The 2016 Virginia Tech football roundtable preview continues on today with Sean Labar of The Virginian-Pilot, Mike McDaniel of Inside The ACC, and Dan Caro of TreadmillHorse.com once again joining us. Today’s question is this, will Bud Foster’s defense return to the top of college football in 2016?
Let’s get to the replies from our panel.
Tim Thomas (Follow the site @techlunchpaild)
Entering 2016, I do expect that Bud Foster’s defense will show some improvement and the shift from pure to running more zone is quite smart given the skill sets of guys like Brandon Facyson, Chuck Clark, and Adonis Alexander. Virginia Tech suffered three losses on the defensive line but on the interior, the Hokies have the quality replacements to step up and possibly be an improvement while the DE spot opposite Ken Ekanem is a little bit of a concern.
Virginia Tech’s depth concerns and the struggles of last year at the linebacker spot don’t make me one to believe that this will be a top 5 defense again in America this year but VT’s defense should finish in the 15-25 range when all is set is done. One big thing that helps is that the Hokies’ secondary has plenty of experience this season, something they didn’t have too much of last season after the Hokies lost Kendall Fuller.
Sean Labar (@SeanLabar)
I think the defense will improve from last year, but it won’t return to the glory days overnight. I worry about depth on the defensive line, and the ability to rush the passer. The secondary should be in good shape. I believe Chuck Clark is poised for a breakout season at safety. This is my first year covering the program, but Bud Foster seems to have a new spark with Fuente around. The defense will be better, but not one of the top in the nation during the 2016 season.
Dan Caro (@TreadmillHorse)
I’m actually concerned about the defense taking a step back this year. I’m not impressed with the talent on that side of the ball. I expect they’ll be okay but not the Lunch Pail Defense that we’re accustomed to in Blacksburg. I think it will shock fans when the season starts. This defense will resemble the one that showed up in East Carolina, Duke and Tulsa games. I just think there is too much youth and not enough talent (compared to previous years) on that side of the ball. It’s going to take a lot of Bud Foster magic to turn this group into a top notch defense.
Mike McDaniel (@MikeMcDanielACC)
I believe that this will once again be a top 10 or 15 defense for the Hokies, which fans are much more accustomed to seeing than the unit that struggled throughout most of last season. The secondary is young, but more experienced now with many of the projected starters getting their feet wet last year when it seemed like that entire side of the ball was suffering from the injury bug. With Chuck Clark and Brandon Facyson, the Hokies should have two solid cornerstones for the secondary heading into the season.
With the experience of Andrew Motuapuaka at middle linebacker, I expect communication on that side of the football to be as good as it’s ever been with the two veterans in the back end of the defense, as well as the leader in the middle with Motuapuaka. Up front, who can forget about senior Ken Ekanem, who will look to avenge an average 2015 season with numbers like he put up two seasons ago as a sophomore, when he recorded 53 total tackles and 9.5 sacks. Health is key for this group as it always is, but if healthy, this defense should be much improved heading into 2016.