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Several Players Leave Program as Roster Turnover Continues

Virginia Tech welcomed early enrollees today, but it also thanked and released five players, including starting punter Mitchell Ludwig and key backup Steve Sobczak

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech-Spring Game Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The filtering in and out of football players is usually heaviest around Signing Day, and it appears that this year is no different. Today, when Tech welcomed nine new players to the program, they also said goodbye to five of them. It was announced- my source being 247- that starting punter Mitchell Ludwig, defensive tackles Steven Sobczak and Clay Dean, cornerback DuWayne Johnson, and tight end Chris Durkin will be leaving the program. It leaves certain positions quite thin as the team heads into spring practice, though many of these players are likely to be facing increased competition and falling playing time chances as the changes in the program and new talent dictate changes to the roster.

DuWayne is somewhat the easiest to explain. Recruited as a consensus 3-star recruit out of H.D. Woodson in DC, Johnson has had no playing time during his stay in Blacksburg, and looked to be buried on the depth chart behind freshmen Khalil Ladler and Tyree Rodgers, not to mention the upperclassmen and the corners that VT (currently plans) to bring on-board. So with no clear route to playing time, he left.

Chris Durkin might be the second easiest to explain. After being the one shuffled out of the weird quarterback muddle at the end of the Loeffler era: Lawson, Brewer, Ford, Motley, et. al., he was moved to tight end. There were some positive reports in the spring, but he has been coming back from a seemingly endless series of injuries before that. With no route back to the quarterback position, and blocked at tight-end/h-back by Cunningham, Burke, and Keene (incoming freshman as of today), not to mention with Deiuliis likely joining as well, he had no clear route to playing time there, either. The former three/four star recruit from Youngstown, Ohio figures to transfer elsewhere to find time at either QB or TE. If not for the injuries, maybe it’s Cunningham here and not him.

Dean had one of the weirdest recruiting cycles I’ve ever seen. A very lightly recruited player from Woodgrove High School up in Purcellville, Dean was offered a scholarship by Torrian Gray. Gray left and the rest of the staff- new and old alike- was tepid on his chances. This is also in spite of the articles I read praising him and an appearance on the All-Met team. It was…strange, in a way. All the recruiting sites had him low but he was praised for his on field work in person. Go figure. He walked on this past year in an attempt to prove himself. Blocked by others ahead of him, and limited somewhat by his size at the position he plays, Dean has decided to move on after a redshirt year. He was rated out as a low three or two star recruit.

Steve Sobczak has a similar story to Dean, although he earned his scholarship and has more position- appropriate size. He recorded some statistics this past year in relief of the defensive tackle rotation as it was, but the Harrisonburg native might be replaced in the middle in the depth chart by Jarrod Hewitt and, from what I’m hearing, a moving Darius Fullwood (coming in from DE to DT). It still leaves Tech perilously thin at defensive tackle, with only Hewitt and redshirt junior walk-on Dalton Roe to theoretically back up Tim Settle and Ricky Walker. Tech is in line for potentially a couple defensive tackles, but the position during the spring won’t have much depth at all.

Ludwig’s probably the most surprising. Despite his flaws, he did do some much better work toward the end of the year. The Abingdon High School player will now likely be replaced by either incoming Australian freshman Oscar Bradburn or Brian Johnson, a punter from Gonzaga in DC. But this leaves Tech looking for a new punter for the second time in two seasons.

We hope that these players will find success elsewhere, and appreciate their time at Virginia Tech.