Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hokie Football: Defense dominates first spring scrimmage

Defense dominates first spring scrimmage
April 4th, 2006
by Andrew Kinney, Senior Staff Writer

The Virginia Tech football team continued its spring practice sessions Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium, partaking in its first inner-squad scrimmage of the year.

The workout, which featured full hitting among players -- excluding quarterbacks, who wore yellow no-contact jerseys -- granted head coach Frank Beamer and his coaching staff a much-needed opportunity to analyze their new assembly of players in a game-type environment in preparation for the team's Spring Game, set to take place April 15.

Highlighting the controlled scrimmage was the strong effort of the Hokie defensive unit, whose pass rush was able to overwhelm Tech's offensive lines, accounting for a total of 13 touch sacks.

"It's about where you expect it to be," Beamer said. "The defense is ahead of the offense from a maturity standpoint, and you really see that out there. It's moving a little too fast for some of our offensive guys (and) we don't slow our defenses down either. We just let them run their stunts ... I like our effort though, and we just got to keep working, and then in the end when we narrow it down personnel-wise, things will look better."

One of the players contributing to the strong showing of the Hokie defense was redshirt junior Xavier Adibi, who finished with five tackles. Following practice, the returning starter at outside linebacker reflected on some of the goals he set for himself before the Spring Game and how the Tech defense has been developing in the offseason.

"We're coming along really well," Adibi said. "Overall, we're starting to play better together as a unit. We're getting good experience with the reps. Individually, I'm just trying to get a better feel for the defense, get my pass coverage down better and be better able to stop the run. We're improving, and we're just trying to win the conference again, so I'm going to do all I can to step up."

On a day that featured Adibi and his defensive teammates consistently breaking through what many consider to be a young, inexperienced offensive line, Adibi later gave words of encouragement regarding the line's status, addressing time is an obvious -- yet required -- factor in their development.

"You have to give the offense a little bit of credit -- they're real young," Adibi said. "They're still getting better. We all realize that it takes more time for the offense to get it together than the defense (and) that kind of thing just takes time. Sooner or later they'll come along -- everyone understands that."

Senior safety Aaron Rouse, another member of the Tech defensive unit that played an instrumental role in Saturday's dominating performance, gave his opinion in analyzing how the spring workouts have been unfolding, in addition to describing how the team has been shaping up on both sides of the ball.

"We know the offense is struggling, coming in with three new coaches and a lot of players with inexperience," Rouse said. "But as a defense we've got a lot of good players returning, and we're trying to step up our games, giving the offense better looks. Here in the spring, they're basically playing every day against the number one defense in the country, which, though it may be tough, is going to help them for next year."

Despite the Hokies only having taken part in two weeks of practice this spring, Saturday's scrimmage reassured fans that the Hokie defense, consisting of playmakers such as Adibi and Rouse, will likely serve as the team's catalyst to victory in the fall.

Following Saturday's workout, Rouse addressed another hot topic regarding the team, discussing how this year's defensive roster would compensate for several key senior losses from last year (Anderson, Lewis, Tapp, Williams). He described how the team expects to have a solid core of younger players step up and fill in right where last year's top-ranked defense left off.

"Every year you're going to lose great players at some point, but what we need to do for the younger players is to try to get them to be key players and contribute," Rouse said. "I know we have the potential to be a great defense again this year, and we're trying to win ball games. We all want to get back to that ACC Championship, myself especially, and I want to be a leader next year to help carry those young guys and help them step up and perform."

The team's spring training sessions are scheduled to continue throughout the week, with another team scrimmage scheduled for this Saturday at Lane Stadium.

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