Chamarri Conner may not have been able to earn a large defensive role last season, but Conner was able to make an impact for the Hokies on special teams while gaining some experience as a backup.
Conner took advantage of the opportunities he received last season with 13 tackles including 3+ tackles three times last season against William & Mary, Georgia Tech, and Marshall. Meanwhile, Conner was a productive player on special teams leaving a great impression while also even earning the honor of wearing the #25 jersey against North Carolina.
The question that came from Chamarri Conner after last season was whether he could push to earn a larger role on defense as a sophomore even with the veteran safeties ahead of him. After a strong spring, Conner has clearly been building momentum to take on a larger role impressing head coach Justin Fuente in the process.
"I was pretty pleased with him coming out of the spring. I'm pleased now. He is a strong kid who is a good tackler, intense competitor. He was one of our better special team's players as a true freshman last year and has settled into that role pretty well. I'm excited about his future," Fuente said.
That competitive nature and great tackling for Conner showed starting on his impressive tape coming out of high school where he was a heavy hitter who also had great tackling form for a high school football player. Beyond that, you could see the intensity that Conner brought to the field that helped make him a natural playmaker at a Trinity Christian program in Jacksonville that is always loaded with Power 5 talent.
Those skill sets made Conner a natural fit at rover but with Reggie Floyd locked in as the guy, Conner's path to playing sooner than Floyd's graduation has to come elsewhere. That combined with a skill set that has made him a quality playmaker in the box plus a great competitive nature opened the door for him to compete at whip linebacker this spring.
While the Hokies had older, more experienced players to be the nickelback/third safety-like DB including Khalil Ladler and Tyree Rodgers; both of whom started at times last season, Conner took on the challenge and even though he had to deal with a hamstring injury at times, Conner was able to make a strong impression in the spring and has built on that continuing to make progress in learning the position and improving as a player this fall.
"He’s made good progress. Chamarri (Conner) is a guy that initially played rover, we were kind of
thinking a linebacker playing some defensive back, but he’s able to run and cover which has
been good. He had a little (hamstring injury) in the spring so he’s gotten some good reps during
training camp and he’s been exactly who we need him to be, competitive, learns quickly, and is
a guy that brings a type of dog mentality to the room that I really like and the guys like," safeties coach Justin Hamilton said.
That hard-working, competitive mentality is the type of thing that any team wants in their locker room with those type of players usually having lots of success earning playing time quickly regardless of the competition and experience ahead of them. So far, Conner appears to be continuing to prove that right as he pushes for more playing time.
Chamarri Conner still has some work ahead and some tough competition with Khalil Ladler ahead of him on the depth chart and having lots of experience at nickelback. However, Conner should benefit from being 100% healthy now with Conner continuing to make it clear that the Hokies should find some sort of way to use Conner even if it as a fourth safety similar to what we saw at times with Tyree Rodgers last season.
Whether Chamarri Conner does beat out Ladler and others to start this fall as the Hokies' nickelback or not, it's quite clear that Conner will have a significant defensive role and be a force to be reckoned with for years to come in the Hokies' secondary.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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