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Losing a key piece to the Virginia Tech defense from last season will create an obvious hole.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has one steady returner, one not as certain how steady he'll be and a number of question marks behind them as to what's next. Foster has an idea of who could fill a few spots on the depth chart, but is using this spring to get a better look at what to expect this fall.
The loss of Bruce Taylor to graduation is a tough loss for the Hokies' defense. Taylor had 76 tackles and a team-high 5.5 sacks last season. But the tackling machine, that being Jack Tyler and his 119 tackles is back.
One question is the return of Tariq Edwards, who had a rod inserted in his left leg to help stabilize his leg from a stress fracture. He tried to give it a go last fall, but the pain came back and he saw limited action in seven games.
"Right now, after you look at Jack Tyler and even Tariq, Tariq's a guy that missed most of last year," Foster said. "I've even said he's a key guy for the linebacker spot because two years ago he was kind of an all-star candidate, a playmaker, a dynamic football player. He'd intercept passes, blitz and rush the quarterback. He could do all those things and we need to get him back and be consistent and confident. He could've played last year, but he just was unsure of that leg and the stability and all those things. If you talk to him, I think he feels a lot better about it."
But behind those two are the biggest uncertainties. There's some contributors, some newcomers and a mix of others as Foster has begun sorting through it all this spring.
"Chase Williams, we've moved him, he's kind of played both spots, but you've got [/db]Deon Clarke[/db], who I'm really excited about as far as his motor and athletic ability," Foster said. "Devin Vandyke is another guy I like and his potential. Drew Burns is a walk-on kid, but he's got a chance to be in the mold."