The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching, something we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. That’s not until July 21, however. In the meantime, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a closer look at Virginia Tech.
This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on the Hokies’ roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people/ideas that will determine whether Virginia Tech’s 2013 season is a success or not. Next up is …
No. 24: Defensive subs
Specifically defensive tackle, inside linebacker and safety.
The Hokies are pretty set with their starters at those spots. Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy have the tackle spots locked down. Jack Tyler returns and Tariq Edwards is back from injury at inside linebacker. And Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett hope to advance their games considerably now that they’ve had a year to get used to safety.
But behind all three of those starting duos, it gets dicey pretty quick. And if last year’s troubles in the secondary were any warning — specifically when Kyle Fuller got nicked up and Michael Cole was injured, forcing young players into key roles — it’s that you need depth to be able to get through a football season.
Here’s a quick look at all three spots:
Defensive tackle: Nobody seemed to seize the opportunity for significant reps here. Kris Harley and Nigel Williams started the spring as the top backups, but line coach Charley Wiles wasn’t enamored with their play. In fact, he told Frank Beamer‘s website after spring ball Woody Baron and Alston Smith finished ahead of them. Harley, a third-year guy, would seem to have the most going for him, but Wiles said his play is just too inconsistent.
Inside linebacker: Chase Williams is there as a primary backup, but looking further down the line, the Hokies are excited about Deon Clarke and Devin Vandyke, both of whom had good springs. They are young, though, both redshirt freshmen just getting a taste of action right now, but they’ve shown flashes of talent. Vandyke had three tackles for a loss in the spring game, and Clarke led all defenders with nine tackles, boding well for the future.
Safety: The group was set back by a shoulder injury to Greg Jones, which kept him out of nearly all of spring drills. But it allowed for the emergence of Der’Woun Greene, who had a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown off Logan Thomas in the spring game. He played receiver until the middle of last year, though, so the position is relatively new to him. Desmond Frye began to get a taste of action late last year, so that gives him a head start. Still, it takes quite a bit for Torrian Gray to trust you in the secondary.
Getting more reserves up to speed won’t just help in case of injury, but it will give the starters needed breaks, which are particularly helpful against an up-tempo team like North Carolina, which wore out Virginia Tech’s defense as last year’s game progressed.
If these reserves can play a series here and a series there, it could go a long way in helping Foster’s defense be more effective.
Coming Friday: He suffered a significant injury last year.