Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster hinted this offseason that redshirt freshman Ronny Vandyke was the “long-term answer” at whip linebacker, and it appears his time in the spotlight has now arrived.

Coach Frank Beamer said Wednesday on the ACC teleconference that Vandyke has moved ahead of senior Jeron Gouveia-Winslow on the team’s depth chart and “will be the first whip on the field” when the Hokies take on Cincinnati on Saturday at FedEx Field.

“He brings a little more quickness to the position. He’s been coming along,” Beamer said. Gouveia-Winslow is “a very smart guy, knows the game, knows where he needs to be. But I think Ronny brings a little more quickness.”

According to Beamer’s official Web site, Vandyke was on the field for 24 plays in the Virginia Tech’s win over Bowling Green, while Gouveia-Winslow saw action for just nine plays.

Vandyke, a former All-Met from South County High, was in on three tackles and had two quarterback hurries and two pass break-ups. He also had a highlight-reel block two weeks ago, taking out two Pittsburgh defenders to paved the way for sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett’s 94-yard punt return touchdown.

Foster, who was also Vandyke’s primary recruiter, has previously compared him to former Hokies and current Carolina Panthers linebacker James Anderson.

Gouveia-Winslow, who was the 2008 All-Met defensive player of the year, had 21 tackles through four games and played particularly well in the Hokies’ season-opening win over Georgia Tech. He finished with a career-high 11 tackles that night, but Foster indicated this week that he had not consistently performed at that level since then.

Vandyke’s versatility – he played strong safety upon arriving in Blacksburg last fall – should be an asset against Cincinnati’s spread offense. The Bearcats feature a dual-threat quarterback in junior Munchie Legaux and a duo of running backs that are at their best in open space.

Safety Antone Exum said the key to stopping them would be limiting Cincinnati’s effectiveness on the perimeter, something the Hokies struggled with in their loss to Pittsburgh.

“You have to attack those guys, guys that are really good in the open field and can kind of make you miss,” Exum said. “You’ve got to attack those guys and keep them in a box, keep them in a phone booth so to speak, so they have less room to try to make you miss.”