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Bud Foster has established himself as the top defensive coordinator in the nation. The 2005 Virginia Tech defense finished first nationally in total defense following the 35-24 Gator Bowl victory over Louisville. The 2006 defense is first in total defense before the bowl games, and they are so far ahead of the competition that it doesnít appear anyone can catch up.
So which defense is better? Letís take a look at the stats.
The 2006 defense has better statistical numbers. For example, both defenses are #1 in total defense, but the 2006 unit gave up fewer yards per game, partly because there are fewer plays in a game thanks to the new clock rules.
So ignore the overall stats for each defense. You want to look at the national ranks. The 2005 defense is regarded by some as the best Tech defense of all time, but they rank above the 2006 defense in only rushing defense.
Thatís understandable. The 2005 defense featured second round pick Darryl Tapp, sixth round pick Jonathan Lewis, and free agent practice squad player Tim Sandidge. Thatís three NFL players that departed from the defensive line in the offseason. As a result, the Hokies were somewhat shaky up front in 2006 until the middle of the season, but they played great down the stretch. The national ranking of 13th against the run is very good, and excellent for a team that lost three NFL players off the defensive line.
Virginia Techís pass defense also got better in 2006 by nearly 30 yards per game, and they currently lead the nation in pass defense, this despite losing second round pick Jimmy Williams and seventh round pick Justin Hamilton. Not to mention that Roland Minor, the other starter at cornerback in 2005, was injured in the 2006 preseason and barely played all season.
The Hokies broke in two new cornerbacks, both sophomores. Brandon Flowers proved to be arguably the ACCís top cornerback, while Macho Harris had an excellent second half of the season. Virginia Tech looks to have the top cornerback duo in the ACC for 2007.
No stat is more important than scoring defense, and the Hokies have been outstanding in this regard. The 2005 defense allowed 12.9 points per game, good for second nationally. But the 2006 defense outperformed them, allowing only 9.3 points per game, which is first in the nation. For those of you who are wondering, the Tech record in the modern era is 8.3 points per game during the 1983 season, Bruce Smith's junior year.
The defense was amazing during the final six games of the season. They did not allow more than 10 points in a game, and they allowed just two touchdowns over the final six games. One of those touchdowns was the 50 yard fluke run by Tyrone Moss in the Orange Bowl. The other came against Clemson. Over the last three games, Virginia Tech did not allow a touchdown and pitched two shutouts. The defense had four total shutouts during the regular season.
So how good can the Hokies be on defense next season? Itís tough to see them getting better statistically, but they have the chance to be outstanding, as they return most of their top players.
On the defensive line, defensive end Noland Burchette departs, but the other three D-line starters return, as well as all of the backups. Orion Martin, Nekos Brown or Jason Adjepong should be able to replace Burchette. Defensive tackle will get even deeper when John Graves finishes his redshirt season. The Hokies should have quite a few options up front next year.
At linebacker, the Hokies will be fine as long as Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi return for their senior seasons. Tech will have depth at mike linebacker, with Brett Warren returning. Behind Xavier Adibi, Purnell Sturdivant will have another year of experience.
The main question at linebacker lies at the whip position. Brenden Hill departs after having a very good senior season. Behind him is Corey Gordon, who hasnít been able to pick the game up from a mental standpoint. Another option is moving Kam Chancellor from cornerback.
The other question mark is rover, where senior co-starters Aaron Rouse and Cary Wade depart. Dorian Porch is an option, as is Kam Chancellor. Cam Martin could potentially move from free safety as well.
The Hokies should be loaded at cornerback, with everyone returning with the exception of Chancellor, who is likely moving to another position. Starting free safety D.J. Parker also returns for his senior season.
The 2007 Virginia Tech
defense will be very talented, and very deep. How they stack up statistically to
the 2005 and 2006 squads remain to be seen, but they should give them a run for
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