Biggest questions, #3: Will VT have depth at DE?

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Virginia Tech lost a ton of defensive end talent, experience and depth following the 2013 season. I don’t need to go into details in long paragraphs. The numbers themselves will suffice.

James Gayle: 656 plays in 2013, 557 in 2012, 575 in 2011: 1,788 plays over the last 3 years
JR Collins: 510 plays in 2013, 439 in 2012, 700 in 2011: 1,659 plays over the last 3 years
Tyrel Wilson: 155 plays in 2013, 311 in 2012, 326 in 2011: 792 plays over the last 3 years

Those three guys combined for 4,229 defensive plays over the last three seasons. That’s a ton of football. Meanwhile, here are the career defensive snaps for Virginia Tech’s returning defensive ends:

Dadi Nicolas: 436
Dewayne Alford: 19
Ken Ekanem: 7
Total: 462

Ouch. That’s less than one full season for guys like James Gayle and JR Collins, and unfortunately nearly all the snaps come from one player. Not only are the starting defensive ends questionable, but the depth behind the starters is even more concerning.

While I’m confident in the defensive tackles and defensive backs, and fairly confident in the linebackers, the defensive ends have me concerned. Even though I think the starters will be solid, that isn’t 100% certain. Even if they are both solid, an injury will have Charley Wiles grasping at straws.

Here’s a quick look at the returning defensive ends.