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Monday, July 16, 2012
One good reason: Virginia Tech

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

VIRGINIA TECH

Ten down, two to go. Welcome back. This series gives one good reason why each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order, and the Hokies are up next.

The series continues today with one good reason why …

Virginia Tech will win the ACC. Again. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is one of the best in the business, and the Hokies should once again have one of the deepest, most talented groups in the country. It’s not just Foster, though, it’s his entire staff. They’ve done a great job of recruiting, reloading and putting their players in position to succeed. They’ve also improved their depth and experience through the misfortune of injured players. Nine starters return to this defense, which ranked seventh in the nation last year in scoring defense, 10th in total defense and 14th against the run. The strength this year will be at the ends in pass rushers James Gayle and J.R. Collins, who combined for 22 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last year. Linebacker Bruce Taylor, though, might be the best defender on the team. If everyone can stay healthy, the Hokies’ defense will be championship-caliber. Virginia Tech will have to rely on its defense this year, especially in the first half of the season, because …

Why it won’t: Overhaul on offense. Eight of the 11 starters lost were on offense. Four starters must be replaced on the offensive line, a pair of four-year starters at receiver are gone in Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and the Hokies have to also find a replacement for running back David Wilson, who left school early for the NFL draft. Boykin and Coale finished their careers with more combined reception yardage (5,542 yards) than any other pair of receivers in ACC history. Virginia Tech’s staff might have to ask more of quarterback Logan Thomas as it figures out who the playmakers around him will be. Center Andrew Miller is the lone starter on the offensive line. This offense will have a lot of new faces when it lines up against Georgia Tech in the Labor Day opener, and it will have questions to answer in fall camp in both the running and passing games.

More in this series