2011 Spring Football Review: The Defense

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Coming off an average year defensively, Bud Foster made a few tweaks to his defense this spring. The scheme is the same, and the positions are the same, but the Hokies showed more defensive fronts than they have in the past. By the end of the spring, Foster had developed what appears to be a good starting defense. In August, he’ll hope to develop some depth along the defensive line.

Defensive Line

Chris Drager moved to tight end, while Steven Friday and John Graves used up their eligibility following the 2010 season. Charley Wiles had some holes to fill up front this spring, and he had to do it with some very young players.

James Gayle (r-So.) and J.R. Collins (r-So.) took over the starting positions at defensive end. They played well last season in a backup role, and both looked ready to move into the starting lineup this spring. Gayle is a terrific athlete and explosive off the edge. In the offseason, he took home Virginia Tech’s most prestigious weight room honor: The Excalibur Award.

Gayle and Collins were very good this spring, but there is a drop-off behind them. Duan Perez-Means (r-Fr.) is the third defensive end right now, and he looks to be a serviceable backup who could play both defensive end positions. However, Tech doesn’t have a fourth defensive end at this point. Zack McCray (r-Fr.) could be there by August with a good summer in the weight room, but he’s lagging behind a bit right now.

Tyrel Wilson (r-So.) is technically the fourth defensive end right now, but he’s listed at 6-1, 214, and it’s tough to envision him getting more than a bare minimum of snaps each game. Charley Wiles may be forced to turned to incoming true freshman Corey Marshall, who is a perfect fit for the Tech defensive scheme. A month of preseason practicing in August will hopefully sort out the defensive end position.

Virginia Tech really hasn’t had a defensive tackle who could consistently penetrate since Carlton Powell and Barry Booker in 2007. Derrick Hopkins (So.) was Tech’s best defensive tackle this spring, and he showed more penetration ability than any other Tech tackle since Powell and