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Virginia Tech football spring preview: Linebackers

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There’s a lot of talent here.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Virginia Tech LB Dax Hollifield
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In the last three years, the Hokies have added Dylan Rivers, Jaylen Griffin, Rayshard Ashby, Dax Hollifield, Rico Kearney, Alan Tisdale and Keshon Artis. The good news is all of these players return with the exception of Kearney who transferred late in the season after being upset with the coaching staff. Kearney filled in for Ashby and had a big game and felt he should remain in the starting lineup.

As you know in Bud Foster’s scheme, he employs a mike linebacker, outside linebacker (‘backer) and a whip linebacker. We included the whip linebacker position in the DB group because it is a hybrid position of safety/linebacker.

Ashby, Rivers and Hollifield received the most playing time last season. Foster trusts Ashby as the mike linebacker. The junior from Richmond led the Hokies in tackles last season and finished third in the ACC. He should continue his role as the mike linebacker.

Hollifield, the star freshman from Shelby, N.C., mostly played the ‘backer position last fall that was formerly filled by Tremaine Edmunds. Hollifield shined at times and it’s easy to see why the coaches are excited about him. Hollifield can do a lot of things and there is some who believe mike linebacker could be his best position.

Hollifield has trimmed down a bit this offseason. The goal was to perhaps gain a step of quickness as he will be in coverage much more at that position. That’s where other teams would exploit him last season.

Rivers is back, too. He started the season at backer and was then injured and missed a couple of games. After rotating with Hollifield early, the ‘backer position seemed to be more of Hollifield’s spot late in the season. Rivers is strong and athletic and deserves to be on the field, but he’ll have to earn his time. It will be fun seeing Rivers and Hollifield battle this spring.

Keshon Artis is a 6’0”, 233-pound sophomore from Chesapeake. There were many in the program who would’ve liked to have seen him redshirt last fall. Artis is fast and possesses a high football IQ. He is more athletic than Ashby and the coaches should allow him to push the incumbent.

Griffin is a 6’1”, 247-pound redshirt sophomore and is looking to make a move up the depth chart this spring.

Rounding out this group is 6’3”, 214-pound redshirt freshman Alan Tisdale. Coaches are excited about Tisdale’s length and athleticism. He looks to make a mark this spring as he could actually move around quite a bit at either ‘backer or whip. Tisdale should be one of the more interesting players to watch this spring.

The great thing about this group is its health. While other positions have players out for the spring, this group looks healthy and ready to go. There’s a lot of talent among this group and the hope is they will push one another and everyone finds a role for 2019.