Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Statistically, the Virginia Tech defense wasn't at its very best in 2012. They finished a not too shabby 18th overall in total defense after struggling the first half of the season.
The good news for Hokie fans is that nine starters return from this unit. Seniors Jack Tyler, James Gayle, Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller lead this group. Unfortunately, Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game in late-January, and his availability for the season opener will remain in question through the summer.
Depth in the secondary was an issue for the Hokies last season, so the team went heavy in recruiting defensive backs. However, only one of those defensive backs will be eligible to play in the spring game, and with Exum unavailable, two of last year's freshmen will have a chance to compete for playing time: Donaldven Manning and Donovan Riley.
The spring game will be important for Ronny Vandyke, too, as he is the leader to take over the whip linebacker position. Vandyke is a terrific athlete, and the Hokies hope he has a better grasp on the mental assignments this season.
Replacing three-year starting linebacker Bruce Taylor will be a top priority for defensive coordinator Bud Foster this spring.