John McDonnell/The Washington Post


QUARTERBACK: Virginia Tech’s coaches claim Tyrod Taylor (above) finally is ready to put all the pieces together and be a dynamic dual-threat quarterback for the length of a season. If Taylor, who took considerable strides as a passer last season, can do that, the Hokies’ offense will be difficult to stop.

RUNNING BACK: Opposing defenses will get to game plan for redshirt junior Darren Evans, who set the ACC freshman rushing record in 2008, and Ryan Williams, who smashed Evans’s record in 2009 after Evans tore his ACL. Both backs are healthy and swear they’ll work cohesively together while sharing the same backfield.

WIDE RECEIVER: Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale and Dyrell Roberts – Taylor’s top three receiving targets – return to make for a solid wideout corps. Boykin caught 40 passes for 835 yards in 2009. He and Coale ranked in the top 5 in the ACC in yards per catch.

TIGHT END: Fifth-year senior Andre Smith is the only experienced tight end on Virginia Tech’s roster. With a 6-foot-5, 272-pound frame, he’ll be used primarily in a blocking role as the Hokies aim to shore up their pass protection and create holes for their dynamic run game.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Hokies return three starters – Jaymes Brooks, Blake DeChristopher and Beau Warren – on a line that paved the way for a rushing attack that averaged 208.2 yards per game last season. But the line also had a hand in allowing 31 sacks in 2009, a number that will need to come down to ensure Taylor’s health.


John McDonnell/The Washington Post


DEFENSIVE LINE: There are a lot of new faces on Bud Foster’s defense, including three new starters along the defensive line. Third-year starting defensive tackle John Graves will need to provide stability while players such as defensive ends Steven Friday and Chris Drager get used to their starting roles.

LINEBACKER: Junior Barquell Rivers – the team’s leading returning tackler – tore a quadriceps tendon in February and is doubtful to play in the season opener against Boise State on Monday. Sophomores Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Alonzo Tweedy are vying to take over the outside linebacker spot vacated by Cody Grimm.

SAFETY: Senior strong safety Davon Morgan broke into the starting lineup the last four games of the 2009 season and finished with 47 tackles. He’ll be joined by junior free safety Eddie Whitely, who compiled eight tackles in his only start last year.

CORNERBACK: Senior Rashad Carmichael (above), who nabbed a team-high six interceptions and established himself as one of the top cover corners in the ACC last season, will lead a secondary that ranked No. 2 in the conference in passing defense in 2009.

Special teams

PLACE KICKER/PUNTER: Senior punter Brian Saunders will replace Brent Bowden, who led the ACC by averaging 43.8 yards per punt last season. For the fourth straight season, Virginia Tech will usher in a new place kicker, fifth-year senior Chris Hazley.

KICK RETURNER: Junior Dyrell Roberts ranked No. 2 in the ACC in kickoff return average (31.2 yards per return) last season. Given the Hokies’ offensive firepower, the enhanced field position Roberts can provide on kickoffs will only deepen the hole in which opposing defenses find themselves.

Steve Yanda/The Washington Post

© The Washington Post Company