Oct 5, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies defensive line coach Charley Wiles talks to players during a timeout in the fourth quarter. The Hokies defeated the Tar Heels 27-17 at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Ekanem: Can He Be a Breakout Star?


James Gayle and J.R. Collins both had very good careers for the Virginia Tech Hokies and strong senior seasons but the future of the defensive end position had some uncertainty entering this spring. Of course, there was one certainty that Dadi Nicolas would be one of the starting defensive ends after earning a lot of playing time as the third defensive end last season while being a very good speed rusher.

However, the other defensive end spot was wide open.

The man that many saw as the guy who was the favorite to claim the other defensive end spot was Ken Ekanem and he was able to live up to expectations. Ekanem had one of the best springs of any Hokie and ended up having multiple sacks in multiple games in what was a dominant display. Unsprisingly, Ekanem earned the other starting defensive end job before the end of the spring.

These impressive performances this spring make you wonder how good could Ken Ekanem be?

Ekanem got the chance to wait in the wings last year and get some time on the field on special teams and on defense against Western Carolina. Ekanem didn’t have any pressure or expectation to produce on gameday for the Hokies which allowed him to focus on developing into a better player. This past spring showed that Ekanem is ready to potentially be better than Collins, Gayle, or both of them.

At 6-3 and 245 pounds, Ken Ekanem has ideal size for a defensive end and also is someone that doesn’t really need to do much bulking up at that size. Ekanem also has shown this spring that he has the speed and strength that is necessary to have tons of success at the collegiate level. Ekanem has the skills that he is going to need to be very successful.

Now, the question is can Ken Ekanem take his game to not only the level of being a quality starter but one of being a star? There is no doubt in my opinion that Ekanem will be a very good player but I don’t think that is where he will stop. Ekanem is a guy that could have 8 to 12 sacks this fall and be one of the most underrated pass rushers in college football. Ekanem has big breakout potential and while he seems likely to just be a quality starter with 6 to 8 sacks which would be acceptable, Ekanem has the potential to be a breakout star.

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