VT's most important players for 2016: Andrew Motuapuaka

TheVTZone.com's staff each voted on who they believed were the top 16 players for the Hokies this season. At No. 9 in our staff countdown is linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka.

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. 9 Andrew Motuapuaka

Jason Stamm, Publisher

Middle linebacker is always an important position on defense. This is the guy who typically is the quarterback of the defense, the captain who gets defenders into place, calls adjustments on the field and who also picks up a lot of tackles.

Motuapuaka, Virginia Tech's mike or middle linebacker, is certainly an important cog for this season. He's had his struggles, whether it was being out of place, missing a tackle or making another mistake and those were more evident for sure during his redshirt freshman season in 2014. But as last season went on, he seemed to be more and more comfortable in his role and made more plays.

The value on Motuapuaka went up tremendously, though, this spring when his backup, redshirt freshman Carson Lydon, announced he would transfer. At a position already thin, it now looks like Motuapuaka's backup will be a walk-on in Sean Huelskamp. Behind those two, it's still a question mark who will slide in.

Basically, for the Hokies' sake, Motuapuaka had better stay healthy this fall. And in addition, he needs to continue to grow and improve in his role, while getting sideline to sideline to rack up tackles.

Doug Bowman, Senior Writer

Motuapuaka has taken a lot of heat since last season for his inconsistent play. I’m sure that has driven him to improve in his second season as the starter and third where he has received major snaps.

He needs to stay healthy first, as Virginia Tech doesn’t have anyone behind him, but he also needs to play much better than he did last season. If he can do that, that shores up a big weakness in the defense and Bud Foster could be working with a highly-ranked defense. The secondary is talented and three out of four of the defensive linemen (with lots of depth at defensive tackle) are locked and loaded. If the Hokies can really improve their linebacking play, the potential of this defense takes several steps forward.

Kelly Porazzo, Staff Writer

Junior linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka had an up and down, but overall impressive season last year coming in third for most tackles at 73. That included a big recovered fumble during the Boston College game, he returned a fumble for 34 yards.

Virginia Tech has a strong defense compared to the offense in seasons past; therefore, I think Motuapuaka will play an important roll in sustaining the successful defensive unit. 

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