Virginia Tech suffered significant losses on the defensive side of the ball, but the Hokies could still feature a strong defense this season behind a stout group of linebackers.
In fact, the Virginia Tech linebackers come into the season with such a strong reputation that Athlon Sports ranked the group the fourth-best linebacker corps in the nation. Here’s what the website wrote:
With the Hokies losing a trio of key players in the trenches, the strength of Bud Foster’s standout defense shifts to linebacker this season. A pair of 100-tackle enforcers headlines this group. Andrew Motuapuaka finished fifth in the ACC with 114 stops last year, while Tremaine Edmunds contributed 18.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks among his 106 tackles. Foster uses a hybrid safety/linebacker position as the third starter to match up better against spread offenses. Mook Reynolds is back at that position after a standout first full season as a starter in 2016.
Motuapuaka and Edmunds were first and second, respectively, on the team in tackles. Reynolds was fifth for Virginia Tech with 64 tackles. The three combined for 284 tackles, including 33 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 sacks.
The only teams with better linebackers heading into this season, according to Athlon, are Georgia, Alabama and Iowa.
The next-highest rated ACC team was Miami at No. 9. Florida State and Clemson also were in the top 20.