On Tuesday, Virginia Tech football released its depth chart for its season-opener at Old Dominion on Friday. The game is the first in the Brent Pry era, and it comes against the Monarchs, an in-state foe who defeated the Hokies in Norfolk in 2018.
Pry spoke with the media on Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a list of takeaways from the first depth chart of the year and notes from the head coach. For a link to Tech’s game notes for Old Dominion, click here. The depth chart is on page eight.
Wells was announced as the starter back on Aug. 17, and as expected, Brown is the No. 2 option behind him. The one piece of information that jumps out is at the third quarterback spot where Farrell, a true freshman, is ahead of redshirt freshman Tahj Bullock.
“He’s picked up the offense pretty quickly and things just come a little bit easier to him right now,” Pry said on Tuesday, “and we just had a little more comfort with Devin if he had to go out and run the show in making the right reads and making the right throws. Obviously, both he and Tahj are talented, they’re dual-threat guys, but Devin’s just got a little bit better handle on the offense right now.”
Malachi Thomas remains week-to-week and will not play against Old Dominion, though Pry said his recovery is going well. Thomas will be evaluated again late next week. That means Holston is the No. 1 option for the Hokies in Norfolk, and he was consistent throughout the fall.
“Holston had a really good spring, a really good camp,” Pry said. “He does everything we ask a running back to do, he does everything very well. … He’s been the most consistent and can do the most things well.”
King and Black are the other options in the two-deep, though outside zone is more of their forte, so Holston will be Tech’s go-to option, assuming he’s healthy, with Thomas out.
Smith and Lofton were expected to start. Blue was too, though he’s not 100% healthy after battling an injury throughout fall camp. Gosnell, the North Carolina transfer, is an older guy but doesn’t have many career receptions – just two for 11 yards in 15 games over two seasons.
Some of the younger receivers like Christian Moss, Jaylen Jones and Tucker Holloway were praised throughout fall camp. But the surprise here is that walk-on William Kakavitsas is in the two-deep instead. Back at Tech’s media day in mid-August, cornerback Dorian Strong told Tech Sideline that Kakavitsas had “the best hands on the team,” and it sure seems that way if he’s in position to get some reps.
“He’s been very consistent,” Pry said of Kakavitsas on Tuesday. “We didn’t get a good taste of him in the spring, he was coming off of injury, and he’s really made the most of camp. He’s opened our eyes and proven himself that he merits playing time.”
There’s nothing out of the ordinary of the depth chart in the tight end room. The most curious thing will be how the Hokies use Gallo, De Iuliis and Blumrick, which we’ll see on Friday.
If you’ve been monitoring the offensive line throughout the summer and fall camp, this is what the two-deep has looked like all along. There are some depth issues, for sure – Militec and Schick are big question marks on the right side of the line – but it’s an experienced starting group. Chaplin and Braelin Moore have come along well, too, and will play some snaps at ODU.
The big name missing here is C.J. McCray. Pry said he’s dealing with a minor injury and is “touch-and-go” right now. His absence moves some very young guys into the two-deep – McDonald is a redshirt freshman, while Moyston and Burgos are true freshmen.
“There’s a lot of potential in those three,” Pry said. “I’m excited to see the development and I’m anxious to get all three of those guys some experience. They have great bodies, they’re long, they’re pretty athletic, they’re still figuring things out at the college level, obviously, all three of them.
“McDonald was a high school DB. For all of them, it’s brand new, but I’m excited. We want, we hope to have the opportunity throughout the early part of this season to continue to develop these guys in game situations.”
It’s of note that veteran end Eli Adams is not listed, too.
It’s no surprise to see this quartet of players at defensive tackle. Pollard, Kendricks and Fuga are veterans, while Pene’s worked his way up since joining the Hokies back in 2020. Here’s how defensive line coach J.C. Price described the skillsets of the experienced trio:
“Fuga I would probably say is the best run guy,” Price told the media back on Aug. 19. “He’s playing fundamentally sound against the run. Mario is slippery. He gets in and out of creases better than any of them. Norell’s the best playmaker.”
It’s going to be very intriguing to watch how the Will linebacker spot plays out in the first game. Pry said the staff has a good plan for that spot and is still figuring it out, but all signs point towards Keller being the No. 1 option. Tisdale, who is the veteran in the room, was working with the scout team when the media observed practice last Wednesday.
“Ultimately, we want to play our best 11,” Pry said. “And as I’ve mentioned, the Sams have learned Will, the Wills have learned Mike, and you may see a little bit of some diversity in the game with some of those guys and where they play. But Keller and Dean [Ferguson] and the other McDonald brother, those guys have all just really worked hard at learning that position. I’m excited to see what they do, to be honest.”
How much will Keller, McDonald and Tisdale rotate? And Pry mentioned Dean Ferguson, who wasn’t in the two-deep. That’s a position to keep an eye on.
It’s exactly what you’d expect at Mike linebacker. Dax Hollifield is one of seven captains for the Hokies this year, and while Artis will see the field and have a role, Hollifield is the leader of this unit.
Without Keli Lawson, Virginia Tech has just two options at Sam linebacker: Jenkins or Walker. It’s a new position, and the two guys that will play against ODU are both former defensive backs.
Therefore, they’ll likely be more comfortable in coverage. But when Pry dials up a blitz, what’s their comfort level? Keep an eye on how they play on the strong side of the field, especially when they’re matched up against ODU tight end Zack Kuntz, who is a go-to target for the Monarchs.
Strong is clearly the No. 1 option, but how does cornerbacks coach Derek Jones manage the rotation between Chatman, Murray and even Harvey?
There’s a ton of talent and career snaps in that room, and the depth chart is what was expected, but there are some question marks there. A player who isn’t in the two-deep that could potentially get a look if fully healthy is true freshman Mansoor Delane.
Conner and Peoples are the two veterans, and Conner is even carrying Bud Foster’s Lunch Pail. How much will Stroman and Hawkins actually play? And can Delane, who is an option at corner and safety, see some minutes?
There aren’t many surprises here. Moore, a Third Team All-ACC honoree last season, always appeared to have the punting job in his back pocket. Ross beat out Love, the true freshman, for the place kicking duties, while Kyle Lowe is the kickoff specialist. Pollock won the long snapping job from Anthony, a former Virginia transfer.
King and Black were expected to be the pair returning kicks, and Cole Beck will likely jump in that mix. Harvey is in line to return punts, a role that Tayvion Robinson locked down last year, while Kakavitsas is the No. 2 option.