2008 Virginia Tech Preview - Defense
Virginia Tech CB Victor
Virginia Tech CB Victor "Macho" Harris
Posted May 20, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokie Defense

Virginia Tech Hokies

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Virginia Tech Preview | 2008 Virginia Tech Offense
- 2008 Virginia Tech Defense | 2008 Virginia Tech Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Virginia Tech Preview | 2006 CFN Virginia Tech Preview

What you need to know: This is one of those years Bud Foster has a chance to enhance his reputation as one of the game’s premier coordinators. Seven Hokies who earned All-ACC honors are off to the NFL, meaning there’ll be inexperienced players littered throughout the two-deep, and in need of coaching. While that won’t stop Foster from being aggressive, he might be forced to temper his penchant for chaos and all-out blitzes until the newcomers prove they can handle man-to-man situations. Considering he’s the only reigning all-star returning to Blacksburg, CB Victor Harris might feel a little lonely in the early going. DE Orion Martin will be the anchor up front, while Cam Martin is steadiest linebacker.   

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kam Chancellor, 79
Sacks: Orion Martin, 6.5
Interceptions: Victor Harris, 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB Victor Harris
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DT Cordarrow Thompson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Jason Worilds
Best pro prospect: Harris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harris, 2) Junior FS Kam Chancellor, 3) Senior DE Orion Martin
Strength of the defense: The secondary, creating pressure and turnovers
Weakness of the defense: The middle of the defense, cornerback opposite Harris

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Three starters are gone from a line that was instrumental in a defense that finished No. 5 nationally in sacks and run defense. The lone holdover from that group is 6-3, 253-pound senior Orion Martin, a former walk-on who erupted for 58 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks in his first season as a starter. A good all-around athlete, he holds the school record for ends with a 39-inch vertical jump.

Joining Martin on the outside will be 6-2, 252-pound sophomore Jason Worilds, one of the breakout stars of spring. A blur coming off the edge, he spit out a sub-4.5 in the forty during the offseason, a frightening development for opposing tackles. After debuting with 17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks, he’ll be looking to channel Corey Moore, the former undersized Hokie speed rusher.

Tech is facing more pressing issues on the inside, where junior Cordarrow Thompson and sophomore John Graves are attempting to plug holes at tackle. The 6-2, 323-pound Thompson has lettered in each of the past two years, but played sparingly in nine games last season. Although he has considerable upside as a run-stuffer, he’s not going to reach it unless he can stay in shape.

Graves is a little smaller at 6-3 and 292 pounds, but showed flashes of his upside as a freshman, playing in all 14 games and collecting 11 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Very strong at the point of attack and always working to improve, he’s positioned to be the program’s top interior lineman and a rising star in the conference.   

Projected Top Reserves: After making 22 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks, junior Nekos Brown will again be an important part of the rotation at defensive end. Somewhat of a situational pass rusher at 6-2 and 252 pounds, the former linebacker has a good burst and is a natural at getting into the backfield.

Junior Demetrius Taylor is making the unorthodox transition from linebacker to end to now providing insurance at the nose. He’s bulked up in recent years, but is still a mere 6-0 and 254 pounds. He has the quickness and instincts to blow past some centers, but the lack of girth is going to be an issue against more physical offensive linemen. 

Watch Out For ... Worilds. On pure speed alone, he’s going to be a nuisance all year for opposing tackles. Once he refines his pass-rushing technique and gets better with his hands, look out.
Strength: Athleticism off the edge. Martin, Worilds, and Brown are glorified outside linebackers with the explosion off the snap and closing speed to wreak havoc in the backfield. If they’re permitted to roam around in space, they’ll blow up gameplans and harass quarterbacks.
Weakness: Uncertainty at tackle. It’s not as if Carlton Powell and Barry Booker were stars, but they were solid veterans who did a terrific job of clogging running lanes. Their replacements have upside, but Thompson has to start playing like it and Graves must push the fast forward button on his development.
Outlook: The Hokies will generate pressure from the outside and swarm with great speed and athleticism. They always do. The concern lies with a rebuilt interior that’ll be tested against the likes of Maryland, Nebraska, and Georgia Tech, programs capable of getting physical and committing to the run.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: All-stars Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall are in the NFL, leaving junior Cam Martin as the only returning starter from a year ago. Despite being just 6-1 and 204 pounds, he plays the game with the speed of a former free safety and the instincts to be successful at whip.  In his first year at the position, he learned on the fly, finishing fifth on the team with 78 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and six passes broken up. Now he has to maintain that production, while becoming the leader of the unit.  

Taking over in the middle will be 6-1, 223-pound senior Brett Warren, a three-time letterwinner who started four games last season after Hall was injured. A solid defender who won’t blow you away with his measurables or coverage skills, he had 43 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks in the most extensive action of his career.

On the outside, Tech is banking on 5-10, 234-pound senior Purnell Sturdivant having the best season of his Hokie career. A perennial backup and special teams performer, he’s a sure tackler who can really pack a wallop. In 14 games a year ago, he had a dozen tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and two picks.

Projected Top Reserves: With the exception of junior 5-11, 198-pound Cody Grimm, youth is going to be served on the second and third team. A valuable player to have on the second team, he started a game a year ago and finished the season with 27 tackles.

Behind Warren on the inside is 6-0, 233-pound redshirt freshman Barquell Rivers, a top recruit from a year ago. Tough and physical as a run defender, he’ll move closer to being a complete linebacker as soon as he becomes more comfortable dropping back into coverage.     

