2008 Virginia Tech Preview - Defense
Virginia Tech CB Victor "Macho" Harris
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokie Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Virginia
2008 Virginia Tech
2008 Virginia Tech
2008 Virginia Tech
2007 CFN Virginia Tech Preview
2006 CFN Virginia
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.
Interceptions: Victor Harris, 5
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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