The Virginia Tech football program is losing some incredibly productive stars to the NFL, and defensive end James Gayle’s absence will likely be felt the most acutely, but the Hokies do have some players who can help ease the blow.
Gayle never put up the biggest numbers for the Hokies—he finished with 22 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss in his Tech career—but he was a physical freak that regularly occupied the full attention of opposing offensive tackles.
His draft stock isn’t the best right now, with scouts concerned about his size and projections placing him in the fifth-round range, but he meant a great deal to the Hokies and will be difficult to fully replace.
However, between some veterans on the defensive line and a few talented incoming freshmen, Bud Foster should be able to find a way to develop some worthy substitutes for Gayle next season.
Read on to learn about the players most likely to fill Gayle’s shoes at defensive end, presented in the order they’ll probably receive playing time.