Carter Wiley. Roger Brown. Damien Russell. Tyronne Drakeford. Torrian Gray. Antonio Banks. Pierson Prioleau. Ike Charlton. Kevin McCadam. Willie Pile. DeAngelo Hall. Erick Green. Jimmy Williams. Justin Hamilton. Aaron Rouse. Brandon Flowers. Macho Harris. Kam Chancellor. Roc Carmichael. Jayron Hosley. Kyle Fuller. Antone Exum. Kyshoen Jarrett. And if you're being generous, Cody Grimm.
That, fellow Hokies fans, is a list of, for better or worse, the defensive backs that Frank Beamer has, at one time or another, put into the NFL. That's a grand total of 23/24 defensive backs of since 1988. It's a lot, without a doubt. Some of those names found glory...some were professional disappointments. But it's a standing monument to the fact that between Frank Beamer, Bud Foster, and one of those former draft picks, Torrian Gray, that Virginia Tech is one of the premier places to go to if you want to be a defensive back. All of our raging aside at various foibles of our secondary- the inability to turn around on over-the-back passes being the preeminent one- the Hokies have been relatively blessed in college terms for having such quality depth at defensive back that even contributors like Cris Hill, Stephan Virgil, Eddie Whitley are somewhat ingrained in our consciousness. They made plays while they were here, and they're appreciated for it. Blacksburg is where wide receivers go awry and quarterbacks go to cry.
As it sits right now, Virginia Tech is doing alright at defensive back, but from a talent perspective, there's a lot of people that just don't have a ton of experience, along with the general question mark that is Brandon Facyson. The depth chart goes as follows:
- Kendall Fuller (Jr.)
- Brandon Facyson (R-So.)
- Greg Stroman (So.)
- Shawn Payne (R-Fr.)
- Curtis Williams (R-So.)
- Erikk Banks (R-So.)
- Mook Reynolds (Fr.)
- DuWayne Johnson (Fr.)
- Chuck Clark (Jr.)
- Donovan Riley (Sr.)
- Der'Woun Greene (R-Jr.)
- Greg Jones (R-Jr.)
- Desmond Frye (R-Jr.)
- Adonis Alexander (Fr.)
- Terrell Edmunds (R-Fr.)
- Anthony Shegog (R-So.)
- Jahque Alleyne (Fr.- Note: Arrived later in summer. He needed to pass a summer class to be eligible.)
(Note: Foster and Gray play around with safety positions, so between Safety and Rover, I expect the players to shift up and down and back and forth until fall, though I believe Clark is going to stay at Safety. Riley in particular is basically a utility defender.)
There are a LOT of holes to fill in the near future, and after having a relatively small class last year- partially reduced by the loss of Adonis Williamson to Junior College- Tech is going to have to spend a lot of time and effort in the next two classes to restock the cupboard. While Momma Fuller might be disappointed in Kendall for not getting his degree, the kid is a first round pick. What're you going to do, say no? There are a lot of redshirt juniors on this list as well, which means it's definitely time to kick off the DBlock party. First, let's take a look at the committed prospects. Word on the street is that one of the commits intends to enroll early, similar to wideout prospect Samuel Denmark. He's been committed since December, and is from the DMV area.
Myles Wolfolk (Upper Marlboro, MD. 185lbs, 5'-11", Cornerback)
Wolfolk is an interesting prospect because he seems to be very versatile. I wouldn't play him at cornerback, though. Unfortunately due to the focus and angle of high-school style tape- usually at the quarterback and line of scrimmage, and not wide-angle enough to capture most secondary action- there's not a ton I can tell you about his ability to transition between a backpedal or change of direction while still maintaining coverage. I don't think that's where you'd get the most out of his talents anyway, to be honest. To me, Wolfolk projects as a solid kick return option- he does a fairly good job of picking through the coverage. Maybe not to Jayron Hosley's level, but somewhere along those lines. I think his strengths are high-pointing the ball and the ability to pick through the defense and blocks. He's got the mentality of a rover with the skills of a free safety. I think he'll be a good, versatile defensive back in the Chuck Clark/Donovan Riley mold, playing where he needs to in order to get playing time.
The second is another Palmetto State commitment, somewhat taller and thinner than Wolfolk. He'll have to beef up some in order to play major college secondary.
Troy Pride, Jr. (Greer, SC. 165lbs, 6'-0", Cornerback)
The tape shows him at running back, but just shut that out of your mind. We've got enough coming in and in the backfield to bother putting him there- and at his height, he doesn't have the frame to play major college running back without getting creamed. Troy Pride reminds me of one player, and if you're a Steelers fan, you might see it, too. He reminds me of ol' Stonehands Ike Taylor. While ‘Stonehands' wouldn't really enthrall anyone, Taylor was quietly a very good cornerback for several years in the NFL, if not all-pro level...partially because Taylor couldn't catch a cold in January standing buck naked outside in Yellowknife, but I digress. Pride is a physical corner that has surprisingly good coverage skills and makeup speed. He'll have to clean up his coverage techniques in college, but he does a very respectable job muscling in on wide-receivers, causing all kinds of incompletions and batted balls- nothing particularly close to an interception, mind, but incompletions are never good for an offense. He's also got decent ball tracking skills and is a willing special teams player and coachable tackler. You stick him at corner and he ends up playing his redshirt sophomore year in the slot, and so forth and so on until his R-Sr year where he becomes a solid number one corner.
As for possible non-committed prospects, Tech is honing in on a VA native from the 757, a safety at a school that, while it has produced nationally rated players since 2002, has not sent a single recruit to Tech since Purnell Sturdivant- and that was back in 2004. Their top ranked player this year is a cornerback, Wayne Davis. He's headed to OSU, the Hokies being his second choice. The recruit Tech is going after is their safety.
Keyvone Bruton (Norfolk, VA. 200lbs, 6'-0", Safety)
I like Bruton's work on the offensive side alright. It's nothing that isn't efficient and decent and all. But Keyvone Bruton is a Bud Foster defender. Stick the tape on his helmet at ROV and be done with it. Bruton is a solid tackler with decent enough ball skills that he won't be burned in coverage. He tackles hard after fitting up solidly enough for a high school kid, and has no problems taking people to the ground with his size. His speed's alright, but his ability to spot the ball is excellent, and while his coverage- and everyone's coming out of high school for that matter- is solid enough on things in front of him that you just let him plug away. He's athletic enough to play the strong safety analogue that the Rover is, and you just let him be. Don't change anything, don't tweak his mentality. Make his strengths better and mitigate his weaknesses as best you can, but just get him playing defense. Something tells me that he'd be perfectly happy waiting for a running back to try the outside so he can wrestle them into the dirt for no gain when he attacks the box. Don't get overly awed or wowed or cute. Keep it simple, keep it solid, keep it steady, and he'll easily compete for playing time by his third year.
Next time, I will be closing out the current depth chart and filling in blanks, and giving any updates that come about Tech Recruiting, along with my overall review of the class as of that date.