2017 Defensive Line Preview: Hokies Searching For Depth

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DriveFor25_shield-320pxThere have been plenty of times in the past when it seemed like defensive line coach Charley Wiles didn’t have a lot of depth to work with. Yet, every single time, he molded his group into something competent.  He’ll be asked to do the same thing this year, as Virginia Tech’s starters are proven and reliable, while the backups…not so much.

Defensive End

The Hokies have the luxury of knowing who their starting defensive ends will be.  Vinny Mihota (6-foot-5, 264 pounds, r-Jr.) will start at left end, and Trevon Hill (6-foot-3, 245 pounds, r-So.) will start on the right.

Both of those guys showed their toughness last season by playing through bad shoulder injuries.  They had surgery in the offseason and missed spring practice, but the early indications are that they have returned as good as new.  That applies particularly to Mihota, who we’ve heard has been very difficult to block on the left side. 

Mihota was close to 290 pounds as a redshirt-freshman in 2015.  He dropped some weight last year, and now he’s down to 264 pounds.  He’s probably a little more explosive now than he used to be.  Mihota’s gradual weight loss, combined with the fact that he is coming off a shoulder injury, makes me believe that he’s unlikely to slide inside to defensive tackle if the Hokies have depth issues there. 

He had seven tackles for loss and two sacks a year ago, while Hill had six tackles for loss and two sacks.  Considering their injuries and that Hill was a backup, that’s pretty good production.  The Hokies should have a good starting duo on the edge this season.

The backups are less proven.  Here are the three guys who have been in the program for at least a season, in order of seniority…

Gaines (right) should play a bigger role this year. (Ivan Morozov)

Raymon Minor (6-foot-2, 245 pounds, r-Jr.): Minor is a former linebacker who couldn’t stick at either backer or whip.  He’s played better at defensive end, though there is a concern about how physical he plays at the point of attack.  I don’t believe he has a legit chance of earning a spot in the two-deep, though he could possibly contribute on special teams.

Houshun Gaines (6-foot-3, 245 pounds, r-So.): Gaines played in 12 games last season, mostly on special teams.  He did not participate in spring practice due to personal issues.  He has talent, but off the field issues like his 2016