With over 600 pounds between them, the impact Virginia Tech hopes defensive tackle duo Tim Settle and Ricky Walker will make for the Hokies' defense this season is, well, huge. The pair is tasked to replace first team All-ACC performer Woody Baron and stalwart Nigel Williams who combined last season for 23.5 tackles for loss and 73 total stops.
"It's time," Settle said about transitioning from understudy to center stage on the d-line. "I've waited for my time to come up... and I always played my role. I'm still gonna play my role as the player I need to be, and hopefully I can execute to the level I need to, to help the team win, and execute things that we need to execute. I'm not gonna look at it any different [than last year]. I'm gonna go hard every play, just how I'm supposed to, and I'm gonna help lead the team in areas that we need to be led, and I'm just gonna do my job."
Walker, primarily a reserve last season who also started four games in Williams' absence, is equally eager to take the reins full-time in the trenches for the Hokies.
"I'm anxious and hungry," Walker said. "It's finally my time to show out and show these guys what I'm capable of. It's not really no pressure, ya know, I kinda been doing this all my life. It's playing football. There's nothing really new, but I'm definitely anxious to show the team, my family, the world, everybody just what I'm capable of."
No doubt the Hokies are hoping the unique chemistry between Settle and Walker yield production that exceeds their predecessors'.
"When I say jump, he's like, 'how high you want me to jump?', and vice versa," Settle said.
Moreover, both admit to having their own line calls to keep themselves on the same page and offensive linemen in the dark.
Walker, a redshirt junior, has seemingly seized an opportunity for a leadership role.
"This offseason that's what I did. I'm more vocal, everybody's listening, coaches are noticing it and they're happy I'm doing it."
Settle agrees with the assessment.
"I bet you're gonna hear him [at practice, during winter conditioning] above everybody else," Settle said. "Ricky, Ricky makes sure he's heard out there. He keeps us going. Whenever we're tired or something like that Rick's always the one to speak up. He plays his role really well, he's up there, ya know. He leads the team, he's one of the older guys, and a lot of us look up to Ricky."
Though perhaps the loudest statement of the Hokies' offseason thus far was made in ink. Settle doubled down on his love for Virginia Tech — which stood by the Stonewall Jackson HS product through academic concerns during his recruitment — with a lunchpail tattoo on his bicep.
"All my tattoos have meanings," Settle explained. "Virginia Tech gave me a second chance after high school and stuff like that. I'm so dedicated and I love Virginia Tech with all my heart. Love coach Foster, I love the whole coaching staff, ya know, for them giving me a second chance, and for me to be able to play on a defense like this, I think that I should have it a part of something that I will never forget. So this is gonna be a part of me forever. ... I keep it with me so I can remember what I stand for, and who I represent every time I look at my tattoo right here."