2007 Virginia Tech Preview - Defense

Posted Jun 3, 2007

Preview 2007 Virginia Tech Hokies Defense Preview


Virginia Tech Hokies

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Virginia Tech Preview
| 2007 VT Offense Preview
2007 VT Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Virginia Tech Preview

What you need to know: For two years in a row, Tech has led the nation in total defense, and last season, was number one in scoring defense allowing 11 points per game. There's no reason the D can't be even better with eight starters returning led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Corner Brandon Flowers is emerging as one of the best in the nation, "Macho" Harris is a good defender on the other side, and the line is loaded with size, quickness, depth and experience. As good as things were, and will be, it's not like the D played a who's who of offensive machines, so the overall numbers might be a tad bit overrated, but make no mistake about it; this is a special defense.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Vince Hall, 128
Sacks: Chris Ellis, 4.5
Interceptions: Victor Harris, 4

Star of the defense: Senior LB Vince Hall
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore S Kam Chancellor
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Nekos Brown
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Brandon Flowres
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hall, 2) LB Xavier Adibi, 3) CB Brandon Flowers
Strength of the defense: Everything
Weakness of the defense:
Proven linebacker depth

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Three starters return to the great Tech defensive line led by senior tackles Carlton Powell and Barry Booker, but they'll be part of a four-man rotation. The 6-4, 280-pound Booker isn't huge, but he's the team's most athletic interior pass rusher. Along with 1.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries and seven tackles for loss, he grew to be tough against the run with 52 stops. He's gotten so much stronger over the past two years that he can be used as a regular, every-down tackle if needed.

The 6-2, 294-pound Powell got over the ankle injury that limited him a few years ago to have a nice 38-tackle, 2.5 sack, 6.5 tackle for loss season. While he's not as athletic as Booker, he's active with a non-stop motor that makes up for a lack of pure pass rushing ability.

Also returning is the team's leading sacker, senior Chris Ellis, at one end after making 4.5 sacks, 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hurries. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, he's big enough to hold his own against the run, while also having the raw speed and quickness to blast off into the backfield when the ball is snapped. He has to come back from off-season shoulder surgery, but he's expected to be fine at the start of fall practice. As good as he's been, he could be a lot better; he has the measurables to be more dominant.

On the other side, it'll be 6-2, 260-pound junior Orion Martin taking over the vacant starting role left by Noland Burchette. Martin, a former walk-on, has plenty of experience in the rotation making 29 tackles and 12 quarterback hurries last year. While he's not Burchette, he should have a big statistical year if Ellis performs as expected and takes all the heat away.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Martin for the open spot will be sophomore Demtrius Taylor, a 6-0, 233-pound speed rusher who'll move over from linebacker. He's hardly an every-down end, and he still has to learn the position, but he's quick and should carve out a niche for himself.

Playing behind Ellis will be 6-2, 240-pound sophomore Nekos Brown, who'll also push for the open starting spot. He had a nice first season as a reserve with 29 tackles and 12 quarterback hurries, and now the former linebacker should blow up with a little more time. Always moving, he makes plays with good hustle.

Booker and Powell might be good starters, but senior Kory Robertson and sophomore Cordarrow Thompson can be considered No. 1A on the depth chart. The 6-2, 335-pound Robertson has first round draft pick size, quickness and potential, but hasn't come close to putting it all together, lacking the motor and the drive to dominate. Despite being a regular, he only made 16 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. He's far too good to be so average. If the light finally goes on, he'll be dominant.

The 334-pound Thompson provides more bulk in the rotation behind Booker. While he's a run-stuffer with his size, he's quick enough to be a regular in the backfield with two sacks, three tackles for loss, and 14 tackles in a limited role last year. He'll be a far bigger contributor this year.

