So, we lost Tim Settle. Well, so what? Yes, he was big and imposing, reasonably athletic for his size, and did a good job of stopping up the run and putting some ‘A-gap’ pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That’s great and wonderful stuff, and frankly it’s something that Bud Foster’s defensive lines have lacked for eons; namely appropriate size and power.
Well, Tim and whoever was advising him had other ideas about completing his work, and raising the bar on his skill set. His draft prospects are all over the board from the possibility of going in an early round to a hungry needy team, or drifting down past everything into UFA status. We’ll have to see, his numbers in the various dog and pony shows were, “meh”, and that usually means a ton in the NFL draft equation. Okay, he’s gone. Enough.
Now, let’s talk about what’s left. We should be so ill equipped every season. As good as the line was last season, it’s going to be every bit as good this season.
The Tackle positions are changing a pinch. Not much though, Ricky Walker remains the core of the Defensive Line, and is expected to be even better this season. He’s been through Ben Hilgart’s offseason conditioning program. This isn’t trivial; Hilgart has changed the strength and conditioning level of the team significantly since he started. We are seeing fewer injuries, and more players staying in games playing at a high level. Walker’s earning an off-season hardhat award might sound like fun and games but Ricky Walker’s physical strength, his three years of experience, and his leadership skill will all be critical factors in the 2018 season.
Hokie Spring 2018 D-Line
|8||Ricky Walker||3||DL||6' 2"||304||rSr||Hampton VA|
|18||Raymon MInor||-||DL||6' 2"||245||rSr||Ashland VA|
|99||Vinny MIhota||3||DL||6' 5"||284||rSr||Fredericksburg VA|
|11||Houshun Gaines||2||DL||6' 3"||240||rJr||Rocky Mount NC|
|43||Xavier Burke||1||DL||6' 3"||283||rJr||Lawrenceville VA|
|47||Darius Fullwood||1||DL||6' 3"||278||rJr||College Park MD|
|94||Trevon Hill||2||DL||6' 3"||245||rJr||Virginia Beach VA|
|40||Emmanuel Belmar||-||DL||6' 2"||245||rSo||Suwanee GA|
|55||Jarrod Hewitt||1||DL||6' 1"||285||rSo||Venice FL|
|96||Jimmie Taylor||-||DL||6' 2"||266||rSo||Jacksonville NC|
|59||J'Bril Glaze||-||DL||6' 1"||289||So||Tampa FL|
|35||Zion Debose||-||DL||6' 1"||247||rFr||Salisbury NC|
|45||TyJuan Garbutt||-||DL||6' 1"||244||rFr||Fredericksburg VA|
|58||Nathan Proctor||-||DL||6' 2"||240||rFr||Indian Head MD|
|98||Robert Porcher IV||-||DL||6' 1"||260||rFr||Orlando FL|
|46||Eli Adams||-||DL||5' 11"||237||Fr||Rock Hill SC|
Another Defensive Lineman who appears in the picture and sporting that hard hat is Jerrod Hewitt. Hewitt played in 10 games last season and netted 13 tackles. That might not sound “amazing” but for a redshirt Freshman that’s nearly outstanding. This year, the rumor mill is that he and Walker have hit it off really well on the field and we’ll be seeing much more of young Mr. Hewitt in 2018.
We haven’t seen a whole lot about Vinny Mihota, and he’s unlikely to really make any appearances (other than waving from the sidelines) in this game. He’s still recovering from knee surgery and rehab is more important than a spring workout for the redshirt Senior. There is one change in the works, however. It seems that Vinny M is being moved inside to one of the Tackle Positions.
In all, the Hokies have 7 experienced linemen across the 4 positions along the line. It’s something I am seeing more often, now. Teams are, situationally, putting three tackles and a defensive end on the field and playing an over-shifted line. It seems as more pass plays are being executed within the 3-4 second window, the edge rush no longer is effective as it once was. It’s just physically impossible to get to the QB from outside within that 3 second time limit. So coaches are shifting back to going up the middle and collapsing the pocket from the ‘A-Gap’ and then using the Defensive End and an outside linebacker to contain the ball within the pocket. We’ll see if that’s what Foster and Wiles are envisioning for the Defensive line this season.
One thing that I certainly did get a good read from in the press conferences kicking off the Spring season was the importance of having eight starting quality defensive linemen this season. I have no doubt that we will see many of the names on the roster make it to the field in 2018. Houshun Gaines still has to prove something on the outside. Trevon Hill was a critical contributor, especially late in the season and there are few people who will forget his knifing through the offensive line on 4th and goal to get his arms around a certain Pitt running back bent on getting over the goal line.
One thing that we will see in the Spring Game is a good representative round robin of most of the players on this roster.
Player losses always happen in college. One guy leaves, and it just gives the next man in line a chance to step up and take that job. The Virginia Tech Hokies have a solid group of defensive linemen and look to repeat last year’s excellence, if not better it.
Next up, the other side of the Trenches… The Offensive Line
Here’s a reminder of the Defensive Line from 2017.