With an offensive-minded coach and an entirely new offensive staff, the questions surrounding Virginia Tech this offseason have centered around the offense, naturally.
But this offseason is just as crucial for the defense, and coordinator Bud Foster. Beyond getting to know new coach Justin Fuente and a reconfigured staff, Foster has to essentially rebuild his defense.
And he has to do it with a few players on the shelf. Starting cornerback Brandon Facyson is going to miss spring with a knee injury suffered in offseason workouts. Seth Dooley, expected to compete for a starting job at defensive end, also will miss spring with a shoulder injury. Reserve linebacker Sean Huelskamp also is out.
Then there are the key players Foster has to replace, including starting defensive linemen Corey Marshall, Luther Maddy and Dadi Nicolas. If there is one position that is most critical than all the others, it is defensive end -- where the Hokies go into spring with only two healthy, experienced players: starter Ken Ekanem and Vinny Mihota, moved from tackle to end last year because of depth issues.
“It’s going to be a big spring for our defensive ends,” Foster said. “For us, when we’ve been really good, our ends have been really good and our corners have been really good. That’s a big part of it. These kids have some talent -- they just don’t have any experience.”
Foster knows a little more about his defensive tackles, where experienced players Woody Baron and Nigel Williams return, along with a healthy Ricky Walker. Then there is the addition of highly touted Tim Settle, who redshirted last season.
“Tackle is going to be solid,” Foster said. “We’d like to see Tim Settle come along and improve and grow. He’s a big kid who can run and do some special things I believe. He’s working really hard in the weight room and in our early morning running sessions.”
The other area on defense that needs to get sorted out is in the secondary, where the Hokies used its players in a hodgepodge of positions last season. Foster said he wants to make sure his defensive backs have clearly defined roles headed into 2016, as opposed to rotating between positions the way they did last season.
Before defensive backs coach Torrian Gray left for Florida, he and Foster talked at length about making sure that happened. But it might not get sorted out until fall practice. With Facyson out, rover Terrell Edmunds might have to slide over to cornerback for the spring.
“We don’t have a lot of depth,” Foster said. “We have a two-deep so we want to get them in the right spot to where they can learn and grow and develop and play that position and understand the expectations of that position and how it fits in the defense, where they fit and work on that. We’re going to settle in on who our best four are back there, and we’re going to get that right. We have to get that right.”