Virginia Tech Football: What You Need to Know About Hokies' 2012 Defensive Line
Two years ago, Virginia Tech had an average defense—one that ranked 52nd in the country by seasons end. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster began to fix that in 2011.
The defensive unit drastically improved in just about every statistical category in 2012. Foster was able to do this despite a rash of injuries to key players throughout the season.
Well, if 2010 was the rebuilding year and 2011 was the year of improvement, then 2012 should be the year that this defense meets its potential.
The key to the defense’s success or failure this season will fall more on the defensive line than on any other defensive unit.
This could be the best defensive line that Bud Foster has ever coached and that is saying something.
He has a proven outside pass-rusher in James Gayle, two proven run-stoppers up the middle in Antoine and Derrick Hopkins and a potential star as a backup in Luther Maddy.
James Gayle is Ready to Break Out
Virginia Tech has a history of great players at the defensive end position—James Gayle is the latest edition of that tradition.
He has great speed and is a solid tackler. He had seven sacks last season, but he missed five games due to injury.
Gayle isn’t Bruce Smith, but then again, nobody is.
If he can stay healthy in 2012, there is a very good possibility that Gayle will break out in 2012.
He is a mismatch for many offensive tackles in the ACC and he could make some opposing quarterbacks wish they weren’t on the field in 2012.
Meet Hop and Skip
The Hokies have two brothers to clog up the running lanes this season. Meet Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, affectionately known as "Hop and Skip."
Having two brothers at defensive tackle gives the defensive line an immediate chemistry that many defensive coordinators search for but rarely find.
Fans had a chance to see the Hopkins brothers play together last season, but only for a short while.
Antoine suffered an ACL tear during the Hokies' first game against Clemson. Antoine recorded 44 tackles in 2010 and one sack, so the Hokies know what to expect from him.
2011 was the first year that Derrick had the chance to play and he rewarded his coaches with 50 tackles and three sacks.
The Hopkins brothers may be Fosters' biggest asset on the defensive line because they can stop the opponents' running game dead in its tracks.
Luther Maddy Will Provide Much-Needed Depth for the D-Line
Fans saw more of Luther Maddy last season than they would have liked.
Last year, Maddy was an unpolished and unseasoned backup when he was thrown into the lineup after Antoine Hopkins' ACL tear.
That experience provides Bud Foster with the luxury of having a good backup for a few plays, or, in the case of a long-term injury, a season-long serviceable replacement.
As a freshman, sometimes Maddy seemed overwhelmed and out of shape during games, but he slowly righted himself and became a solid defensive tackle.
He had 19 tackles and one sack in 2011.
His growth was evident throughout the season—he became able to diagnose plays and react.
In his second season, Maddy will prove himself to be a weapon in Bud Fosters' defense.
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