Who will be the most important to getting the Justin Fuente era off to a good start? As we've done the previous three seasons at our previous home, we've counted down the players we believed were most important to Virginia Tech's success. And this season is no different, as we've compiled the top 16 for 2016.
Each of our staff members compiled a list of who they believed were the 16 most important players for the Hokies this season. Each player then earned a score based on where each staff member ranked them (16 points for a first place vote, 15 points for second place, 14 points for third place, etc.) and the points were added up for a true staff ranking. Tiebreakers included most higher votes and most overall votes.
For each of the next 16 days, we'll reveal each of our top players. Be sure to chime in on our message board with your thoughts and who you think should be the most important players this season.
No. 12 Woody Baron
Jason Stamm, Publisher
A Bud Foster defense has always had a formidable defensive tackle in order for the entire unit to be successful. Even in recent years, with the Hopkins brothers, Antoine and Derrick, Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall, it's as if, in many ways, the entire defense feeds off the work on the interior.
There will be some adjustments this season, including more zone blitzes, as senior defensive end Ken Ekanem mentioned at the ACC Kickoff. But for the rest of the defense to be able to play like it needs to, the Hokies need solid play up the middle. And while the position is deep, Baron is arguably the best of the bunch.
A senior, Baron isn't quite the massive body of the aforementioned previous linemen. But he's athletic and might be more agile than any of them.
Baron really needs to be the anchor of the defensive line this season. He has some promising, younger linemen behind him, like Ricky Walker, Tim Settle and Steve Sonczak. Baron is the type of guy who could further bring these guys along, by showing and taking them to the side, to help keep the position a formidable in the coming seasons.
Max Esterhuizen, Editor
Baron, a senior, has seen increased action in first three years in Blacksburg. He started five games last season and played in all 13.
Baron is a player that will have a major impact on the team’s success this season – and his preparation and work ethic this off-season have not gone unnoticed by defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Foster is very high on Baron, so look for him to be a major contributor as a defensive tackle in the 2016 season.
Doug Bowman, Senior Writer
I really believe that a strong defense starts right up the middle (defensive tackles, mike linebacker, free safety/rover). At the point of attack, Baron helps form the first pairing at Virginia Tech’s deepest position, along with Nigel Williams. They'll play the majority of the snaps, and Baron in particular received a lot of praise for his work during the spring.
The Hokies have had a long tradition of really talented but really underrated nationally defensive tackles, from Luther Maddy to Skip Hopkins to Cordarrow Thompson. Baron is likely another one (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Charley Wiles tried him at end a few snaps a game) to add to that list. These guys will need help from Ken Ekanem and others to make the defense a Bud Foster-classic, but it certainly will start with how they perform.
Delaney Hall, Staff Writer
Weighing in at 275 pounds and standing at 6’1”, Baron logged 479 games at defensive tackle, had 20 tackles with 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks last season. As an experienced veteran of the position, and known for his consistent performances, it’s no question that Virginia Tech needs Baron.
Not only does he take up space on the line with his massive size, his agility sets him apart from the group. Baron is able to act with aggression extremely quickly – something that the defensive line is always in need of.