Spring Practice Report: Defense Develops Quickly

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Bud Foster’s defense has come a long way this spring. Replacing seven
starters from a year ago, the Hokies have managed to get faster this spring, and
this unit probably has a higher upside than the 2009 group.

Six Tech defensive starters from 2009 are gone, and with starting mike
Barquell Rivers out for the spring, Bud Foster and his coaches are breaking in
seven new starters. Results have been very positive so far.

Defensive Line

No coach was challenged more this spring than defensive line coach Charley
Wiles. Wiles had to replace both starting defensive ends as well as a starting
defensive tackle, and he had to find some depth as well. Tech still has a ways
to go up front, but Wiles has accomplished a lot of his goals this spring.

The new starting defensive ends, Steven Friday (6-4, 235, r-Sr.) and Chris
Drager (6-3, 260, r-Jr.), have played well this spring. Friday is playing the
stud position, lining up on the wide side of the field to use his athleticism
and pass rushing ability. He has shown very good ability to get to the
quarterback. His lower body mass is a concern, but overall Friday’s play has
been one of the highlights of the spring.

Chris Drager doesn’t have the athleticism of Friday, but he’s stronger at the
point of attack and a good fit for the end position, which plays the short side
of the field. You could make the argument that Drager is Tech’s best defensive
end and best tight end. He’ll remain at defensive end this season.

James Gayle (6-4, 246, r-Fr.) has played well at the end position, backing up
Drager. Gayle has the athletic ability to play end or stud, and will likely see
time at both positions before his career is over. He looks like a solid #3
defensive end right now, and could play both spots for the Hokies this fall. J.R.
Collins (6-2, 255, r-Fr.) is ahead of Jake Johnson (6-2, 232, Jr.) at stud, and
would be Tech’s #4 defensive end if the season started tomorrow.