Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 11 No. 4 | March 2019

VirginiaTech’s defenseenteredspringpracticelookingtomake significant improvement over last season’s overall performance—one that left coordinator Bud Foster angry at times and exasperated at others. An inexperienced bunch struggled in 2018 to overcome the losses of several key players to the NFL—Tremaine Edmunds, Terrell Edmunds, Tim Settle, Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson. The issues really manifested themselves during a six-game stretch toward the end of the season when the Hokies allowed at least 30 points in five of six games—and Tech lost all five of those games. There were pockets of good play—the Duke, North Carolina and Marshall games come to mind. But overall, the Hokies gave up too many big plays and struggled to reach their lofty standard. That said, 10 of 11 starters return from the defense that started in the Military Bowl loss to Cincinnati. The only absentee—Ricky Walker, who arguably served as the Hokies’ best player on this side of the ball. Foster and his staff went into this spring practice needing to find a replacement for Walker and needing to find a way to get this unit to play more consistently at every position. The process began March 20. Before spring practice, Foster graciously sat down and answered a few questions about last season, the Hokies’ personnel at certain positions, and what he hopes to have accomplished by the end of spring. Q: Looking back at last season, was there a common theme to the struggles? What stood out to you when you watched cut-ups from last season? BF: Inexperience. Inconsistent execution. We did it good at times, but we were just very inconsistent in not having the discipline to do it all the time. A big part of that is experience. I don’t know if I’ve ever had … we’ve had young teams, but not as inexperienced. We’ve had to replace some starters before, but at least they were guys that had been in the program a couple of years. This time, we had a lot of guys playing for the very first time. I don’t know if we’ve had, at least on our side of the Tech returns several players from a defense that played inconsistently for much of the 2018 season, and coordinator Bud Foster is expecting improved play from each position this spring, as the group looks to put the past behind it by Jimmy Robertson ball, that much inexperience that we counted on them to perform and perform at a high level. It’s not the scheme. It went back to technique, fundamentals, personnel, tackling, leverage on the ball—the base fundamentals of football. The best teacher is experience, and unfortunately, some of those guys were thrown to the wolves without having senior leadership or having time to develop and those types of things. I’m expecting us to really take a step forward this spring. Q: How do you accomplish that? BF: Our goals for this spring are simple—it’s to get better and get better every day. Then it’s get better and have the discipline and the consistency to do it the right way every time. That’s it. We’re not talking about championships. We’re not talking about anything but getting better and having the consistency to do it every day and every play. That’s it. That’s the focus of our defense, and if we do those things, everything else will go in the direction we want it to.” Q: You lose Ricky Walker, who was a great player, but you also lost Vinny Mihota, and Xavier Burke is out this spring with an injury. How concerned are you about the defensive tackle spots? BF: Defensive tackle, right now, there is a big question mark. Obviously, you’ve got Jarrod Hewitt back who really played well for us last year. He got nicked up last year, but that position concerns me. When you lose two guys, and particularly a guy like Ricky, who was a good leader and a playmaker for us and set a great example for us … You’ve got DaShawn Crawford now, who is a JC [junior college] kid. You’re going to count on Jarrod Hewitt to be the leader and set the example and be a mentor in that room. After that, we’re very limited with what we have in there. We’ve got Aiden Brown, who we moved from offense, and we’re going to see what he can do. You’ve got Jimmie Taylor, who’s been in the program, but has had some health issues, and you’ve got a couple of walk-ons. After that, you’ve got three Continued on page 16 14 Inside Hokie Sports