Watch Out For ... more plays in the backfield. As good as the Tech line was last season, it didn't crank out enough tackles for loss. There's too much quickness and talent at all four spots to not do more.
Strength: Athleticism. This isn't a small line, considering the top two backup tackles average around 335 pounds each, and everyone can move. With a few exceptions, the line is full of high-motor playmakers who swarm to the ball.
Weakness: Young tackles. Thompson will be a starter next year, but there needs to be time carved out to find a few tackles for 2008. Considering Tech likes to use a rotation of several players, several new stars have to be found for when Booker, Powell and Robertson are gone.
Outlook: There might not be any sure-thing all-stars on the line, outside of, possibly, Ellis and Robertson, if he plays up to his potential. Even so, this will be among the ACC's most productive lines, with good pass rushing from all four spots, and good drive and motors from most to make up for any mistakes. This is an active group that'll do what's needed to allow the stellar linebacking corps to do their thing.
Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters
There isn't a better returning linebacking duo in America than senior inside defenders Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. The 6-0, 240-pound Hall, who plays in the middle, led the ACC in tackles last year with 129, and has 241 over the last two years, while also showing off impeccable timing when it came to get into the backfield making two sacks, eight quarterback hurries and 10.5 tackles for loss. Even though he didn't do too much against the pass last season, he's shown good quickness and instincts in pass coverage throughout his career. With his big-hitting style and skills, he'll make several All-America teams.

Hall will get most of the headlines, but Adibi isn't far behind when it comes to talent and production on the strongside. While not huge at 6-2 and 226 pounds, he's all over the field in pass coverage with nine big plays against the pass, three interception, three sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 82 tackles. His game is all about speed, and while he'll get pushed around by more physical blockers, he's unstoppable in space.

The one question mark is at weakside linebacker after losing Brenden Hill, who made 52 tackles and had a great year in pass coverage. To start out, 6-2, 226-pound senior Corey Gordon will get the job after making seven tackles as a reserve. A lack of overall playing time is the main issue; he needs more reps and more work to figure out what he's doing. Hall and Adibi will take care of just about everything, so Gordon simply has to make the plays that come his way.

Projected Top Reserves: Gordon has the edge in the battle for the weakside job, but sophomore Cam Martin, a safety playing linebacker, will see plenty of action. Only 6-1 and 207 pounds, Martin comes over from free safety where he'll try to shake the injury bug and be a factor. With good speed and toughness for his size, he should be decent against the run, but his strength will be in pass protection.

Backing up Hall in the middle will be junior Brett Warren, who's back after suffering an injured foot and missing nine games last year. While he only played in four games, he made ten tackles and showed he could grow into a steady reserve. He's a tough 6-0 and 227 pounds.

Behind Adibi is 5-10, 216-pound junior Purnell Sturdivant, a promising prospect a few years ago who hasn't been able to make much of an impact. Mostly a special teamer, he made ten tackles last season but has the speed and athleticism to do far more.

Watch Out For ... Hall to be a Butkus Award finalist. It was almost criminal how failed to get much in the way of All-America recognition (by everyone but CFN), but that won't be a problem this year.
Strength: Hall and Adibi. With two superstars like Tech has, everything else falls into place. You could play weakside linebacker and come up with a big season with these two along side.
Weakness: Size. Speed and athleticism makes up for a general lack of bulk, but while Hall is a tough 240 pounds, there isn't much in the way of sheer size. Tech gets smaller when it brings in the backup.
Outlook: The linebacking corps is more than just Hall and Adibi, but it's the All-America duo that makes it special. They must stay healthy. Gordon appears ready to shine in a starting role, even though he hasn't done much of anything over the course of his career, while Martin, Warren and Sturdivant form a small, but promising backup trio.
Rating: 9

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
There's been some sensational corners at Virginia Tech over the years, but 5-10, 190-pound junior Brandon Flowers could be the best of the bunch. A good tackler with 51 stops last season, he was a rock when the ball was in the air with three interceptions and 18 broken up passes. While he doesn't have the raw speed of DeAngelo Hall, and he's not as big and physical as Jimmy Williams, he has the potential to be a first round draft pick and grow into a truly special corner if he keeps working.