Watch Out For ... the incoming freshmen, especially Quillie Odom. He arrives with plenty of hype and an opportunity to sneak into the two-deep with a convincing performance in August.
Strength: Tackling. This is a very, very well-coached group. All of them wrap up and hit low, rarely allowing ballcarriers to squirm free for extra yards.
Weakness: All-star talent. Unlike the last couple of years when Adibi and Hall roamed the defense, Martin, Warren, and Sturdivant are blue-collar who won’t be playing this position at the next level. Like so many Hokie linebackers of the past, this group isn’t very big and won’t turn any heads with their measurables.
Outlook: The fall-off from a year ago is inevitable, with a pair of workmanlike linebackers replacing perennial All-ACC performers. They’ll get the job done and gobble up a bunch of tackles, but don’t count on a plethora of tide-turning plays in the form of sacks, forced fumbles, or interceptions.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Two top talents are gone. Two top talents return. Replacing boundary corner Brandon Flowers is the star of the defense, senior Victor Harris, who had been playing field corner before this year. Macho’s a 6-0, 192-pound playmaker who has picked off nine passes over the last two years and led the Hokies with 11 broken up passes in 2007. While not in Flowers’ league as a lock-down corner, he has the athletic ability and instincts to navigate the largest area of the secondary.

By a narrow margin, the front-runner to take over at field corner is 5-10, 193-pound sophomore Rashad Carmichael. As the backup a year ago, he learned behind Harris and mostly played on special teams, finishing the season with eight tackles and his first letter. To win the job in August, he must fend off the growing line of competitors forming behind him. 

Junior Kam Chancellor is also on the move, shifting from rover to free safety in order to replace D.J. Parker. One of the rising stars of the defense, he moves like a defensive back and hits like a linebacker, notching 79 tackles and breaking up seven passes in his first year as a starter. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he’s that rare combination of size and speed who can also deliver in man coverage.

Playing Chancellor’s old rover position will be 5-11, 211-pound Dorian Porch who secured the spot with a solid spring. A ball hawk as a pass defender, he had 17 tackles last year and in the winter posted the best vertical jump for the third straight year. The Hokies need him to become more physical as a run defender now that his playing time is about to mushroom.        

Projected Top Reserves
: Carmichael is feeling the heat from redshirt freshman Cris Hill who almost made it on the field as a true freshman. A top-flight recruit from last year, he’s 5-11 and 185 pounds with the hips and athletic ability to break through and win the job in the summer.

Junior Stephan Virgil is listed as Harris backup at boundary, but could also get into the mix at field corner. The 5-11, 177-pounder played in 14 games last season, making 18 defenses as the No. 2 corner and contributing on special teams for a second year in-a-row.

The best of the backup safeties is 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Davon Morgan, Porch’s primary competition at rover. He had 11 tackles in 14 games, earning a letter and flashing some of the big-play potential as a true freshman who has the coaches excited. 

Watch Out For ... Harris to step out of Flowers’ shadow and blossom into a nationally-recognized player. He has the physical tools to keep getting better as a pass defender and the opportunity for a bigger spotlight playing the boundary corner.
Strength: Ball skills. As always, the Hokies have a group of ball hawks who are tremendous at batting away or intercepting passes thrown in their direction. Led by Harris, this unit will again be a nuisance and the catalyst for one of the ACC’s most opportunistic pass defenses.
Weakness: Field corner. Is Carmichael or Hill up to the challenge of being the guy opposite Harris? It’ll be a baptism under fire for whoever wins the job, as quarterbacks attempt to avoid Harris side of the field.
Outlook: The Hokies also had holes to fill last year and survived just fine, yielding only 10 touchdown passes while picking off 22. With Harris and Chancellor anchoring the retooled secondary, Tech will have few obstacles navigating a schedule that features a shortage of scary passing attacks. 
Rating: 8

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The most pressing concern is at placekicker, where Jud Dunlevy must be replaced. A quartet of players tried to impress the staff in the spring, but no one stood out. Out of senior Dustin Keys, Penn State-transfer Matt Waldron, and walk-ons Tim Pisano and Chris Hazley, Keys has built a sliver of separation. He has good leg strength and has been around the longest, but needs to dramatically improve his accuracy and consistency.

There are no such problems at punter, where junior Brent Bowden returns after averaging 42.5 yards and dropping 28 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. He showed good pop in his first season, and is expected to continue making progress this fall.

Tech would like a veteran succeeding Eddie Royal on punt returns, creating an opportunity for senior Victor Harris to expand his already thick resume. The opening at kick returner is far less certain, with junior Brandon Dillard being the only veteran in the mix.    

Watch Out For ...
the race for the kicking job. The Hokies are hoping things work out as well as last year, when Dunlevy nailed 21-of-26 field goal attempts in his first year replacing Brandon Pace. Keys has that potential if he can straighten out his kicks and deliver in a pressure-cooker.
Strength: Coverage teams. Well-schooled in all phases of special teams, the Hokies perennially do a fantastic job of limiting the big plays from opposing kickoff and punt returners.
Weakness: Proven placekicker. The program has had a knack for surviving this type of situation in the past. It has better come through again because the holes on offense could result in a ton of attempts for the new kicker.
Outlook: Royal and Dunlevy leave behind big holes, but this is still Virginia Tech, where special emphasis and extra time is always dedicated to special teams. The Hokies always do the little things well, such as covering kicks and blocking punts, which aren’t always easy to locate on a stat sheet.
Rating: 8