Two down, one to go.
Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle tweeted Thursday his plans to return for his senior season, one day after cornerback Antone Exum announced the same.
"After much thought I have decided to postpone my NFL ambitions to complete my degree and work towards another championship," Gayle wrote.
The Hokies are now only awaiting junior quarterback Logan Thomas' NFL decision. He has until Tuesday to declare for the draft.
Gayle, a 6-foot-4, 269-pound defensive end from Hampton, was a second-team All-ACC pick for a second straight season after finishing with 43 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Those numbers are down slightly from 2011 and less than the double-digit sack total he set as his goal.
Gayle said before the Russell Athletic Bowl he wanted to get "more accolades" before he finished college, including making first-team All-ACC.
Defensive line coach Charley Wiles wanted to see Gayle be more productive as a pass rusher before moving on.
"I think he's very, very capable of being a first-, second-round draft pick and having a great year (if he comes back)," Wiles said in December. "That's what I'd like to see him do is reach his potential here at Virginia Tech.... He's been good, but he could be better."
Gayle's return is another boost to a defense that, after some rough patches early last season, finished ranked 18th nationally.
With Gayle and Exum back, the Hokies will return nine defensive starters in 2013, only losing linebackers Bruce Taylor and Alonzo Tweedy. And 2011 starter Tariq Edwards, who missed almost all of last season with a knee/leg injury, returns.
The defensive line is particularly deep, returning the top seven tacklers from last year's group.