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Virginia Tech football 2022 roster preview: Linebacker

There’s a good mix of veterans and talented youngsters at linebacker for the Hokies.

Virginia Tech Athletics

The Virginia Tech Hokies wrapped up their second week of fall camp this week, and optimism is high around Blacksburg. New head coach Brent Pry may not have the most talented team in school history, but there is enough talent at critical positions that, combined with the energy Pry and his staff have brought in, has everyone excited.

How good will Virginia Tech’s defense be in 2022? Pry made his name as a defensive coordinator at Penn State but spent three years under Bud Foster in the mid-1990s. He understands what it takes to win in Blacksburg. And the position Pry is most familiar with is linebacker.

What is the outlook for Virginia Tech’s linebackers in 2022? We continue our positional preview series with a look at the linebackers.


The coaches

Virginia Tech’s linebackers are coached by Chris Marve, who also holds the defensive coordinator position, and Shawn Quinn, who coaches Sam linebackers/nickels.

Marve is a former college linebacker at Vanderbilt, where he is one of the more decorated players in school history. He earned All-SEC honors in all four of his collegiate seasons, playing under Pry, who was Vandy’s defensive coordinator. From there, Marve quickly moved into coaching, spending five seasons at his alma mater. In 2019, he spent a season at Mississippi State as the linebackers coach before moving on to Florida State for the previous two seasons in the same position.

Marve is a promising young coach known for developing his players.

Quinn comes to Blacksburg with a wealth of experience. He has hit the ground hard on the recruiting trail and spent the past three seasons at Savannah State, where he was head coach. Quinn led Savannah State to two winning seasons in his three seasons as head coach, the first since 1998. He did this with virtually no resources devoted to football.


The players

Linebackers

Number Name Position Height Weight Class Hometown High School Previous School
Number Name Position Height Weight Class Hometown High School Previous School
0 Pheldarius Payne LB 6' 3" 260 Sr. Suffolk, Va. Nansemond River HS Nebraska
4 Dax Hollifield LB 6' 1" 239 Sr. Shelby, N.C. Shelby
15 Keshon Artis LB 6' 0" 240 R-Jr. Chesapeake, Va. Oscar Smith
34 Alan Tisdale LB 6' 3" 228 R-Jr. Greensboro, N.C. Page
19 J.R. Walker LB 6' 0" 217 R-So. Clayton, N.C. Clayton
47 Dean Ferguson LB 6' 2" 228 R-So. Sterling, Va. Potomac Falls
48 Matt Johnson LB 6' 0" 227 R-So. Glen Allen, Va. Deep Run
50 Ben Skinner LB 6' 1" 222 R-So. Spotsylvania, Va. Riverbend
43 Lakeem Rudolph LB 6' 4" 227 R-Fr. Virginia Beach, Va. Green Run
52 Jaden Keller LB 6' 3" 216 R-Fr. Bristol, Tenn. Tennessee HS
53 Will Johnson LB 6' 2" 218 R-Fr. Leonardtown, Md. Leonardtown
Virginia Tech Athletics

The projected starters

Dax Hollifield returns for his fifth season at Virginia Tech. Hollifield is excited about the direction of the program under Pry and Marve and provides leadership to a young team. Hollifield is Virginia Tech’s unquestioned starter in the middle. Too often in his career, Hollifield has been miscast on the outside. He’s at home in the middle of Virginia Tech’s defense, and you should expect a big season from him.

Alan Tisdale is back for another year with the Hokies. Like Hollifield, Tisdale is a multi-year starter and of the more athletic players on the team. Tisdale is entering his third season as a starter. While Tisdale has been pushed by some of Tech’s younger players, that is not an indictment on him. There are some good young players behind him. Tisdale will start alongside Hollifield, giving the Hokies plenty of experience.

Keonta Jenkins is the third name to watch. The rising junior was an immediate starter two years ago as a freshman but moved down the depth chart. Jenkins still played, but not as a starter. Pry and his staff quickly realized Jenkins brought a lot to the table and he’s been praised repeatedly throughout the offseason. Jenkins can play that hybrid role Virginia Tech loves.


The young guys

In addition to Hollifield, Tisdale and Jenkins, Virginia Tech also brings back plenty of experience in Keshon Artis, J.R. Walker, Dean Ferguson and Tyler Matheny. Walker is a former safety now playing linebacker. Artis has always played well when given the opportunity but has been blocked by Hollifield.

As for the young guys, Jaden Keller, Keli Lawson, Jayden McDonald and Will Johnson are all talented second-year players to watch. Keller will play — a lot. He’s already looking like a future star. The 6-foot-6 Lawson may be VT’s most intriguing player. He can play everywhere, and the Hokies hope he can fill a role similar to Tremaine Edmunds in the future.

There’s probably not a position on Virginia Tech’s roster that features the perfect blend of veteran experience and talented young players.


The outlook

I’m excited about this group. Hollifield, Tisdale and Artis all deserve a strong finish to their careers at Virginia Tech. Hollifield should thrive under Marve’s leadership and have the most productive season of his collegiate career.

It will be interesting to see how Marve acclimates the younger players, specifically Keller and Lawson, into the lineup. Both will play.

Virginia Tech fans should also see expect a big season from Jenkins. Coaches love his potential and the switch to linebacker has been perfect for him.