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September 2, 2004

Defensive Position Grades: USC

Give HokieHaven.com a try. Click Here to take advantage of HH's 7-Day Free Trial and get all the INSIDE SCOOP on Virginia Tech recruiting led by HH's staff of Mark Kime and Geoff Sanders as well as the latest conference news courtesy of Chris Wallace.

Defensive Line:
The front four look much improved this year in the opener as far as stopping a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage and pressuring the quarterback. Both Darryl Tapp and Noland Burchette played well as well as redshirt freshman Chris Ellis. It was great to see Jim Davis, moved inside to defensive tackle, back on the field for the Hokies. Davis posted one of Tech's two sacks on the night and would have had a second if a face mask penalty hadn't been called. Tapp posted the other sack.

USC's Reggie Bush burned the Hokies through the air, but one the ground, he and fellow tailback LenDale White accounted for only 105 net yards rushing.

Grade: B+

The loss of redshirt freshman Xavier Adibi for the year due to a torn bicep is devastating. Adibi is arguably the best linebacker on Tech's roster and was looking the part up until the time of the injury. Despite Adibi's loss, the linebacking corps looked very strong Saturday night flying to the ball and generally making solid tackles.

Fellow redshirt freshman Vince Hall looked equally impressive in his collegiate debut and looks like he will easily lock up one of the starting spots for the remainder of the season. How Blake Warren wound up in coverage on Bush at one point should not be counted as a flaw on Blake's part, but rather the coaching staff. 99 out of 100 times, Bush blows right by Warren even with a twenty yard cushion, which Blake didn't have the luxury of.

The low rushing total is a good sign to the start of hopefully what is to be a much improved Tech defense. At the end of last season, three and four yard gains were exploding into eight and twelve yard carries as Tech's linebackers were dominated down the stretch. The ability to make stops on running plays as they reach the second tier of the defense is crucial to the success of this and any team.

Grade: B

Mis-communication between the cornerbacks and the coverage over the top appears to account for two of Bush's touchdowns deep against the Hokies. Hopefully this is a first game of the year problem that will be resolved in the near future.

Otherwise, I was impressed with the aggressive play of Eric Green in both run support and in coverage. I think he's a sleeper pick to possibly make all-conference. He's really matured as a player from when we first saw him as a freshman. Jimmy Williams played good physical defense as well, but Green looked the better of the two corners.

Tech's safeties are still a cause for concern for me personally. James Griffin needs to become more dependable in coverage from his Rover spot. Vincent Fuller played a solid, but not spectacular game, but that seems to be the norm for Tech safeties these days. See Michael Crawford last season.

Grade: C+

Special Teams:
Although Tech never got the big blocked kick the Hokie faithful were predicting was needed to pull out a victory, a lot of positives came out of this game on special teams for Tech.

Eddie Royal is going to break one long this year on kickoff returns. His speed and acceleration look spectacular and he looks to be a bit of a gambler coming out of the end zone. You can see he despises taking a knee.

Brandon Pace looked solid nailing two field goals from 35 and 42 yards out. Hopefully this position battle is wrapped up for the year. Having faith in one kicker to make crucial kicks could decide a game or two in the closely contested middle pack of the ACC.

Jason Develli looked solid on kickoffs booming kicks into the end zones on more than one occasion.

Vinnie Burns has five punts for nearly a 46 yard per kick average and continues to be one of the best punters in the country.

No real crucial mistake were made on defense which always earns a good mark. We reserve the A's for the big play games.

Grade: B

Give HokieHaven.com a try. Click Here to take advantage of HH's 7-Day Free Trial and get all the INSIDE SCOOP on Virginia Tech recruiting led by HH's staff of Mark Kime and Geoff Sanders as well as the latest conference news courtesy of Chris Wallace.

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