A lot of people think that the Virginia Tech defense is going to drop off in 2009 after being seventh overall in 2008. With the graduation of four starters, including All-American cornerback Victor "macho" Harris, it's not surprising that people would feel that way. Tons of talent and leadership left the team with those four players.
As far as leadership goes, someone will have to step up to fill the void left by Harris, the leader of the defense last season. Who will do that, in my opinion Jason Worilds will be one of the leaders on the team.
Now I don't know what Worilds is like in the locker room as far as being vocal, but the way he played last year through a shoulder injury has to inspire the team to play harder and tougher. This defense has veterans that will fill the leadership roles. We may not know who it will be, but it will happen.
The boundary corner position that Harris vacated has already been filled by Stephan Virgil, who had a quietly successful season with six interceptions. Across the field at the field corner there is a question mark.
The most likely candidate for this spot is Rashad Carmichael. As far as depth goes there are young players that have the ability to step in when needed. Don't be surprised to see sophomore Eddie Whitley step in and play. He has wowed coaches with his skill and athleticism.
The defensive end position is another question mark on the roster. One side of the equation is solid with Worilds. The other side is the question, the answer may have been found with the move of John Graves to the defensive end position from defensive tackle.
Coach Frank Beamer has alluded to this being a long-term move. The only way it wont be is if the young depth behind Worilds, Graves, and Nekos Brown steps up and shows that they can come in and produce.
The linbacking corps is lacking experience but makes up for that in sheer athletic ability. One position that was left empty should be filled by Barquell Rivers, who played very well in the Orange Bowl.
Jake Johnson and Quillie Odom will be fighting for the other linebacker spot. I've heard Johnson is an absolute beast on the field. He will take that spot.
Basically the positions that have been vacated are being filled by very talented and capable players that have managed to prove themselves to defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Anyone that has impressed Foster will impress the fans with their play. Year in and year out Foster proves that he can take players and plug them in and have the defense continue the tradition.
There will be no drop off this year. This defense will be just as, if not more effective than 2008's squad. The big plays that Hokie fans have become so used to will continue to be made. This defense will continue the tradition of great Hokie defenses. Look for another top 10 defense to emerge from Blacksburg next season.