Virginia Tech‘s defense under Bud Foster has been known for its physical style of play and ability to adjust and respond to the offense that it is dealing with. However, last season saw the Hokies’ rush defense get off to a terrible start as they allowed 197 yards per game rushing during their first six games which led to a 3-3 start. Despite their poor start, Bud Foster was able to make changes and re-motivate the troops as they showed improvement only allowing 80 yards rushing per game over the final seven games of the season. Head Coach Frank Beamer has already had a legendary career, but last season saw his team finish with a 7-6 record and a poor bowl performance against Rutgers even though they won the game 13-10 in overtime.
Sometimes it is only natural that teams get off to slow starts at the beginning of each season, but the 2013 schedule does not allow the Hokies to ease their way into success. By now most people know that Tech opens the season against No. 1 Alabama, a team that always has a relentless rushing attack, no matter who the running back is. For Nick Saban it is always next man up at the running back position and this year it is sophomore T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon rushed for 1108 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman behind now-Green Bay Packer Eddie Lacy. Throughout the entire season Yeldon showed a burst of speed along with power that made myself and a lot of people believe that he has a chance to be the best running back under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Virginia Tech gets the joy of dealing with Yeldon and an Alabama offensive line that reloads its seems like every year. This year on Bama’s line the man to watch is Cyrus Kouandjio as he was overshadowed by the rest of his teammates last season. He has the potential to be an All-American by the end of the year with his experience and his ability. However, the Hokie defense might have the talent and depth to put up a fight in that August 31 matchup as they return seven of their top eight tacklers from a season ago, including linebacker Jack Tyler who had an excellent year with 119 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. Bud Foster feels much more confident about his defense heading into this season as all four starters on the defensive line and in the secondary return. With nine starters back on defense the expectations are high for this group as they hope to return to standard Virginia Tech defensive form.
This unit will be tested against Alabama early and often, and their biggest challenge will be slowing down the running game of the Crimson Tide. While the offense of the Hokies will need to move the ball against Bama, it is the defense that will play the biggest role as they will try to get enough stops to stay within striking distance. The secondary has the potential to be one of the best units in the country with Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller returning at cornerback and Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner returning to man the safety positions. This unit will also have the unenviable task of dealing with stellar skill players such as Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Kevin Norwood at wide receiver.
It will be very difficult for Virginia Tech to win the opening weekend game, but I look to their defense to show improvement from a season ago. The talent, depth and experience are all there to pose problems for the Alabama offense, and a couple early stops by the Hokie defense could go a long way in determining what type of game this is going to end up being. The schedule after the Alabama game is very manageable, so showing positive signs on defense against the Tide could boost the morale in Blacksburg, VA. The ACC has great opportunities in the first weekend of College Football as North Carolina takes on No. 6 South Carolina, No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia, and of course Virginia Tech meeting No. 1 Alabama in the Georgia Dome. It’s the ACC against the SEC, and the ACC needs to prove its worth on the national stage with all three teams.