How Good Will the Hokies Defense Be?
The Hokies were once again a top 15 defense in the 2014 season. They were really the only reason that the Hokies made it to the Military Bowl as well. Other than the embarrassing Miami game in October, the defense kept every loss within seven points. They played an excellent final half of the season against Duke, Wake Forest, and Virginia. Though the Hokies lost the game to Wake Forest, the defense allowed zero points in regulation which is in impressive stat against any team. Oh, They also shut down the Buckeyes in Columbus, the only team to beat them last season. Will the Hokies defense be as good in 2015?
The Hokies will be better in 2015. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has inked a new contract in Blacksburg for the foreseeable future, and will continue his high pressure attack on opposing offenses. Foster is the beating heart of the Virginia Tech football team due to the offense has not being very effective in recent years. Foster is considered by many to be the best defensive coordinator in the country. Coach Foster lost a couple players in the secondary, but he will still have the same front line as last year.
The stalwart Luther Maddy will return at defensive tackle. Maddy was injured for most of the season, and he was given a medical red-shirt for last year. Nigel Williams will join Maddy upfront in possibly one of the best defensive tackle pairings in college football. Williams had 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season. Corey Marshall will likely split time with Williams inside, as Marshall had 41 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season. He is just another awesome tool that coach Foster has to work with up front this season. On the outside, the Hokies also have two dynamic players at defensive end. Ken Ekanem was the Hokies leader in sacks last season with 9.5. He had 75 tackles to go along with that impressive amount of sacks. Ekanem should continue to perfect his quarterback pressure under Coach Bud Foster. On the opposite side, the Hokies have Dadi Nicolas returning for his senior season in Blacksburg. He had 18 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and 71 tackles last season. Those numbers may sound good, but his 26 quarterback hurries is what made him the best player in Blacksburg last season. Hokie fans definitely breathed a sigh of relief when Nicolas announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Nicolas should be fun to watch next year with this stalwart defensive front.
At linebacker, the young Andrew Motuapuaka was very impressive last season with 54 tackles. He will have to play even better to help support the defensive line in run support and the secondary in coverage. Motuapuaka shows great promise and will hopefully continue his improvement. Deon Clarke was the second leading tackler with 74 tackles and 5 sacks last season. He will enter his senior season with big expectations. Ronny Vandyke will likely be the other outside linebacker for Bud Foster's defense. He has the ability to be a great role player and the speed to pressure the quarterback. The linebacking corps is not as strong as it was two seasons ago, but will hopefully play well enough to support the line and secondary in all situations.
The Hokies secondary had all the hype last season behind the All ACC cornerback Kendall Fuller. Fuller was excellent last year with 2 interceptions and 15 pass breakups. He has filled in his older brother Kyle's shoes as the leader in the secondary. Fuller played the last few games with a hurt wrist, so look for the star cornerback to have an even more effective season in 2015. Brandon Facyson will likely line up on the opposite side of Fuller at cornerback. Facyson will likely have a lot of balls thrown his way due to quarterbacks shying away from Fuller. He has the ability to be a great cornerback with all the supporting players around him. Chuck Clarke is also in the mix at cornerback. Clarke had the third most tackles in 2014 with 73. He is an excellent tackling cornerback like Fuller and Facyson. The Hokies lost both safeties from last season with Bonner and Jarrett graduating. As of right now, converted cornerback Donovan Riley will play the rover (SS) position. Riley is an excellent tackler that had 53 to his name last season. I think he should fit in fine at rover with Bud Foster at coach. Free Safety will be up for grabs between Desmond Frye and C.J. Reavis. Both players have not played very much, but they will hopefully play their part in what looks to be a formidable defense next fall. Hokie fans will be anxious to see this unit in action this Fall.