BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech is going back to its defense-first roots.
For all the talk about quarterback Logan Thomas and his potential to be in the Heisman Trophy discussion, the No. 16 Hokies will rely on Bud Foster's defense first, starting with Monday night's season-opening game against ACC Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech and its explosive triple option.
Tevin Washington, the Yellow Jackets dual-threat quarterback, is eager to put the Hokies to the test.
"We're ready to go, I think," he said. "Guys are motivated. We've been working all the offseason towards Sept. 3. We want to kick the season off right and come out and play with a lot of passion."
The Hokies have nine starters back on defense, and expect to continue to have an answer for Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's offense. Virginia Tech has won two straight in the series, and three of four.
Linebacker Jeron Gouviea-Winslow and the Hokies also are motivated to end a recent trend of losing big opening games — to East Carolina in 2008, Alabama in 2009 and Boise State in 2010 — in three of the last four seasons. They easily handled Appalachian State in last season's opener, 66-13.
The fact that Georgia Tech, twice, has been the only other team besides the Hokies to represent the division in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game only amps up the motivation further.
"It's the first game, and it is Georgia Tech," Gouviea-Winslow said.
Johnson was unwilling to say if, or how, Washington has improved before seeing him on the field this season, but the Hokies saw plenty last season. Washington ran for three TDs in the Hokies' 37-26 victory.
"He's going against a defense that finished in the top 10 last year, and from everything I read coming out of there they think it's the best defense they've ever had," Johnson said. "If they are, they're really good because they've had some good ones. We'll have a little better take on it after Monday night."
On defense, Thomas figures to get most of the Yellow Jackets' attention. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder threw for three scores and ran for two in the game last season, and will be in the backfield with unproven tailbacks, flanked by receivers making their first starts and behind a line with four new starters.