VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES Head coach: Frank Beamer Last season: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in ACC, won ACC championship; lost 24-21 to Kansas in the Orange Bowl. Spring practice: March 26-April 19.
Under coach Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech has become a premier program because of its strong defense and a powerful ground attack. That makes this spring interesting because the Hokies are searching for a starting tailback and have to rebuild their defense. Incumbent TB Branden Ore has been booted off the team, and there will be five new starters in the defensive front seven this season. Here's a look at the Hokies as they begin spring drills.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer must break in five new starters along the defensive front seven.
Virginia Tech returns several starters on the offensive line and should be particularly strong up the middle with Shuman and both guards back. Glennon and Tyrod Taylor return at quarterback after splitting time successfully last season.
HELP IS NEEDED
Virginia Tech has serious holes to fill at wide receiver, where Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and Eddie Royal left after combining to catch 120 passes for 1,683 yards last season. There will be two new starters at defensive tackle and at linebacker.
KEEP AN EYE ON
OT Blake DeChristopher: Although he's only a redshirt freshman, DeChristopher has impressed coaches enough to have a legitimate chance of winning a starting position at one of the tackle spots.
TBs Darren Evans and Josh Oglesby: Now that Branden Ore is no longer on the team, the starting tailback job probably will go to one of these two redshirt freshmen. True freshman Ryan Williams likely will enter the competition when he arrives on campus this summer.
DE Jason Worilds: As a redshirt freshman, Worilds recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries in a reserve role. Now that Chris Ellis has moved on to the NFL, Worilds (known as Jason Adjepong in high school) should develop into more of a featured performer.
HIS TIME IS NOW
LB Brett Warren has spent his career patiently waiting behind Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall. Warren showed just what he was capable of last season by playing well when Hall missed four games with a broken wrist. Now that Adibi and Hall are moving on to the NFL, Warren - a senior - finally gets his chance to show what he can do as a full-time starter. But a job isn't guaranteed; Warren first must prove his performance as a fill-in starter last year was no fluke.
Defense carried Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference title last season, but the Hokies find themselves having to fill plenty of holes on that side of the ball. Their chances of winning a second consecutive conference championship depend on whether that defense can remain as dominant as ever.