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2021 Virginia Tech preview: Defensive backs

There is some depth and versatility here.

Virginia Tech v Virginia
Jermaine Waller
Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Defensive backs

Tae Daley: 6-foot-1, 203 (Sr.)

Chamarri Conner: 6-foot-0, 205 (Jr.)

Jermaine Waller: 6-foot-1, 180 (Jr.)

Devon Hunter: 6-foot-0, 220 (RS Jr.)

Ny’Quee Hawkins: 6-foot-0, 200 (RS Fr.)

J.R. Walker: 6-foot-0, 217 (RS Fr.)

DJ Harvey: 5-foot-11, 185 (Fr.)

Nadir Thompson: 5-foot-10, 180 (RS So.)

Jalen Stroman: 6-foot-1, 187 (Fr.)

Armani Chatman: 5-foot-11, 205 (RS So.)

Jabari Parker: 6-foot-2, 190 (Fr.)

Nyke Johnson: 5-foot-11, 197 (Fr.)

Tyler Matheny: 6-foot-1, 209 (RS So.)

Nasir Peoples: 6-foot-0, 202 (RS So.)

Keonta Jenkins: 6-foot-3, 207 (Fr.)

Elijah Howard: 5-foot-11, 175 (Fr.)

Brion Murray: 5-foot-10, 185 (Jr.)

Jayden McDonald: 6-foot-4, 215 (Fr.)

Jorden McDonald: 6-foot-4, 215 (Fr.)

Jalen Hoyle: 6-foot-0, 192 (Fr.)

Dorian Strong: 6-foot-0, 174 (Fr.)

Ed Robinson: 5-foot-9, 172 (RS Fr.)

Da’Shawn Elder: 6-foot-2, 205 (Fr.)


Cornerbacks

Heading into last season, Virginia Tech had, arguably, the top pair of cornerbacks in all of college football. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out in Virginia Tech’s favor as Caleb Farley opted out just before the season due to COVID-19, and Jermaine Waller was never fully healthy the entire season.

Farley was a first-round pick in the NFL draft, while Waller is back in Blacksburg. And, he’s healthy. That’s good news. Waller is an All-ACC talent.

At the other cornerback spot, Tech has two players listed atop the depth chart in Strong and Chatman. Strong was a freshman sensation last season and looks to continue Virginia Tech’s outstanding defensive back lineage. Chatman is a player who works hard and continues to improve each season. He’s steady and reliable

Nadir Thompson also brings experience to the room.

The Hokies have some talented young corners in the program, too. DJ Harvey is here all the way from California. This was a big signing. Harvey is terrific, and could play as a freshman. I am as excited about Harvey as any freshman in recent memory. He’s going to be really good.

Nyke Johnson and Elijah Howard are also talented newcomers. I wouldn’t expect either to play this season but you just never know.


Safeties

Lots of intriguing players here. Let’s start with nickel Chamarri Conner. For the purpose of this preview, we’ll list him under the safety section. Conner is in his fourth season in the program and has played a significant role his entire career. Conner brings physicality to the field and is another All-ACC performer.

Devon Hunter is back. One of Virginia Tech’s most-heralded signees in recent years returns to the team after a year away for legal reasons. It’s good to see. Hunter is a respected player and one of the hardest workers in the program. Coaches love Hunter. It would be wonderful if he could finish his career on a strong note. We hear he’s had a good camp.

Keonta Jenkins is your first-team free safety, which would’ve been considered a surprise before. Vanderbilt transfer Tae Daley seemed destined to start this fall at one of the safety positions, and still may, but Jenkins played his way into the role this summer. Jenkins is big, rangy and athletic. He resembles some past Virginia Tech greats.

Daley will play a role this season.

Another player to watch is Jalen Stroman. The brother of former Hokie, Greg Stroman, has impressed coaches since arriving on campus. He has the mental and physical aspect down and is going to be a good one.


Outlook

There is more depth here than at other positions. The Hokies have added some talented, young players in the secondary over the last two years. Those young players give Virginia Tech good depth.

A healthy Waller will go a long way in determining how good the defense can be in 2021.

Conner is as consistent of a defender than anyone in the ACC. He will play every game and and he will produce.

Hunter is a terrific story. Keep an eye on Nasir Peoples, too. When you have two or three options at multiple positions, it is a good thing. The Hokies have that some spots in the secondary.

However, Tech cannot afford injuries to Waller or Conner. Otherwise, it will make defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton’s job even more difficult.