The Fisher Law Firm Friday Q&A: Final Recruiting Targets, The Running Game and Breakout Players

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1) Do you see the DEs being able to generate more sacks this coming season? Do you see more blitzing from either LBs or DBs (CBs, safety/rover) or not given the new faces at these spots? I didn’t think we would get real pressure with Vinny Mihota at DE, but with Hill, Gaines, and the upcoming r-freshmen, do you foresee an increased ability to get to the QB from the DE spot? – VAHokie89

Chris Coleman: Good question, and the short answer is yes, I do. Here’s a look at the Hokies’ sack totals during their 25-year bowl streak. You can see that they have been down a bit in the last three years, and there’s a lot of room for improvement.

(infographic by @OX_VT on Twitter — give him a follow)

I’m going to assume that Vinny Mihota moves inside to defensive tackle, and Houshun Gaines replaces him at defensive end.  The stats show that Gaines is a more explosive player who is more likely to get to the quarterback.

Gaines (12 games, two starts): 24 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks
Mihota (11 games, 11 starts): 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks

Gaines had twice as many tackles for loss and twice as many sacks as Mihota did this season, despite playing fewer snaps.  Mihota is a good player, but he’s a different kind of player.  In all my years of watching Virginia Tech football, I’ve never seen anybody quite like him at defensive end in Virginia Tech’s scheme.  It’s really an odd fit.

Trevon Hill recently had surgery (which is an offseason regularity for him), so that means he was hurt for at least part of the year.  He finished with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks despite the injury.  A healthy Hill and a healthy Gaines will create more negative plays, plus Tech should have a little more depth behind those guys this year.  Here are the options…

Emmanuel Belmar (6-foot-2, 240 pounds, r-So.): Belmar played in 10 games this year, but by the end of the year he wasn’t playing much at all.  He did start the UVA game.  He was a young player, and he’ll be pushed by other young players this spring.

TyJuan Garbutt (6-foot-1, 221 pounds, r-Fr.): Garbutt will probably be up to around 240 pounds by the time the season begins, and the coaches really like what they saw out of him during his redshirt year.

Zion DeBose (6-foot-1, 244 pounds, r-Fr.): DeBose is just slightly behind Garbutt right now, but it’s close.  The coaches like him, and he will push for playing time next season.

Nathan Proctor (6-foot-2, 224 pounds, r-Fr.): Though Proctor was highly-ranked (4-star recruit, No. 190 in the country per 247), he’s always been a project as a defensive end.  He’s behind the other guys right now, which is no surprise.  Everybody needs to remain patient, including Proctor.

I could see one or both of Garbutt and DeBose passing Belmar.  I could also see Belmar taking a step forward, too.  Either way, Tech should have more depth at defensive end than they did a year ago.  Besides having more pass rushing talent in the starting lineup, they’ll be able to throw more bodies at the offense as well.

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