4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRGINIA TECH DEFENSE
– That wasn’t the Virginia Tech defense. The Hokie D allowed 192 points in 2017, and dropped off the map allowing more than 400 points for the first time since the 0-10 1950 season. However, it was supposed to be a rebuilding season, and now the payoff should begin with nine of last year’s underclassmen maturing into a veteran group.
– The defensive line is still young and has to be nastier. Veteran DT Ricky Walker is done, but 282-pound Jarrod Hewitt is a good leader who’ll have to be an anchor, and then it’s all about the young guys. JUCO transfer DaShawn Crawford will play a role right away at one tackle spot in a rotation with undersized 250-pound Jaevon Becton.
The ends need to get to the quarterback more. Houshun Gaines is eventually going to be a factor after suffering a torn ACL late in the season – he led the team with 4.5 sacks – and junior Emmanuel Belmar has to build off a two sack, 29 tackles season.
– Get ready for the biggest improvement to come in the linebacking corps. Dax Hollifield started on the outside as a freshman making 62 tackles, and now he’s expected to do more in the backfield. In the middle again its Rayshard Ashby, the leading tackler with 105 stops last season with the upside to grow into an all-star now that he knows what he’s doing.
– The five in the 4-2-5 are all back. The corners need to come up with more big plays after getting torched way too often, but now they’re at least experienced. There’s good size and depth on the outside around three safeties who should blow up.
Senior Reggie Floyd is the elder statesman of the group – finishing second on the team with 88 tackles at his Rover spot – Khalil Ladler was third with 66 tackles, and junior Divine Deablo has the 6-3, 220-pound size and pop to be special.