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Virginia Tech football: Examining the first defensive depth chart

The first depth chart is here.

John Schneider - SB Nation

It’s game week, folks. The Virginia Tech Hokies open the 2023 college football season on Saturday when the Old Dominion Monarchs make the trip across the state to Blacksburg. It will be a revenge game for the Hokies after ODU spoiled head coach Brent Pry’s debut last September in Norfolk.

As is customary, the Hokies released their first depth chart of the 2023 season this week. We examined the offense, led by returning starter Grant Wells at quarterback, with some newcomers atop the depth chart at wide receiver and running back.

Defensively, there are a lot of familiar faces back, but the two-deep is loaded with newcomers. Five true freshmen are in Virginia Tech’s two-deep.

At defensive end, the Hokies are starting a true sophomore [Keyshawn Burgos] and Florida transfer Antwaun Powell-Ryland. Pry has praised both players this summer. Burgos has the length and athleticism that Pry’s staff has prioritized on the defensive line, and he could be in store for a huge year. Powell-Ryland was a prized transfer who will provide immediate help as a pass rusher.

Defensive tackle is as expected, with Norell Pollard, Josh Fuga and Mario Kendricks at the top.

At linebacker, Keli Lawson starts at WILL, while Jaden Keller is at MIKE. Lawson has the type of measurables to be an All-American. Keller won his spot after a strong offseason. Veteran Alan Tisdale backs him up and will see plenty of snaps.

At the STAR position, Keonta Jenkins is backed up true freshman Caleb Woodson.

At cornerback, the starters are really good in Mansoor Delane and Dorian Strong. The top backups are a pair of true freshmen, Dante Lovett and Braylon Johnson. Transfer Derrick Canteen is the Nickel backed up by, yes, another true freshman, Jonathan Pennix.

Jalen Stroman returns at one safety spot backed by impressive former wide receiver Jaylen Jones. Senior Nasir Peoples is the other safety. Freshman Mose Phillips is the top backup. Phillips impressed coaches as soon as he arrived on campus and will play this fall.

There is lots of youth here, which is a good thing. We are going to learn a lot about some of the Hokies’ young players early in the season.