Photo Credit: Jake Roth
With 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book handed the football off to Jafar Armstrong. Virginia Tech linebacker Rayshard Ashby wrapped him up in the backfield, and cornerback Jermaine Waller ran in as backup.
Waller lowered his head to try and tackle him low, but Armstrong went down faster than he expected. The crown of Waller’s helmet collided with Armstrong’s helmet, and targeting was called. Even though the intent was not there, it was the correct call.
Armani Chatman came into the game to replace Waller, and Book threw at him on the very next play. Chatman was ready for it, though, as he rose above the defender and intercepted the pass.
Unfortunately for Chatman, the interception was wiped out by a roughing the passer call. Still, he said it helped him prove to himself and Book that he was ready for the challenge. Chatman admitted that both he and defensive coordinator Bud Foster suspected Book would target him, so they called a coverage that put him in position to make a play.
“I saw the post, just saw him get up the field fast, so I figured it was some type of vertical,” Chatman said. “Two-one inside, so I knew I had to man up on one.”
Overall, Chatman did an admirable job filling in for Waller throughout the rest of the contest. Foster was happy with the job he did, but he knows his work will continue to increase against Wake Forest.
“We’re going to need [Chatman] to step up this week,” Foster said. “Obviously with Jermaine [Waller] down the first half, he’s going to have to step up and not just participate, but we expect him to perform.”
Chatman’s journey to even get to a position to see time at cornerback was not an easy one. After playing primarily receiver in high school, Chatman decided to make the move to defensive back at Virginia Tech.
“I just felt like my strength truly was just to go to corner,” Chatman said of that decision. “I felt like being a corner was the best thing for me.”
Foster said he was excited about the prospect of Chatman playing for his side of the ball, but he was not blind to the potential roadblocks. He knew it would take time and practice for Chatman to feel comfortable at corner.
“I really felt like in the spring, I saw a guy that has a lot of potential and a lot of ability,” Foster said. “I didn’t know initially how good of a corner he was going to be, but I’ll tell you I saw a lot of good skills sets.”
Throughout the last few months, Chatman has worked hard to get to the level he needed to be. While he still has room to improve, Foster and the defensive staff have been very encouraged by his progress.
“I see a guy that is improving each and every day, each and every week,” Foster said.
Fellow Virginia Tech defensive players have also taken notice of Chatman’s development. Safety Divine Deablo is confident that Chatman will be ready to step up on Saturday with a thin group of cornerbacks.
“Armani has grown a lot,” Deablo said. “He came in, he was a quiet guy, and he was to himself...but he comes to work every day and I appreciate that out of him. He will grow, and he will be a big time player.”
For Chatman’s part, he has no shortage of confidence. He has stayed the course and prepared himself for this opportunity of an expanded role against Wake Forest.
“Definitely a challenge that we’ve got to accept as a defense,” Chatman said. “As a bigger role, as it comes, I’ve just got to step up, make plays, and just hold it down for Jermaine.”