The Virginia Tech Hokies this season will be a mix of new faces and some veterans, especially on defense.
Last season, the defense was a rough spot as they struggled at times defending against the run and passing game. Looking at the ACC statistics, they were ranked 10th overall in rushing defense and 13th in passing defense. On the ground, Tech gave up 1,996 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Through the air, they gave up 2,926 yards, a 61.7% passing completion rate, and 19 touchdowns.
Despite all of the challenges that the 2020 season brought, it was Justin Hamilton’s first season as the defensive coordinator. He had to deal with the player rotation because of COVID-19, making his first season a rollercoaster. Those numbers have to improve for the 2021 season. With some new additions and returning players, they should be able to improve in all areas.
Here are four players on the defense who could have big seasons and lead this side to better numbers in 2021.
Amare Barno – defensive end
Barno broke onto the scene last season after a position change from linebacker to defensive end. Changing positions can be a game-changer for both the team and player, Barno is the perfect example of that. Last season, Barno accumulated a conference-high 16 tackles for loss, 43 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in the 2020 season.
The defense was ranked fourth in the ACC in sacks accounted for with 36, Barno led the team with 6.5. With one season at the defensive end under his belt, it’s expected that Barno will be even better this season and lift this defense to a much better season.
Jermaine Waller – cornerback
Waller had his best year in 2019 when he registered three interceptions and 13 passes defended in 13 games for the Hokies. He struggled with injuries last season that saw him play limited minutes. Waller accounted for ten tackles in his two starts. Now that he’s healthy again with the injury woes behind him, Waller can be one of the best backs in the country.
Chamarri Conner – nickelback
The junior has been a consistently good player for this Virginia Tech football team during his last two seasons, leading him to be named to this season’s Lott Trophy Watchlist.
During the last two seasons, Conner has started all 24 games for the Hokies. Last season he had pretty good numbers registering 81 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. He’ll be the leader of the defense and should put up impressive numbers yet again.
Dax Hollifield – inside linebacker
The junior linebacker will have a big test this season. During his past three seasons, he has seen action in 36 games, tallied 124 tackles, and three interceptions. Hollifield is a hardworking linebacker that has shown a lot of growth at the position since coming to this Virginia Tech program. He makes the most of his opportunities, and he’ll attempt to do the same this season.