- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Hokies' defense will be one of the biggest questions in the ACC this preseason, as Virginia Tech has to replace six starters. Still, expectations are high heading into 2010 that Virginia Tech will be one of the best teams in the country. Much of that confidence comes from defensive coordinator Bud Foster's proven ability to reload.
Can he do it again?
Here's a closer look at exactly what Virginia Tech's situation is on defense heading into spring practice, and how much work the Hokies have to do:
Overall, Virginia Tech needs to replace three of four starters up front, outside linebacker, cornerback and free safety.
The only defensive ends with any significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. There are a few redshirt freshmen you might get to know: Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Of course, the only problem with redshirt freshmen is that they haven't played yet. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other defensive end who has played, but that was extremely sparingly. It's possible the staff could move tackle John Graves back to end, where he practiced last spring, or possibly look at moving other players.
At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the front-runner to replace Cordarrow Thompson, and he has experience so that shouldn't be too much of a concern.
At outside linebacker, Cody Grimm and Cam Martin have to be replaced, leaving a wide open competition.
At cornerback, Jayron Hosley or Cris Hill will likely take over for Stephan Virgil. No worries there.
At free safety, Eddie Whitley was Kam Chancellor’s backup, and the staff is confident in him. Antone Exum will also be given an opportunity.
The good news? Virginia Tech returns cornerback Rashad Carmichael, rover Davon Morgan, Graves at defensive tackle, and Lyndell Gibson at inside linebacker.
It's a lot to ask for a team that faces Boise State's offense on Labor Day, but the Hokies wouldn't be so highly ranked this preseason if people didn't think they could do it.