4. Revamping the defensive line
The Hokies have a lot to like about the talent returning on defense in 2017. However, teams are generally at their best when they are strong up front, and the Virginia Tech defensive line has more questions than any other unit on that side of the football.
The team must replace Woody Barron, Nigel Williams, Ken Ekanem and Seth Dooley from last year’s squad. That quartet combined for 14 sacks last season, with Barron and Ekanem responsible for 13 of them. Barron also tied for the team lead with 18.5 tackles for loss.
Massive defensive tackle Tim Settle is set up for a big season after contributing seven tackles for loss in limited duty. Settle is expected to be in better shape this season after being listed at 344 pounds last year. Also, the coaching staff has heaped praise on Ricky Walker for his leadership abilities, as well as his skill on the interior defensive line.
Trevon Hill, who recorded 2.5 sacks as a freshman in 2016, and Vinny Mihota, who had two sacks and seven TFLs, are both expected to compete for a starting job this fall but are out this spring because of shoulder injuries. Houshun Gaines, expected to contribute as well, is out for academic reasons.
Each player’s absence hurts, but it also allows the coaching staff to take a closer look at other players expected to see playing time in the fall, such as Walker and ZJimmie Taylor. Of course, it’s always best for a unit to practice together.