It has been a mind-boggling few weeks for Virginia Tech football. Earlier this week, it took another turn when linebacker Rico Kearney and wide receiver Sean Savoy announced they would be transferring from the program.
The timing of it is all odd, as the duo joins offensive lineman D’Andre Plantin as the third player to transfer before the end of the season.
“We wish Rico and Sean nothing but the best,” head coach Justin Fuente said at Monday’s press conference. “We have a lot invested in those young men and their future. We’ve been through a lot with both of them quite honestly, more than most people know. Nothing bad with their behavior, just been through a lot to help them grow up and mature. Sometimes it’s hard on young players when they’re forced into action before they’re ready, out of necessity, or whatever the reason might be. That’s a tough deal, and I wish them nothing but the best.”
Kearney announced his intentions on Sunday, one day after the 38-14 loss to Miami. The mike linebacker specifically cited lack of playing time for his reason for transferring. It appeared a little strange considering Kearney was just a redshirt freshman and had appeared in all 10 games in 2018. He even started against Boston College and Pittsburgh in place of the injured Rayshard Ashby, garnering a team-high 18 tackles versus the Eagles.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who coaches with the linebackers, expressed that he did not see it coming.
“No, not at all because Rico has been playing,” Foster said. “He didn’t play much the other game, and I’m not sure if that was a reason why. He’s a freshman and I wish he had hung in there. We wish him nothing but the best.”
True freshman Keshon Artis is poised to jump up the depth chart for the final week of the season in Kearney’s place. Artis has played in eight games, all on special teams, and Foster remains high on his upside.
“Keshon Artis is a guy who will move up,” Foster said. “He’s a really intelligent guy that’s a quick learner. I really like Keshon and his future.”
On Monday afternoon, Savoy expressed his intentions to transfer, making it two players in a matter of two days. After breaking out as a freshman, Savoy was passed on the depth chart by Hezekiah Grimsley in 2018. Coleman Fox is expected to take over Savoy’s position in the two-deep at slot.
The NCAA is constantly amending transfer rules because players appear to be transferring at a higher rate than ever before. There are even websites completely dedicated to tracking transfers nowadays. It’s a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
“I do think it’s [transferring] something that’s increasing,” Fuente said. “It seems like you see it more frequently, but there certainly is a level that you can handle. You want to develop those guys. That’s the thing, is developing those players. Sometimes when they play before they’re ready it skews things a little bit.”
While the transfers are undoubtedly concerning to the fanbase, Fuente isn’t too concerned. He cited guys like Bryce Watts fighting to return at cornerback with a plate in his arm just two weeks after fracturing his forearm as a sign that the team hasn’t packed it in, and they’re still battling.
“I know it’s not indicative of our football team,” Fuente said. “We’ve got guys out there playing beat up, and roughed up, and trying to try their best to come back from injuries. A whole bunch of guys who are really focused and doing our best to send this senior class out the right way.
“It is what a lion’s share of our squad is doing. We’ve had great examples of that, like Andrew Motuapuaka last year was battling through a lot physically and never missed a day… obviously we’re not putting them in harm’s way, but continuing to battle through those things is indicative of things to come. That type of mentality and that type of ownership in the program, and continuing to want to get out there, and compete, and improve is permeating throughout the locker room.”
Plantin, Kearney, and Savoy are now names of the past at Virginia Tech. In order for the team to right the wrongs from what has otherwise been a disappointing season, the team has set its gaze on working with the players who are showing up to practice and preparing for Virginia on Friday.
“I want guys that want to be here and want to compete,” Foster said. “That’s what this program is all about. The unselfishness it takes to win, that’s what we’re focused on with the guys that are here.”