In the empty and low-capacity stadiums that fill the country, it’s far easier for the noise to travel from the sidelines and television video cameras to pick up these soundbites. Did you happen to notice a screaming voice from Virginia Tech’s sideline during last Saturday’s 38-31 victory over Duke?
It was screeching lungs of defensive line coach Bill Teerlinck that could be heard on the broadcast as he implored his upstart group up front.
“You hear him screaming all the way from the other hash,” defensive end Justus Reed said.
“You watch the TV copy of the game and all you hear is Teerlinck just screaming at the top of his lungs,” defensive tackle Jarrod Hewitt added with a laugh. “He couldn’t speak on the bus. He couldn’t speak Sunday. His voice was gone.”
When Virginia Tech made its biggest stop of the game, forcing a three-and-out with under five minutes remaining in a three-point game, it was co-defensive line coach Darryl Tapp that caught the attention of the camera crew for the way he hyped up his squad. It’s this renewed energy and passion from Teerlinck and Tapp, the TnT connection, that has the Hokies’ defensive line feasting on opponents.
“It’s incredible,” Hewitt said. “[Teerlinck] is full of juice. Him and Tapp, they’re a couple pitbulls all day long, just going, going, going. Attack, attack, attack. It’s funny… it’s incredible to have those guys there. The knowledge they bring and the amount of passion for the game makes us all better.”
The duo brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the next level to these players at the college level. Tapp played for 12 years in the NFL while Teerlinck is an eight-year coaching veteran and spent many more years in the NFL alongside his father John, a long time NFL defensive line coach.
“The experience they have and putting us into a good position, what to expect when they’re in this formation, or whatever it might be,” Hewitt said. “They put us in a position to be successful, and that’s been a key thing. We’re taking to all this coaching and I think it’s shown. Next week is next week, and no sack is going to carry over from the game before. We’ve got to bring it.”
Virginia Tech’s defensive line is certainly reaping the benefits of that coaching through the first two games. Last year, Virginia Tech’s front four tallied just 21 sacks through all 13 games. This year, the Hokies already have 10.5 sacks from the defensive line crew.
Redshirt senior Emmanuel Belmar made his presence felt with three sacks on Saturday versus Duke, a number that leads the team. For his performance, Belmar was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week.
“EB, Emmanuel Belmar, he’s just the guy who brings it every single day,” Hewitt said. “He’s a leader. He’s very physical and he’s about that work. He definitely leads the way with those d-ends.”
Reed’s veteran-presence has paid off as well in the room. The graduate transfer from Youngstown State tallied two sacks in the opener against NC State. He’s a voice that the other younger players can rely on like Amare Barno, who recorded two sacks of his own on Saturday.
“Dude is a baller,” Reed said of Barno. “His ceiling is limitless. I’m really high on him, and I think that he’s real raw and new to the position, but obviously as you’ve seen on Saturday, he has the juice and he can get the job done. I’m really excited for him and happy for him and think he’s going to be great for years to come.”
On the inside, Hewitt has paired up with sophomore Norell Pollard to continually make plays in the backfield. DaShawn Crawford has missed some time up front, leaving Pollard even more opportunities to flourish after a standout freshman season. So far he’s taken advantage of it with a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
“[Norell] had some serious ability coming in,” Hewitt said. “That’s why you saw him and Mario Kendricks play as true freshmen. Not a lot of guys can do that on the defensive line. I think his mental game is a lot – him calling out things before even I see it. If the running back is this way then he’ll run back that way. If he thinks the guard is pulling, he’ll give me calls. He’s really locked in.”
Hewitt has been no slouch himself as a disruptive force in the backfield with 1.5 tackles for loss. His greatest abilities may be beyond the skillset he’s shown the field, though. The Venice, Florida native has been the on-field coach of the defensive linemen and challenged the unit to put in the extra hours in the film room.
“I think all of us on d-line have been watching a lot more film,” Hewitt said. “We’re in here every day for hours studying tape together, comparing notes. I think that’s where everyone on the d-line has taken a big step. I think it’s the film and the pre-snap recognition that have gotten a lot better at.”
Now, Virginia Tech prepares for a tough test against No. 8 North Carolina. While the Hokies rushing attack has garnered the headlines, the biggest key to the game may just be this defensive line’s ability to pressure and frazzle Sam Howell. Either way, you’ll surely be able to hear Teerlinck’s voice urging them to do so.
“We take it as every game is the same game,” Reed said. “Every game is the biggest game ever. We want to go 1-0. That’s the mentality we have to have and that’s what we’ve been doing.”