Some of the better defensive units in Bud Foster's 18-year tenure as defensive coordinator were so good because of a talented defensive line. Foster's 2013 group could be one of the better groups in recent Virginia Tech history.
Senior defensive end James Gayle is the group's leader. Gayle was expected to be one of the better pass-rushers in the country last season but seemingly got off to a slow start before finishing the season strong.
Gayle undoubtedly wants to improve on his five sacks from 2012 and is poised for a huge season.
A bevy of other talented defensive ends will play for the Hokies. Seniors J.R. Collins and Tyrel Wilson, along with junior Corey Marshall, will rotate at the spot opposite of Gayle. All bring unique and contrasting skill sets.
Sophomore Dadi Nicolas is the player to watch, though. He is undersized but is a relentless pass-rusher and looks the part of a future star.
Junior Luther Maddy is the Hokies' top defensive tackle. Maddy, unheralded out of high school, has blossomed into a terrific player for the Hokies.
Maddy is good against the run and provides a strong push in the middle of the line. He will be one of the top defensive tackles in the country before he's finished in Blacksburg.
Senior Derrick Hopkins enters his third season as the other starter at defensive tackle. Hopkins, an All-ACC honorable mention selection in 2012, is a consistent performer who rarely leaves the field.