams

Baron

Dooley

Sobczak

**Updated Aug 31, 2015 to reflect correction, and new information available just this morning.  Number 1's remain, 2-3 are solidifying.

The two and three columns might swap around for a while.  Given the physical toll of being a core defensive lineman, I expect that over the next 12 games, this list will churn like an adult beverage in a blender.  I wouldn't be surprised to see internal position switches as strengths are revealed and weaknesses need to be filled in.  But over all this is the best Three Deep chart (with NFL draft quality talent in the number 1 slot) that Tech has fielded in many years.  We are close last year, and the 2013 effort, but this group is probably Tech's very own version of the "Fearsome Foursome" (Perhaps "The Dolomite Wall" - nah... too scientific).  The fact that they are looking hard at putting a red shirt on Tim Settle is a clue as to how deep this roster is.

Defensive Linemen

No.

Name

Exp

Pos

Height

Weight

Class

Notes

90

Dadi Lhomme Nicolas

3

DE

6' 3"

227

r-Sr.

Starter

92

Luther Maddy

3

DT

6' 2"

286

r-Sr.

Starter

96

Corey Marshall

3

DT

6' 2"

268

r-Sr.

Starter

97

Laird Gardner

-

DE

6' 1"

215

Sr.

I doubt he'll see the field in most non-blowout games

4

Ken Ekanem

2

DE

6' 3"

249

r-Jr.

Starter

93

Jeremy Haynes

-

DE

6' 3"

225

r-Jr.

Sometimes young people like Haynes get a shot at Special Teams

95

Nigel Williams

2

DT

6' 4"

299

r-Jr.

2 on the Three Deep

60

Woody Baron

2

DT

6' 1"

275

Jr.

2 on the Three Deep

43

Seth Dooley

1

DE

6' 6"

240

r-So.

I'd move Dooley to Backer

98

Ricky Walker

1

DT

6' 2"

283

So.

Looking at a Red Shirt

99

Vinny Mihota

-

DT

6' 5"

270

r-Fr.

3, but I'd move Vinny to Mike

91

Steve Sobczak

-

DT

6' 1"

309

r-Fr.

2 or 3 on the 3 Deep

47

Darius Fullwood

-

DE

6' 4"

251

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

41

Houshun Gaines

-

DE

6' 4"

231

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

94

Trevon Hill

-

DE

6' 5"

228

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

51

Harry Lewis

-

DT

6' 0"

266

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

97

Tim Settle

-

NT

6' 3"

359

Fr.

Reportedly Looking at a Red Shirt

Linebackers, Too much of Too

Now for the hard part, the Linebackers; the Hokie midfield defensive roster might be long, but it's not particularly stunning.   It is too small, too average, and too inexperienced.  This is a serious problem when it comes to stopping the run past the 1st level, and it really hurts when we are confronted by a quarterback that can pull the ball down and run.  I have said this before, but our coaching staff has a serious case of "ATHerosclerosis" (direct rip on the medical term for hardening of the arteries) and the Linebacking Corps seems to be one of the places to put the over recruited 2 star ATHs that we keep offering in high school.

I attempted a Three Deep for the Linebackers, but ended up without a full Two Deep, and there is only one actual WHIP with any experience (Vandyke).  Unless the Freshmen, both true and Redshirt step up, and play lights out shutdown football, the Hokie Defense has a serious (ok it's massive, folks... massive) hole in the middle.  We are going to have serious difficulty covering quarterback runs, passes under the zone, and running backs that get by the defensive line.  Right now, the box looks like it's all Linemen and Defensive backs with a sprinkling of maybe three experienced but woefully undersized linebackers.

Bud Foster's Bear Front requires two dominant linebackers... We have no true Mikes, and our Backer position is too light.  It looks like we are going to see a whole lot of dimes and nickels this season.  A straight up 4-3-4 (much less a 4-2-5 with any run stopping capability) isn't going to happen with any frequency.  Look for serious problems covering the influence run game, the option, and QB's breaking for daylight will kill us.  Especially if Motuapuaka can't shed blocks better than he was in the two scrimmages.  I don't blame him.  He's a natural Backer, or even a Whip... He really doesn't belong at the Mike position.  He's just too small, and that's the biggest hole that our recruiting just hasn't filled.  Our linebackers are just TOO SMALL.   The Experience factor doesn't help, but I bet that isn't as much of an issue for 2016, because we might be burning Red Shirts in funeral pyres.

Linebackers

No.

Name

Exp

Pos

Height

Weight

Class

Notes

40

Deon Clarke

1

BACKER

6' 1"

227

Sr.

Starter - Closer to Whip Size and speed, but will have to do

45

Drew Burns

1

LB

6' 3"

220

r-Jr.

Played Special Teams in 2013, an didn't play in 2014

48

Josh Eberly

-

LB

5' 7"

208

r-Jr.

Strong, but no game experience on any squad.

35

Dahman McKinnon

2

LB

6' 1"

225

r-Jr.

Starter - Experienced 14 total games over two seasons; D and PandJ.

56

Sean Huelskamp

1

LB

6' 1"

207

r-So.

Special Teams, torn ACL last season makes him limited.

50

Jamieon Moss

1

LB

6' 2"

212

r-So.

Special Teams player.  Where he might fit into the D is a question.

54

Andrew Motuapuaka

1

MIKE

6' 0"

238

r-So.

1 - Mike but too small to shed blocks and fill holes

18

Raymon Minor

-

LB

6' 2"

221

r-Fr.

We will see, he's new and nothing says that like Special Teams.

53

Trent Young

-

LB

5' 10"

212

r-Fr.

Strong and new - his chance to make an impact this season.

49

Tremaine Edmunds

-

LB

6' 5"

236

Fr.

If there is a Freshman to play, this is the one.

38

Joe Koshuta

-

LB

6' 2"

234

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

44

Carson Lydon

-

LB

6' 2"

239

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

42

Matt Reinhart

-

LB

6' 2"

217

Fr.

No Bio, Expect a very Red Shirt








37

Ronny Vandyke

2

WHIP

6' 5"

215

r-Sr.

Starting Whip - and a credible Rover as well.  Sort of KamC II.

35

Quinton Taylor

-

WHIP

6' 1"

222

r-Jr.

Scout Team - didn't dress last season

38

Johnathan Galante

-

WHIP

5' 9"

203

r-So.

Transfer in, walk on, red shirt, scout team.

Next up:  #DBU and How Bud's going to have to make up for his lack of Linebackers.