Virginia Tech Linebackers Thriving With Playing Time

Seniors embrace school's defensive tradition

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren are among Virginia Tech's steadiest performers after replacing the best linebacking tandem in Hokies' history.

While they haven't made fans forget the dynamic duo of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, they have made their mark on a largely no-name defense.

"They've been around the program," coach Frank Beamer said. "When Hall went down last year, Brett stepped in there and played great. He continued right on this year."

Sturdivant played on the kickoff return team last year and is leading the team in tackles this season in a full-time role. Beamer said he "plays a little bit better every week."

Perhaps most importantly, on a team that has struggled mightily at times on offense, the redshirt seniors embrace the defensive tradition at Virginia Tech, and their part in it.

"We're trying to play the best defense possible. Hopefully things will take care of themselves. We try not to depend too much on the offense," Sturdivant said.

"We can only control what happens on the defensive side of the ball."

Warren got a taste of being in the mix last year when Hall was sidelined with a broken arm. He started four games, making 30 tackles, and played on a few kicking teams.

This year, one of his most notable plays came in a loss -- a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown -- and, he said, made up for a missed chance to do it last year.

"It definitely felt pretty good," he said of his TD against Boston College last week.

But the Hokies' offensive struggles were also most evident in the 28-23 loss to the Eagles, coming in a game where the defense scored two touchdowns and set up a field goal.

It makes the defense think a different way, Warren said.

 "You have the mindset that you can't give up anything," he said.

This week, the Hokies will try to get back on track at Florida State, and Sturdivant and Warren will again relish their opportunities to finally be a part of the on-field solution.

"I knew I had my year to play ball and take care of business," Sturdivant said.

A few seasons back, Warren wasn't sure he would get even that, except for on special teams. Taking a redshirt year with an injury in 2006 has actually proven to be a blessing in disguise as it gave him a chance to watch Adibi and Hall, then help replace them.

"I'm just glad to get a chance to show what I got," Warren said. "That's what any football player wants -- a chance to play, a chance to help the team out."

Seeing them get it, and do well, is uplifting for teammates.

 "They've been real humble throughout the years, playing behind two great players, probably two of the top linebackers ever to come through here," defensive end and former walk-on Orion Martin said. "I never heard them complain. They just came to work everyday. It's paying off."  

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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