Tim Settle is a man of many tattoos. All of them hold meaning, especially the Lunch Pail on his right bicep.
“Virginia Tech gave me a second chance after high school and stuff like that,” Settle said. “I’m so dedicated, I love Virginia Tech with all my heart. I love Coach Foster. I love the whole coaching staff. For them to give me a second chance, and for me to able to play on a defense like this, I think I should have it a part of something that I will never forget. So this is going to be a part of me forever.”
Settle won’t be at Virginia Tech forever, but from now on, he’ll be one of the most important parts of Virginia Tech’s defense, alongside fellow defensive tackle Ricky Walker.
Settle and Walker were both backups last season, before Walker started four games late in the season in place of the injured Nigel Williams. This season, the two linemen will start and lead an experienced Virginia Tech defense that returns six starters and plenty more contributors.
Now that Walker is a full-time starter, he’s taken on more of a vocal leadership role on the team. Last season, Walker was a humble contributor. Now, he’s taken ownership of the team.
“I was just waiting my turn,” Walker said. “I was in line, patiently waiting. Those guys showed us how to lead and how to be vocal, Woody Baron, Sam Rogers, those guys. They led us the right way. This offseason, that’s what I did.”
Walker will have a leg up on his redshirt-junior season after picking up valuable playing time last season. In limited reps, he registered 6.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
“It helped a lot,” Walker said. “I think my first [start] was against Miami. I was a little nervous, but after that, I was good. Starting, you get more plays and more reps than as a backup. It just gives you more confidence, more experience.”
Walker has added weight and now sits around 295-pounds after being listed at 282 last season. His counterpart, Settle, is slightly larger at 320-plus-pounds.
“I’m definitely the biggest guy to ever wear No. 4. If somebody else is bigger than me, that’s crazy,” Settle joked.
Settle and Walker have been next to each other on the depth chart for a while now, and the two have developed great on and off the field chemistry. The two have secret line calls they use in order to keep offensive lines guessing, and the two have a great working relationship.
“When I say jump, he’s like, ‘How high do you want me to jump,’ and vice versa,” Settle said. “It don’t matter. We got our own little calls if we need to call something. We’ve been at it for a while now. I kind of got that chemistry going with him and we’re on the same page at all times. That’s big time.”
“That’s my guy,” Walker said. “When he came here, he came a little early, so he stayed at my house with me and Greg [Stroman]. Ever since then, I took him under my wing.”
Now, the two will be in the spotlight. Depth at defensive tackle is thin, and Walker and Settle will be called upon to hold the front all season long for Virginia Tech.
“It’s time,” Settle said. “I waited for my time to come up. I always played my role. I’m going to still 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 we need to execute. But I’m not going to look at it any different as me playing last year, I’m going to go hard every play, that’s how I’m supposed to, and I’m going to try to help the team in areas that we need to be led. And I’m just going to do my job.”
“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 no pressure, I’ve been doing this all my life. It’s playing football, nothing really new. But I’m anxious to show the team, my family, the world, everybody what I’m capable of.”
Smith and Pfaff Seeking to Anchor Right Side of the OL
Defensive tackle isn’t the only position being filled by players who have waited patiently for their moment. The right side of the offensive line must be replaced, thanks to the graduation of Jon McLaughlin and Augie Conte. So far, Braxton Pfaff and Tyrell Smith have been called on to fill the spots at guard and tackle, respectively.
Smith, a redshirt-sophomore, has shifted all along the offensive line in his career, playing all five positions. This year, it looks like he’ll settle in at right tackle instead of left tackle, where he’s primarily played.
“I’m definitely enjoying the move to the right side,” Smith said. “It’s not too much of a change, just switching my head is the biggest thing. Besides that, it’s been smooth so far, but we’re only one practice in, so we’ll see how it continues to go.”
Wyatt Teller joked that Smith nearly took his job at left guard last spring.
“He was coming for my position last spring. Hopefully he gets his own spot,” Teller said. “I think he’s a heck of a player. He’s a good kid and he has the right mindset. He works hard. He has tangibles, intangibles, he has everything.”
Teller, now a redshirt-senior, has also stepped up to fill McLaughlin and Conte’s shoes as a leader.
“Having an offensive line that leads is huge,” Teller said. “We had some last year, even though there were ups and downs, but for the most part there was great leadership. That was one thing we always had. Jon and Augie always brought it, every day. That’s the goal — bring it every day.”
Teller has had inconsistent offseasons, falling to the second string on multiple occasions. He said that he’s made a concerted effort to change that.
“It’s humbling,” Teller said. “Coach (Vance Vice) says, ‘There’s rent due every day.’ Rent is due. If you’re not producing or doing your job, you’re not going to keep your spot.”
Smith said that Teller, along with Yosuah Nijman and Eric Gallo, have helped him adapt to the right side of the offensive line and improve as a player.
“Those guys have helped me a lot in the offseason,” Smith said. “All the older guys, just showing me the ropes, how to be a player to help this team the most.”