For the second consecutive season, Virginia Tech has to replace two linebackers lost to graduation. Also for the second consecutive season, the Hokies will have to replace the same two linebacker positions.
"Mike" linebacker Brett Warren and "backer" Purnell Sturdivant stepped in as seniors for the departed Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, respectively. While the duo was not as good as the pair they replaced, the end result was the same: An ACC championship.
The "whip" linebacker positions will again be filled by Cam Martin, who will be a third year starter for the Hokies. Joining Martin will be two players who will be a lot fresher faced than Warren and Sturdivant. It will be important for the Hokies to find replacements at linebacker who do at least as well as Warren and Sturdivant last year.
In addition to the two linebacker spots, it's important for the Hokies to develop depth on the defensive line and find a second cornerback. I don't think Rashad Carmichael is the answer at corner.
LB Jake Johnson
Barquell Rivers (who started in the Orange Bowl) and Cody Grimm (who recorded 7.5 sacks last year) are expected to take over at mike and backer. Hunter Ovens pushed Sturdivant at backer last year and saw some playing time. However, I'm most interested to see what Johnson can do after a year of redshirting and getting whipped on a daily basis by S&C coach Mike Gentry. Johnson is supposed to be a beast and will either add much-needed depth at linebacker or push for significant playing time this year.
CB Eddie Whitley
Whitley is most remembered by Hokie fans for his roughing the punter penalty against Florida State that led to a game-changing touchdown for the Seminoles. However, Whitley improved as the year went on and earned progressively more playing time. I'd like to see him pass Carmichael for the cornerback spot opposite Stephan Virgil this year. I think if Whitley puts on weight and muscle from the 179 pounds he was listed at last year, he could jump into Macho Harris' boundary corner role and keep Virgil at field corner.
DT Vinston Painter
Painter was a highly regarded recruit coming into preseason practice last year. He switched from offensive to defensive line and is expected to be a great player for the Hokies. I'm eager to see what he can do during his first set of spring drills. Hopefully he can add depth to the defensive line.
Get your questions in
Spring practice for the Hokies starts April 1. The Hokie bloggerati will be doing a roundtable to preview spring ball, but we need your help. There are three ways to submit questions to us: In the comments section of this blog post, by E-mail to gobblercountry-at-gmail-dot-com or on Twitter to @gobblercountry. I look forward to hearing from you.
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Atlantic Coast Conference
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