With four fifth-year seniors having moved on, junior center Andrew Miller is by far Virginia Tech’s most experienced offensive lineman and will be critical to the unit’s success in 2012. Miller started all 14 games at center last season after seeing limited action as a redshirt freshman in 2010. The coaching staff graded Miller’s on-field performance at better than 90 percent in four games last year. He also was part of an offensive line that finished second in the ACC and tied for 22nd in the nation in sacks allowed in 2011, giving up a total of only 17 in 14 games (1.2 per game).
Edwards started all 14 games in 2011, finishing third on the team in both tackles (71, 35 solo and tackles for loss (11.5). He also had 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Edwards got his first career start in the season opener against Appalachian State after playing in all 14 of Virginia Tech’s games as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He had a season- and career-high 10 tackles against Arkansas State and recorded a sack and an interception against Wake Forest. He also had a sack and a team-high eight tackles in the Hokies’ overtime Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan. Edwards missed spring practice after undergoing surgery to place a rod in his left tibia to relieve pain from a stress fracture in his shin, but he’s expected to be ready to go by the fall. If healthy, the junior will team with seniors Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow to form the ACC’s top linebacking corps.
Hopkins started all 14 games for Virginia Tech last season, finishing with 51 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. He also had a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He was a full-time starter his sophomore season after playing in 13 games as a true freshman in 2010. He posted a season-high nine total tackles against Georgia Tech and collected a sack apiece in the East Carolina, Clemson and Boston College contests. He is expected to pair with his older brother Antoine as the Hokies’ starting defensive tackles in 2012.
With Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, the top two receivers in Virginia Tech history, both gone, Davis has the opportunity to establish himself as quarterback Logan Thomas’ top target in 2012. The senior was fourth on the team with 30 receptions in 2011 while his 510 yards were second. He led the Hokies by averaging 17 yards per catch and also tied Boykin for first in touchdown receptions with five. In 40 career games, Davis has 54 receptions for 874 yards and eight touchdowns, while averaging more than 16 yards per catch. Davis’ best game last season came in the opener against Appalachian State when he caught three passes for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns, including one that covered 63 yards. He also had a season-high five receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown against Virginia.
An honorable mention All-ACC honoree in 2011, Collins amassed 57 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and was second on the team with six sacks. He also had his first career interception in the game against Virginia. Collins, now a junior, started all 14 games last season, after playing in 13 and registering his first career start as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He had a season- and career-high 11 tackles in the Hokies’ win against Georgia Tech. He got nearly half of his sacks in one game, when he piled up 2.5 against Marshall. That was part of a six-game stretch, starting with the Sept. 10 game at East Carolina and ending with the Oct. 15 contest at Wake Forest, during which he had a combined total of 23 tackles, 6.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and all six of his sacks.
Exum was named honorable mention All-ACC in 2011 for his efforts at free safety, while also starting three games at the rover position. In 14 starts, Exum racked up a team-high 89 tackles, 43 of them solo, to go along with five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and added a fumble recovery. He recorded his first career interception against Marshall and was second on the Hokies with 11 passes defended. He had five games with double-digit tackles, including three games in a row, highlighted by a season- and career-high 12 against North Carolina. This season the junior will move to corner to replace two-time All-ACC performer Jayron Hosley, who was selected by the New York Giants in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Gayle started all 13 games he played in last year, missing one due to injury and being limited in two other contests. The junior was named second-team All-ACC after posting 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and a team-best seven sacks. He was second on the team in stops behind the line of scrimmage and was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week on two different occasions. The first one was for his seven-tackle, 1.5-sack effort against Marshall, and the second coming after he registered five tackles, three of them coming behind the line of scrimmage, and two sacks in the Hokies’ win against in-state rival Virginia.
Fuller earned second-team All-ACC honors and was named Virginia Tech’s defensive MVP last season as he contributed as a starter at two different positions. The junior started seven games at nickel back/whip linebacker and the other seven at cornerback. Fuller finished fourth on the team with 65 tackles, 46 of them solo stops, and led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss. He also was fourth with 4.5 sacks, tied for second with two interceptions and added a forced and a fumble recovery to his 2011 totals. Fuller also made an impact on special team, his season highlight coming via a blocked punt against Appalachian State, which he recovered for a touchdown. As a true freshman in 2010, Fuller played in all 14 games, starting seven contests. He posted a career-high 10 tackles, eight of them solo, and also had three stops behind the line of scrimmage in his fifth career start against in-state rival Virginia on Nov. 27, 2010.
In 2010, Taylor led Virginia Tech in tackles with 91 and was leading the team with 53 total stops before suffering a serious Lisfranc foot injury in the Oct. 22 game against Boston College. Taylor missed the Hokies’ last six games, but still earned honorable mention All-ACC honors as he also had seven tackles for loss and five sacks before his season was cut short. For his career, Taylor has played in 28 games with 22 starts, and has a total of 150 tackles, 23 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 11 sacks. Provided he’s fully healthy, the fifth-year senior will lead a Virginia Tech linebacking corps that is considered the best in the ACC, and provide leadership for coordinator Bud Foster’s defense, a unit that could finish the 2012 season as one of the nation’s most dominant.
In his first year as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback, Thomas set new single-season records for total offense (3,482 yards) and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (11). Thomas earned second-team All-ACC honors as he was responsible for a total of 30 touchdowns. The junior is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, finishing second on the team with 469 yards rushing with a team-high 11 touchdowns. Thomas needs to cut down on his interceptions (10 in 2011) and continue to improve his completion percentage (59.8), but he also seems to be at his best when the games count the most. In ACC games alone last year, including the ACC Championship Game, Thomas completed better than 60 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. In the Sugar Bowl against Michigan, Thomas completed nearly 68 percent of his passes for 214 yards and an interception in the Hokies’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Wolverines in New Orleans.
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