The biggest change to Virginia Tech football’s updated depth chart on Monday came at cornerback. True freshman Mansoor Delane is listed as a starter, and he’ll see the majority of reps on Thursday night at No. 24 NC State.
The 6-1, 177-pound Silver Spring, Md. product has played in four games for the Hokies in 2022 and slowly gained more playing time.
“He missed most of preseason camp with an injury, so he was not an early enrollee,” head coach Brent Pry said of Delane on Monday. “So this guy has really learned things quickly and impressed us in short time. He’s played corner, he’s played safety, and when the opportunity came, it just … the game’s not too big for him.
“He didn’t seem nervous, he didn’t get bright-eyed. He made a few mistakes but bounced back nicely from it. … A very natural football player, and I think probably more than anything, he can anticipate things really well.”
Veteran cornerback Dorian Strong injured his hand against West Virginia on Sept. 22 and hasn’t played since. In turn, Delane’s playing time increased.
Against North Carolina on Oct. 1, he saw his first action on defense and recorded tackles on back-to-back plays. He has 10 tackles this season and 1.5 tackles for loss, too.
Redshirt senior Armani Chatman is the other starting cornerback opposite of Delane, and the redshirt senior is “probable” for NC State, per Pry. DJ Harvey and Cam Johnson are with the second team, while Strong and Brion Murray are listed as third string. Considering Johnson is also a true freshman and Harvey is a redshirt freshman, Tech’s defense will be heavily reliant on the young bucks in the remaining five games.
“You can’t not have it be a part of your thought process, but I’m excited for those guys,” Pry said. “I’m excited about Devin and Cam. Mansoor’s just a little bit ahead of them, but those guys have us all excited. I think Coach Jones has done a good job with them, and their playing time will increase week by week.”
Numerous Virginia Tech players dealt with injuries through the first seven games, headlined by Strong. According to Pry, he’s doubtful for Thursday’s game in Carter-Finley Stadium. He’s missed the last three games, though, and he was not at practice on Monday.
Defensive end TyJuan Garbutt, who posted a season-high five tackles vs. Miami, is expected to play. The redshirt senior dealt with an injury that forced him to miss the Pitt game on Oct. 8, but he returned last week. He had three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against the Canes. In Tech’s open practice that the media observed on Monday, he was a full go.
Running back Keshawn King is questionable, according to Pry. He’s been banged up throughout the year but only missed the Wofford game in September. He had just three touches offensively against Miami, his lowest number of the season. Meanwhile, fellow running back Malachi Thomas had 13 rushes and six receptions. Like Garbutt, King also looked good in Monday’s practice.
Wide receiver Stephen Gosnell suffered a head injury at North Carolina but is back practicing like his normal self. Pry said he’s “had a good week of practice” and is probable for the Hokies against the Wolfpack on Thursday night.
A few notes from #Hokies practice today:
– WR Stephen Gosnell (in video below) is back and looks good. Had a head injury in the UNC game on Oct. 1 and hadn’t played since.
– RB Keshawn King and DE TyJuan Garbutt both looked good in practice, too.
– No CB Dorian Strong (hand). pic.twitter.com/WETRX0XbeW
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) October 24, 2022
“He’s a guy that – if he can stay healthy, he’s a guy that I think can continue to grow and give us another threat there,” Pry said of Gosnell.
Being More Creative Offensively
After the loss to Miami, putting Tech at 2-5 overall (1-3 ACC), Pry said the Hokies needed to be “less vanilla” on offense.
The staff spent part of the open week self-scouting and reviewing the first seven games. Coincidentally, the head coach said the offensive unit looked better in preparation for NC State.
“They had a good week,” Pry said. “The offensive skeleton session the other day was real good and one of the better ones we’ve had recently. And Grant [Wells] was throwing well. Good routes, nice snags.”
Pry’s previously said that the identity of that group is to utilize two tight ends, but that hasn’t been successful in 2022. However, the team is trying to find other ways to get the best personnel groupings on the field.
“We’ve tried to be that two-tight end team that we wanted to be at the onset, and run the ball and play-action and be multiple with our tight ends, and it just hasn’t gone like we’ve hoped,” Pry said. “So certainly there’s some things I know when we are playing well against that sort of package, what are some adjustments over the years that offenses have done against us to help move the football. Establish the run, create some explosives.”
Though King’s impact decreased with Thomas’s expanded role in the previous game, rolling out some sets with the running back duo could be a card up offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen’s sleeve in the coming weeks. Tech analyzed what players are on the field at what times during the open week, and both players and coaches have raved about both King and Thomas.
Might the two most explosive players on offense see the field at the same time?
“We’ve talked about everything,” Pry said. “I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag if that is what we’re doing, but they are a nice one-two punch and two of our better players. If one’s not on the field, the other one is, but they can certainly be productive with the ball, and the idea of them being on the field at the same time has certainly been talked about.”