Virginia Tech’s defensive line may not have as many sacks as some Hokie defensive lines have had in the past but the front 4 for Virginia Tech has been a nightmare so far for opposing teams. The Hokies’ defensive line is clearly one of the best in college football led by star senior DE Ken Ekanem who has 4.5 sacks, 5.5 total tackles for loss, and 5 QB hurries through 4 games.
The Hokies have also seen Woody Baron and Nigel Williams play well in the middle while Vinny Mihota has looked quite good at DE after making the full-time switch back to DE last fall and early this past spring.
However, every great defensive line needs some quality backups and Virginia Tech has three future starting defensive linemen who not only show that the drop-off after the graduations of Ekanem, Baron, and Williams will be minimal; but also are making big impacts in their own right this season.
Tim Settle, Ricky Walker, and Trevon Hill were all highly-regarded players out of high school that received four-star grades almost across the board with Settle receiving a five-star grade. So far, Charley Wiles seems to be taking advantage of the fact that he has some very talented defensive linemen who clearly have a very bright future.
Trevon Hill has been the Hokies’ primary backup defensive end and after having to redshirt last year while recovering from injury, Hill has shown tons of promise and made his fair share of plays as a redshirt freshman. Hill currently has 9 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 3 QB hurries while coming close to finally getting his first career collegiate sack.
Hill hasn’t been the most consistent player but he has shown plenty of flashes as a talented speed rusher that can get plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Hill has also bulked up to 240 pounds and its showing in his run defense with his 2.5 tackles for loss so far on the season despite not having a single sack.
Hill will definitely be the replacement for Ken Ekanem next season and while there likely will be a slight drop-off, Hill is showing that the drop-off won’t be as big as many likely thought. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has two talented backups defensive tackles who definitely have the potential to be better next year then the current talented duo of starting DTs.
Ricky Walker and Tim Settle have been playing quite well through the first four games of the season making plays on defense and special teams. While Walker and Settle aren’t as good as Baron and Williams right now, the backup duo of defensive tackles likely could start on most ACC teams and are making a big impact when rotating in for the two senior DTs.
Settle has lived up to the five-star promise in the glimpses we’ve seen of him this season as he has 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a blocked field goal. Settle has put in the work on and off the field that should have fans very excited about his future and was proven by the decision to give him the #25 jersey for Virginia Tech’s ACC opener against Boston College.
Settle has the type of size at DT that Bud Foster and Charley Wiles have rarely gotten to work with and so far, Settle has proven to be a run stuffer that can take up space but can move quick enough to fill holes up the gut. Settle isn’t as good of a pass rusher but the redshirt freshman defensive tackle has shown flashes of potential and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a couple of sacks this season.
Ricky Walker made a strong debut two years ago as a freshman but the emergence of Steve Sobczak led the Hokies to redshirting him last season. Now, Walker is back after his redshirt year and looking as good as ever and as someone who could definitely start on many power 5 conference teams across America.
So far, Walker has 7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 QB hurry as the redshirt sophomore defensive tackle has built on the promise he showed two years ago. Walker’s defensive awareness definitely is showing from his two pass breakups so far while Walker continues to be a very good run stuffer and solid pass rusher for the Hokies.
Walker and Settle are almost certain to be the starting duo of defensive tackles next season and not only are showing plenty of promise but also are playing like two guys that Virginia Tech fans can have confidence in at least being as good as Baron and Williams next season.
Every great defensive line needs quality depth and the Hokies have that with Trevon Hill at DE plus Tim Settle and Ricky Walker at DT.