BLACKSBURG—The play of Virginia Tech’s defensive tackles will go a long way in determining the outcome of Thursday night’s game against Georgia Tech.
That puts the spotlight on Virginia Tech’s lunch pail holder and co-captain Ricky Walker.
Walker is the lone defender up front with any meaningful experience against Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack, an offensive attack that’s first in the FBS averaging 352 yards per game.
“Coach [Charley] Wiles says it every year, in order to win this game, you have to have great defensive tackle play,” Walker said, during a Monday press conference. “Penetration, staying on your feet, playing out of chop blocks, just doing technique stuff is going to help this team win.”
The game comes at a perfect time in the schedule for Walker, who used last week’s bye to get extra rehab sessions on his ailing left foot. While the injury hasn’t forced Walker to miss any time, he’s limped off the field multiple times this season after aggravating the injury.
Walker feels “close to 100 percent” after being full-go at practice last week.
“It was huge,” Walker said, of the off week. “It was very huge. It gave me time to rehab about three times a day.”
Walker’s stats don’t jump off the page through six games— he has half a sack and three tackles for loss—but those numbers don’t reflect how much of an impact he’s had this season.
Just ask opposing coaches.
“I think there’s no question he’s an all-conference performer and I voted him that way every year,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said earlier this season.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora echoed that sentiment the following week.
“Ricky is—No. 8 is everywhere,” Fedora said. “If he’s not wearing 25, it’s 8, and he works all over the field, works extremely hard, plays hard. All their guys do. They always do. But Ricky is always going to be all over the place because he plays so hard.”
Walker is motivated this week to help Justin Fuente get his first win over Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are the only ACC Coastal Division rival the coach doesn’t have a win against. Walker started in both losses.
“I remember my first snaps, I believe, were two years ago when they came here and beat us…” Walker said. “I was getting cut and I was on the ground, and I’m like, ‘No, man. This is not what I thought it would be.’”
The senior relied that experience to his fellow defensive linemen throughout the week as he tried to prepare them for Thursday night.
“This offense is different, frustrating, but our game plan is perfect – just trust your technique, play off chop blocks and just penetrate,” Walker said. “To people that didn’t play, just do your job and don’t worry about somebody else’s job. If everybody basically does their job, then we’ll be good.”