Notes From Virginia Tech Football Fall Camp Practice No. 15

Has Jaden Keller secured the starting Will linebacker spot? (Jon Fleming)

On Friday, the media observed the 15th practice of Virginia Tech football’s fall camp. Here are some observations from the session, along with notes from the post-practice media session.

Injury News

Virginia Tech running back Malachi Thomas was not at practice and remains week-to-week, as head coach Brent Pry said on Wednesday. One of his teammates in his position group, Jalen Holston, was also not at practice on Friday. A Tech spokesman said Holston was “unavailable.”

Wide receiver Jadan Blue, who Pry said is “expected to be back sooner than later,” was dressed out on Friday, minus a helmet. He did not participate in practice, but he is no longer wearing a blue “no-contact” jersey.

Another wideout, Stephen Gosnell, was a full-go on Friday after being limited in practice on Wednesday. A few days ago, Pry said the North Carolina transfer has “had a really nice camp.” His brother, true freshman tight end Benji Gosnell, was not at practice.

Linebacker Keli Lawson was “unavailable” again on Friday. He was not at the practice that the media observed earlier in the week on Wednesday.

Running Back Rotation

With both Thomas and Holston out of practice, Keshawn King was taking the first reps with the running backs on Friday.

A redshirt junior from Orange Park, Fla., King has recorded 457 yards and three touchdowns in three seasons with the Hokies. Pry described him as Virginia Tech’s “most explosive player” this week.

“He’s a dynamic guy,” Pry said of King on Wednesday. “Whether he’s at tailback, whether he’s at slot or motioning out to flanker.”

Behind him was Chance Black, a redshirt freshman from Roebuck, S.C. He played in four games in 2021 and returned 11 kickoffs for 245 yards (22.3 avg.). Special teams coordinator and running backs coach Stu Holt said King and Black are going to be the two kickoff returners for Virginia Tech this year.

True freshman Bryce Duke was third in drills on Friday behind King and Black, while redshirt freshman Kenji Christian rounded out the group.

Has Jaden Keller Solidified The Starting Will Spot?

Redshirt freshman Jaden Keller appears to be running away with the starting Will linebacker spot.

He’s received a heap of praise throughout fall camp, with defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Chris Marve calling him “tremendously gifted.” Keller was with the first group of linebackers on Friday, which included Dax Hollifield at Mike and Keonta Jenkins at Sam.

“I think Jaden Keller and Keli Lawson have both done a great job,” Pry said on Wednesday. “They are making us feel better and better all the time about what we can put out at that spot. Alan Tisdale is obviously in the mix. We got Tisdale playing some Will, we may start looking at him at Mike a little bit.”

If Tisdale is in the competition for the Will spot, he’s a bit behind. Redshirt junior Dean Ferguson was with the second unit in that role, while Tisdale was with the third group. 

Here’s the full breakdown of the linebacker rotation from practice:

Ones: Jaden Keller (Will), Dax Hollifield (Mike), Keonta Jenkins (Sam)
Twos: Dean Ferguson (W), Keshon Artis (M), J.R. Walker (S)
Threes: Alan Tisdale (W), Jayden McDonald (M), Tyler Matheny (S)

Team Captains Announced

The Hokies also announced their seven team captains on Friday. There are three captains from both the offense and defense, while there is one from special teams.

Linebacker Dax Hollifield (Sr.), safety Chamarri Conner (r-Sr.) and defensive tackle Norell Pollard (Sr.) represent the defense. Pollard said it’s a huge honor to be voted a captain by his teammates and it means he’s doing something right.

“It means they see me as somebody they can follow, and that means a lot to me,” Pollard told the media after Friday’s practice. “That’s something I wanted to be since I got here, a captain; it just happened to be my fourth year here. It means a lot that I’m an example to the other guys of how to work, how to go about your business.”

Grant Wells (r-Jr.), who was named the starting quarterback on Wednesday, represents the offensive unit along with offensive tackle Silas Dzansi (r-Sr.) and wide receiver Kaleb Smith (r-Sr.). Punter Peter Moore is the lone special teams selection, and it’s very meaningful to the former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship last summer.

“It’s a blessing,” a thoughtful Moore said. “I couldn’t even imagine this happening three, four years ago thinking about this. It’s great, gives me chills.”

15 Responses You are logged in as Test

    1. T-B is very thin and according to Chris is goin to take a year to indoctrinate into college life with a child.

  1. I guess if Keshawn King is our most explosive player we’re definitely a non-threatening offense.

    Thanks CJF and staff!

    1. KK was fantastic as a freshman, and clearly an awesome athlete, we just need to get him the ball – always heard/read that he wasn’t that hard of a worker and that’s why he didn’t see the field – I’m excited that he seems to have his act together…

        1. Fresh start for all. Those who have talent and work will play.

          I think he can be 5-6 ypc player if we use him right. Reports are he can catch passes too.

  2. Good update. It sounds there is a healthy competition for playing time. Nothing is given to returning starters. The way it should be.

  3. Tisdale makes a big plays, but has always been wildly inconsistent. He gets ate up by blockers constantly, his negative plays outweigh his big splash plays. The weight room has not been his friend either. He’s basically remained same body time his whole career here.

    1. That would be “eaten up” or “Et Up.” The Urban dictionary is your friend. Have to agree with your observations! Best.

  4. Whats up with Tisdale – he has a knack for making plays and the ball…I hope he finds the field somehow somewhere…but if Keller is that good…play your best!

      1. Thanks…he’s holding down 4th or 3rd depending on who is available.

        Not bad for a rookie!

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