Defense could be strength this season

The Sports Xchange

After 2 1/2 seasons in which the offense took the starring role, things appear to be back to normal for the Hokies this spring.

The defense returns nine players who started last year and could be one of Bud Foster's best units in 17 seasons as the coordinator. On the other hand, the offense has some serious holes to fill, although one of the nation's top quarterbacks does return for his second year as a starter.

"We have a lot of work to do," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "The biggest thing is the offensive line; we have a lot of new guys there. We're trying to get it into a unit that develops."

Center Andrew Miller is the only returning starter up front, although left tackle Nick Becton does offer two years of experience as a reserve to Andrew Lanier. Otherwise, the O-line is a collection of conundrums and confusion.

Will Vinston Painter realize his enormous physical potential and replace Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner Blake DeChristopher at right tackle? Can David Wang jump off the injured list last year to the starting lineup at right guard this year? Where does Georgia transfer Brent Benedict figure into the picture?

Line coach Curt Newsome and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring hope to have the answers by the time the Maroon-White spring game concludes April 21. Otherwise, junior Logan Thomas might absorb a lot of punishment at quarterback, which would be a death knell for the Hokies offense.

There are also worries about running back, where a freshman is all but assured of starting on opening night against Georgia Tech, and tight end, where no one really knows who will emerge with the starting job.

But it's what's up front that counts this spring. Virginia Tech fans are nervously hoping the answers are found before the team convenes in August.

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