McFarling: Talk about the Virginia Tech defense never rests | Football

The question is a common one during the summer months, as Virginia Tech fans count down the days to football season: How do you think Tech’s defense will be this fall?

Most years, folks are wondering if it has the potential to be historic. Occasionally, they’re wondering about how certain players will perform when stepping into more prominent roles. My answer always has been a choice of three — and only three — options:

1. Dominant

2. Very good

3. Fine

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has earned no less than those three answers. Over the past 10 seasons, Tech’s total defense has ranked among the nation’s top 20 eight times, including top-10 seasons in 2013 (fourth) and 2008 (seventh).

The lone outlier was 2010, when the Hokies were 52nd in total defense. Even that comfortably ranks in the top half of the country. And lest we forget, that team went 11-3, finished unbeaten in the ACC and earned an Orange Bowl bid.

This year, though? Tech fans know they’d better buckle up. Friday’s news that cornerbacks Adonis Alexander (academics) and Jeremy Webb (Achilles injury) won’t be playing this season casts more doubt on a unit that already had a slew of question marks.

Foster’s wizardry and a square-jawed “next-man-up” mentality can only carry a team so far. Realistic expectations should be that this will be the worst Tech defense we’ve seen in at least a decade. Of course, any pleasant surprises would be most welcome.

The bottom line is that Justin Fuente was hired to navigate this type of challenge. His sharp offensive mind likely will have to carry this club to whatever success it achieves.

For once, though, the annual summer question has a different answer. How will Tech’s defense be this year? In need of lots of support.

Kickin’ and screamin’

The FIFA World Cup is less than two weeks away, which means those of us who love U.S. soccer are approaching our nadir of disappointment that the Americans won’t be there.

Sports Illustrated suggested on its cover last week that we should embrace Mexico as our backup team in Russia. Huh? They’re our biggest rival! A home loss to Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on November 11, 2016, is one of the results that helped keep us out of the festivities this month.

This is like saying Red Sox fans should cheer for the Yankees in the World Series if they were to fail to make the postseason. No thanks.

Alternate covers lauded Egypt, England and Iceland as possible darlings for U.S. fans. These all feel like better options. So is Panama, which at 1,000-to-1 odds is tied for the longest shot on the board. Huge underdogs are fun, and that nation did give us Rod Carew, after all.

Brazil and Germany are co-favorites to win the title, followed by Spain, France and Lionel Messi-led Argentina. When arguably the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, is on a Portugal side that is 25-to-1, you know this is going to be a fun event.

And yes, it even can be fun for U.S. soccer fans. The Group Stage will sting the most, as we rue the three guaranteed games our team isn’t playing. Once they reach the knockout phase and teams start going home, the pain should lessen.

On July 15, they’ll crown a champion, and the U.S. can rejoice. Every nation will be reset to zero. A run at 2022 can begin.

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