What you need to know ...
It's not fair to call last year's defense a disappointment
considering it only allowed 318 yards and 20 points per game,
but it wasn't consistent and didn't get enough from the pass
defense. The secondary should be the major issue early on this
season with only one returning starter and a shake up needed
after losing starting safety Joe Gaston this spring to a knee
injury. The starting front seven should be solid with the line
the strength thanks to a good mix of quickness, experience and
depth getting a big boost from the return of tackle Darryl
Richard from a knee injury. The linebacking corps needs to find
a few reliable backups, but the starting trio of KaMichael Hall,
Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton will be excellent.
Hall, Philip Wheeler, 64
Hall, Philip Wheeler, 4
Interceptions: Philip Wheeler, 4
Star of the defense: Senior LB KaMichael Hall
Player that has to step up and become a star: CBs Pat
Clark, Avery Roberson, and/or Jahi Word-Daniels
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Michael Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Kenny Scott
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hall, 2)
LB Philip Wheeler, 3) Scott
Strength of the defense: Defensive line
Weakness of the defense:
Second cornerback to Kenny Scott, experienced linebacker
The line should be the team's strength as long as the big bodies hold up
in the middle. The tackles are more quick than big, so 280-pound Joe
Anoai and sophomore Darryl Richard, who's coming back from a knee
injury, have to be rocks while rising 260 pounders Elris Anyaibe and
Vance Walker step up in the rotation. The ends are fine even though
there's not a dominant pass rusher like Eric Henderson to count on.
Adamm Oliver and Darrell Robertson are solid starters with a slew of
talented backups to count on.
The key to the unit: Get a steady rotation going to keep everyone
involved and keep the starting tackles healthy and productive.
Defensive Line Rating: 9
- DE Darrell Robertson, Jr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 1
interception, 4 broken up passes
The 6-5, 240-pound end got four starts last year and was a steady backup
the rest of the season. He's a good pass rusher who showed he could be
more than just a specialist when Eric Henderson was banged up. The big
highlight of last season was a 28-yard interception return for a
touchdown against Duke.
- DT Darryl Richard, Soph.
Richard had a tremendous freshman year with four sacks and seven tackles
for loss and appeared all set to be a star in the starting role on the
inside before a torn ACL ruined his 2005 season. The 6-4, 285-pound
sophomore is back with the potential for All-ACC honors as one of the
league's top interior pass rushers.
- DT Joe Anoai, Sr. - 26 tackles, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL
He's not huge at 6-3 and 280 pounds, but he's big enough to be a strong
factor against the run to go along with his tremendous quickness. While
not 100% over the second half of last year, he still managed to finish
among the team leaders in plays behind the line. Now with his 23 games
of starting experience he'll be expected to be the anchor of the front
- DE Adamm Oliver, Jr. - 41 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL
The 6-4, 265-pound junior returns to his starting spot on the outside
where he finished seventh on the team in tackles. His pass rushing
ability was never a question, so his play against the run turned out to
be a big force against the run. He can play either end position and
should be an even more dangerous sacker this year.
- DE Michael Johnson, Soph. - 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1
The 6-7, 240-pound sophomore is considered one of the
rising stars of the defense after a decent true freshman season seeing
time on special teams. He was a top high school tight end and will bring
that athleticism to defensive end as a backup behind Darrell Robertson.
- DT Vance Walker, Soph. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
A bit undersized at 6-2 and 260 pounds, Walker uses his quickness to
make plays on the inside. He was able to step in and start when Joe
Anoai went down coming up with four tackles in the Emerald Bowl loss to
- DT Elris Anyaibe, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
Anyaibe was a great reserve last year with his steady play after the
first two games. A tremendously quick 265 pounds, he'll once again be a
top backup who could start, if needed, if Darryl Richard's knee isn't
- DT David Brown, Soph.
A top high school prospect who hasn't been able to get going, Brown will
be counted on to be a major factor in the tackle rotation. He was sick
at the beginning of last year and wasn't needed with all the talent on
the line, but the 260-pound sophomore will be too good to keep out this
There's no question about the starting three, KaMichael
Hall, Philip Wheler and Gary Guyton, which could grow into one of the
ACC's best linebacking trios, but the reserves are a major question
mark. There's not a sure-thing number four guy to fit in the rotation,
although there's plenty of size and good potential in sophomores Taalib
Tucker and Matt Braman. The parts are interchangeable with Wheeler able
to step inside to replace Gerris Wilkinson or move back outside is
Chambers steps up.
The key to the unit: Get steady play out of the
reserves and figure out where and how all the parts should fit.
Linebacker Rating: 8
- KaMichael Hall, Sr. - 64 tackles, 4 sacks, 14 TFL, 2
interceptions, 3 broken up passes
Hall is a tremendous do-it-all defender with the speed to be a good pass
rusher and the quickness to be a solid pass defender. This is his third
year as the starter on the outside with the hitting ability to move
inside if needed. He was out this spring getting healthy, but he's
expected to be an All-ACC caliber playmaker this fall.
