We are about to have a brain freeze without the pleasure of eating the ice cream too fast. What do you say about a nine man roster that sports not one redshirt Senior or Senior in the mix? The graduation of Andrew Motuapuaka, Sean Huelskamp… and the first round NFL departure of Tremaine ‘Buffalo Bill’ Edmunds has put a serious hurt on Bud Foster’s mid-field setup.
We understand that the Hokie defensive scheme rarely deploys more than two linebackers at a time. Bud uses extra Strong Safeties as ‘Will’ linebackers that he calls Whips. That position is sometimes a known on the field where Bud will run in his designated Whip, but more often than not the Strong Safety occupying that position will flip techniques between playing ‘Whip’, and playing ‘Rover’ (more of a classic defensive back’s position technique). That has been his strength in dealing with the program’s chronic lack of appropriately sized personnel to pull off the Mike and Backer positions. The last two seasons Andrew Motuapuaka became more experienced, and under better control of his situational awareness. He developed into a capable if short (6’ 0” – um... yeah… okay). Andrew became a leader and a difference maker. But 2017 was not Andrew M’s season. It was Tremaine Edmunds time to shine, and Edmunds more often than not found himself playing a Mike technique as Andrew picked up a Backer function. Like the Whip/Rover flips, Bud Foster took serious advantage of the unpredictability. There were only a few games where there seemed to be some difficulty (the most egregious being the Georgia Tech game). Either way we will just have to wish them well, and do what all college programs must do, say good-bye.
So, now we have to say “Hello”, and that’s going to be an interesting proposition because the biggest name on this roster list is actually a true freshman with no collegiate experience, at all. We have nine players with seven games of experience, three tackles, and two with only Special Teams experience. That’s not many defensive snaps recorded.
2018 Virginia Tech Hokie Linebackers
|57||Zack Treser||LB||6' 5"||223||R-Jr.||Practice Squad|
|23||Rayshard Ashby||Mike||5' 10"||230||So.||1|
|44||Dylan Rivers||Backer||6' 1"||227||So.||1|
|41||Jaylen Griffin||Mike||6' 1"||245||R-Fr.||3|
|4||Dax Hollifield||Mike||6' 1"||246||Fr.||2|
|34||Alan Tisdale||LB||6' 3"||212||Fr.||No Exp|
|49||Keshon Artis||LB||6'||227||Fr.||No Exp|
This is the most difficult preview that I have done in the time that I have been writing these. Please understand that this is an absolute best guess, call it an E-WAG, instead of a SWAG, or plain old WAG. I am seeing the following as a starting point. The changes will come and my positioning guesses and the depth positions might be toast at the FSU kickoff, and a distant memory by the Duke game. So, here goes.
I see the starting combination as Dylan Rivers at Backer and Rayshard Ashby at Mike. Both of these players have 2017 game experience. Rivers played defensive snaps in seven total games and has the grand total of three tackles to his name. That’s not too bad considering that Tremaine was almost indestructible and there were several backups in front of Rivers. Rayshard Ashby has no meaningful stats, he did play on Special Teams last season and of course spent the spring sweating away learning his new craft. We will see how well they work together. Foster’s defensive schemes are complex, and technique heavy. Last season we often saw position swaps between Motuapuaka and Edmunds depending on the situation. We’ll probably see more of that this season.
The number 2’s are likely to be redshirt Sophomore Daniel Griffith who has Special Teams experience along with Rayshard Ashby. For this one I am not making a big stretch because he could be a 1 before fall practice ends, and should seriously challenge for the #1 Mike or Backer slot. I am currently penciling him in at Mike, but that’s a guess. This season the number 3s will probably get work, I have put Rico Kearny and Jaylen Griffin in the 3 slots. They will have to work to stay relevant, though. I don’t know if there will be any redshirts handed out for this season. Alan Tisdale and Keshon Artis are both candidates to get some garbage time in 4 games and then redshirt. We’ll see how that goes.
Ultimately, however, we are faced with something that is dragging us down in the sports punditry, and probably is the most significant roster situation that is contributing to the Phil Steele Top 25 snub. It’s also playing heavily on the way sports commentators are analyzing games like FSU and Duke. I really don’t think that’s completely fair, because FSU stunk up the world last season, and has an entirely new coaching staff and lots of holes to fill. Duke is always dangerous, but I saw nothing to suggest that they were going to be more dangerous this season than last season. Perhaps the deluge before Noah’s flood won’t be a factor in that game for 2018.
There are a few hard and fast realities of college football that many of the sports media forget. Everything is new, every season. Most experienced players take the field for two seasons, maximum. As we have noticed if they are really good those two seasons come right out of the box as freshmen and sophomores. So every team really must retool every season. Some times that retooling is a bit more challenging than other times. I’d much rather see Bud Foster attending to that task, thank you.
So, the Hoke Linebacker squad is “Fresh”. We’ll see if their talent, skills, and instructions can be put to good use. The start at the opening of the gate is a tough one. It was last season and few people expected us to beat West Virginia. The Hokies did and the rest is history.