- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Virginia Tech defensive tackle Luther Maddy said he wants to reach double-digit sack numbers this fall and get at least 20 tackles for loss. He said he’s trying to “take a big leap forward” to help the Hokies have another great defense -- and they’re going to need him to, considering the turnover among the front seven.
Maddy said he wants to make teams scheme around him. “That’s my goal,” he said. “Make teams run away from me or have a plan for me.”
Here’s a look at how Virginia Tech’s defense is shaping up this spring, according to Maddy, the Hokies’ most experienced returning defensive lineman:
How much different is it for you because you’re a veteran and one of the main men up front right now?
Luther Maddy: Coming into my freshman year -- the past two years, really -- I’ve always been the younger guy, because I was with [James] Gayle and J.R. [Collins]. They were always giving me advice on game situations, how to play these blocks and stuff like that. Now I’m the upperclassman. I’m just trying to tell some of the younger guys about my game experience, how to prepare for certain teams, what to do in certain situations like first down, second down, what to look for in teams.
I know it’s still early, but what do the guys around you look like so far this spring?
LM: They’ve been looking really, really good. I don’t think there’s much drop off from last year, to tell you the truth. We’ve got Dadi [Nicolas] and Ken [Ekanem]. They’re really talented. Of course, they’re not as experienced as Gayle and J.R., but I think they have the same talent. They’re really fast, they’re really good pass rushers. And we have Corey Marshall. He’s a smaller defensive tackle playing in there. He’s been really productive, really quick inside, getting off blocks and making plays. And we’ve got Nigel [Williams], he put on some weight, he’s looking really good also.
It sounds like you’re not too concerned about replacing those guys?
LM: Not at all, not at all. From an experience standpoint, yes. From a talent standpoint, no. They can always get that through spring and camp. I’m pretty sure they’ll be just fine.
How much of that has to do with the expectations on defense that have already been set?
LM: I know you know about Coach [Bud] Foster. He expects a lot. So does Coach [Charley] Wiles. They do their best to prepare us to the best of our ability. We don’t go one practice without going hard and getting better. We’re taking steps forward every single practice.
What do you think you guys are capable of as a team this year in the Coastal Division race? I know the past two years haven’t gone as well as you guys probably would have hoped.
LM: Right. Yeah, the past couple of years we haven’t been doing too good, but I think we have a team where everybody wants to impress each other. We’re playing like brothers right now. We all know what’s been going on, we know we were in a little slump, but we know what we need to do. We’re trying to do this for Hokie Nation, do this for Beamerball, and bring the tradition back to Blacksburg and win the ACC. We all know what’s at stake here. We’re all trying to get better this spring and in workouts. We all know what’s expected. We’re trying to be together as brothers and be a family and try to reach that stuff.
What are you guys working on in particular as a defensive line?
LM: Right now we’re trying to get off blocks. A lot of guys right now, we’ve been attacking our technique, but we need to get off blocks. I think it’s because it’s still early in spring ball. Guys are still trying to get a good feel for it, but I think coach Wiles wants us to produce more, make more tackles. We’re trying to get off blocks and perfect our pass rush. I think our pass rush is all right, but it could be better. We’re trying to do more bag drills, get better at the one-on-ones. The main thing is get off blocks and try and produce from a pass rush standpoint.
What do you think the defense is capable of this fall, considering there are so many new faces?
LM: The secondary is going to be great, one of the best, just like last year with Kendall [Fuller] and Brandon [Facyson] and Kyshoen [Jarrett] and [Detrick] Bonner. I’m not worried about them. They’re not complacent, they’re going to continue to get better. The front seven? The linebackers are a very important part of the defense. I heard Bud Foster say I think a week ago that if you have good linebackers and good defensive ends, the defense can be great. I think we have that. We have Deon Clarke, he’s playing really fast and quick. We’ve got Chase [Williams], he’s like Jack Tyler with a lot of great football instincts. There won’t be much drop off between him and Jack. And Deon, he might be a little more explosive than Riq [Tariq Edwards] so I think we’ll be all right.
Is there anything you want Virginia Tech fans to know about the defense that I didn’t ask you?
LM: I want to let them know don’t be worried. We’re going to meet all of their expectations and be a great defense just like we have been for the past 20 years.