Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster knows his defense isn’t going to scare many people right now if they’re just looking at the statistics. He also doesn’t care what the numbers say.
After giving up 592 yards Sunday night in Tech’s 31-24 win against what has all the makings of a high-powered offense at West Virginia, Tech is last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in major defensive statistical categories – passing defense (371 yards allowed), rushing defense (surrendered 221 yards) and total defense.
Getting a win against a ranked opponent on a neutral field helps salve the ugliness of the stats, but there are flaws – continued unproven depth being chief among them – that must be addressed.
“I always tell that to our kids, ‘It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish,’ and we’ve been there before,” he said. “That still doesn’t change what I think about this team, this group of kids. Do we have some depth issues? Yeah, and is there a dropoff after our first unit? Yeah, but that’s part of it, and we’ve got to bring some guys along.”
Tech, which jumped three spots Tuesday to No. 18 in The Associated Press poll, is in the midst of a short week of preparation. But at least the home opener Saturday against Delaware doesn’t appear daunting.
After going 4-7 last season, Delaware got off to a good start last weekend with a 22-3 win against Delaware State. It was the Blue Hens’ first game under coach Danny Rocco, the former head coach at Richmond and Liberty and a former assistant at Virginia.
Foster and head coach Justin Fuente are likely to spend much of the abbreviated week ironing out what caused the Hokies’ problems against the Mountaineers.
Foster’s review of video from the West Virginia game revealed four plays that frustrated him – two passes (including a 60-yard touchdown to receiver Gary Jennings, who got behind free safety Terrell Edmunds) and two runs (among them a 42-yard run by running back Justin Crawford to help set up the Mountaineers’ first touchdown).
“Those are things we can correct, but those are things we practiced, too,” Foster said. “That was disappointing.
“I think it’s kind of what you’re used to seeing and the type of offenses you’re used to seeing consistently. Would we like to have a couple plays back? Sure, but I can’t fault our kids’ effort.”
West Virginia’s tempo didn’t allow Tech to substitute and develop depth as much as it would’ve preferred, especially on the defensive line, where cramping issues plagued defensive tackle Tim Settle. He still managed to log one of Tech’s two sacks.
“That was definitely a different track meet,” Settle said. “…That’s probably the fastest that I ever had to run.
“Me and (defensive tackle) Ricky (Walker) looked at each other and were like, ‘Man, we can’t come out of the game anymore.’ We just thought of it. They couldn’t really run the ball when we were in there. They couldn’t get any push. So, we were just like, ‘We’ve got to just man up, stay in there.’”
Walker was credited with only two tackles, but he got pressure on quarterback Will Grier on two big third-down plays to help force incompletions. Tech held West Virginia to 5 of 19 on third-down conversions, but the Hokies converted just 3 of their 15 third downs.
Walker’s disruptiveness drew praise from Foster, who considers him one of the defensive leaders.
“Ricky played extremely well,” Foster said. “He’s our bell cow right now up front. He is the leader of that group, not just how he performs on the field, but how he leads them in the weight room, how he leads them in the meeting room, how he handles himself off the field. … He’s going to be very professional in how he handles his off-the-field habits, and he’s going to be very professional in how he handles his on-the-field habits.”
Tech’s coaching staff did get a decent read on Divine Deablo in his first game at free safety when he subbed for starter Terrell Edmunds, who had cramping issues. In the spring, Deablo moved from receiver, where he played briefly last season as a freshman.
Though Deablo dropped a golden opportunity for an interception on West Virginia’s final possession, he logged six tackles, including one for a loss. If all goes as expected against Delaware, Deablo should get more playing time.
“His upside on defense was much higher than his upside offensively, I thought, for him as a football player,” Fuente said. “I mean, he was very productive in his time on the field last week. I think he’ll continue to get better.”