2007 Spring Football Wrapup: The Defense

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There were question marks on Virginia Tech’s defense heading into Spring
Practice, although not quite as many as on the offensive side of the ball.
Judging from the performances of the past three years, people are expecting Bud
Foster to just plug new players in to replace those departed, and still have one
of the top defenses in the country. It looks like that’s what’s going to happen.

The Defensive Line


Defensive Line

DE

DT

DT

DE

Chris Ellis (r-Sr.)

Carlton Powell (r-Sr.)

Barry Booker (r-Sr.)

Orion Martin (r-Jr.)

Nekos Brown (So.)

Kory Robertson (r-Sr.)

Cordarrow Thompson (r-So.)

Jason Adjepong (r-Fr.)

Joey Hall (r-Fr.)

John Graves (r-Fr.)

Demetrius Taylor (r-So.)

Daryl Robertson (r-Fr.)

The only player departing the defensive line after the 2006 season was defensive
end Noland Burchette. Because everyone else is returning, the Hokies will be
very deep and experienced up front on defense, especially at defensive tackle.
Charley Wiles won’t be complaining about not being able to rotate players in and
out this fall.

Chris Ellis is expected to be Virginia Tech’s top defensive end this fall. He
missed practice this spring because of shoulder surgery, which gave four other
players a chance to fight for reps, as well as the starting job opposite Ellis.
Former walk-on Orion Martin appears to have been the most impressive defensive
end over the course of the spring.

Martin is very athletic and has steadily improved at the point of attack
throughout his career. He is the only defensive end to consistently put pressure
on the quarterback this spring. Barring a big change over the summer or in
practice in August, Martin is the frontrunner to earn the spot opposite Ellis
this fall.

Jason Adjepong had a solid spring, but an injured ankle kept him from going
100% over the last week or so of practice. Demetrius Taylor just moved from mike
linebacker to defensive end. Taylor flashed potential at the position, but he
still needs a lot of reps. Right now he’s the fifth defensive end in the
rotation.

Virginia Tech will be deeper at defensive tackle than they’ve ever been, with
four players capable of starting. Carlton Powell and Barry Booker return as
starters, and they solidified their spots in the rotation with their performance
in the spring. Both of those players should have great senior seasons.

Although they can’t quite unseat Powell and Booker in the starting lineup,
Tech’s most intimidating pair of defensive tackles are Kory Robertson and
Cordarrow Thompson. Both players weigh in excess of 330 and can move up and down
the line of scrimmage very well. Thompson in particular had a very good spring.

Behind them, John Graves, Joey Hall and Daryl Robertson played well in their
first-ever spring at Virginia Tech. Graves could see time at defensive end as
well. Joey Hall, whose only other offer out of high school was from Elon, is
stronger and more athletic than most thought he would be at this point in his
career. Virginia Tech could possibly go six or seven deep at defensive tackle
this year, although they’ll probably play just five guys regularly. That’s
generally Charley Wiles’ magic number.

The Linebackers


Linebackers

Mike

Backer

Whip

Vince Hall (r-Sr.)

Xavier Adibi (r-Sr.)

Corey Gordon (r-Sr.)

Brett Warren (r-Jr.)

Purnell Sturdivant (r-Jr.)

Cody Grimm (r-So.)

Andrew Bowman (r-Jr.)

Cam Martin (r-So.)

The Hokies needed to do two things at linebacker this spring. First and
foremost, they needed to find a starting whip linebacker. Secondly, they needed
to develop some depth behind Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. It looks like they
succeeded in both missions.

Senior Corey Gordon has always been an impressive athlete. At 6-2, 226, he
runs a sub 4.5 40 and is among the best hitters on the team, if not the best.
Until this spring, things didn’t come around for Gordon mentally. But heading
into his fifth year in the program, things started clicking better for him than
they have in the past.

The coaching staff moved Cam Martin from free safety to rover in hopes that
he would challenge Gordon for the starting position. That competition never
materialized. Martin hasn’t picked up the position yet, and as a result he finds
himself at the third spot on the depth chart, behind Gordon and Cody Grimm.

