If you haven't read part one on the offense, then you probably don't know what this is about. You should probably ready part one first.
Best case: He plays healthy, hungry, and singularly blocked all year (due to the multiple pass rushing threats around him). Feeding off the disrespect shown to him by the ACC media (by not naming him preseason All-ACC), Gayle takes no mercy while going after the quarterback. He gets over 10.5 sacks, a ton of hurries and at least two opposing quarterbacks to cry. Let's be honest, it would definitely be Bryn Renner and David Watford (if he's still starting).
Worst case: The other guys on the line aren't a pass rushing threat, making it a much easier decision for opposing coaches to double team Gayle. This wears him down, and we see the same guy who was working off injuries for the entire 2012 season.
Best case: He gets after the quarterback in every way possible. He beats tackles with his speed, quickness and technique so many times early in the season that he contributes to the overall success of the defensive line. He and Gayle combine to be the ACC's best pair of ends, and terrorize backfields all over the conference. There will be roughly 973 "Who's your Dadi?" jokes as he creeps up towards double-digit sacks and an All-ACC season.
Worst case: Teams realize how much of a threat he is on the pass rush, and handle him accordingly. He gets nicked up because he's too small to handle double teams and is only a factor in about half of the games Tech plays. Nevertheless, he still goes into the next season as the guy to watch on defense.
(Side Note: isn't Dadi Nicolas the best real Pseudonym of all time? Who needs Carlos Danger when your name is Dadi? It's really one of the more underrated things about him.)
Best case: He plays like J.R. Collins, the guy who earned Third Team All-ACC honors two years ago. He reminds both Bud Foster and Charley Wiles why he had 6 sacks and nearly 10 tackles for loss that year, and that 2012 was a fluke.
Worst case: He plays like Lanford Collins, a guy who didn't have a sack in the first 10 games of 2012. He becomes under motivated after losing his spot to Nicolas and plays like an average substitute who sees his snap counts dwindle as the year progresses...not quite the way a senior should go out.
Best case: Hopkins has been remarkably consistent over the past two years. 51 tackles and three sacks in each season of the past two seasons. The biggest difference last year? He doubled his tackles for loss. That's huge for a defense that relies on him to get penetration and disrupt the running game. Hopkins shows NFL scouts that he's a possible mid-to-late round pick to play nose tackle in a 3-4, and he dominates interior lineman for the entire season.
Worst case: Because of his consistency, I can't really think of anything "worse" than a 2013 campaign similar to the past two years. Unless an injury hits him, and considering that I didn't list that as the first worst case scenario, it will obviously happen and I will have a 6 foot, 300 pound monster chasing me through the streets of Blacksburg.
Best case: The guy who had four sacks in two games against Duke and Clemson is a pass rushing threat on the line all season long. He plays like a beast, drawing comparisons to pass rushing tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. I'm not saying he'll win the Outland Trophy or anything, but I think his ceiling is incredibly high, possibly the highest on the team.
Worst case: He gets hurt. (Had to cover my bases after the Hopkins slip-up).
Best case: He takes the move to tackle in stride, racks up tackles and makes the defensive staff look like geniuses. He's a go-to third down defensive tackle, and is yet another small reason why this defense could very possibly be the defense that everyone was talking about last year.
Worst case: He isn't productive for the first few games at tackle and defects to the University of Marshall, if only because he feels a common bond between names.
Best case: He lives up to the hype and expectations that everyone has had for him over the past two seasons, and destroys people this year. The year will end with Harley glancing in the direction of a stern (but loving) Charlie Wiles, ending with the two jogging on the beach like Rocky and Apollo in Rocky 3.
Worst case: He takes up such a long residence in Wiles' doghouse that they actually name it the K. Kris Harley House for Lost Linemen (formerly named the Jake J. Johnson Home for Future Transfers).
Best case: Tyler racks up even more tackles than last year as guys are funneled his way for 14 games (yes, best case is 14 games). He makes first team All-ACC, puts up numbers to be considered for the Butkus award and is the subject of at least three "Remember, he was a walk on!" stories by week 8.
Worst case: He takes a small step back, showing that he peaked in 2012. He still has a ton of tackles, but isn't quite the fulcrum of the defense as he was the year before, similar to Bruce Taylor's 2012 season.
Best case: This line used to say "Edwards is pain free". Welp, that's not happening. A quote like "At times, I still get a lot of pain, but I just play through it." isn't exactly promising. The best cases for Edwards are either 1) he fights his way through the pain and gets back to his 2011 form (where he was one of the best guys on the field against Michigan) or 2) his leg is replaced with a robot leg and he becomes an unstoppable cyborg.
