guys that make the pads crack on the TV broadcast.
The guys with
start with the man in the middle--the Mike.
The middle linebacker position at Virginia Tech is very similar to most
other middle linebacker schemes that use a 4-3 alignment.
The minor difference is that he will line up toward the wide side of the
field between the defensive tackle and end.
His primary responsibility is to be physical at the point of attack
against the run. In addition,
Foster's scheme demands that the player manning this position is able to blitz
effectively, drop into zone coverage in the middle and at times match up
man-to-man against the tight end or running back.
So, who do the Hokies have lining up in the middle?
– Barquell Rivers (6 – 0, 230, r-Jr.)
got his first start two seasons ago in the Orange Bowl against
brings us to…..
– Bruce Taylor (6 -2, 246, r-So.)
– Quillie Odom (6 – 1, 244, Jr.)
moved over from the Backer position to the Mike this spring.
He came in to VT as a very highly regarded prospect and was a man amongst
boys during his prep season at
take a step towards the short sideline and discuss VT's Backer
position. Like the Mike, the Backer
lines up between the defensive end and tackle, except toward the short (or
boundary) side of the field. This
means that he often has backside contain/pursuit responsibilities.
This will be a huge responsibility against the Broncos due the amount of
misdirection and counters they employ in their offensive attack.
The Backer must be an excellent athlete as he must be physical against
runs going to the short side of the field and must be able to run with secondary
receivers releasing into his area. He
will be asked to blitz, drop into zone coverage, and match up man-to-man just
like the Mike.
year's starter for game one against ‘Bama was Jake Johnson.
Jake tallied 13 tackles in the losing effort against the Tide in last
year's opener. However, as the
season wore on opponents began to pick on Jake due to his poor coverage skills.
He also missed his run gap assignments too frequently which led to big
runs for the Hokies' opponents. This
will land you in Coach Foster's doghouse rather quickly.
Jake was replaced as the starter midway through the season.
This spring, he attempted to switch positions and give defensive end a
shot. However, his heart was still
at the LB spot and Jake has left the program.
Hokie nation wishes him well on his journey.
who is going to man the Backer spot against the Broncos?
– Lyndell Gibson (5 – 11, 232, r-So.)
started the 2009 season in the coach's doghouse as well, which opened the door for the
aforementioned Jake Johnson to start. However,
by midseason he had redeemed himself and his talent could not be denied.
The Hokies were simply a better football team with him on the field.
He started 5 games and totaled 53 tackles, 2.5 for a loss.
Gibson appears to have a very high ceiling and the coaches are excited
about what he brings to the position.
bad news is that things get a little thin behind Lyndell.
While Quillie Odom could be moved back to provide depth in a pinch, the
Hokies will turn to a redshirt freshman and
a true freshman this August to help answer the depth question.
– Telvion Clark (6 -1, 227, r-Fr.)
has all the tools needed to excel at the Backer position.
An explosive athlete, Clark runs the 40 in under 4.5 and has a 36-inch
vertical. He also can back squat 565
pounds, second highest on the team. He
showed great explosiveness working with the scout team last fall and continued
to impress this past spring. Consistency
in technique and fundamentals will determine how much
– Chase Williams (6 -1, 231, Fr.)
the Hokies do not look for true freshman to contribute outside of special teams,
if at all. However, Williams may
prove to be an exception. The son of
former Washington Redskins head coach and current New Orleans Saints defensive
co-coordinator, Gary Williams, Chase Williams is light years ahead of the
learning curve. He is also
physically where he needs to be as a Division 1 college linebacker already,
benefiting from his exposure to NFL locker rooms.
He graduated high school early allowing him to enroll at VT this spring
and participate in spring practices with the team. Williams
turned heads as a quick learner and flashed some playmaking ability.
Williams gets the early nod as the true freshman who is most likely to
contribute this fall.
brings us to the much-publicized, often talked-about, Whip
linebacker. The Whip is one of
two hybrid positions used by Fosters' scheme.
The Whip lines up outside of the defensive end on the wide (or
‘field') side of the play. Part
strong safety, part outside linebacker, the Whip must be fast, agile, and--most
of all--have a knack for making plays. The
Whip will cover slot receivers man-to-man, blitz the quarterback off the edge,
‘clean up' running plays as they spill his way, wash the team uniforms,
drive the bus, and babysit Foster's kids if need be.
It should be noted that Foster does not coach the Whips.
That duty falls to Jim Cavanaugh, who also coaches the rover position.
bad news for the Hokies is that they lose their top two Whips from last year's
team and return virtually zero experience. Cody Grimm (or the People's Champ) looked like he won a lottery of students to
dress out with the Hokies. At
5'-11', 203 lbs he looked like he belonged in the stands with the fans.
However, this former walk-on played his way into a scholarship, a
starting role, and Hokie lore forever. The
son of former Washington Redskins Hall of Fame offensive lineman Russ Grimm
earned third-team All-America honors his senior year.
He will be missed not only for his exceptional play, but also for his
leadership and work-ethic.
do the Hokies have lined up to fill in for ‘The People's Champ'?
– Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (6-2, 207, R-So.)
heads into fall cap atop the depth chart at Whip.
He is the most experienced player the Hokies have at the position.
He is a solid all-around athlete who has worked at the Whip position
since he arrived on campus. This
gives him the advantage heading into the fall.
However, sitting behind Cody Grimm and Cam Martin, his game reps have
been limited. Whatever advantage he has in experience will probably be nullified
by September 6, and unless he looks like the top playmaker it is no certain
thing that he will be the starter.
– Alonzo Tweedy (6-2, 188, R-So.)
was a special teams standout last season, and some have labeled him as one of
the best punt team gunners the Hokies have ever had.
He runs a 4.41 40 yard dash and is a solid open-field tackler.
On paper, he looks like the man to beat.
However, he spent his redshirt season studying the rover position which
has put him behind the learning curve. It
would not be surprising if Tweedy was the starter against the Broncos.
Regardless of who starts, both players are expected to play significant
reps. It cannot be overstated how
important it is that both of these players push each other this August on the
field and in the film room. When the
Hokies have struggled defensively early in the year, it has been because the
Whip and rover failed to execute their assignments.
These two guys must be up to the task.
– Lorenzo Williams (6-2, 217, R-So.)
is the third candidate for playing time at the Whip position, but he may be a
little behind the other two. He saw
some playing time at free safety during his freshman year and took a redshirt
last season. He moved to Whip in the
spring and showed well. He should
not be discounted in the playing time race due to his size and athletic ability.
I feel pretty good about the potential of this group of linebackers.
The question is how quickly quality depth can be developed behind the
starters. Once Rivers returns from injury, the Mike spot will have a very solid
two-deep. It is more concerning to
Tech fans that a serviceable backup to Gibson emerges at the Backer spot.
The players behind him are talented (Clark) and bright (Williams), but
nothing makes up for game experience. Regardless
of who wins the battle as the starting Whip, there will be a quality player
backing him up. The question there
is how consistent those young guys can be out of the gate.
One mistake at that position can quickly lead to six points (see Virginia
Tech's game film 2007 vs. LSU for evidence).
think the Broncos will look to exploit the Hokies' inexperience and
aggressiveness at the linebacker spots with a lot of misdirection and screen
plays. The Broncos will exploit
mental lapses quickly and trot the placekicker out for the PAT.
Coaches Foster and Cavanaugh certainly have their work cut out for them
this August. However, they are two
of the best in the business and will be up to the task.