March 23, 2015
Five questions with Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster
The man in charge of the Hokies' defense wants to evaluate younger players and create depth this spring

Virginia Tech’s normally strong defense got off to a slow start last year, as injuries to standouts Luther Maddy and Brandon Facyson forced coordinator Bud Foster and his staff to make major adjustments. The Hokies essentially had eight new faces in starting roles, but they played really well down the stretch and finished a respectable 21st nationally in total defense (343.8 ypg).

Foster sat down and answered a few questions, as spring practice begins Tuesday:

Q: With most of the defense returning as you head into spring practice, what do you hope to get accomplished this spring? What are the goals?
BF: “Our goals don’t change a whole lot. We’ve got to continue to grow and improve. We’ve got to develop some depth. We’ve got to find out who can play and compete at a high level. We do that every spring.

“I’m anxious to see some young kids step up and play, particularly up front. A guy like Melvin Keihn, I’m anxious to see him. With Ken being out, Melvin and Seth Dooley are going to get a lot of reps, and they need a lot of reps. Those are kids that we are excited about. We want to see what Vinny Mihota can bring to the table, and we’re excited about Yosh Nijman.

“At linebacker, Chase Williams had a great year, but I really like what Andrew Motuapuaka did. He really came along. He’s going to be the guy in the middle. We need to develop some depth behind him and Deon Clarke. We’ve got Carson Lydon at mike [linebacker], and I’m excited about him coming in here, and I think he’ll be an athletic mike. I’m anxious to see where Raymon Minor goes. He intrigues me as a big, athletic kid, and we’ll see if he fits at the backer spot.

“At the back end, we’ll have to find two new safeties. We’ve had two three-year starters back there [Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner], and experience is hard to replace. We’ve got a lot of people we’re going to look at back there to see who can help us.

“So as for goals, we’ll need to improve and get some young guys some experience and find out who can play.”

Q: Let’s talk about the free safety and rover positions. Detrick Bonner started 43 games in his career, while Kyshoen Jarrett started 38. What are your plans for those two spots heading into spring practice?
BF: “In addition to him playing corner, we’re going to look at Chuck Clark playing our free safety spot, and he’ll be battling with Desmond Frye, Anthony Shegog and Der’Woun Greene. We’ll probably move those guys around. They’re all good football players. C.J. Reavis is another guy that I want to watch. C.J. can make plays in space. So those are two positions that I’m going to take a close look at, as far as seeing how we’re developing.”

Q: You’re also losing whip linebacker Derek Di Nardo, who graduated after a terrific senior season. Who are some people to watch in that whip linebacker role?
BF: “We’re going to move Ronny Vandyke back to the whip position. Between our “30” [three defensive linemen] package and what all we do, that whip guy ended up playing a lot [Di Nardo played more than 300 snaps]. Di Nardo had a great senior year.

“Ronny needs to stay healthy, and we’re going to look at Adonis Alexander there. He’s a mid-year guy [enrolled in January], and he’s a tall, lanky guy that can run. He has great range and knows how to finish. We may start him at rover – we haven’t decided yet, but we like to start them in the back end and move forward when we find out more about them. But Adonis may be our whip or nickel guy.”

Q: Andrew Motuapuaka started four games when Chase Williams went down with a knee injury, and he played well, solidifying himself as the mike linebacker of the future. What do you expect to see from him this spring?
BF: “I hope he’s going to take off from where he left off. He’s got great vision. He has some things he needs to work on, but I just like what the kid is about. He’s got speed, and he’s physical. He can run. He’s a good blitzer. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good mike linebacker. He’s an instinctive guy. He really did a nice job coming in for Chase last fall. I was encouraged by his performance. He’s only going to get better.

“The only concern I have with Andrew is that he needs to speak up. That’s a take-charge position, and he’s a quiet kid. But in the game situations last fall, he did a nice job of communicating. I was pleasantly surprised with that. I expect him to take a big step this spring. That’s such a key position for us. It’s a playmaking spot, and when we’ve had a good playmaker there, we’ve been good defensively. He has those capabilities.”

Q: Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller are essentially out for this spring while rehabbing injuries. With that said, who are some young corners to watch this spring?
BF: “We’re going to start Donovan Riley at rover and get him work at corner. He needs to continue to develop and grow and improve.

“As for those young corners, I’m looking forward to seeing how some of these guys compete. Greg Stroman really came on toward the end of the year. With Kendall being out, he’s going to get a lot of reps. You’ve got Shawn Payne and Terrell Edmunds, and those guys are going to get a lot of work.

“This will be a great time to get an evaluation of young players and then we can determine our nickel guy. That’s becoming a very important part of our defense. You saw that last year when we played Kendall, Chuck and Donovan so much together in that package.”

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