Worst case: The injury just doesn't go away, making him somewhere between a half-step and a full-step slower. He can't handle the physical demands, making him one of the bigger what-ifs in recent Tech history.
Best case: He brings the whip position back from the dead, runs sideline-to-sideline to rack up tackles, and handles his business in coverage. There are more highlight hits like against the, probably nightmare ridden, Pitt special teams players. (I'm not even going to link to it, because I know you know what I'm talking about. [OK, I'm going to link to it.])
Second best case scenario: He is moved over to backer to replace Edwards when he goes down. We see RVD on the field more (a plus for everyone) without losing too much experience. I've convinced myself that this happening. It makes way too much sense not to.
Worst case: We slowly realize that he was just born five years too late, and was put in a position that's quickly becoming extinct in Foster's defense. "The block" could end up being more of a curse than a blessing, as it is basically the lone play that every single fan bases his potential off of. Will he just become Alonzo Tweedy Jr.? We all hope not, but there's at least a decent chance he just becomes a situational guy against teams that run (Miami, Virginia, Pitt, BC).
Best case: Dr. James Andrews gives Exum some cutting edge pills and The Centaur is on the field against Western Carolina. He reopens his daycare facility, and has a war of words with Sammy Watkins for months leading up to the ACC Championship Game.
Worst case: We see him play in the bowl game, and that's it. As depressing as that sounds, think about what he's going through. Exum isn't even cleared to practice yet, much less play. By the time he is supposed to be cleared, it'll be around the sixth game of the year. He'll then have to get into football shape, and trust his knee again. If you tore your knee up so bad that a doctor would need to drill tiny fractures into your bone, would you want to go full-contact against an ACC opponent? Because I know I'd want to chill on my couch and drink a few beers instead. Yes, I'm what they call "soft". The thing is, it's not like Exum is behind his timetable. Mike Goforth said that he thought this would be a "8 to 9 to 10-month deall". Ten months from the date of the surgery? Yeah, that would be December 5th. I'm not saying it'll happen, just considering the possibility.
Best case: He does Kyle Fuller things, creates turnovers and makes some big plays in the backfield, while seeing his draft stock (most likely as a safety) rise seemingly by the week. He forces his name into the first team All-ACC conversation, and while his coverage skills may not be enough to have his own island, he does have a nice little peninsula, where a receiver may catch the ball, but he'll be punished for it.
Worst case: With little to no safety help over the top, Fuller gets beaten deep as often as last year, prompting idiots like me to start yelling about switching the Fuller brothers' positions by moving Kyle to nickel and Kendall to regular corner.
Best case: Being put in the nickel is the best thing for him as a freshman that didn't enroll early, and he puts up Dee Millner-like freshman stats (albeit with more sacks).
Worst case: He gets a little overwhelmed, has the freshman jitters, and makes mistakes early (something that could be very costly against a team like Marshall, not to mention Alabama). He plays, but there's more and more talk about moving him back to corner rather than the playmaking nickel.
Best case: He wins the starting corner job outright, and plays even better than he did in the spring. We get to use puns like, "That coverage was surgical", or "He 'bout gave me a heart attack there."
Worst case: He's in a yearlong battle with Fuller for the starting job, as Foster and Gray switch who starts seemingly by week. He shows flashes of brilliance, but also gets torched on pump-fakes because he breaks too hard on short routes. Basically he's Ronyell Whitaker without the trash talk...which I guess means he's really just Ron Whitaker (without the yell...get it?).
Best case: He somehow grew two inches and is actually 5-11. As mean as that sounds, it really is essential to his success. Unless you can lay the lumber and play like Brandon Flowers, shorter corners don't really have success as every down guys. There are always exceptions, however, and Manning could hit the field like a totally different player, making everyone remember that he was the best prospects in the Hokies' 2012 recruiting class.
Worst case: He transfers. See what I did there?
Best case: He absolutely crushes people—receivers, running backs, quarterbacks—he simply takes no mercy. He is also the playmaker on defense that the team has been missing since Jayron, and makes a couple huge returns off of interceptions. The only downside to this scenario is that he plays so well that the NFL is a realistic option should he choose to leave a year early.
Worst case: He plays with a heavy shoulder, and doesn't get interceptions? I can't really see a scenario in which he doesn't play well, but possibly his role as rover takes away from what he can do in coverage, similar to last season when he didn't have a single pick.
Best case: As much as I killed him over the first half of the season, Bonner really turned his game around in the latter half of the year, especially in November. He keeps improving this summer and takes a strong game into the season, forming a formidable safety duo with Jarrett. He keeps the lid on the coverage over the top, and provides excellent support for the Facyson/Fuller tandem.
Worst case: Together, he and David Wang successfully kill French. #Pray4French.