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February 9, 2014

Grading The Class: Defense

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The 2014 class could go down as one of the best overall Virginia Tech has had in the Rivals area (since 2002). The Hokies missed out on a few big targets in-state, but addressed a number of needs and also made a lot of progress out of state.

We break down both sides of the ball, now with the defense and grade each position based on need, how the Hokies filled it and hits and misses in the 2014 class.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
The first thing any Hokies fan will point to is the loss of Rivals100 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi on signing day. Yes, that was a tough one, as he chose Florida State, but it doesn't take away from the great work Virginia Tech did at the position in the pair of interior linemen that it did snag.

The most important get was Bethel (Va.) four-star Ricky Walker, who committed in October during his official visit. Walker's brother, Rijo Walker, just finished his career at Virginia, but Walker never gave the Hoos much of a look. Even better for the Hokies, who were in need inside on the line, especially with the loss of big Derrick Hopkins.

Walker works as hard as any defensive lineman in the country. He gets low, but also is extremely quick and smart with his hands. He has a chance to play right away this fall, especially with the need here.

But not to be overlooked is Massaponax (Va.) two-star Steve Sobczak, certainly a space-eater inside. He dropped his weight down from 340 and has become way more explosive off the ball. Now, it's about adding good weight.

Overall Grade: A-

DEFENSIVE END

Virginia Tech got its first addition for the 2014 class nearly two years ago. After the spring game in 2012 (the one that got cancelled due to weather), the Hokies made an offer to Massapponax (Va.) defensive end Vincent Mihota. He didn't think too long about it, committing soon after.

Another area of need with the losses of James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Tyrel Wilson, Mihota has gotten a jump by enrolling early. He'll need it, coming off a broken bone in his left foot that kept him out of all but two games as a senior. When healthy, Mihota is quick and relentless and he's got great size.

Joining Mihota in the class is three-star Kevin Bronson. But while Bronson is listed as an end, he'll be shifted more inside. Bronson has good speed, but with his frame and likelihood of adding a lot more weight. The iffy part here is figuring out how Mihota will come back from his injury

Overall Grade: B

LINEBACKER
Two of the most crucial parts to the Hokies defense finished their college careers after the season, with Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards. Those are two pretty big holes to fill.

The Hokies filled those holes about as good as they could have expected. They reached for a few targets in Chicago, but pulling in Rivals250 linebacker Melvin Keihn is a job that can't be understated. Keihn is already very physically imposing, has top-end speed for the position and moves side to side extremely well. Keihn really came on especially towards the end of his senior season and is certainly a leader as well.

The big signing day get Virginia Tech did snag on defense was four-star Raymon Minor. He projects as a linebacker, though there's always the chance he moves back to offense. He's that type of athlete. On defense, Minor has speed and great range and both have an excellent chance to compete right away.

Overall Grade: A

SAFETY
The Hokies had to wait a year to get one of its top targets from the 2013 class. Four-star Holland Fisher had to spend the fall at Fork Union Military Academy (Va.), but Fisher might be a lot better off because of it. Fisher is the top-ranked prep player in the country.

Physically, Fisher was ready to play at the college level last year. Now, he's more there mentally. He's as svelte an athlete as you'll find and is one of the bigger, physically imposing safeties you'll find as well. He's got great hands and speed to go with that.

Then, there's four-star C.J. Reavis, who while not as big as Fisher, is just as quick, if not quicker and also has great hands and instincts. Between the two of them, the Hokies likely have their safeties set for the next few seasons, a good thing with the departures of Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner after this fall.

Overall Grade: A+

CORNERBACK
This position wasn't quite one of huge need just yet. For this cycle, it was more about providing more depth, which the Hokies accomplished.

They're not really highly-ranked, but Terrell Edmunds and Shawn Payne are still solid defensive backs. Edmunds is an all-around athlete who played a number of positions in high school and excelled at about everything he played. But he has good hands and is willing to play where he's needed and that's key.

Payne was recruited as an athlete. But with the number of receivers Virginia Tech received, the decision was a lot easier to move Payne to cornerback. He plays great in man coverage, which is what the Hokies play the most of. He's got good hands and good speed to stay with his receivers.

Overall Grade: C+



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