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Virginia Tech football: A position change for one Hokie linebacker

C.J. McCray is in his first season at Virginia Tech

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech freshman C.J. McCray was a late addition to the team’s 2021 recruiting class after transferring from Marshall. McCray, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound linebacker from Charlotte, was originally a member of Marshall’s 2020 recruiting class but chose to transfer after a coaching change.

A big reason why McCray chose Virginia Tech was co-defensive line coach J.C. Price. Price was McCray’s defensive coordinator during his lone season with the Thundering Herd.

Now, according to head coach Justin Fuente, McCray is switching positions to defensive end. The move came as a bit of a mild surprise, considering McCray impressed coaches this summer at linebacker. But, at least for 2021, there is a need for depth at defensive end, although Fuente said that need wasn't necessarily why coaches moved McCray.

“That’s where he needs to play,” Fuente said this week, per Mike Niziolek of the Roanoke Times. “He’s got the size for it. It allows some of those guys like Amare to cut things loose a little bit easier. There’s a little bit more to playing linebacker.”

Fuente is referring to star defensive end Amare Barno who began his Virginia Tech career as a linebacker before moving to defensive end. Now, Barno is on pace to becoming a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

While he is listed as 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds on Virginia Tech’s official website, Fuente noted that he’s already added size to his frame.

Virginia Tech’s defensive ends were outstanding in the season-opening win over North Carolina as Barno finished with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and TyJuan Garbutt had two sacks.

Now, the addition of McCray gives the Hokies a little more depth. The Hokies have established linebacker depth and use multiple personnel packages with five and even six DBs on the field, which means sometimes only one linebacker is on the field.