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June 12, 2012Sign-up for HokieHaven.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
There is an old saying that "college football is not about X's and O's but the Jimmies and the Joes." While this may be true at most colleges, Virginia Tech has one of the best reputations in the country at coaching up their players.
It is safe to say that other than Michael Vick, Frank Beamer and his staff have been the main reason for Virginia Tech turning into an annual powerhouse. Today we'll look at a pair of the Hokies' coaches and see what challenges each coach will face during summer practices and the 2012 season that will have the most impact on this team.
Cornell Brown - Outside Linebackers and Asst. Defensive Line Coach
This summer will be all about one position: Whip Linebacker. Whip linebacker is a hybrid linebacker/safety/nickel position played in Virginia Tech's defense and has primarily been manned by Jeron Gouveia-Winslow over the past couple of seasons.
After his poor 2010 campaign, many hopes Gouveia-Winslow would make a leap in 2011. But he recorded just four solo tackles in five games started before an injury ended his season.
Poor play out of the Whip linebacker creates a lot of problems for the Hokies' defense and Bud Foster because it makes him roll coverage to cover up for the inability of the Whip. It also takes one less person away from rushing the passer and stepping in for run support and really limits Foster's play calling abilities.
What this position needs is a versatile athlete who is strong enough to rush the passer, quick enough to drop into coverage, and powerful enough to come up to the line of scrimmage and lay some lumber.
Enter Alonzo Tweedy and Ronny Vandyke.
Tweedy is a burner who can run and is a great open-field tackler. While he may not be the strongest blitzer or the most powerful player he makes up for it with his coverage skills and his elite speed.
Vandyke on the other hand is the whole package but only a redshirt freshman. He's a big, strong, physical kid who can run with wide receivers and hit like a linebacker. Vandyke is quickly becoming a coach favorite and was named top defensive newcomer after spring practice.
Brown will be watching this battle all summer long and probably into the season to see which player can help this team the most.
Also look for Brown to expand and improve on his recruiting in the future as this past year was his first real time recruiting on his own.
Prediction: Tweedy wins this job but with Vandyke seriously pushing him for playing time. Brown and the other coaches have finally realized they need more at the Whip position and both of these players provide some excitement and versatility the position has not seen since Cody Grimm.
Should an injury happen in the secondary that forces Torrian Gray to shuffle around some bodies, Vandyke can also fill in at Rover and provide some flexibility.
Charley Wiles - Defensive Line Coach
What separates SEC teams and national championship contending teams from everyone else in the country is the type of players and amount of bodies they have to throw into the trenches. Virginia Tech is now seated at that big boy table when it comes to the defensive line position and will be for years to come with the amount of talent that is currently in Blacksburg.
Wiles' biggest challenge this summer and throughout the 2012 season will be trying to get all of his studs on the field. This unit loses no starters from last year and is led by second-team All-ACC defensive end James Gayle and honorable mention All-ACC defensive end J.R. Collins.
The middle of the defensive line will be anchored by Derrick Hopkins, a run-stuffing, high-motor player who will team up with Luther Maddy to give the Hokies a formidable inside presence.
Maddy is entering only his true sophomore season and is poised for a huge breakout campaign after being named defensive MVP of spring practices by the coaching staff.
The second unit will have Zach McCray and Tyrel Wilson at the bookends with Corey Marshal and Antoine Hopkins manning the middle. All four of these players played significant time last year and could be a starting front four on a lot of teams in the ACC.
Also pushing for playing time will be defensive end Dadi Nicholas, a freak athlete from Florida who runs like a deer. Defensive tackle Kris Harley redshirted last year during his freshman season and used that time to transform his body in order to be ready to compete at a high level this year.
Justin Taylor and Matt Roth also will compete for playing time. This gives Wiles eight players he knows will give him great effort and are big time playmakers and four more newcomers who have a ton of upside.
With the top four pretty much set, Wiles will be spending all summer evaluating the depth that he has and creating schemes to utilize each one of these players.
Prediction: Look for Wiles to really mix it up this season and throw in a countless amount of looks at opposing offensive lines. The phrase "NY Giants" type of pass rush has been floating around this off-season and Wiles intends on bringing this to Blacksburg. One play you may see Gayle, Collins, McCray, and Maddy rushing the passer and the next you could see D Hopkins, A Hopkins, Wilson, and Corey Marshal creating havoc.
The amount of depth this line has is truly scary and will allow players to constantly rotate in and stay fresh throughout all four quarters. Virginia Tech also took five defensive linemen in 2012 recruiting class, so look for all of them to redshirt and add an insane amount of depth for years to come.
The wildest part of all is that only one of the 12 players competing for time this year is a senior, meaning nearly all the of the unit (already the best and deepest on the team) could be back for 2013.
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