Monday’s Mail: Thoughts on the Defensive Line, Tyrone Nix and Adonis Alexander’s Draft Stock

Thanks for reading folks. This is my first time ever holding a mailbag for my followers and I couldn’t be more excited. You all know how often I interact with you on Twitter and answering your questions each week gives me another opportunity to talk with you guys. Without further introduction, let’s see what you guys are thinking about this week.

The starting four of Virginia Tech’s defensive line should be solid. Trevon Hill, Vinny Mihota and Ricky Walker all return to the starting lineup in 2018, with Mihota moving inside to defensive tackle. The trio combined for 25.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season, so the group should produce. Mihota and Walker with both be seniors, while Hill will be a redshirt junior.

Even the new guy, Houshun Gaines, is an experienced player who produced off the bench last season. Gaines racked up seven tackles for loss and three sacks in 2017 and is entering his fourth year in the program. Virginia Tech’s starting group has the chance to be quite good.

As was the problem last season, Virginia Tech’s lack of depth at end and tackle could be an issue. On the edge, Virginia Tech will be relying on redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Belmar and redshirt freshmen Zion DeBose, TyJuan Garbutt and Nathan Proctor. Belmar does have some experience after playing in 10 games in 2017, but he’s far from a seasoned guy. DeBose, Garbutt and Proctor will all be playing their first season of college football.

The real problem lies on the interior. Virginia Tech’s third defensive tackle at the moment is Jarrod Hewitt, a redshirt sophomore with zero career sacks. Hewitt also played in 10 games last season, but as the season wore on the Hokies began to play Walker and Tim Settle almost exclusively. Behind Hewitt, Xavier Burke, Jimmie Taylor and Darius Fullwood will try to make their first impact of their careers.

The X-factor of this group is Cam Goode. The 6-foot, 317-pound freshman didn’t arrive in Blacksburg until this summer but given the Hokies’ lack of depth, Goode could play right away. He’ll certainly see the field, given the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, but how much will he see the field?

If this situation were to unfold, which I find rather unlikely, Hendon Hooker would start at quarterback vs. Florida State. Hooker would be the most experienced player on the roster and would likely be the only player prepared to run the offense.

If Josh Jackson is indeed unable to play this season, there’s a 99 percent chance that Willis would take over the starting role. Despite his inconsistent play in practice, Willis would give the Hokies their best chance to win. The players wouldn’t want anything else.

I think something else needs to be addressed — Quincy Patterson is not ready to start at quarterback. I know fans are uber excited about the stellar prospect,but people have to be patient. Patterson is as smart as they come, but he played in a very basic offense in high school and is a raw passer. As talented as Patterson is, he needs time to develop. Throw him into the fire too early, and you might spoil the whole dish.


For those who missed the news, Virginia Tech hired Tyrone Nix to take over as safeties coach. Nix has plenty of experience as a college coach, though very little working with defensive backs. Nix coached at Southern Miss from 1995-2004, working with the defensive tackles, outside linebackers, safeties and inside linebackers. Nix was hired by South Carolina in 2005 and served as co-defensive coordinator there for four seasons before leaving for Ole Miss’ defensive coordinator position.

Nix worked as the Rebel’s defensive coordinator from 2008-2011 and moved on to Middle Tennessee in 2012. Last season, Nix served as a senior analyst for Texas A&M.

Given the situation, I think Justin Fuente hired the best and most realistic option. Nix is well-versed as a coach and even though the overwhelming majority of his experience is with linebackers, Nix can realistically coach any position group on defense.

In terms of recruiting, we’ll find out if Nix can get it done. He’s got plenty of experience recruiting in the SEC, which isn’t a bad thing. But fans should give him a chance, and also understand that Virginia Tech doesn’t have the budget to hire any coach in the country that they want.

If Adonis Alexander is able to put his off-the-field issues behind him, he certainly has a chance to play in the NFL. He has the prototypical size to cover anyone in the league and if a coach takes the time to work with him, he’ll develop as a player. Alexander never reached his ceiling at Virginia Tech, partly due to his own mistakes, but he could get another chance in the NFL.

History doesn’t bode well for Alexander, in terms of being drafted. Just five players have been selected in the NFL Supplemental Draft since the start of the decade, with the last selection coming in 2015. None of these five players have had long and successful careers, even though Cleveland’s Josh Gordon certainly has the talent to do so.

Alexander will hold his pro day at Virginia Tech on Wed., June 20. Alexander’s agent, Andy Ross, says that Alexander will be meeting with teams prior to his workout and after, which shows teams are interested in the former Virginia Tech corner. The supplemental draft is expected to take place in July.

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