Picture Along the Defensive Line Becoming Clearer

Last season, Tech's defensive line was a position of certainty. In 2013 there was a logjam at end, and 4 guys capable of rotating at tackle. However, when spring practice began there were only two starters on the front-four penned in, tackle Luther Maddy and stud end Dadi Nicolas.

Charley Wiles spoke about the defensive line to the media last night, "We've got our best four on the field with Ken, Corey, Dadi, and Luther, but like Bud said, Seth's a heckuva prospect. I think Dewayne is improving. It's good healthy competition. They're all giving good effort, I've been very pleased."

With spring practice about halfway over, Corey Marshall is seemingly entrenched as the starter at nose. At least for the time being. According to Bud Foster at the beginning of March, even though Marshall is a player that can play inside and out, he's been more productive at tackle, and heading into spring that was a position of more pressing need.

Wiles had this to say about Marshall yesterday evening, "Corey's playing at a high level, practices at a high level. The kid, I'll be really honest with you, it's been very, very fun coaching him. He's always been a guy who loves football. I think he's really now bought into the position, and he's seen he can be a disruptive guy—make a lot of plays in there."

That's a great endorsement for a talented kid who took a three-week leave of absence from the program last August through September. At that time, Frank Beamer stated Marshall would redshirt and move back to defensive end, which as Beamer put it, "Is a position he [Marshall] likes to play." Now it seems as if Beamer Co. has been able to sell Marshall on the virtues of playing d-tackle.

If Marshall continues wowing the coaches at DT, I can't fathom that he'll move back to DE. Perhaps maybe in specific packages, but unless Ricky Walker or Steve Sobczak thunder into Blacksburg, or Vinny Mihota has a breakthrough, I'll bank on the Foster and Wiles feeling comfortable with Marshall's experience and playmaking ability inside. Right now I'll bet on Marshall and Woody Baron at nose, and Luther Maddy and Nigel Williams at tackle.

Virginia Tech was very fortunate to sign 4-star prospect Ken Ekanem in 2012, who had offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon among others. Ken told the media last night it took him 10-12 months to recover from a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee suffered in the 2011 Virginia AAA Division 6 championship.

Wiles said of Ekanem, "I've been really pleased with Ken, just the overall maturity he's playing with. The experience of being in the room; smart guy.

"Ken right now is stepping up. I'm hopeful he'll continue this surge and really finish the spring very, very strong."

At the beginning of spring practice Ekanem and Dooley were co-starters, but Ken's instinctive, and therefore faster play, has earned him the lone No. 1 spot for right now.

If Tech was playing William & Mary tomorrow, and everyone was healthy, this is what I think the two-deep would look like.

Stud Tackle Nose End
Dadi Nicolas (6-3, 218) Luther Maddy (6-1, 291) Corey Marshall (6-1, 257) Ken Ekanem (6-3, 245)
Dewayne Alford (6-2, 243) Nigel Williams (6-2, 289) Woody Baron (6-1, 264) Seth Dooley (6-5, 245)

It's a smaller starting front-four than the one of: Gayle (6-4, 255), Hopkins (6-0, 311), Maddy (6-1, 296), Collins (6-2, 248), that were the first four on the field against UCLA, and almost every opponent entire season. Wiles noted a good playing weight for Dadi is 230-235, which would still be the smallest of the eight.

This year's d-line may be a more athletic unit. Foster and Wiles want their defensive linemen to attack gaps, create havoc, and make plays when the ball carrier comes their way. It'll be interesting to watch for scheme tweaks that favor quickness over size.

Comments

If there has one thing I have learned from watching VT football over the years... As long as Bud Foster is on staff, the defense will take care of itself.

"Does it get any better than Thursday Night in Blacksburg?" - Reece Davis

Hope Dadi gets to 240! I wouldn't mind seeing Corey at 275lbs, either.

Disappointed to see Mihota isn't in the two deep. I know spring isn't over, but do you think he's headed for a redshirt?

