Analysis: Defensive Line Play A Boon To Virginia Tech’s Defense

Ricky Walker
Ricky Walker is the holder of the lunchpail this year. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Going into the season, the defensive line was considered one of the more experienced groups on Virginia Tech’s defense. A unit that returned three starters, led by senior defensive tackle Ricky Walker (6-2, 300, r-Sr.) along with junior defensive end Houshun Gaines (6-3, 235, r-Jr.). Unfortunately, another one of those returning starters was junior defensive end Trevon Hill, who was recently dismissed from the football team. Even with the recent change on the defensive line, they didn’t seem to miss a beat in their performance on the road against then-No. 22 Duke.

The defense responded very well in Durham after the embarrassing showing at that school in Norfolk. They controlled the line of scrimmage and shut down the running game against a quality opponent that has been playing fairly well so far this season. Knowing the pass coverage has struggled, I realized the run defense has been respectable, to say the least. It made me want to look deeper into the numbers to see if maybe there’s something we haven’t recognized yet with this defensive front. I was surprised to see Virginia Tech’s defense ranked No. 4 against the run, including impressive rankings in other defensive categories.

All right, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe those numbers are inflated a bit. Virginia Tech has yet to face an offense known to have a good-to-great running game. At least not yet. Florida State has looked awful to start the season, William & Mary is, well, William & Mary, the same can be said for that school in Norfolk, and then there’s the one quality win at Duke. Nevertheless, the run defense has held up well this season even after the departure of defensive tackle Tim Settle, who was drafted by the Washington Redskins. Ricky Walker has had a strong start to the season, and his play has unquestionably impacted those defensive numbers.