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Injuries Creating Future Depth for Tech Defense

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #508, October 28, 2011

The Virginia Tech defense is very young. Not only are they young, but with so many injuries sustained this year, some of the even younger backups have gotten an opportunity to play a lot, and even start games in some cases.

The Hokies have played well defensively this year despite the injuries. Though all the attrition certainly won't help Virginia Tech in 2011, it will make them a better defense down the line.

Experience Chart, Tech Defense
Player Pos. Yr. Games 
Alonzo Tweedy Whip r-Jr. 35 1
Antoine Hopkins DT r-Jr. 32 17
Bruce Taylor LB r-Jr. 29 22
Jeron Gouveia-Winslow Whip r-Jr. 29 12
Tyrel Wilson DE r-So. 22 1
Jack Tyler LB r-So. 22 1
Kyle Fuller CB So. 22 14
Antone Exum FS r-So. 22 13
Tariq Edwards LB r-So. 22 8
J.R. Collins DE r-So. 22 9
Derrick Hopkins DT So. 21 8
James Gayle DE r-So. 20 9
James Hopper FS r-So. 20 0
Duan Perez-Means DE r-Fr. 8 0
Zack McCray DE r-Fr. 8 0
Corey Marshall DT Fr. 8 1
Luther Maddy DT Fr. 8 2
Detrick Bonner CB r-Fr. 8 1

The Hokies have just one senior starter: rover Eddie Whitley. Barquell Rivers is also a r-senior who is taking over the mike position because of Bruce Taylor's injury last week against Boston College. Tech also has r-senior Cris Hill, a backup cornerback who plays in the nickel package, and they will likely lose Jayron Hosley a year early to the NFL.

Other than that, the entire defense will return intact in 2012, and they will have lots of experience on the field. Assuming Tariq Edwards, J.R. Collins, Derrick Hopkins and James Gayle are healthy from here on out, Virginia tech will return nine defensive players with double-digit starts for the 2012 season.

Because of the injuries to Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Antoine Hopkins, Jayron Hosley and James Gayle, some other players are getting action. Alonzo Tweedy, who has played in more games than anyone on this list because of his experience on special teams, is starting for the first time. Nick Dew will start at whip against Duke, because now Tweedy is hurt. True freshmen defensive tackles Corey Marshall and Luther Maddy are getting starting experience because of the injury to Hopkins. Detrick Bonner will be ready to step into a starting role next season because he has been able to get valuable experience this year.

While no one every hopes that injuries occur, there are plenty of times in the past when they have been beneficial. Back in 2002, cornerback Eric Green blew out his knee and had to redshirt. As a result, he got to play in 2004, and was a big reason the Hokies won the ACC Championship. Same with Jim Davis, who redshirted in 2003. If David and Green had never been injured, they would have been finished following the 2003 season. I doubt Tech would have won the ACC in 2004 without those guys. If Brett Warren didn't get to redshirt in 2006 because of an injury, Tech would have been in bad shape at mike linebacker in 2008.

Injuries are hurting Tech in 2011, but it might be beneficial down the road. Not only will it help build depth for 2012 and 2013 on defense, but it will also serve as a boost to the wide receiving corps next year. Dyrell Roberts will be back as a result of his injury, and with him out in 2011, D.J. Coles has been getting a lot more reps and could be Tech's #1 receiver next season.

If Tech can survive this rash of injuries and still play for the ACC Championship, it will be an impressive feat. Either way, the defense should be loaded with experience for the next couple of seasons.


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