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Hokies signing day: Defensive line

Hokies Journal is taking a position-by-position look of Virginia Tech's incoming class on national signing day. Virginia Tech had seemed to shore up its class early, so all prospects listed were among the recruits expected to sign Wednesday with the Hokies. Follow @HokiesJournal on Twitter for any changes or unexpected signings.

Before the 2009 season, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster told reporters that he felt the Hokies had started to build a legacy along its defensive line, like Southern California has with its running backs or Penn State has with its linebackers. He pointed to former greats Corey Moore and Darryl Tapp and noted Jason Worilds as the next in line.

But with Worilds leaving Virginia Tech early for the NFL draft, Virginia Tech is thin on experience along the defensive line. John Graves, an athletic and physical tackle, is the only returning starter in 2010. And while the Hokies have a cast of young talent, it is still just young talent. Finding defensive linemen was a priority in Virginia Tech's recruiting search, evidenced by the Hokies' haul of five defensive linemen.

Perhaps Virginia Tech's biggest signing of the 2010 was defensive end prospect Zack McCray. A 6-foot-4, 240-pound recruit, McCray had offers from Alabama, Maryland, Nebraska and Tennessee, among others. McCray, who is cousins with Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas, has the type of quickness that is rare on a prospect of his size. McCray played at Brookville High School in Lynchburg, Va., and was recruited by Hokies offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who is one of the program's top recruiters. McCray told the Sporting News he felt a chance to play early at Virginia Tech, which contributed to his decision to commit to the Hokies.

Nick Acree, a 6-6, 300 pound defensive tackle, is another of Virginia Tech's top commitments of the 2010 recruiting class. Acree, who played at Fork Union Military Academy, suffered a season-ending knee injury before the 2009 season. He can reportedly bench press 450 pounds and squat 575 pounds, and his massive frame would not lead one to believe otherwise. Acree, one of the nation's top defensive tackle prospects, had offers from Florida State, Ohio State, Penn State and others. Acree has the tools to be a solid pass rusher and is said to be quick off the ball.

Another big-time defensive line prospect is De'Antre Rhodes of Hargrave Military Academy. At 6-3 and 280 pounds Rhodes, had offers from Maryland, Virginia and Clemson coming out of Varina High School in Richmond.

Justin Taylor, a defensive end from Norwood, N.C., is one of the six Hokie commitments from outside the state. He had scholarship offers from Arkansas, Auburn, East Carolina and others. Taylor is 6-3, 220 pounds and has a reported time of 4.71 in the 40-yard dash, which makes him a rare blend of size and speed one the defensive line (or it could mean he will be moved to linebacker). Taylor has tremendous upside because he only started playing organized football before the 2008 season.

Derrick Hopkins is one of the more interesting commitments of Virginia Tech's class if only because of his size. At 5-11 and 270 pounds, Hopkins is undersize for a division I-A defensive linemen. But Virginia Tech has had success with smaller, lighter players on its defensive lines, including recently departed tackle Demetrius Taylor, who was listed at 6 feet and 262 pounds. Hopkins, known for his run-stopping ability at Highland Spring High School, is the brother of current Hokies defensive linemen Antonie Hopkins, who has a similar build.

For as much work as Virginia Tech did regarding defensive line recruits, it missed on one of the state's biggest prospects: tackle Evan Hailes out of Chesapeake, Va. Like his Oscar Smith High School teammate, quarterback Phillip Sims, who is expected to sign with Alabama, Hailes is headed out of state, having selected Penn State. Hailes, who was 6-1 and 315 pounds, ranked Virginia Tech in his final four but ultimately became another Tidewater recruit who looked elsewhere.

Here's a video of Justin Taylor at South Stanly High School in Norwood, N.C.

By Mark Viera  |  February 3, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
 
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