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Virginia Tech football: Position changes continue this spring for the Hokies

Lots of changes on defense this spring.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Chris Marve
Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry has been busy in his first spring practice. The Hokies and Pry have some catching up to do after the Hokies posted back-to-back losing seasons while Pry acclimates to his first head-coaching gig.

Pry inherited a roster with plenty of questions. Virginia Tech’s recruiting struggled over the last few years of the Justin Fuente era, although the 2022 class, which Fuente’s coaching staff did much of the work on, finished No. 34, per 247Sports. Pry and his staff finished the class strong, losing only a few decommitments after the coaching change and flipping two in-state prospects from Virginia.

One of the big news items this spring has been position changes. The Hokies lost several contributors to the NFL from last season. James Mitchell, Tre Turner, Lecitus Smith, Brock Hoffman, Jermaine Waller, Jordan Williams, Raheem Blackshear and Amare Barno are among the key personnel losses.

We detailed Connor Blumrick’s position change last week. This spring, the quarterback has been working with the wide receivers and tight ends. When he was at Texas A&M, Blumrick spent some time at running back. Last season, Fuente and Brad Cornelsen had Blumrick as the backup quarterback out of necessity. Pry and offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen quickly realized Blumrick could be one of Tech’s top offensive players in 2022, but not necessarily at quarterback.

That’s good coaching.

Some of the other notable changes this season was freshman Gunner Givens going from defensive end to defensive tackle. Givens was initially expected to play on the offensive line. Sophomore safety Keonta Jenkins moving to linebacker, while redshirt freshman linebacker Lakeem Rudolph was getting a chance at defensive end.

Redshirt freshman defensive backs, twins Jorden and Jayden McDonald were moved to defensive and linebacker, respectively.

Pry and defensive coordinator Chris Marve saw the players in action this spring and, combined with their length and athleticism, believed a change would be beneficial for not only the team, but the players, too.

The latest and most interesting position change this week was redshirt freshman wide receiver Keli Lawson moving to linebacker.

I love this move.

At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Lawson has the size, length and athleticism you drool about for a wide receiver. But in watching Lawson in high school, it was always clear he could star on the defensive side of the ball.

This is Lawson’s first spring in Blacksburg and under the new strength staff, Lawson could add “good” weight without sacrificing any of his athleticism. Pry clearly sees potential in Lawson on defense.

Here is what Pry said about Lawson this week, per Andy Bitter of The Athletic.

Maybe even a better athlete. Long guy, rangy. He is physical. I was aware of Keli out of high school. I knew his head coach at Sherando. Coach (Bill) Hall always felt like Keli was a better defensive better. When I watched high school film, I feel like he’s a better defensive prospect. I felt he was doing just OK at wide receiver, talked about an opportunity to get on the field more quickly on the defensive side of the ball and what his strengths were. Day by day he’s getting better at it.

It will be interesting to follow Lawson this spring and into fall camp. Pry and Marve are clearly looking for versatile defenders who can make an impact this fall.

Another notable position change this week was redshirt freshman guard Bryce Goodner moving to defensive tackle. The offensive line needs depth, so this move was a bit surprising. However, at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds, you love Goodner’s size at defensive tackle.

Virginia Tech’s annual spring game is next Saturday.