The Virginia Tech Hokies released their first depth chart of 2017. While the defensive depth chart had no surprises, there were some surprises on the offensive side. While we will cover some of these decisions in more depth, here's a look at some of the minor notes. (Depth chart shown below)
Five True Freshmen Make the Two-Deep
Five true freshmen made Virginia Tech's two-deep led by starting tight end Dalton Keene. Keene is the only true freshman to earn a starting job, beating out Chris Cunningham at the TE/h-back spot. Virginia Tech also has Sean Savoy and Hezekiah Grimsley listed as backup receivers with Devon Hunter as the backup rover and Bryce Watts as the fourth cornerback.
Keene has been impressing the coaches since his arrival with Justin Fuente saying recently that Keene has a great chance to start
. Now, that statement has become reality with Keene being the starter heading into the season opener. This also shouldn't be a surprise as Keene was the primary h-back in the Spring Game and has impressed the coaches over the past several months.
and Hezekiah Grimsley
have both received lots of praise this fall from Justin Fuente so it shouldn't be too big of a surprise to see both of them on this depth chart. However, it is surprising to see that Grimsley has beat out sophomore Phil Patterson for a backup spot on the outside.
No one should be surprised by Devon Hunter being Virginia Tech's backup rover while Bryce Watts has had a great fall camp and earned a spot on the two-deep. Watts will have some work to do to maintain that spot with Tyree Rodgers likely to continue pushing Watts but this is a great sign about the future of Watts.
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No Starter Named at Running Back
Virginia Tech named a starter at every spot except one, running back. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as we haven't heard at any point that one running back is standing out above the rest with Brad Cornelsen previously stating that the Hokies plan to go "by committee
" this fall.
It is slightly notable to see that Steven Peoples and Travon McMillian are at the top of the chart. While most expected McMillian to be on there, Peoples likely is a surprise to many but from what Justin Fuente has said and what we've been hearing, Peoples may be the lead back of this "by committee" RB group. Earlier this fall, Fuente had some high praise for Peoples
and going forward, you can expect that Peoples will be a regular in this backfield beyond just being a power runner and blocker.
It's also not a safe assumption to think that McMillian will be one of the lead backs especially after a disappointing 2016 season that opened the door. McMillian is the Hokies' proven tailback, but there's definitely plenty of excitement surrounding the other guys that have been pushing the redshirt junior. Fuente also has made it clear that McMillian will have to earn carries like he did in his breakout 2015 season.
Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston may not have been included on this list, but you can expect both will receive some playing time and push the duo in front of them. McClease will likely be used in a scat back role where his speed and receiving skills will be most effective while Holston is a guy to keep an eye throughout the season and has the talent to gain carries as he gains experience and has impressed the coaches on and off the field
Reggie Floyd Starts at Rover Over Devon Hunter
Virginia Tech's depth chart revealed that Reggie Floyd will be Virginia Tech's starting rover over Devon Hunter. This news shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as though Hunter has received his fair share of praise, the coaches have been very high on Floyd throughout fall camp. Justin Fuente also said 10 days ago that if the Hokies were playing tomorrow, Reggie Floyd would be the starting rover
Floyd has the benefit of having a full year working only at rover while also gaining some experience on special teams and in garbage time last season. Floyd is also one of three players out of Stonewall Jackson High School to currently be starter for the Hokies with the other two being Greg Stroman and Tim Settle.
Devon Hunter will have a large role on special teams but should also be able to push Floyd throughout the fall. What is clear is that Hunter has shown the coaches that the hype was real and that he will be a playmaker down the road. One thing that definitely hurt his chances was the fact that he was limited for the first couple weeks of camp due to a concussion issue
. Now that he's healthy, you can expect Hunter to push for playing time with Hunter likely to have a role in some sub-packages.
Khalil Ladler missed out on the two-deep completely, but is likely Virginia Tech's fifth safety at this point. With the Hokies not having the most depth at free safety, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ladler get some work there to try to build more depth behind Terrell Edmunds and Divine Deablo in addition to the depth they have at rover.
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Redshirt Freshmen Emerge As Backups on the Defensive Line
Three of Virginia Tech's four backup defensive linemen redshirted last season and will make their collegiate debuts this fall. Former linebacker Emmanuel Belmar's move to DE paid off with Belmar earning a spot in the two-deep while redshirt freshmen Jarrod Hewitt and Jimmie Taylor are Virginia Tech's backup DTs.
Throughout camp, Justin Fuente and Bud Foster have praised the progress made by Belmar. Now, Belmar has beat out some highly-regarded freshman DEs and earned his way into Virginia Tech's two-deep, bulking up to 240 pounds along the way. Houshun Gaines is likely Virginia Tech's third DE but you can expect to see Belmar to rotate in at times while also getting lots of garbage time snaps early in the season.
Jarrod Hewitt has been the one constant among Virginia Tech's backup DTs over the past year. Hewitt is likely Virginia Tech's third DT and will definitely play at least 15-20 snaps per game with history suggesting that Hewitt has the chance to make a big difference just like Ricky Walker and Tim Settle were able to last year. The Hokies will be looking to Hewitt to maintain a high level of play with opposing offensive lines likely to give Hewitt all one-on-one matchups, making him prove himself.
Jimmie Taylor had to stay at DE this spring out of necessity so the Hokies could simply have a two-deep along the defensive line. Since moving to DT as he was supposed to in the spring, Taylor has stepped up and moved ahead of Darius Fullwood to earn a spot on the two-deep. The one concern with Taylor is his size at only 256 pounds according to Virginia Tech's depth chart. However, indications are that Taylor is a little heavier than that, but is still undersized at this point.
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