All four starting defensive linemen return for the Hokies this year.
Nathaniel Adibi and Cols Colas are now seniors. They had nine sacks apiece
as juniors and are looking to add to that number this year. Adibi is a big
guy (6-3 265) who NFL scouts like to play at the next level. Adibi is a
team oriented player, and will be a captain in the UCF game for the Hokies.
Colas' biggest asset is his speed and acceleration coming off the corner.
He's fast enough to beat any offensive tackle in college football. If
anyone on this team has a chance to gain Corey Moore-like numbers in 2003,
its Cols Colas. The backups at defensive end are sophomore Darryl Tapp and
redshirt freshman Noland Burchette. Both are very talented and have had
very impressive preseasons, particularly Tapp. They've added strength,
weight and speed in the offseason. Tapp is a guy that I really like. I
think he has the potential to be a star. He'll be a great backup this
season and register a half dozen sacks.
The Hokies return every defensive tackle from last season, except for Jimmy
Williams. Williams left school for unspecified reasons. The Lewis
brothers, Kevin and Jonathon, will start in the trenches for the Hokies.
Kevin is the most experienced defensive tackle on the team, and Jonathon is
the most talented. Both have good size, weighing over 290. They've got a
chance to be the best defensive tackle combination in the Big East. Their
backups are Tim Sandidge, Jason Lallis and Isaac Montgomery. Sandidge has
put on over 20 pounds from last year, and has been very impressive in the
preseason. Lallis, who played at only 250 last season, is up to 265. He's
also been able to retain his quickness. Isaac Montgomery is a physical
specimen who put up some great weight room numbers. The transfer from North
Carolina has to continue to work on his technique, but he's got a chance to
be a heck of a good player. He registered 2 sacks in one scrimmage this
At linebacker, the Hokies are loaded. Mikal Baaqee and Vegas Robinson
return to man the inside linebacker positions. Baaqee has really improved
his body in the offseason. His weight has increased from 210 in the Diamond
Walnut Bowl to 240 in the preseason. And he's kept his quickness and speed.
He's always been a guy who knows what to do, but sometimes he'd get pushed
around a bit. Robinson is a big guy with a ton of athletic ability. The
Hokies were hurt severely last season when he went down with an ankle
injury. He's back to 100% now and looking to have a great senior season.
Baaquee is backed up by Jordan Trott. Trott is a big, imposing linebacker
who has improved tremendously since he's arrived at Tech. Only a sophomore,
Trott has a bright future with the Hokies. Behind Robinson, we have
redshirt sophomore Blake Warren. He reminds me a lot of Ben Taylor, not
only in his physique, but with his nose for the ball. If Robinson goes down
with an injury this year, the Tech defense won't miss a beat. At whip
linebacker, incumbent Brandon Manning will start. A former walk on, Manning
has developed into a solid player. Behind Manning is talented redshirt
freshman Aaron Rouse. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster describes Rouse as
"a heat sinking missile." Rouse will see a lot of action this year.
Probably the most loaded position on the Tech team is cornerback. DeAngelo
Hall could be the best in the country. Not just the best cornerback in the
country, but the best overall player in the country. He's seeing time at
cornerback, wide receiver and punt returner this fall for the Hokies.
Starting opposite of Hall is senior Garnell Wilds. Wilds lead the Big East
conference in interceptions in 2002 with 5. In the Syracuse game in the
Carrier Dome, he tied the Virginia Tech school record with 3 interceptions
in one game. Wilds is the most underrated player in the Big East
conference, and maybe in the country. You don't see his name on any
All-Conference teams, but he does his job, and he does it very well. The
backup corners are juniors Eric Green and Vincent Fuller. There won't be
much, if any, drop-off when these guys are on the field. They've both
started games for Tech in the past. Brian McPherson is the 5th corner for
the Hokies. He redshirted in 2002 and has improved a lot since spring ball.
Cornerback will not be a problem for the Hokies this season.
At safety, the Hokies must replace the great Willie Pile, who tied for
second with DeAngelo Hall and Vincent Fuller for interceptions in the Big
East conference with 4. That's ok. The replacement is going to be better.
Jimmy Williams will be a big time football player before he leaves Tech. By
the end of last season, he was already a much better run stopper than Willie
Pile. As a true freshman he garnered Defensive Most Valuable Player in the
bowl game with Air Force. He's ready to have a breakout year. His backup
will be steady, solid Mike Daniels. Daniels has starting experience at the
whip linebacker position. He showed flashes of ability in the Gator Bowl
against Florida St. when he registered 2 sacks as a redshirt freshman. No
problems at free safety for the Hokies.
At rover, Michael Crawford returns for his senior season. After being
diagnosed with lymphoma last season, Crawford is just happy to still be
playing. As it turns out, he didn't have the disease and is ready to be a
major contributor for the Hokies this fall. He'll be pushed heavily by
highly touted JUCO recruit James Griffin. Griffin is a playmaker who really
brings the wood in run support. A great athlete, Pete Carroll and the USC
Trojans recruited Griffin as a cornerback. He'll split time with Crawford
this season. He'll also get his chance on the punt block team. In high
school, Griffin blocked 19 kicks. In junior college he continued to impress
in kick blocking. Frank Beamer is licking his chops. Just another great
kick blocker to throw in the mix.
The 2003 version of the Tech defense is loaded with depth and talent. Only
injuries could possibly prevent this group from having a stellar season.
The main thing I will be looking for is to see whether this unit has got
that killer instinct that the 1999 defense seems to have. If they do, its
going to be a long year for opposing offensive coordinators.