The Most Athletic Players: Defense

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In the second part of our series on the top athletes on Virginia Tech’s
football team, we’ll take a look at the defense. Bud Foster puts together one
of the best units in the nation year in and year out, and they are well-known
for their ability to get from sideline to sideline. Hokie defenses are fast and
athletic.

To determine Tech’s most athletic players, we used the testing numbers
provided by Beamerball.com from March, 2006. Each player was ranked based on how
he performed against other players playing the same position. If a player had
the best bench press, he was given a one. If he had the fourth best 40 time, he
was given a four, etc.

If two players tied, they were given the same number. For example, if two
players tied for first in the vertical jump, they would both get a one. Then the
next player would get a three.

Only players that were tested in every single strength and conditioning
category (for the most part) were included in the scoring. We then compiled the
results, and the player with the lowest score at each position was dubbed
“most athletic” at that position. It’s not the most scientific of
systems, and it excludes an unfortunate number of players, but it makes for
interesting reading.

Please note that the scoring tables only list the top three players, not all
players tested.

Defensive Ends

The Hokies lost Darryl Tapp to the Seattle Seahawks, but they return one of
the best athletes they have ever had at defensive end in Chris Ellis. The other
projected starter is Noland Burchette, and he gave Ellis a run for his money, as
you can see below.

Top
Three Defensive End Athletes

Name

Bench

Squat

Clean

Jerk

Vertical
40 Yards 10 Yards
Shuttle

Average

Noland Burchette
2 1 1 1 3 4 2 1 1.875

Chris Ellis
3 3 1 2 1 2 1 2 1.875

Orion Martin
1 2 3 5 2 1 3 3 2.5

Noland Burchette isn’t quite the athlete that Ellis is when it comes to
running, but his strength is very good, posting the best number in three of the
four lifts. This translates into him being very strong at the point of attack on
the football field.

As far as Ellis goes, can you imagine being 6-5, 260-lbs. and having a 35
inch vertical and a 4.55 40 yard dash? Wow. He is also very strong, finishing in
a tie for first in the clean, while falling just one pound short of Burchette in
the push jerk. Ellis is one of the most popular picks to have a breakout season
in 2006.

It’s hard to find a better walk-on that Orion Martin. He put up impressive
numbers in offseason testing, finishing first in the bench press and 40 yard
dash. He is expected to be a very capable backup for the Hokies this fall.

Defensive Tackle

Unfortunately, it’s tough to get a read on the most athletic defensive
tackles. Carlton Powell and Hivera Green are not included because they didn’t
go through enough testing back in the winter because of injuries. Same for Chris
Burnette and Scott King. Instead we have Cordarrow Thompason, Kory Robertson and
Barry Booker.

Top
Three Defensive Tackle Athletes

Name

Bench

Squat

Clean

Jerk

Vertical
40 Yards 10 Yards
Shuttle

Average

Kory Robertson
1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 1.25

Barry Booker
3 2 2 1 1 2 2 1.86

Cordarrow Thompson
2 3 2 3 3 3 3 3 2.75

Not Rated/Ranked: Carlton Powell, Hivera Green, Chris Burnette, Scott
King

It’s not surprising that Kory Robertson is the most athletic defensive tackle.
The big man from Martinsville is the biggest defensive player on the team, the
strongest, and he’s extremely nimble for someone his size. The Hokies are
hoping he can take his weight room game to the football field this season.

Barry Booker has the size of a defensive tackle (6-4, 275 per hokiesports.com),
but some of his other measurables seem more like that of a defensive end. He
runs a 4.82 40 yard dash and has a vertical jump of 30.5 inches. He needs to
improve his strength, but he can chase the play laterally as well as any Tech
defensive tackle in recent memory. Also, note that Booker’s power clean number
was not recorded.

Inside Linebackers

The most surprising thing about the inside linebackers is not the players
that made the list, but the players who did not make the list. Xavier Adibi and
Vince Hall are nowhere to be found.