On the other side will once again be junior "Macho" Harris, who picked off four passes and showed flashes of brilliance. What he hasn't been is consistent, and he isn't anywhere near the same league as Flowers when it comes to coverage, but he's a phenomenal athlete with 6-0 and 200-pound size. If he can bring his A game every game, he could grow into an all-star.

Also returning is 5-11, 194-pound senior D.J. Parker at free safety after making 41 tackles with nine broken up passes. Even though he's not huge, and isn't a blow-him-up type of hitter, he's a smart, tough defensive back who doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. As the only senior in the secondary, he'll be the leader.

Filling the vacant strong safety role, at least early on, will be 6-4, 217-pound sophomore Kam Chancellor after making nine tackles and an interception. The former cornerback mostly saw time on special teams, but he has the size, the speed, and the potential to be another great Hokie defensive back if he can hold up for a full season.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing Chancellor for time will be 5-11, 203-pound sophomore Dorian Porch, a true safety who needs to be more physical and has to start showing he can be a big play defender after making nine tackles.

Senior Roland Minor is one of the team's most experienced defensive backs with good physical skills, but he has to show he can fully return to his old form after suffering a wrist injury in a car crash. He's not the same athlete the other corners are, but he can be physical.

Looking to see a little time behind Flowers, who'll likely turn pro next year, will be 5-11, 185-pound sophomore Stephan Virgil after making four tackles as a special teamer. He's a promising cover corner who might just need a little bit of time before he grows into a steady contributor.

Watch Out For ... the nation's number one pass defense to be just as strong again. Flowers and Harris appear to be on the verge of getting even better, while Parker is a good veteran safety. There won't be a drop-off in production.
Strength: Cornerback. Flowers has top ten draft pick written all over him, while "Macho" is emerging as a top 100 prospect if he can do more in coverage. Even the backups are good.
Weakness: Strong safety. The rotation of Aaron Rouse and Cary Wade combined for 94 tackles. Chancellor might make a lot of plays, and Porch is a promising young defender, but it's asking a lot for them to do what last year's rovers did.
Outlook: To be fair, the Hokies didn't exactly play a who's who of passing attacks, but it was great at keeping everyone from getting into any sort of a groove. Opponents completed 51% of their passes with just six touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and allowed just one touchdown pass, in the bowl loss to Georgia, over the final seven games and gave up two in 11 games (with four coming in back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College). As long as Chancellor is a decent fill-in for Rouse and Wade, the Hokie D will once again be phenomenal.
Rating: 9

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Placekicker Brandon Pace and punter Nic Schmitt were excellent, and each has to be replaced. Taking over the punting duties will be sophomore Brent Bowden, who has yet to kick a punt in live action. While he might not come up with Schmitt's 42.2-yard average right away, he should be consistent. The bigger problem will be replacing Pace, and it might take two players to do it. Senior Jud Dunlevy will handle field goals, with a big enough leg to hit consistently from 45 yards and in, while senior Jared Develli, who has an even bigger leg, handling kickoffs again. He forced 35 touchbacks last year.

Watch Out For ... Bowden to be fine, but the placekicking to struggle a bit early on. Dunlevy has potential, but he isn't going to hit 18 of 19 field goals like Pace did.
Strength: The return game. Eddie Royal averaged 22.2 yards per kickoff return, and 13.2 yards per punt return. He's one of the nation's elite weapons, and should be even better with the kickoffs now starting from the 30.
Weakness: Proven placekicker. Dunlevy has been around long enough, but he hasn't had to come through with any big kicks.
Outlook: It's Virginia Tech, so you know the overall special teams are going to be great, but the big question marks in the kicking game could make things shaky for a little while. It could be the difference in the big early game at LSU.
Rating: 8


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2007 Virginia Tech Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 3, 2007
2007 Virginia Tech Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 22, 2007
2007 Virginia Tech Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 3, 2007

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