As fall camp approaches, Brent Pr He will begin trying to return the Virginia Tech defense to the success seen under his former defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
He has plenty of help on the coaching staff, but all speculation this spring was that Pryor would continue the defensive calling duties in his first season as head coach.
The Hokies have some personnel decisions to make in August before we get to Pry to call a play-in-play. Let’s dive in.
Backup protection ends. Jaylen Griffin Eli Adams vs. CJ McCray vs. Matthew Carroll vs. Earth MacDonald vs. Kyrie Moyston vs. Keyshawn Burgos Nigel Simmons vs
Let’s just think about that Taijun Garbutt. And Cole Nelson They are the safest bet to start at defensive end. Of the two, Nelson is more likely to push in August, but he was in prime position following the spring.
Nebraska transfer Feldarius Payne He was expected to be a big piece of this puzzle, but an Achilles injury will keep him out for most, if not all, of the season.
That leaves him with little experience and plenty of youth in the battle for the backup defensive end spots. You have to guess Jaylen GriffinHe can hold his position as a reserve for many years. Eli Adams is another experienced backup with a chance to retain a backup role.
But all eyes will definitely be on the youngsters jockeying for position. CJ McCray has drawn praise from his staff since his arrival, and is at a point in his career where we are seeing some rapid growth. Keep an eye out for him this fall. Carroll only played with Smiley last year and is going into two years, so he may be ready to move.
Earth MacDonald After previously moving to linebacker, he moved to defensive end in the spring, after previously playing safety, and perhaps has a longer development path than others this time around.
Then real beginners Kyrie Moyston And Keyshawn Burgos He needs to move early to get in the mix this season. Maybe better get a red dress for both of them.
Nigel Simmons is a former walk-on who could provide additional depth, but the Hokies would prefer to stock the secondary on DE’s depth chart with one of Griffin, Adams and/or Young.
4th preventive measure: Wilfred Penn vs. Maxx Philpott vs. Desmond Mamudi vs. Malachi Madison vs. Law of LemarJr. vs. Given a gun
Norell PollardJosh Fuga and Mario Kendricks Give the Hokies a consistent high three with DT. Kendrick has battled injuries his entire career, so DL coach Jesse Price needs him to stay healthy or this could quickly become a shallow spot.
Penn is favored to be the fourth DT heading into camp. Although he moved to the defensive side of the ball, he played high snaps last season. If his progress continues, handling a fourth DT role this season probably won’t be too big for the Frenchman.
As far as returners go, Penn is in a great spot. Philpott and Mammoudi both missed last season with injuries and it’s up in the air if they can pick up a backup spot.
The Hokies added three quality defensive prospects. Malachi Madison, Law of LemarJr. and Given a gun.
There’s a good chance Pollard and Kendricks will leave after this season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Price gives at least one of them more opportunities to play a role in 2022.
Will Linebacker: Alan Tisdale vs. Jaden Keller
This is probably a battle to watch at the top of the depth chart on defense. Tisdale is a veteran and still has the athletic potential to be a very good linebacker. Keller is a redshirt freshman who had a solid spring and should continue to build on it.
If Keller continues his development and establishes himself as the future at this position, that’s a big piece Pree can fill for the next 2-3 years.
At this point, I’d say Tisdale retains the starting job, but Keller will get decent playing time anyway.
Sam Linebacker: Keonta Jenkins With JR Walker Kelly Lawson
Another big one to watch. This is the new position that Brent Pry’s defense has created, and it needs a long, lean athlete who can play in that space. That is why he moved the previous security Keonta Jenkins and JR Walker and former wide receiver Kelly Lawson To this place in the spring.
These guys may split a bit with nickel, but this remains a key position on defense. Since his recent transition to defense and still needing some filling,
I’d say Lawson is probably on the outside looking in. It’s a battle of Jenkins and Walker heading into August.
Backup Corners: Brian Murray DJ Harvey vs. Nike Johnson Cam Johnson vs. Elias Howard vs. Mansur Delaney
As a defensive end, let’s assume (although I should never guess because I know what happens when you guess). Dorian strong And Armani Chatman In the year They are safely in as Tech cornerbacks in 2022.
That leaves the backup spot behind both, with competition for the nickel cornerback spot. Brian Murray He has a chance to claim a role as one of the top reserves at the traditional position, and he’ll be in competition with DJ Harvey (and possibly others).
There is also a quartet of youngsters, including Nike Johnson. Elias HowardCam Johnson and Mansur Delaney (Who can get in at safety) This looks to get early playing time.
Cornerback is one of those spots where true freshmen can slide easily. Strong has done it himself, as has a long lineage of former top Virginia Tech cornerbacks, so don’t be surprised if Johnson carves out some sort of role this season.
Backup Safety: Ny’Quie Hawkins vs. Jalen Stroman vs. Jalen Hoyle vs. Mansur Delaney vs. Devin Alves
Chamari Connor He will be one of the most impactful players on this defense from his new safety position. If the Hokies are going to exceed expectations this year, he should be the best player in the class. The people of Nasser He seems like a safe bet to secure a starting role at the other safety position.
The Hokies need some depth behind them. Tech, even in the offseason, found himself empty at both cornerback and safety.
Hawkins is the team’s veteran, and looks like he could hold one of the backup spots. Stroman was also an impressive prospect, and he played quite a bit last year, so maybe he could be moved in August.
Then there is the next wave – Hoyle, Delane, et Devin Alves – Who could be in the mix but seems a bit off the depth chart at this point.
Kicker: John Love vs. Zach Hoban vs. Kyle Lowe with William Ross
Love is a true freshman, but he did perform in positional duties during the spring game, so that’s probably a good indicator of his potential. Hoban and Ross are former transfers Kyle Lowe It is a product of Midlothian, Va.
At this point, losing looks like a labor of love, but this will be one of the biggest question marks heading into September.
They don’t have much experience in this position, so you don’t know how they will be until they enter a full stadium in a game situation. And Tech’s first two games aren’t going to be easy environments for a new space-saver to get comfortable with.