Our Virginia Tech football position previews ahead of fall camp continue today as we look at the Hokies’ linebackers, headlined by Dax Holifield and Alan Tisdale, the Hokies have plenty of returning talent.
With that, here’s our LB preview along with the other position previews.
Projected linebacker depth charts entering fall camp: Mike LB
- Dax Holyfield
- Keshon Artis
- Lakem Rudolph or Jayden McDonald or Jordan McDonald
- Alan Tisdale
- Jaden Keller
- Dean Ferguson or Will Johnson
- Keonta Jenkins
- Kelly Lawson
- JR Walker
Linebacker has plenty of consistency with Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale as the Mike starter and (former linebacker) LB spot with Keshaun Artis and Jaden Keller backing up.
Dax and Tisdale
Dax Holyfield and Alan Tisdale They’ve had the same conversation for a while since 2019, with Holyfield playing pro, Alan Tisdale has naturally arrived in pro Blacksburg and turned it into a back-and-forth battle in 2020. two.
Following Rayshard Ashby’s graduation and departure in 2020, Holyfield slides into the natural Mike LB spot with Tisdale at the back end, the license LB spot in Tech’s new defense.
Holyfield had 92 tackles for 9 tackles and 4.5 sacks, while Tisdale had 7.5 tackles for loss, including 84 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
On a team with questions about where its star talent might be, this is one area where Tech could have that kind of star power if it doesn’t have a winning record in a rebuilding year, winning at least 6 games to elevate itself. Brent Pr.
Holyfield has always been a more natural fit at the Mike LB position and should provide valuable veteran leadership in the heart of Tech’s defense and show improvement as a run defender next season. Tisdale is the best athlete of the duo and his athleticism makes him much better in pass coverage compared to Tisdale.
Tisdale has shown growth as a run defender, which is a positive sign for his development, and if he continues to grow with his ability at the line of scrimmage, he could be Tech’s best linebacker in 2022.
Both should benefit from having one of the best linebackers coaches in the country, Brent Pry, coached by the top young defensive backs in college football under defensive coordinator/LBs coach Chris Marv. That’s a great duo that will help this duo of talent take the next steps and both become ACC linebackers in 2022.
The new Sam LB position
Sam’s new linebacker position isn’t exactly a full linebacker position, but it’s much closer to it than the nickelback position Tech has had for the past two years. However, there is definitely an element of coverage at this position, although that may be more reminiscent of Bud Foster’s whip linebacker position at times.
With Chamari Conner moving to the full-time safety position, this new position was seen with Keonta Jenkins and JR Walker moving from safety to Sam linebacker after Kelly Lawson finally started his career at linebacker. This spring, new employees will change quickly.
Jenkins appears to be the front-runner for the job alongside the former safety, who has under his belt playing with Holyfield and Tisdale in the spring game in what appears to be a trio of combinations. Jenkins only had 1 tackle, but he certainly looked very comfortable in that role.
Meanwhile, his biggest rival, Kelly Lawson, who started the spring season at wide receiver before moving to linebacker with Brent Pry, may be highly praised, comparing Lawson to former Penn State and current New York Giants LB Cam Brown. Lawson followed all that praise with a productive spring game, where he had 3 tackles, including a sack.
Lawson may be more of a true OLB than this hybrid OLB position, but Lawson has tremendous gifts of athleticism and size in his 6’4” frame, which also gives him plenty of carries.
J.R. Walker is in the hunt after moving from safety to Sam linebacker like Jenkins and even with Lawson at the moment, Lawson seems to have a big change. War ahead. However, Walker certainly has some potential and should not be completely dismissed in the battle for the starting job at this new Tech defensive position.
Keshon Artis remains patient
During the transfer portal era, many envisioned Keshaun Artis as the backup Mike linebacker behind Rayshard Ashby and then Dax Holyfield once Holyfield moved back to the Mike Spade spot.
And in fact, no one blames him for looking for a place where he can be a beginner for many years.
Instead, Artis stayed at Virginia Tech and, although he’s ready to be the top backup linebacker for the second-straight season, with his time coming in 2023, his return will give Tech solid depth at offensive line, which it lacks at many other positions.
Artis showed the ability to be an excellent starting Mike linebacker for Tech when given the opportunity last season; Also, Holyfield was suspended for the first half due to a targeting penalty. When Artis got his chance, he finished with 21 tackles, 6 for a loss, 1 sack and a pass breakup in a productive 2021.
Right now, Artis could be one of the best backup mic/center/inside linebackers in all of college football and could start on many other Power 5 teams as he continues to choose to stay the course while still figuring out when it’s time to start in Premier League football. School in the native state will come soon.
And when he does, I think the possibility is very strong that Artis will be one of the better Mike linebackers in the ACC. Meanwhile, Artis will help give Tech the type of depth at linebacker they’ll be wishing they had at several other positions this season.