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Hokies' Defensive Line to Rely on Speed

Nebraska has such a rich history of producing offensive linemen that a trophy is named after one of its former players. The Rimington Award, given to the nation’s top center, was named for Cornhusker great and two-time Outland Trophy winner Dave Rimington.

“They’ve got a great tradition there,” said Bud Foster, the Hokies’ defensive coordinator. “And they’re upholding along with their tradition.”

No. 19 Nebraska (2-0) has predictably big, physical offensive linemen. But when the No. 13 Hokies (1-1) play the Cornhuskers on Saturday, the plan is for their defensive linemen to use their hallmark quickness to make a difference at the line of scrimmage. Virginia Tech will use its speed, not strength, to get a push from their defensive line.

“That’s what we’ve always done with our defense,” said Foster, who has coached players like Corey Moore who made their careers at Virginia Tech by using quickness, technique and leverage. “That’s why we don’t put our ends shoe to shoe on those tackles. That’s their strength, getting their paws on them. Where our guys’ strength is their speed.”

Offensive linemen are typically built bigger than defensive linemen. But the size difference between the Hokies and Cornhuskers is staggering. [See chart below.]

The Hokies’ tallest starting defensive lineman is tackle John Graves (6 feet 3). Their heaviest starter is tackle Cordarrow Thompson (301 pounds).

The Cornhuskers’ shortest starting offensive lineman is center Jacob Hickman (6-4). Their lightest starter is also Hickman (290 pounds).

But Nebraska’s offensive line is not just big. It is good. And it is experienced. Hickman has made 25 career starts. Left tackle Mike Smith has made 13 starts. Andy Christensen, a backup right guard who has had run-ins with the law, was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because he missed the majority of two prior seasons with injuries.

“You can tell they understand the game, they way they come off blocks and pick up blitzes,” Foster said. “Just a well coached, good group.”

In its 35-30 win over the Cornhuskers last year in Lincoln, Virginia Tech was effective against Nebraska’s rushing offense. Nebraska had only 55 rushing yards and quarterback Joe Ganz was sacked twice. Nebraska had success passing, throwing for 278 yards.

End Jason Worilds, in particular, had a big game for Virginia Tech. He had seven tackles, 2.5 for a loss. Foster said this week that it was one of the best games he has ever seen a defensive end play at Virginia Tech. He described Worild as “just relentless” against the Cornhuskers.

Relentless might be the proper word to describe how the Hokies hope to play on Saturday. Against the Cornhuskers' jumbo offensive line, Virginia Tech’s defensive line will do as it has often done: rely on its speed and technique to overcome its size disadvantage.

Virginia Tech

DE – Jason Worilds (6-2, 262 pounds)

DT – John Graves (6-3, 277)

DT – Cordarrow Thompson (6-2, 301)

DE – Nekos Brown (6-2, 248)

Nebraska

LT – Mike Smith (6-6, 295 pounds)

LG – Keith Williams (6-5, 315) or Derek Meyer (6-5, 315)

C – Jacob Hickman (6-4, 290)

RG – Ricky Henry (6-4, 300)

RT – Marcel Jones (6-7, 310) or D.J. Jones (6-5, 315)

By Mark Viera  |  September 17, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
 
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