@Fightin_Gobbler

Go Hokies

Go Falcons

If I had to bet on it, 75% yes. How many true freshman arrive in Blacksburg and play right away? Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall were the last two I can remember, and that was because the cupboard wasn't just bare, but non-existent. I'm pressed to remember others. Foster and Wiles favorite line is, "[So-and-so's] mind is tying up his feet." It's possible the light turns on for Vinny, but he's playing a new position in an advanced scheme. Also, there are talented veteran players in front of him.

Foster has said a few times he believes Mihota was the best DL in VA last cycle, and he's got a ton of upside, but it's unrealistic to think he'll figure out the position so quickly. He enrolled early, and my guess is this spring practice will serve him best in 2015 when he pushes for a spot on the two-deep.

Of course, the wildcards in all of this are injuries and special teams. Let's hope injuries are not a factor though. If Beamer Co. thinks Mihota is good enough to leave for the NFL before his eligibility is up, and he can use his burst off the line to block kicks, perhaps he earns a special teams job on punt/kick block.

I'm glad Foster believes in Mihota and hopefully he'll be a hell of a player for us, but best DL in VA last cycle?

One that included 4 top 100 players (2 being 5 star) in Hand, Brown, Nnadi, and Holmes?

That makes me excited to see this kid on field, but consider me cautiously optimistic.

On an entirely differently note, I just figured out that this "cupboard" that people keep referencing is not pronounced Cup Board, which I had fucking clue what people were talking about. For some reason I just realized that this "Cup-Board" was how you spell "cuboard." I am not a smart man.

It's always funny when words do that. I remember the first time I realized epitome and "ee-PIT-uh-mee" were the same word. I remember a teacher -- and English teacher, no less -- explaining how she knew the word pronounced "fah-SAAD" (which she didn't know how to spell) meant something like "outward appearance," and facade, presumably pronounced "fah-CADE," meant the front wall of a building, but it was shock to learn that they were the same word.

My reaction to reading this is 'Whew!'

Thank goodness Marshall returned to the program and tackle, and thank goodness we signed Walker and Sobczak-otherwise, we would have an entirely different depth chart. Waiting to hear on Mihota.
But we need to get some DT's in the next class badly.

Pe.ne.tration

What's Important Now?
The Lunchpail. The Hammer. BeamerBall.
Deal some damage boys

Our D line is a bout 30#'s per man lighter this year. Mihota is learning a new position. I will be shocked if Dadi gets to 230. Dude is very quick and very strong though. Should be good D against the spread. Against the pro we could use more wieght imo.

leeanderthal

Size isn't everything. Its how you use what you've got that makes the man.

Thankfully, Bud is the modern day Ron Jeremy of his profession.

"Does it get any better than Thursday Night in Blacksburg?" - Reece Davis

What the actual hell. Laughed at the Ron Jeremy analogy, then nodded, then I pictured somebody telling that to Bud's face and can't stop laughing again.

I wish to withdraw my statement about Dadi's wt. I just read yesterday he is up to 223 and states that he is going to weigh in at a higher weight still for the season upcoming.

leeanderthal

TCU made a living with quick athletic DEs during their hay day and beat a Wisconsin team that totally had them outmatched in size and athleticism. Its all about how you use the guys and I trust in foster to utilize his players correctly our defense will be just fine

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

i think that freshly minted front 7 is gonna either win or lose the game against ohio state.

"It's worth it right? It's worth it to lay it all on the line for your brothers!"
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster (both quotes)

I know what you're saying...but it sounds very...John Madden-ish.

