With Vinny Mihota and Trevon Hill healthy, Virginia Tech is set with two very talented starting DEs but the Hokies have questions about the depth on the edge. While the Hokies do have backup Houshun Gaines back as well after missing the spring due to academic issues, Virginia Tech still is looking for depth with a fourth spot open at DE.
While most of the talk has been around the trio of true freshman DEs, it's one of the three DEs who changed positions this spring that is standing out to Justin Fuente when the Hokies' head coach was asked this weekend about the defensive line depth.
"There's certainly concern there. There's not a lot of game experience behind Vinny (Mihota) and Hill. But I'll say this, Emmanuel Belmar has worked really hard and made good progress. There are some other guys in that group that have continued that I think are going to give us a chance." - Justin Fuente on depth along the DL
While it's clear that it's still a competition to determine who will be the Hokies' fourth DE, former linebacker Emmanuel Belmar is making a strong case to the coaches as he builds on his move to the line this spring.
During the spring, Belmar worked with the first team defensive line with Mihota, Hill, and Gaines all out and though the competition wasn't great, Belmar appeared to emerge as the top DE that would be ready to compete with guys like Zion DeBose and Nathan Proctor for the fourth DE spot this fall. Belmar has definitely put in the hard work this summer as shown by how he has bulked up to 240 pounds in his first summer as a defensive end for the Hokies.
Belmar also enters the fall with some familiarity with defensive end as the former three-star OLB played a lot with his hand in the ground in high school. When watching his high school tape, Belmar looked like a better fit at defensive end and with his road to playing time appearing to be blocked at LB, Belmar's move to the defensive line made sense and may be the one he should have made at the start of his career.
Belmar's solid start to the fall may give the Hokies a chance to redshirt all three of the Hokies' true freshman DEs. While the Hokies may look to have five DEs ready especially with VT having three true freshman DEs and the chance to redshirt two and move one to the class ahead where there isn't the same amount of depth, Belmar may give Bud Foster the option of redshirting all three.
Of course, there's still plenty of time for that to change with guys like DeBose and Proctor only having gone through six practices and having only a summer to work with Ben Hilgart and his staff, making Belmar's task quite difficult still in his pursuit of defensive playing time this fall. However, Belmar is definitely making his case to Fuente and Bud Foster that he's ready to earn a spot on the two-deep.
Going forward, young guys like Zion DeBose and Nathan Proctor will continue to be serious contenders for the fourth DE spot, but Emmanuel Belmar can't be ruled out especially after the praise he received from Justin Fuente this weekend.
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