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.
|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.