"I think this team right here...this team right here is gonna play this game and they could either win or lose. And that's what that's all about!"

disclaimer..not an actual quote..I totally made that up

"I like to hit a home run early" ~ Whit "knows how to create a Buzz" Babcock

"Now, see, what they're trying to do here, well what they want to do, is score more points than the other team"

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

yeah, its a general statement but i am concerned about so little experience trying to stop that urban meyer rushing attack. i'm confident we can run the ball and obviously we can stop the pass. the two big question marks are qb and the front seven. even if whoever the qb is can play well and not turn it over, i dont expect him to be playing out of his mind. that, to me, leaves a lot on our small dline and new lbs.

"It's worth it right? It's worth it to lay it all on the line for your brothers!"
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster (both quotes)

a huge part of stopping the pass starts with the front 7 though. Last year our front 7 really disrupted the pocket and affected a lot of passes. We have a good backfield but a lot of their success hinges on the success up front. I wouldn't actually be surprised if our passing d was a little worse this year despite the fact (assuming they stay healthy) Facyson and Fuller will return bigger, faster, and smarter.

"I like to hit a home run early" ~ Whit "knows how to create a Buzz" Babcock

Small, but much like previous DLs of VT and Missouri's DL last year, it can be very effective. Missouri was 4th in Sacks last year with 41 (VT was 8th with 39) but had a fairly small line:

DE Michael Sam 6'2" 255
DL Kony Ealy 6'5" 275
DL Marcus Gold 6'3" 260
DE Shane Ray 6'3" 245

Obviously, Dadi and Corey are smaller, but if they're unblockable, it won't matter. Foster's scheme is all about avoiding blocks (not absorbing blocks), so they're D will be fine against the big boy offensive lines (like the Alabama game last year).

Dadi is dating a girl I know really well. He is such a nice guy - honestly one of the most genuine, coolest guys I've ever met. And, he is a Hokie through and through. He will be in the NFL some day, and he deserves it. He works extremely hard, loves football, and has a relentless motor. Don't worry about his lack of size. He has first round talent.

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

Nice sentiment, but DEs without size are very rare for a reason. OLB / DE s must be very good rushing, but still have to be able to play zone passing defense. You don't need great hips but being stiff may not work. Lotsa straight forward fast guys are stiff. Don't know the kid, but he is headed into a weight zone that will likely damage his draft prospects. Could say much of what you said about a kid from my hometown who played for Penn State. Drafted high bounced around with little or no interest once on a squad. Listed at 245. Look at the OLB DEs and their sizes... 245 is low. The BC kid is an example of a kid who played light 235? in college and transitioned well... but he is a MLB who didn't have to learn a new position.

I'd be very worried given the recent history we seem to have of guys showing up with 20 lbs of summer weight gain that they then have to reverse the next season. You have to time your carb eating. Defer carbs til later in the day. Try to work out around dinner time, then eat carbs all you want. Fat and muscle are like birds and want to eat in the morning. Carbs to the body are oxygen for a fire, they will make everything grow that is trying to grow. In the evenings, fat and muscle cells are winding down not looking to eat. Workout and the muscles look to eat, fat still just winding down. If he is doing alot of aerobic exercises, he should cut them back by half. If he doesn't start to gain weight, cut it by half again. Most aerobic work should really be anaerobic work (HIIT), recruitment of TypeII fiber for aerobic work (this means very hard shorter duration aerobic work).

If Vegas had a line on the kid getting drafted in the top three rounds, it would not look good. 218 with two years left it is very hard to put on that much good weight. He'll have to put it on smartly. Ray Lewis used to say 5 good pounds a year. I don't think Ray and Dadi were the same starting situation, so maybe that number is 10-15 pounds. That would put him at 238 - 248, and I think with some good tape, someone would take an early round shot at him maybe even on the low end.

I'm going to completely ignore for a moment that there's some great info in here.

Anyone else find it funny that the post about working out and everything is done by VT_slacker?

It's comments like these that make it so easy to root for the guys.

I continue to think of French making Dadi into a verb.

"ARRIVE. WRECK SHIT. LEAVE. #DADI'D"

With all the great food at virginia tech, it should be easy for Dadi to gain 15-20 pounds!