Practice Report: Defensive Progress for Virginia Tech

TyJuan Garbutt (45) is one of many young defensive players on this team. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Most of the talk this spring has revolved around the offense, particularly the quarterback spot and the offensive line.  This week’s practice report will revolve more around the defense, though we’ll include some offensive tidbits as well.

Defensive Line Taking Shape 

I think the two-deep on the defensive line is talking shape.  First, we must remember that Vinny Mihota is out right now, but I’m still going to factor him into my projected depth chart.  Second, Xavier Burke took the reps with the No. 1 defense yesterday, with Jarrod Hewitt with the No. 2 defense.  I’ll take that as a good sign, because overall Hewitt has had a good spring and if Burke is pushing him that much, it bodes well for depth.

Here are the top defensive ends…

1) Trevon Hill (r-Jr.)
2) Houshun Gaines (r-Jr.)
3) Emmanuel Belmar (r-So.)
4) Zion DeBose (r-Fr.) or TyJuan Garbutt (r-Fr.)

DeBose seemed to get all the reps with the No. 2 defense last night, but I think it’s close between him and Garbutt.  I feel pretty good about that group.

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The one thing that stood out to me is how much bigger backups Belmar and DeBose are in the lower body than starters Hill and Gaines.  Hill and Gaines still have skinny legs, especially Gaines.  However, those backups are well-built from the ground up.  I’m not implying that DeBose and Belmar are better, I’m just noting that they are more filled-out right now.

Now that we know for sure that Mihota is moving inside, here is the projected defensive tackle depth chart, based on what we saw yesterday…

1) Ricky Walker (r-Sr.)
2) Vinny Mihota (r-Sr.)
3) Xavier Burke (r-Jr.)
4) Jarrod Hewitt (r-So.)

I was a little surprised to see Burke taking the reps next to Ricky Walker in Tuesday night’s open portion of practice, especially considering that the word is that Hewitt is having a solid spring.  I’ll take that as a good sign.  Moving from tight end to the defensive line isn’t easy, especially when you spend time on the injured list during your transition.  Sometimes it takes awhile to pick things up.

I’d also like to note that defensive line coach Charley Wiles didn’t mention Jimmie Taylor or Darius Fullwood at all in his comments to the media Tuesday afternoon.  He did mention incoming freshman Cam Goode as having a chance to play, but he didn’t talk about those older guys once.  That leads me to believe that those guys aren’t likely to