Looking on to 2012, Defense Set to Dominate

There's nothing that can be done about Coale's reversed catch (I will go to my grave knowing it was a catch). Virginia Tech missed another opportunity to win a big non-conference game . Even so, last season has a lot of positives to build on starting with the defense that performed well all year despite numerous injuries and dominated Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

Return of the Lunch Pail Defense

In 2010, the defense benefitted from 32 turnovers (8th nationally) which helped hide the flaws of a D that ranked just 52nd nationally. An elite defense doesn't depend on turnovers. The Hokies needed to do better. The return of a top defense would be the key to a successful 2011. Foster's gang responded and delivered another top ten D. Next year's team has the potential to improve on that.

James Gayle is hungry.

A look into a few defensive categories and how the 2011 VT defense ranked nationally:

Category Rank Actual
Rushing Defense 14 104.07
Pass Efficiency Defense 14 112.05
Scoring Defense 7 17.64
Sacks 12 2.93
Tackles For Loss 37 6.57
Total Defense 10 304.64

There are 19 reasons to believe Virginia Tech will have an amazing year on defense. They're the number of players returning from last year's two-deep. In 2011, 6 first year starters --Derrick Hopkins, James Gayle, JR Collins, Tariq Edwards, Kyle Fuller, and Antone Exum-- had great seasons. Starters Bruce Taylor, Antoine Hopkins, and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow return from season ending injuries. It's a testament to Bud Foster's greatness that a young defense despite losing three starters would still finish ranked 10th in the nation.

The returning defenders were very productive in 2011. The defense returns 8 out of top 10 leading tacklers on the team and the returning players accounted for 81.5% of all tackles from last year. VT returns defenders that accounted for 97.6% of the sacks and 94% of tackles for a loss last year. Returning players will need to step up on causing turnovers as players leaving accounted for nearly half of the Hokies interceptions and slightly over a third of the forced fumbles.

Defender Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks Interceptions Forced Fumbles
Antone Exum 89 5 1.5 1 2
Tariq Edwards 71 11.5 3.5 2 -
Kyle Fuller 65 14.5 4.5 2 1
J.R. Collins 57 9.5 6 1 -
Bruce Taylor 53 7 5 - -
Derrick Hopkins 51 5 3 - 1
Jack Tyler 42 2.5 1.5 - -
James Gayle 38 12.5 7 - -
Tyrel Wilson 29 3 2.5 - -
Detrick Bonner 27 3.5 - 1 -
Alonzo Tweedy 23 4 1 - -
Luther Maddy 19 2 1 - 1

2011 defensive statistics for a few important returners. It's important to note that Bruce Taylor had 53 tackles and 5 sacks in just 8 games.

The future looks especially bright on the interior of the defensive line. The experienced and dependable Hopkins brothers return. Sophomore Derrick Hopkins was the star of the group this past season with 51 tackles and 3 sacks despite facing a double-teams for a good bit of the season. There's a lot of depth at DT, something that was severely lacking in 2011. Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall are two rising sophomores that saw significant playing time filling in for Antoine Hopkins. Fans should especially be excited about Maddy who came in as an unheralded true freshman and was able to move past more experienced players on the depth chart. Highly touted 4-star recruit Kris Harley is looking to make a name for himself after redshirting. Nigel Williams and Alston Smith are two promising defensive tackles in the 2012 recruiting class . One of the reasons the SEC keeps winning national championships is because of dominate defensive line play (Glen Dorsey, Terrance Cody, Nick Fairley) so it's especially fortunate that it looks like we have quality depth developing.

