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. 12: Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, defensive tackles
Nobody on the roster has as much of an unsung role as defensive tackles, who operate within general anonymity on the line. But Hopkins and Maddy will be a bit part of whether or not the Hokies’ defense can live up to its preseason billing this year.
The 6-foot, 312-pound Hopkins is the anchor of the line, while the 6-foot-1, 295-pound Maddy has been more of the play-maker in the past. But both will need to do a little of both up front.
Hopkins was an All-ACC honorable mention last year after starting all 13 games and finishing with 51 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He had a career-high 11 tackles in the opener against Georgia Tech and was a constant on the inside on a defensive line that battled injuries and inconsistency for much of the year.
Maddy had to overcome an ankle injury suffered against Georgia Tech. Once healthy, he was far more productive, finishing with 35 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and four sacks. He had back-to-back games with two sacks against Duke and Clemson in the middle of the season and finished the year with seven tackles and 1.5 TFLs in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Rutgers.
Tech will need both of them to produce — line coach Charley Wiles likes his tackles to be active play-makers, not just space-fillers — but more importantly, it will need them to stay healthy.
With Hopkins’ older brother, Antoine, having graduated, the Hokies are extremely thin at defensive tackle. The quartet of Kris Harley, Woody Baron, Alston Smith and Nigel Williams didn’t do much to separate themselves in the spring or give the coaches much confidence that they can spell Hopkins and Maddy on occasion this fall.
Expectations are still high for the staring duo, though. Hopkins got the Team United Award this spring as the defensive player who put the team first. Maddy shared the Coaches Award on defense for having an exceptional spring.
If they can carry that over to the fall, this will be a formidable duo to deal with in the trenches.
Coming Wednesday: Nobody in this group has started a college game.
- No. 25: Ryan Malleck, tight end
- No. 24: Defensive subs
- No. 23: Andrew Miller, center
- No. 22: BeamerBall
- No. 21: Ronny Vandyke, whip linebacker
- No. 20: D.J. Coles, wide receiver
- No. 19: Cody Journell kicker
- No. 18: Tariq Edwards, inside linebacker
- No. 17: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 16: A.J. Hughes, punter
- No. 15: J.R. Collins and Dadi Nicolas, defensive ends
- No. 14: Demitri Knowles and Josh Stanford, wide receivers
- No. 13: Kyle Fuller, cornerback