Virginia Tech has always been considered a very good team, but not necessarily a great team. Sure, they've fielded great teams in the past, but they have no national titles to show for those team's successes.
The Hokies always have players waiting to take over, and rarely have to throw a freshman into the mix. Their defense is example A.
The Hokies defensive line is pretty much the same with only one new starter, Nekos Brown, but Brown has had a lot of playing time for the Hokies over the past two seasons.
In the secondary, Tech has Kam Chancellor, Dorian Porch, Davon Morgan who's back from an ACL tear, and Stephan Virgil returning. Virgil will take over the boundary corner position left vacant by Victor "Macho" Harris, and Rashad Carmichael is expected to take over the other corner position.
Expect sophomores Cris Hill and Eddie Whitely to also receive signicant playing time.
So that leaves the linebacking corps. Cam Martin is the only opening day starter returning from last season, but Barquell Rivers and Cody Grimm, who received significant playing time last year are expected to contribute in big ways to the Hokie defense.
Martin and Rivers have already been named starters for the '09 season, and the remaining outside linebacker job is going to someone you may not know.
No matter who has the job, multiple players will receive playing time because the Hokies love switching out players for different packages and situations.
Grimm, who was a walk-on at Virginia Tech, has a considerable amount of playing time under his belt, recording 66 tackles last season.
However, Jake Johnson was named the starter in spring practice. The sophomore was named the most improved defensive player in the spring by the Tech coaching staff. Johnson hasn't seen much playing time defensively, but played on three different special teams units in 11 games last season.
Johnson, who is very strong and quick, is a prime candidate for breakout player of the year in Blacksburg.
These four guys will likely see most of the playing time at the linebacker positions this season, and all of them are considered to be athletic, quick, and very hard workers in the weight room.
This linebacking corps is deeper than last years, and all of these players should have great seasons. Look for the Tech defense to find itself back in the top 10 defenses in 2009.
Here are four other linebackers to look out for:
Taylor is a redshirt freshman who has been named second string middle linebacker. He played high school football in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and he will likely see a lot of playing time on special teams. Expect Taylor to see more time on defense as the season progresses.
Odom is a sophomore linebacker who's trying to become the second string outside line backer. Odom played in seven games last season on special teams, and will likely see more time on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Tweedy is considered a whip linebacker, and after redshirting last season will likely play on special teams for most of the season. Tweedy probably won't see much time in defensive sets, unless injuries become an issue for the Hokies.
Luckett is the wild card here. After being suspended all of last season, Luckett has switched from wide reciever to whip linebacker. In his only season of play, Luckett dominated on special teams with eight solo tackles and seven assists in 2007, and will give the Hokies a huge boost their this season. I doubt Luckett will see much time on defense, but he's extremely athletic, and, as mentioned, will be a dominating force on special teams.