Linebacker Analysis: A Battle at Backer?

Could Dax Hollifield challenge for the starting role at Backer? (Photo by Jon Fleming)

The Virginia Tech defense is breaking in a fresh group of linebackers this season, and it’s a unit that has multiple first-time starters with very few in-game snaps. Experience is important to excel in both the Mike and Backer positions in Bud Foster’s defense. The Mike, the inside linebacker position, is truly the “quarterback” of the defense and can be viewed as an extension of Foster himself on the field. He prefers a guy there that he can trust to run his defense, make the right calls, and make the right reads, which is why rotating his linebackers has been almost non-existent during his tenure.

The most consistent and dependable linebacker this entire offseason was sophomore Rayshard Ashby (5-10, 230). According to the insiders, once he was given the chance to replace Andrew Motuapuaka, he took ahold of the starting position and never looked back. He’s owned that position ever since.

Ashby Defending the Pass

Ashby is replacing one of the better Mike linebackers Foster has had when defending the pass. Yes, Motuapuaka had his ups and downs against the run, but there’s no denying how many pick-6’s and other big time plays he made in passing situations. That’s why in the Florida State game I paid close attention to how well the linebackers covered ground and moved in space. Immediately, I noticed how well Ashby was glued to his man in pass coverage – running stride for stride with him. There were two plays that stood out to me watching him.

ABOVE: Ashby in Pass Coverage