Hokies Football: Dadi Nicolas Headlines Virginia Tech’s Elite Defensive Line

The Virginia Tech Hokies have been known for having great defenses over the past two decades largely due to the leadership of Bud Foster as defensive coordinator. Foster and his assistants have done a tremendous job of developing plenty of great defenses that have had stars all over the field.

Foster and DL coach Charley Wiles have had plenty of great defensive lines since Wiles joined the staff in 1996 with plenty of stars including Corey Moore and Darryl Tapp. Entering the 2015 season, Foster and Wiles have the best defensive line in all of college football with plenty of reasons to believe that statement.

The fact that Virginia Tech had four of its defensive linemen named to the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list is a tremendous statement about how talented this defensive line is.

The Hokies are returning all four starters on the defensive line plus Luther Maddy who is pushing Nigel Williams out of the starting lineup. The Hokies have a chance at having the whole Preseason All-ACC defensive line, but should have at least two most likely with Dadi Nicolas and Luther Maddy while Ken Ekanem and Corey Marshall have solid chances as well.

For this defensive line, it all starts with Nicolas who is the best returning defensive end in the ACC after having 72 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and 2 blocked kicks in 2014. Nicolas was snubbed from the All-ACC first team last season, but Nicolas is ready to build on last season and shine on a loaded defense. Nicolas is an excellent edge rusher that definitely can have double-digit sacks and 20+ tackles for loss this season.

Ken Ekanem will be the star of this defensive line in 2016 as the only non-senior on the defensive line, but the junior took off in the latter half of the season and finished with 53 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks to earn All-ACC Third Team honors. Ekanem is still improving as a run defender, and forms arguably the best defensive end combination in all of college football with Nicolas.

Inside, it all starts with Luther Maddy who received All-ACC Third Team honors in 2013 and somehow was All-ACC Honorable Mention this past season despite playing in only four games and taking a medical redshirt. Maddy is an excellent space eater with a lot of strength and an above-average run defender. Maddy is also a solid pass rusher that can surprise a lot of offensive lines with his explosiveness due to his impressive power and strength.

Corey Marshall will start next to Maddy and look to have another strong season after having 41 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks to earn All-ACC Second Team honors from the coaches. Marshall is undersized for a defensive tackle, but has above-average speed, athleticism, and agility to help shed blocks quickly and plug holes for opposing running backs.

The Hokies also have some very talented backups led by Nigel Williams who is college football’s best backup defensive tackle. Williams was very good last season with 34 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks to earn All-ACC Honorable Mention honors from the media. Interior offensive linemen will have to be in great shape with the Hokies’ impressive trio of defensive tackles who all have earned some sort of All-ACC honors.

Virginia Tech’s impressive defensive tackle depth continues with Woody Baron and Ricky Walker battling for the other backup job. Walker is going to be a very good defensive tackle while Baron is one of the most reliable backup defensive tackles in the ACC that is a poor man’s Corey Marshall.

Seth Dooley had a breakout spring and will definitely be the replacement for Dadi Nicolas after he leaves Blacksburg. Dooley has great size for the position and is playing with the confidence of someone who believes they should be starting. Dooley is part of the reason why Hokie fans don’t have to worry about much of a decrease in the play of the defensive line after 2015.

Virginia Tech has the best starting lineup and overall unit of defensive linemen in college football. This unit is so talented at defensive tackle that five-star recruit Tim Settle could end up redshirting because of the players on this roster. Opposing offensive line coaches are going to be sweating the week they have to face the Hokies this season, especially teams like Ohio State and N.C. State that have to play Virginia Tech at night in Lane Stadium.

Dadi Nicolas, Luther Maddy, Ken Ekanem, and Corey Marshall lead a defensive line that will be terrorizing opposing offenses all season while racking in plenty of All-ACC honors, along with some major award semifinalist and finalist appearances, and potentially a few All-America team honors from Nicolas and Maddy.

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