The defensive backfield is the most inexperienced group, but Torrian Gray has consistently been able to field excellent units. Virginia Tech does extremely well recruiting defensive backs due in part because of its track record of sending DBs to the NFL (Deangelo Hall, Brandon Flowers, Kam Chancellor to name a few). Safety Antone Exum and CB Kyle Fuller return, but Grey will need to replace starters FS Eddie Whitley and CB Jayron Hosley as well as top backup in Cris Hill. Exum lead the team in tackles while Kyle Fuller was the defensive MVP. Fuller was an important cog that kept the defense running smoothly last year. He filled in at Whip for G-W and Alonzo Tweedy and lead the team in tackles for loss. It will be very interesting to watch what happens with the depth chart in the spring as there is a lot of young talent on the roster including: Detrick Bonner, Kyshoen Jarrett and recently enrolled freshman Donaldven Manning. Fuller is versatile enough to play several positions.

The future of the defense is bright.

Comments

Fuller will be interesting to watch

He could play any spot in the secondary and even Whip. I think he could slide to FS but if not he'll be a great Boundary corner. He is very physical and a has great cover skills. Ideal for a boundary corner though he could use a touch more speed. If he slid to FS, I think he could be great there as well.

I'd like to Exum stay at Rover. I think it's a better fit for him than FS.

I hope we can find a FS that is on par with what DJ Parker was. That guy was the best that I can remember. Mainly because he directed the D very well but also did not make mistakes, which is key for that position. FS does not need to be a huge playmaker for us (Whip and Rover can handle that) but the FS does need to be rock solid and dependable. Whitley was pretty good his Senior year. I'm curious to see who can step up there in 2012. DJ Parker was just so good at that position, I wish we could have cloned him!

not sure

fuller can play boundary.

he would be great at run support, but speed and pure man2man cover skills may not be good enough there. i could be wrong and if i am, shame on the defense for not putting him there and hosley at field (his natural position) more. of course fuller had to play nickel/whip a lot too, due to injuries but i do wonder about his pure speed.

Movements on Defense.

I heard from a VT Grad that Foster was going to move Edwards to the Whip and let GW and Tweedy go to rover. Is this just a very big rumor or does it seem to be heading that way?

I'm not quite sure

how that would work out personel-wise, even with Tweedy's antelope speed. This would assume a shift from rover to boundary corner for Fuller, right?

not buying that

at all.

tweedy struggles in pass coverage and gw isn't fast enough for rover, but last year with the hiring of brown as whip/de coach, rover was moved to torian gray's coaching. this yr exum and whitley flipped flopped back and forth at those 2 positions. rover is more safety than lb, like it was say 10 yrs ago.

neither tweedy or gw have the skill set to play safety.

agreed on Tweedy/GW skillset

I wouldn't mind seeing a chance to get Telvion Clark on the field tho some since he was lights out in the spring last year. If we could get Clark and Edwards both playing I think that's a big win for the team getting best talent out there imo.

Haha you know

any post mentioning getting Telvion on the field gets an instant +1.

Need to get him out there from how good he looked in the spring

It's a shame that he only played 30 snaps on d last year.

Agreed

I know it's hard to pass up Tweedy's speed, but Telvion looked to be one of the most sure tacklers out there imo. I didn't really remember seeing him in coverage any, so idk how he handles that;he is definitely a monster in run support though. I heard the staff is trying him at whip in the spring so I guess we will see shortly. Too much talent is a better problem to have than the alternative, I guess.

Tackles For Loss 37th in the country

This has to improve. Those negative plays put other teams behind the sticks and give them more opportunities for turnovers. I thought that the two weaknesses of the defense were forcing turnovers and causing negative plays in the running game. Those have to improve, especially against junk offenses like Clemson.

I don't see Tweedy or JWG at rover. This isn't the wide tackle six. The rover has a ton of man coverage responsibilities. Even Exum struggled in man coverage. Frankly, if Clark or Tweedy were thought of by the coaching staff as good football players, they would have been on the field much more than last year. Now, if you are selling me on Edwards playing whip, Taylor at backer, and Tyler at mike... that I can get behind. My only worry would be if Taylor would be as an effective blitzer from backer as he was at mike.

Viva El Guapo

hurt

clark was hurt early & maybe some doghouse too.

tweedy got a high ankle sprain midway thru the season that didn't fully heal til the bowl. so the shot about him not playing more is inaccurate.