Defensive Midfield and Backfield Finally Get Better
It’s been a while since we talked up how good we were on the defensive side of the ball. After the amazingly great 2016 and 2017 defenses were, the sudden shrinkage of star power, size, speed, and talent left the Hokies in something of an experience hole for 2018 and 2019. That truck sized hole really hurt, too. Even with the individual positional improvement of 2019, the defensive field control depth was still spotty. The Hokies weren’t getting gashed as much as 2018, but there were still problems playing all 3 yard to gain downs, and several circumstances were late leads were lost because the defense could not seal the deal with full stops on 4 downs. The Notre Dame and Kentucky games really come to mind when thinking about the reality that the 2019 Hokie defense was good for 2 downs out of 3, or 3 downs out of 4.
This season there looks to be a real change with some calculated additions from transfers and Junior college adds, and then the pure maturity of some critical players. No one will doubt the capability of Rayshard Ashby at Mike. Even as the rest of the team struggled, Ashby was a tackling machine. His multiple watch list nominations, and post season accolades all attest to the fact that someone noticed. One tackling machine does not an effective defense make, however. Well, there are a couple of additional tackling machines to add to Rayshard ‘Rook’ Ashby’s capabilities in 2020. Dax Hollifield overcame some early struggles (and frankly a bit too much weight take off) to provide a total effort performance in 2019. Besides, Dax, Alan Tisdale rose in to be a reliable 3rd/Will linebacker, and traditional Backer. With them expected to fill the top three depth slots the remainder of the Linebacker roster looks very solid and ready for more experienced.
2020 Virginia Tech Hokie Linebackers
|55||Austin Rosa||LB||5-10||213||Gr.||Reading, Pa.|
|23||Rayshard Ashby||LB||5-10||237||Sr.||Chesterfield, Va.|
|38||Amare Barno||LB||6-0||235||R-Jr.||Blythewood, S.C.|
|4||Dax Hollifield||LB||6-1||232||Jr.||Shelby, N.C.|
|15||Keshon Artis||LB||6-0||235||R-So.||Chesapeake, Va.|
|34||Alan Tisdale||LB||6-3||220||R-So.||Greensboro, N.C.|
|35||Matt Johnson||LB||6-0||210||R-Fr.||Glen Allen, Va.|
|40||Ben Skinner||LB||6-1||215||R-Fr.||Spotsylvania, Va.|
|43||Michael Peterson||LB||6-1||215||R-Fr.||Fort Mill, S.C.|
|47||Dean Ferguson||LB||6-2||228||R-Fr.||Sterling, Va.|
|50||Tre Maxwell||LB||6-0||205||R-Fr.||Centreville, Va.|
We Have Corners... and Safeties... We Really Do
Linebackers need support, and there are lots and lots of young men on the defensive back roster that can seriously take it to an opponent. We didn’t see how the pass/run backstop defense would operate this season. Changes in the Defensive line are always subtle and the trench battles are often fluid and personal. This really doesn’t apply to the defensive backfield. Their primary jobs are pass coverage and emergency backstop. Well, our Cornerbacks have both garnered some serious lookieloos from the experts. Caleb Farley seems to have used his season in rehab, and then his hard lessons from 2018, and learned to perform pirouettes and combine them with repeated wind sprints. Caleb is one of the best rated Corners in college football for all of his work effort. Well, that seemed to rub off on Jermaine Waller, who after a few fits and starts, smoothly stepped up to near shutdown status. They are going to be really hard for all but the absolute best QB receiver combinations to throw on. The two deep is still coalescing, but the lineup of quality CB backups is there. Look for Armani Chatman to really get to step up this year. Last season he was basically tossed into the rapids and had to learn to swim in dangerous waters. We’ll see how those rough lessons stuck.
The Safety positions had some issues in the past, most have been injury shortened seasons, but it seems that everyone is reportedly healthy. The backfield returns Divine Deablo, who is tonic if he can stay healthy. He is a captain, a natural leader, and a seriously good Rover/Strong Safety with both a nose for running plays and for the ball in pass coverage. Expect to see more of one of our favorites last season, Chamarri Conner who is now really ready to take a commanding step up in his development. Devon Hunter looks like he’s sorted out and should have a good season. All in all this is an effort backfield, where the players have had to learn to play football at the collegiate level getting put on the field regardless of the opponent and situation.
2020 Virginia Tech Hokie Defensive Backs
|17||Divine Deablo||DB||6-3||223||R-Sr.||Winston-Salem, N.C.|
|18||Tyree Rodgers||DB||6-1||180||R-Sr.||Camden, N.J.|
|3||Caleb Farley||DB||6-2||207||R-Jr.||Hickory, N.C.|
|7||Devon Hunter||DB||6-0||227||R-Jr.||Chesapeake, Va.|
|22||Chamarri Conner||DB||6-0||211||Jr.||Jacksonville, Fla.|
|28||Jermaine Waller||DB||6-1||180||Jr.||Washington, D.C.|
|37||Brion Murray||DB||5-10||190||Jr.||Milford, Del.|
|12||Nadir Thompson||DB||5-10||188||R-So.||Rocky Mount, N.C.|
|27||Armani Chatman||DB||5-11||195||R-So.||Virginia Beach, Va.|
|30||Tyler Matheny||DB||6-1||202||R-So.||Fairfax, Va.|
|31||Nasir Peoples||DB||6-0||195||R-So.||Abington, Pa.|
|32||Hunter Green||DB||6-1||190||R-So.||Knoxville, Tenn.|
|39||Byron Whitehead||DB||6-3||197||So.||Newark, N.J.|
|19||J.R. Walker||DB||6-0||207||R-Fr.||Elizabeth City, N.C.|
|20||Ny'Quee Hawkins||DB||6-0||195||R-Fr.||Orange, N.J.|
|47||John Ransom||DB||5-11||177||R-Fr.||Chesapeake, Va.|
|49||Ed Robinson||DB||5-6||162||R-Fr.||Mechanicsville, Va.|
So, listen in and comment below. Where do you think this Hokie Defense is headed in 2020. We think it’s up.