Despite the loss of Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall, Bud Foster still feels good about his group of defensive tackles this spring.
Those two reliable players leave behind a lot of production in Blacksburg. Maddy finished his career with 29.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks, while Marshall chipped in with a further 21 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Normally a defensive coordinator might not feel so good after losing two guys who put up those kind of numbers, but the Hokies have three other defensive tackles with experience who are ready to step up, plus more talent waiting in the wings.
Rising seniors Woody Baron and Nigel Williams have been through the battles. Baron has started seven games in his career, and he has nine tackles for loss and three sacks in three seasons. Williams has 10 career starts with 18 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Both of those guys are playing well this spring…Baron in particular.
“Woody Baron, right now, is playing at a really high level,” Bud Foster told the media on Tuesday afternoon. “And Nigel Williams has done a great job. So you have a little bit of experience right there.”
Of course, the Hokies will need more than just two defensive tackles. Three younger players are battling for playing time behind Baron and Williams.
Ricky Walker is a rising r-sophomore who redshirted in 2015 after playing as a true freshman in 2014. After gaining valuable experience two years ago, Walker gained strength and muscle during the 2015 campaign.
“We redshirted Ricky last year, and he’s really playing fast and physical,” Foster noted. “I think that year of maturity, the year of [adding] strength has helped him.”
Walker agreed with Foster that the redshirt was good for him.
“It benefited me a lot,” Walker said. “It kind of sucked not playing football, especially after playing as a freshman, but I took it as a learning experience.”
Foster views Walker, a former 4-star recruit, as Tech’s third defensive tackle right now. However, he’s very capable of being a starter as well.
Right now Foster is trying to figure out who will serve as his fourth defensive tackle: the highly-touted Tim Settle (r-Fr.) or Steve Sobczak (r-So.). He sees them both as good options.
“I’ve been real pleased with Tim Settle. Steve Sobczak is playing well early.”
Settle enrolled last August at 359 pounds. He is listed this spring at 344, though he says he’s dropped more weight since practice began and is now 340.
It wasn’t easy for Settle to lose the weight, and in fact he struggled with it last August. However, the new staff’s emphasis on running has really helped him.
“Dropping the weight wasn’t as difficult now,” Settle said. “The new coaching staff, they came in and their idea was to attack this in the right way. We weigh in every week, making sure that everybody is doing what they are supposed to do.”
Settle’s rapid weight loss since the spring semester began has been impressive, though he isn’t finished. He wants to lose even more pounds before the regular season begins.
“My ideal weight for this season is 330.”
For more comments from Foster, Walker and Settle, plus head coach Justin Fuente and other players, see the video below.