The section of the Virginia Tech defense that has Hokie fans most concerned is the interior. This is where football games are won and lost. Virginia Tech is known for their tough defense, so let's take a look at the young and inexperienced players that will be plugging up the middle for the Hokies this fall.
Let's start off with the utility man. Jim Davis (6-4 265, Jr.) will play both defensive end and defensive tackle for Tech this season. Davis was included in the defensive end preview, and he will be included in this preview as well.
Big Jim will see a lot of time at defensive tackle this season, and could very well start there opposite of Kevin Lewis against Arkansas St. Davis is very quick for a defensive tackle, and he was moved to the position in order to produce a better middle pass rush. Hopefully he will be able do this, because it would make the outside rush even stronger.
Kevin Lewis (6-1 287, r-So.) is the most experienced of the defensive tackles.
As a true freshman in the 2000 season, he saw extensive action as a backup. The Hokies were so deep at defensive tackle in 2001 that they decided to redshirt Lewis. It was a wise move, as now he will have 3 years to start. He is still a young player, but he is very talented and very strong. Look for Lewis to have a stellar sophomore campaign.
Jimmy Williams (6-4 325, Jr.) was a great pickup for the Hokies this past February. A Junior College Transfer, Williams will provide immediate help for the Tech defensive front. He'll see time not only at nose, but at some point in the season at tackle, likely as the starter. The only problem is that he has yet to complete an online course this summer that he needs to be eligible.
He is likely to miss the Arkansas St. game. However, look for Jimmy to be in uniform and making tackles for loss as early as the LSU game, provided he passes his summer course.
Jason Murphy (6-2 285, r-Fr.) is trying to work his way into the lineup for the Hokies this fall. A sack machine in high school, Murphy could develop into that type of player in college with some experience and "Gentrification."
Tim Sandidge (6-1 272, r-Fr.) is another talented freshman who is fighting for playing time in 2002. Look to see Timmy on the field for the second half of the Arkansas St. game, if not before (if things go as expected!).
Chris Pannell (6-3 269, r-Fr.) is yet another freshman battling for some action. He is a little behind Murphy and Sandidge currently, but he will see some mop up duty this year and will continue to improve.
Kevin Hilton (6-1 272, r-Fr.)is (I think you get the point now, we are young) yet another freshman in the lineup. He is currently even on the depth chart with Chris Pannell.
Chris Burnette (6-2 255, Fr.) is a certain redshirt this year. He needs some time to put on weight and add speed, but he has a bright future.
Mark Costen (6-3 275, r-Jr.) is a former walk-on who has recently been rewarded with a scholarship. Add another successful walk-on to the list. Costen will see a significant amount of playing time this season and could very well start.
Jonathan Lewis (6-1 300, Fr.) was one of the most highly touted defensive tackle prospects in the nation last year. He is the brother of current Tech defensive tackle Kevin Lewis. He will be on the field a lot this season. Look to see him on the field with his brother at times. That should be fun to watch.
Jason Lallis (6-0 254, r-So.) may seem a little small for the position, but he has impressed the coaches thus far. He was moved from defensive end during spring practice. Lallis has another thing going for him-he is one of very few players that sacked Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey last year. Now that is something to be proud of!
Andrew Fleck (6-3 268, Fr.) is a January enrollee who is likely going to be redshirted this fall. He has the frame to put on more weight. He is a solid prospect for the future.
Now let's take a look at the inside linebacker positions.
Mikal Baaqee (5-10 223, r-So.) will step into the position vacated by Jake Houseright and Brian Welch. He has big shoes to fill. Baaqee was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, he just doesn't have the experience. Well he is about to get it!
Chad Cooper (6-2 224, r-So.) is truly a remarkable story. After surviving a bout with a sometimes fatal disease during which he dropped to 160 pounds, Cooper is back and ready to play. He has been looking good throughout fall practice, and will see the field quite a bit this season.
Alex Markogiannakis (5-9 204, r-Sr.) has a very long last name. Besides that fact, Hokie fans don't know much about him. Well, he is an undersized player with a big heart who really understands the game and knows where to be. Look for Alex to play a role on at least special teams this season.
Jordan Trott (6-4 236, r-Fr.) will likely see the field on special teams this season. The coaches were impressed with him this past spring, so that is a good sign that he has a bright future.
Chris Buie (6-0 232, r-Jr.) brings up the rear at the Mike position. He lettered on special teams last season. Look for him to make his biggest contributions in the same area this season.
Vegas Robinson (6-0 245, r-Jr.) has everything Ben Taylor needed to be a first round draft pick. Vegas is bigger, faster, and stronger than Taylor. However, the question is does he have the instincts of Ben Taylor? If Robinson's mind ends up being as solid as his physical skills, Bud Foster might have himself another All-American linebacker on his hands. This position is no contest, Robinson will be the starter.
James Anderson (6-3 222, r-Fr.) is a guy who the coaches have raved about this fall. He is in a major battle with Blake Warren for the backup job, but Anderson will probably win this one considering Warren is currently battling an injury.
Blake Warren (6-3 228, r-Fr.) looked great in the Spring Game. As mentioned above, he has been in a fight with James Anderson for the backup spot, but a pulled hamstring is holding him back. Nevertheless, he has a very bright future.
Obviously, this group is very young. Obviously, this group is very talented as well. In time they have an opportunity to be even better than their predecessors, but it will not be this year unfortunately. However, don't expect them to perform poorly. They will make their plays and they will make a lot of them. However, the overall consistency and saviness of veteran players is still a year or two away.
Next up- Whip Linebackers and Defensive Secondary