Virginia Tech Spring Preview: Defensive Line

Charley Wiles has a lot of work to do this spring. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech expects to put a very good defense on the field this season.  However, with the number of major contributors who are missing spring practice for various reasons, Bud Foster’s unit is not complete this spring. 

Starting defensive ends Vinny Mihota (r-Jr.) and Trevon Hill (r-So.) are out while recovering from shoulder injuries.  Their top backup, Houshun Gaines (r-So.) will miss the spring as he attempts to get his grades in order.  Starting nickel Mook Reynolds (Jr.) is out, as is starting cornerback Greg Stroman (Sr.).  Linebacker depth is also thin with Sean Huelskamp (r-Sr.) and Rico Kearney (Fr.) on the shelf as well. 

A lot of good players remain, but depth is lacking.  There are even holes in the first unit,  thanks to the defensive end issues, and nobody really knows how Deon Newsome (r-Sr.) will perform at Whip. Foster and his assistants will earn their paychecks over the next several weeks.

In our spring defensive previews, we’ll start up front with the defensive line.

Settle is all set to be a full time starter in 2017. (Ivan Morozov)

Talent at tackle, but lots of unknown at end

Perhaps no other coach on Virginia Tech’s staff has his work cut out for him more this spring than defensive line coach Charley Wiles.  Right now, his starting defensive ends are as follows…

Emmanuel Belmar (r-Fr.): zero career plays
Raymon Minor (r-Jr.): 62 career special teams plays

Belmar practiced at linebacker for most of last season until being moved to defensive end late in the year.  The move was always expected to happen.  What wasn’t expected to happen was Belmar being Tech’s top defensive end in the spring of his redshirt-freshman season, but that’s what injuries will cause sometimes.

Belmar has talent, and I believe he’ll be a successful defensive end for the Hokies.  He’ll fight for a spot in the two-deep this season.  As much as I wish Trevon Hill, Vinny Mihota and Houshun Gaines were getting the work, their absence could help Belmar take a step forward earlier than expected.

Minor is a former 4-star linebacker recruit who couldn’t get on the field at Backer or Whip.  He played some special teams in 2015, quit the team briefly last August, but later rejoined the program.  However, he did not play in a single game last season.

At this point I don’t see Minor being a contributing factor at end or anywhere else on defense for the Hokies.  However, if he works hard and shows dedication this spring, he’ll put himself back in the good graces of the coaching staff.  Special teams work could then follow, and he would have a chance to get back on the field in 2017.

No other