At the two inside linebacker positions, Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi are
proven players. Brett Warren has been praised by the coaching staff for the past
couple of seasons, but he’s never gotten a chance to show his stuff during a
game because he plays behind Vince Hall. Warren was his normal solid self this
spring.

Purnell Sturdivant needed to prove himself a capable backup to Xavier Adibi
this spring. Although the coaching staff hasn’t given a post spring breakdown on
their players, it appears that Sturdivant has improved himself as a player. How
much he’s improved isn’t known, but he looks like a better player now than he
did last fall. Although his height (5-9) isn’t ideal, he is a good athlete.

Overall, this linebacker group is very talented in the starting lineup. They
have three starters who could very well be playing on Sundays in the future. The
backups however, are still unproven during game situations. Let’s hope they
don’t have to prove themselves until 2008.

Defensive Backs

Defensive Backs


Field Corner

Boundary Corner

Free Safety

Rover

Macho Harris (Jr.)

Brandon Flowers (r-Jr.)

D.J. Parker (Sr.)

Kam Chancellor (So.)

Roland Minor (r-Sr.)

Stephan Virgil (So.)

Mario Edwards (r-Fr.)

Dorion Porch (r-So.)

Rashad Carmichael (r-Fr.)

Torrian Gray’s secondary finished #1 in the nation in pass defense last season.
They featured perhaps the best cornerback in America, Brandon Flowers, as well
as a possible future star at cornerback, Macho Harris. The very experienced D.J.
Parker was a very capable free safety, and all three of those players are back
in 2007.

The only question mark comes at rover. Although this position is coached by
Jim Cavanaugh, rovers are now more of a strong safety than outside linebacker,
so they are included with the defensive backs. Aaron Rouse and Cary Wade split
time at the position as seniors last year, and Rouse is heading to the NFL.
Their experience will be tough to replace.

Dorian Porch and Kam Chancellor began the spring tied atop the depth chart.
At this point, it appears that Chancellor is winning the battle. He was getting
the majority of the reps with the first team defense during Tech’s final
scrimmage of the spring.

Athletically, Chancellor is Virginia Tech’s best option at rover. As a true
freshman last season he checked in at 6-4, 217. Although his measurements
haven’t been updated this spring, he likely got bigger, faster and stronger in
his first year in the weight room with Mike Gentry. His has good speed and
athleticism. He’s a great fit in the Virginia Tech defensive system that puts a
premium on speed and getting from sideline to sideline.

Dorian Porch is a r-So., so he has a lot of room to improve as well. He has
been in the program for one more year than Chancellor, so he’s got more
experience. Porch is a good athlete in his own right, though he doesn’t have
quite the range as Chancellor. Porch appears to be slightly behind at this
point, but this is a battle that could resume again in August.

Everyone knows that Brandon Flowers brings to the table. As a sophomore last
season, he was already arguably the best cornerback Virginia Tech has ever had.
The good news for Torrian Gray is that his other cornerback, Macho Harris, had a
great spring according to sources. Harris is a very talented rising junior who
started for the first time last year and showed potential. With a year under his
belt, Harris has the ability to be an impact player for the Hokies this fall.

Virginia Tech also has a lot of talent behind Harris and Flowers. Roland
Minor missed most of the spring to concentrate on school work, but he did get in
several practices. He is a former starter who is now Tech’s #3 cornerback. Minor
started on the 2005 defense, which was #1 in total defense nationally. The fact
that he is now a top backup shows exactly how much talent the Hokies have in the
secondary. Stephan Virgil is a player unknown to most Tech fans because he
hasn’t had a chance to see the field yet. But he was very good this spring, and
would start for many teams across the country.

The biggest question mark in the secondary is probably at backup free safety.
The only player competing for that spot now is Mario Edwards, and he hasn’t been
mentioned much by the coaches throughout the spring. That could be bad, or it
could be good. But right now, Edwards is just a question mark because the
coaching staff hasn’t talked about him. The good news is that he’ll get a chance
to learn behind the veteran D.J. Parker this season.

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