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Virginia Tech football: Hokies continue to retain key players for 2024

Virginia Tech has lost two starters to the transfer portal, but the Hokies have retained some important pieces.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Old Dominion at Virginia Tech Photo by Brian Bishop/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

College sports is an entirely different world than it was just five years ago. Heck, it’s a lot different than it was two years ago. The NCAA transfer portal and NIL have completely changed the dynamic of college sports for the better — and worse.

Players transfer and land with an elite program every year shortly after entering the portal because another team has tampered. It’s terrible. But unfortunately, unless you want to get left behind, you must play along.

One of the more critical aspects of the current landscape is player retention. Most Power 5 programs have someone in a GM role. The Virginia Tech Hokies have their version of a GM who works with head coach Brent Pry on the 85-man roster, whether it be recruiting or the transfer portal.

The Hokies learned of their bowl destination on Sunday, but since the regular season ended 10 days ago, Pry and his staff have been busy working to keep their own players. Virginia Tech received excellent news last week when edge rusher Antwaun Powell-Ryland — a transfer from Florida last offseason, announced he was returning to Blacksburg for another season.

On Tuesday, another starting defensive lineman, defensive tackle Josh Fuga, announced he was returning for one more season. This is another big win for the Hokies, who are losing Mario Kendricks, Norell Pollard and Pheldarius Payne to graduation. As for Powell-Ryland, he finished second in the ACC with 9.5 sacks.

The defensive tackle position and the offensive line are a major priority for the Hokies in this year’s portal.

The Hokies are working hard to bring back running back Bhayshul Tuten and wide receivers Jaylin Lane and Da’Quan Felton. All three were added last year via the portal and were outstanding in 2023.

We discussed the departures of running back Bryce Duke and tight end Dae’Quan Wright last week. The Hokies lost two more players to the transfer portal on Tuesday: Defensive back Derrick Canteen and wide receiver Da’Wain Lofton.

Canteen transferred to the Hokies from Georgia Southern and started every game last season. The Hokies wanted to retain Canteen, who was VT’s No. 3 cornerback in 2023.

Lofton was a part of Justin Fuente’s final recruiting class from Fort Worth, Texas. Lofton appeared in 35 games for Tech, finishing with 35 receptions for 410 yards and three touchdowns. Lofton was buried on Tech’s depth chart this season after Tech landed Ali Jennings, Felton and Lane from the portal.

Lofton and Canteen both plan on playing for the Hokies in the Military Bowl before departing Blacksburg, which shows they are leaving on good terms.

We wish all those who are leaving Blacksburg nothing but the best. Once a Hokie, always a Hokie.