Top
Three Inside Linebacker Athletes

Name

Bench

Squat

Clean

Jerk

Vertical

40 Yards

10 Yards

Shuttle

Average

Purnell Sturdivant
3 1 6 2 1 3 3 3 2.75

Demetrius Taylor
1 2 3 1 2 2 4 7 2.75

Brett Warren
8 5 2 3 4 3 2 1 3.5

Purnell Sturdivant and Demetrius Taylor top the list, while Brett Warren comes
up in third place. Sturdivant will serve as Xavier Adibi’s backup this season,
while Taylor is in a battle with Andrew Bowman for the third string mike
linebacker position. Warren will serve as Vince Hall’s primary backup.

Xavier Adibi posted the fastest 40 yards and 10 yards times, but he didn’t
place highly in any other run or lift. His weight room numbers were among the
lowest of the inside linebackers. That’s not really unexpected, as Adibi is
known for his sideline to sideline ability rather than his play between the
tackles.

It’s not as surprising that Vince Hall didn’t make the list. He isn’t
known for his foot speed or shiftiness, although he more than makes up for it
with his instincts. But surprisingly, he was only middle of the pack in the
weight room work. Seeing him play on the field makes you think that he would be
extremely good in the weight room, but that is not the case.

Whip Linebackers

The Hokies only have four whip linebackers on the team right now, so
unfortunately, one will have to be left off the list. Here’s a look at the
three most athletic whip linebackers.

Top
Three Whip Linebacker Athletes

Name

Bench

Squat

Clean

Jerk

Vertical

40 Yards

10 Yards

Shuttle

Average

Corey Gordon
1 1 2 1 2 1 1 3 1.5

Brenden Hill
2 3 1 2 1 3 2 1 1.875

Cody Grimm
4 2 3 3 3 2 4 2 2.875

This list is in the exact order than everyone would expect. Corey Gordon has
proven time and time again to be a very athletic player, especially with his
work in the weight room. If he every picks up the whip linebacker position from
a mental standpoint, he will be a very tough defender.

Right now Brenden Hill is listed as the starting whip. He is a fifth-year
senior who knows the system and put up some good numbers in certain categories.
Cody Grimm and Chad Grimm battled it out for the final spot on the list, and
Cody won out. The Grimms have a chance to see action on special teams this
season.

Defensive Backs

Virginia Tech’s secondary looks to be the strength of the defense this
year, despite losing Jimmy Williams and Justin Hamilton to the NFL. Reviews were
very strong coming out of spring practice for young corners Macho Harris, Jahre
Cheeseman and Brandon Flowers, and returning junior starter Roland Minor is back
as well. Aaron Rouse was not rated on this list because he did not test due to
injuries.

Top
Three Defensive Back Athletes

Name

Bench

Squat

Clean

Jerk

Vertical

40 Yards

10 Yards

Shuttle

Average

Jahre Cheeseman
1 1 3 4 7 2 11 6 4.375

Kent Hicks
2 3 4 5 3 10 3 7 4.625

Cory Price
9 1 9 1 2 3 9 5 4.875

Not Rated/Ranked: Aaron Rouse, Cary Wade

As we’ve seen with other positions, those may not be the three players that
you expected to see listed. Macho Harris is described as one of the most fluid
athletes on the team, but he isn’t on the list. In fact, of the three players
listed above, none are expected to start this season, and two will only be
factors on special teams.

Jahre Cheeseman will be a r-freshman this fall, so topping this list with
just one offseason in the weight room is a very good sign for his future. He was
very impressive in spring practice this year. He is slated to be Tech’s fourth
cornerback and should see playing time on defense this fall.

Kent Hicks has played free safety, rover and now cornerback. He is a very
intimidating player physically, but he hasn’t been able to grasp any position
that he has played. If he plays this fall, it will be on special teams.

Cory Price is a senior walk-on who has seen action on special teams in the
past. He has played cornerback and free safety for the Hokies, and is currently
slated for free safety this fall.

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