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Virginia Tech football: 2022 secondary preview

What will ‘DBU’ look like in 2022?

Virginia Tech v Notre Dame Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Several teams in college football like to say they are “DBU.” The LSU Tigers, Florida Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes are just some of the schools that claim to be the real “DBU.” Another is the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Yes, Virginia Tech belongs on that list. While the Hokies may not have as many first-round picks from the secondary in the NFL, go back and look at the number of drafts since the mid-1990s. DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Flowers, Kam Chancellor, Kyle Fuller, Kendall Fuller, Jimmy Williams and current Virginia Tech safeties coach Pierson Prioleau are just some of Virginia Tech’s legendary DBs who went on to the NFL.

So, what about the 2022 group?

We complete our 2022 positional previews with a look at Virginia Tech’s secondary.

The coaches

The Hokies have two terrific coaches in the secondary. First, there is cornerbacks coach Derek Jones. Jones comes to Blacksburg after spending the previous two years at Texas, Tech, where he served as defensive coordinator and associate head coach. A change at head coach meant Jones, an old friend of head coach Brent Pry, was available to return to East and back to the ACC. Before his time in Lubbock, Texas, Jones spent 12 seasons at Duke under David Cutcliffe, where, at different times, he coached corners, the entire secondary, special teams and served as an assistant head coach.

Jones is a fantastic recruiter, and Pry landing him was a coup for his new staff. The pair have been friends for years and are reuniting on the same coaching staff for the first time since 2007 when both were at Memphis.

Prioleau enters his first year as a full-time college coach. The former All-Big East safety with the Hokies, Prioleau spent 12 seasons in the NFL and has a Super Bowl ring. Prioleau was once hesitant to become a full-time coach, having previously served as Virginia Tech’s director of player development for the past three years.

Jones and Prioleau are the perfect coaches for Tech’s young secondary.

The players

Defensive backs

Number Name Position Height Weight Class Hometown High School Previous School
Number Name Position Height Weight Class Hometown High School Previous School
1 Chamarri Conner DB 6' 0" 205 Sr. Jacksonville, Fla. Trinity Christian Academy
8 Brion Murray DB 5' 10" 185 Sr. Milford, Del. Milford Coffeyville CC
5 Nasir Peoples DB 6' 0" 202 R-Jr. Abington, Pa. Archbishop Wood
9 Armani Chatman DB 5' 11" 205 R-Jr. Virginia Beach, Va. Bishop Sullivan Catholic
30 Tyler Matheny DB 6' 1" 209 R-Jr. Fairfax, Va. Lake Braddock
13 Ny'Quee Hawkins DB 6' 0" 200 R-So. Orange, N.J. Orange
26 Jalen Stroman DB 6' 1" 187 So. Nokesville, Va. Patriot
33 Keonta Jenkins DB 6' 3" 207 So. Jacksonville, Fla. Ribault
44 Dorian Strong DB 6' 0" 174 So. Upper Marlboro. Md. Dr. Henry Wise
20 DJ Harvey DB 5' 11" 185 R-Fr. Chatsworth, Calif. Sierra Canyon
29 Nyke Johnson DB 5' 11" 197 R-Fr. Florence, S.C. West Florence
36 Elijah Howard DB 5' 11" 175 R-Fr. Chattanooga, Tenn. Baylor School
38 Jayden McDonald DB 6' 4" 215 R-Fr. Salem, Va. Salem
39 Jorden McDonald DB 6' 4" 215 R-Fr. Salem, Va. Salem
40 Jalen Hoyle DB 6' 0" 192 R-Fr. Englewood, N.J. Dwight Morrow
47 Miles Ellis DB 5' 11" 175 R-Fr. Glen Allen, Va. Deep Run
11 Devin Alves DB 6' 3" 180 Fr. Melbourne, Fla. Melbourne Senior
12 Cam Johnson DB 6' 0" 165 Fr. Washington, D.C. St. Frances Academy
24 Mansoor Delane DB 6' 1" 178 Fr. Silver Spring, Md. Archbishop Spalding
27 Tyler Childress DB 6' 2" 185 Fr. Bradenton, Fla. IMG Academy
Defensive backs Virginia Tech Athletics

The projected starters

We know most teams spent most of their snaps on defense in nickel. Here are the projected starters for the Hokies at corner and safety:

  • CB Armani Chatman
  • CB Dorian Strong
  • FS Chamarri Conner
  • SS Nasir Peoples

The projected starters are an experienced bunch. Pry talked Conner into coming back for his fifth season, much like Dax Hollifield. Conner is a former All-ACC player and will play a different role this season. This should help his NFL prospects.

Peoples started all 13 games last season and was named honorable mention All-ACC. Before last season, he primarily played on special teams.

Strong had a superb freshman season in 2020. While he took a slight step backward last season, there is no doubting Strong’s talent. He appears to be the next Virginia Tech corner to have a future in the NFL.

Chatman is a good, reliable corner who has improved every season at Virginia Tech. Another potential future NFL player, Chatman, is a physical corner who has started games in each of the past three seasons.

Veteran Brion Murray is another player who will see plenty of snaps in the secondary.

Other young players such as Jalen Stroman, D.J. Harvey, Nyke Johnson, Cam Johnson, Mansoor Delane, Elijah Howard and Jalen Hoyle could figure into the mix.

The young guys

The Hokies have a nice blend of upperclassmen and young players in the secondary. Stroman, Harvey, Nyke Johnson and Hoyle are all entering their second season with the Hokies.

Last year’s class added talent to the roster, and the Hokies followed it up with another strong class. Cam Johnson, Delane and Devin Alves could see the field this fall. Johnson had an excellent summer in camp, while Delane’s best football is ahead of him. Johnson is a true corner who could climb the depth chart quickly.

Of the second-year players, Stroman and Harvey could push for time in the starting lineup. Some were surprised Stroman didn’t win a starting job last season. The younger brother of another former NFL Hokie (Greg), Stroman played on special teams in all 13 games as a true freshman. Harvey is the only Hokie from California and the top recruit from a year ago. There is a lot of excitement surrounding Harvey, and he could cover the slot for Tech.

Overall, there is plenty of good, young talent in the secondary to be excited about.

The outlook

The secondary is a lot like linebacker. There are multiple veterans among the top group, some of whom could be All-ACC players. I really believe the secondary will have a strong season in 2022. That’s health permitting, of course. Virginia Tech isn’t deep enough anywhere to deal with multiple significant injuries, but the secondary is more equipped than other positions.

I expect a big year from Strong and for Conner to finish his college career on a high note.