There are four positions on Bud Foster’s defensive line; Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Nose Tackle, and Stud End. Who fits in where and what actual technique that player executes for that particular defense is one of those maddening Foster/Wiles related bits of football voodoo. The Hokies haven’t been known for fielding dominant traditional Defensive lines. They have, however, come up with some interesting non-traditional looks that have bubbled to the surface of Hokie greatness. No one is going to write of laurel leaves and carpets of triumphal flower pedals when it comes to Virginia Tech Defensive Lines. Most of our pros are outside guys, or have been backed off to outside linebackers in professional 3-4 formations. Darryl Tapp is still pulling in an NFL pay check. Jason Worilds took three seasons to convert from DE to OLB for the Steelers, played a few good seasons, and suddenly retired due to personal religious reasons. I don’t remember any defensive linemen who have really stuck anywhere at the next level. There may be a few hanging in the higher numbers of depth charts, but Tech is just not known for huge, fast, and powerful defensive line play.
That might remain one of the biggest hits that Bud Foster’s reputation takes over his impressive career. He just didn’t seem to recruit or field defensive line personnel that were “large enough”. That sort of goes for Linebackers, too, but we aren’t talking mid-fielders, we are talking about who is playing in the trenches. The last two seasons things look like their might be some changes in the offing.
2017 Hokie Defensive Line Roster
|8||Ricky Walker||2||DT||6' 2"||282||r-Jr.||Hampton, Va.|
|99||Vinny Mihota||2||DE||6' 5"||264||Jr.||Fredericksburg, Va.|
|11||Houshun Gaines||1||DE||6' 3"||248||r-So.||Rocky Mount, N.C.|
|94||Trevon Hill||1||DE||6' 3"||240||r-So.||Virginia Beach, Va.|
|4||Tim Settle||1||DT||6' 3"||328||r-So.||Manassas, Va.|
|47||Darius Fullwood||-||DT||6' 3"||252||r-So.||College Park, Md.|
|43||Xavier Burke||-||DL||6' 3"||255||r-So.||Lawrenceville, Va.|
|61||Joe Koshuta||-||DL||6' 1"||255||r-So.||Vienna, Va.|
|40||Emmanuel Belmar||-||DE||6' 2"||228||r-Fr.||Suwanee, Ga.|
|55||Jarrod Hewitt||-||DT||6' 1"||299||r-Fr.||Venice, Fla.|
|96||Jimmie Taylor||-||DT||6' 2"||240||r-Fr.||Jacksonville, N.C.|
|Zion Debose||-||DE||6' 3"||230||Fr.||Salisbury, NC|
|Robert Porcher IV||-||DE||6' 3"||255||Fr.||Orlando, FL|
|Nathan Proctor||-||DE||6' 3"||230||Fr.||Indian Head, MD|
|TyJuan Garbutt||-||DE||6' 3"||220||Fr.||Fredericksburg, VA|
|J'Bril Glaze||-||DL||6' 4"||270||Fr.||Tampa, FL|
The Hokies return five players with game experience. There are no Seniors of any type (redshirt or true). No player has more than 2 seasons of experience. Vinny Mihota and Ricky Walker are natural starters at Defensive End and Defensive Tackle. The presumed other two starting positions will be some combination of Travon Hill, Tim Settle, and Houshun Gaines. There are a more than a few redshirts that are going to be vying for the #2 cells on the depth chart. Five experienced starters, with only a couple being every down players, means that the new linemen are going to have to step up, and do it convincingly.
First, let’s look at the presumed starters. Vinny Mihota proved himself over the last two seasons. The true Junior started and played thirteen of last season’s 14 games, and if he hadn’t finally been benched for the Belk Bowl, he’d have started the 14th. The benching wasn’t something nefarious. Vinny played a heck of a season, and few folks really noticed, but he was doing it on one wing. At some point in 2016 Mihota dislocated his shoulder. Some folks would let that slow them down, but the coaching staff nearly had to drag him off the field. Mihota racked up 43 total tackles last season (20/23) he also managed to break up three pass attempts and chipped in for a solid Beamer Ball kick block. He had surgery on both shoulders in the offseason. Something tells me that if Mihota his healthy, he’s going to have a career season in 2017.
Ricky Walker started 4 games last season, and played in all 14. He had 28 tackles and four total pass breakups to his credit. Walker played well, especially doing the primary job of Bud Foster’s defensive line scheme, which is stuffing up and controlling the line of scrimmage. Ricky also had a few Special Teams moments to remember grabbing two return opportunities for a respectable 19 yards.
We are likely to see far more of Tim Settle this season. Settle has had some issues with keeping his weight in check, but last season seemed to get the hang of the conditioning regimen. He shined on Special Teams often looking like he was bucking for the title of world’s largest Gunner. (He even grabbed the distinction of the largest man with the number 25 on a football field. He also lit up the world with a contribution to Beamer Ball with a blocked kick, and 15 yards of kick returns. Settle is still getting used to the Nose Tackle position in the defense. He was constantly disruptive, and even earned some honors with an honorable mention for Freshman All-American. That’s pretty special for a first season on the field. We expect to see much more of Tim Settle this season. He’s even sporting the number 4, instead of the old 97. No matter whether it’s 4, 97, or the special 25, Tim Settle will be a presence in the middle of the Hokie Defensive line and probably Special Teams for quite a while.
Trevon Hill looks like he’s about to make a move playing opposite Vinny Mihota at the other DE position. Hill played in all 14 games last season, and netted 37 total tackles. Six of them were tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Hill is quick, strong, and gained confidence and playing time as the season progressed earning a start for the Belk Bowl with four tackles to go with it. Trevon Hill is going to be a critical player this season. His experience and growth is right on pace with Tim Settle’s. That bodes well for the starting front four.
Of the Redshirt Sophomores, Darius Fullwood and Xavier Burke got some game time last season, but it’s going to be up to them to get the effort up to see some action on the field this season. The starting five are going to need some help and an occasional breather. The backups are going to get playing time in 2017. Houshun Gaines played in 12 games last season. He has the size and the talent to vie for serious field time. He will need to step up in 2017.
Let’s not forget some of the Freshmen. Although most true freshman linemen get a 1st year redshirt, look for J’Bril Glaze, Zion Debose, and Robert Porcher IV, to possibly escape the early lineman crimson shirt to earn spots on the depth chart. Glaze is looking large and inside at 6’7” and 270. He’s listed as “DL” which means he could go just about anywhere Foster and Wiles feels like he’ll make the best contribution, but a Defensive Tackle as tall as Bucky, and bigger than – well, anyone on the defensive line in years, might just make a small impact.
What is nice about the Tech line is that unlike prior seasons, the Defensive line is pushing up in size but keeping its speed and strength. As for the remainder of the defensive line, the redshirt freshmen and new true freshman will have some challenges to meet. They have joined the #LPD, and Coach Foster has acquainted each of them with just what that means.
The defensive line was critical in every game last season. When it played at the top of its potential, the Hokie Defense was downright scary. This season it’s set to dominate the line of scrimmage, again.
Next up and certainly not last in our hearts, Special Teams... Pride and Joy... The source of all things Beamer Ball!