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Tech's Defensive Ranking Should Improve in 2011
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #495, July 29, 2011
Virginia Tech's defense finished 51st in the national rankings in 2010, a substantial dropoff from where the Hokies normally end the season. Though they are still a young defense, they are hoping to make major improvements this season.
Tech's 2011 opponents, on the whole, were pretty average offensively in 2010.
Arkansas State finished 40th in total offense, a solid number of course, but they faced Sun Belt competition for most of the year. While ECU put up a lot of points for most of the season, they had just 83 yards of offense in the second half against the Hokies.
Teams such as Marshall, Wake, Boston College and Clemson really struggled offensively last season. They should be better this year, but none are expected to improve by great leaps.
Yet again, the offenses of Miami and Georgia Tech will be the ones to fear. The Canes will have a senior quarterback in Jacory Harris, and a great backfield with Lamar Miller and Mike James. More importantly, their offensive line is big, physical and experienced. They will probably be the best offensive line in the ACC, and as a result they will pose problems for the Tech front seven. I believe they are the most dangerous offensive team on Virginia Tech's regular season schedule.
Georgia Tech is dangerous, but for a different reason. Despite the fact that their talent level on offense has dropped off, the Paul Johnson offense is still difficult to defend. This will also be a huge Thursday night game for the Yellow Jackets, and their biggest ACC home game of the season.
On paper, it appears that the Hokies will improve at most positions on defense. Tech has more talent at defensive end than they did a year ago, and the 2011 version of Antoine Hopkins should be better than the 2010 version at defensive tackle. Reports indicate that Derrick Hopkins is now better than his older brother as well, so there is hope that play from the starters at tackle will be better, though depth remains a serious issue.
At linebacker, Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow should be better than they were in 2010, and Tariq Edwards and Telvion Clark are expected to be an upgrade over Lyndell Gibson.
In the secondary, Eddie Whitley will be a senior free safety, and some very early projections have him going as high as the second round in the 2012 NFL Draft. Jayron Hosley is amongst the best cornerbacks in the country, and Antone Exum will provide a physical upgrade to what Tech had at rover last season.
Are the Hokies going to be a top 10 defense again? Not likely. They have just one senior starter, and a number of sophomores. However, they aren't playing many good offensive teams, so look for their defensive ranking to be much better in 2011.
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