- Philip Wheeler, Soph. - 64 tackles, 4 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 4
interceptions, 4 broken up passes
Wheeler held up well on the outside finishing tied for fourth on the
team in tackles while using his defensive back athleticism to make big
plays in the backfield and against the pass. He'll get a look inside to
replace leading tackler Gerris Wilkinson and could move back outside as
opening day comes closer. He has the size at 6-2 and 225 pounds to
handle himself well at any of the spots.
- Gary Guyton, Jr. - 19 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Guyton might be the one new starter to the mix, but he's hardly going to
need time to get used to the job. He's a huge hitting 230-pound veteran
who has been a strong special teamer and reserve linebacker over the
last two years.
- Matt Braman, Soph.
Braman saw time on special teams as a true freshman and will now back up
KaMichael Hall on the outside. He's a bigger player than Hall at 6-3 and
232 pounds and could move inside if needed.
- Travis Chambers, Jr. - 7 tackles, 1 sacks
With ten career tackles, Chambers is the crusty veteran among the
reserves and looking to live up to his huge prep hype. He'll start out
as the main backup in the middle while keeping his duties on special
- Taalib Tucker, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 TFL
The 238-pound sophomore is a solid prospect on the outside with size and
hitting ability behind Gary Guyton. He'll see most of his time on
special teams but will quickly be a factor in the rotation. He got a lot
of work this spring thanks to various injuries to the starters.
Corner Kenny Scott is one of the few returning
players the secondary can count on
after losing several top players from a slightly disappointing group
from a yardage standpoint. As far as big plays, last year's secondary
made plenty as Tech finished with 21 interceptions.
A bad situation was made worse by the loss of
projected starting safety Joe Gaston to a knee injury. That means
starting corner Jamal Lewis will move to strong safety opening up the
job on the outside to Avery Roberson, Jahi-Word Daniels and former
receiver Pat Clark. None of them have any appreciable experience.
The key to the unit: Hope all the young talent and
athleticism can quickly grow into production.
Secondary Rating: 6.5
- CB Kenny Scott, Sr. - 56 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5
broken up passes, 1 TFL
Scott needs to be a rock with all the movement going on in the
secondary. He has been a steady starter for the last two seasons with a
great combination of 6-2, 185-pound size and good speed. He can hit like
a safety with an impressive ten tackle game to his credit against
- FS Djay Jones, Jr. - 11 tackles
Mostly a special teamer so far in his career, the 6-1, 200-pound junior
steps into the starting role at free safety where he'll have to be
special considering the injury to strong safety Joe Gaston this spring.
He has the talent and athleticism to shine, and now he has to put it all
- SS Jamal Lewis, Jr. - 13 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up
Lewis appeared all set to start at corner this year when Joe Gaston went
down with a knee injury. With plenty of time in the system and plenty of
experience as a backup, Lewis will have to use his tremendous talent to
be a big hitting, but most importantly, steady playmaker.
- CB Avery Roberson, Jr. - 5 tackles, 1 broken up pass
This spot is up for grabs with Jamal Lewis moving to safety. Roberson,
Jahi-Word-Daniels and former receiver Pat Clark will all be in the mix
for the starting job up until opening day. Roberson is the biggest of
the three and can play safety if needed.
- CB Jahi-Word Daniels, Soph. - 2 tackles
A great looking young prospect with good hitting ability and speed,
Word-Daniels will get every shot at the starting corner job left by
- CB Pat Clark, Jr. - 15 catches, 95 yds
The former receiver will move over to corner to
beef up a suddenly thin area. He'll likely be a backup behind Kenny
Scott, but he'll get long looks at the open starting spot to get his
quickness on the field.
- SS Sam Williams, Sr. - 2 tackles
The 5-11, 195-pound senior has the speed to be a regular contributor,
but he hasn't put it together yet. His emergence and development will be
one of the big keys to the secondary as it could allow Jamal Smith to
move back to corner.
- SS Tony Clark, Soph. - 1 tackle
Clark played in nine games as a true freshman seeing most of his action
on special teams. He has cornerback speed in a safety body, and all he
needs is playing time before he becomes a
possible starter. He saw a little bit of time at
corner this spring.
Everything should be fine as long as new punter Durant Brooks can get
the hang of the job right away and kicker Travis Bell can regain his
freshman year consistency. The punt return game needs a lot more pop
after averaging 5.7 yards per return and 20.2 yards per kickoff return.
The jobs are up for grabs. The coverage units could stand to be
The key to the unit: The pieces are there, so there
has to be better overall play.
Special Teams Rating: 7
- PK Travis Bell, Jr. - 11-21 FGs, 27-27 extra points
Bell had a rocky sophomore season after a strong freshman campaign
missing six straight after starting out 5-for-5. He's a good kicker with
decent range, and there isn't too much concern over his consistency
since experience should help solve most of last year's problems.
- P Durant Brooks, Jr.
The JUCO transfer will step in for en Arndt, who averaged 39.5 yards per
kick and dropped a whopping 29 inside the 20. Brooks has a big leg and
shouldn't have a problems averaging around 40 yards a boot. He's a good
athlete and could be a threat to take off on fakes.