Seven true freshmen enrolled at Virginia Tech in January. They have taken part in winter workouts, they will get a leg up on their fellow true freshmen by going through spring practice, and some will compete for playing time come August.
I don’t think it’s any secret that true freshmen who enroll early put themselves in a better position to earn playing time than those who arrive in the summer. Sure, guys like Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips were able to come in and start from day one despite not enrolling early, but those who get in that extra semester have an advantage in several areas…
1: Extra strength and conditioning time with Mike Gentry and his staff.
2: An early jump on learning the playbook.
3: An early jump on adjusting to the speed of the game.
4: Earlier adjustment to college life than the other freshmen.
All four of those things are very important. Some guys can be slow to pick up the playbook. Some aren’t physically strong enough. It takes some folks time to adjust to the speed of the game. For others, the jump from high school academics to college courses can be difficult. Getting a head start in January can be very important to a player’s development, and it gives him a better chance to compete for early playing time.
Let’s take a quick look at the seven players who enrolled early, and assess their chances of playing this year.
Adonis Alexander, S, 6-3, 193: I’ve heard that Alexander has impressed early on, particularly with his testing in the vertical jump. The coaches really like his blend of size and athletic ability. He has a tremendous frame that can certainly be developed by Mike Gentry. With Tech’s depth at safety, I think it’s likely that Alexander redshirts, but he could potentially help on special teams if he can get strong enough. We’ll have a full scouting report on him next week.
Xavier Burke, TE, 6-4, 250: Burke originally signed with Tech in 2014. He went to prep school for a semester, got himself qualified, and enrolled a semester early. He has good size already, and Bryan Stinespring likes his hands and his ability to move his feet. The Hokies have plenty of tight ends, barring injury, so right now it looks as if Burke is slated for a redshirt year. He’ll get plenty of work with the #3 offense this spring.
Austin Clark, OT, 6-6, 297: Clark has prototypical offensive tackle size. His 4-star rating means that fans automatically look at him as a guy who could potentially play this year. With Tech’s depth up front, that’s possible, and going through spring workouts certainly give him a better chance. Personally, I hope he can redshirt, however that might not be possible. He’s one of the guys to keep an eye on this spring.
Carson Lydon, LB, 6-1, 231: Lydon has a great mentality, and he’s impressed the coaching staff with his willingness to work hard and put in extra film work in just his first semester on campus. He had a great week in 6am workouts, earning a t-shirt on four of the five days. The Hokies don’t have much depth at linebacker, especially the mike position. I fully expect Lydon to put himself in a position to play as a true freshman this year. By the end of spring, I think he has a good chance to be the #2 mike.
Yosuah Nijman, DE, 6-7, 268: Right now, Nijman is expected to play defensive end I believe. It’s hard to say where he’ll end up long-term because of his huge frame, but Charley Wiles certainly has a need at end this year. Nijman had a great week of 6am workouts, earning a t-shirt on all five days. It’s nice to see another true freshman who arrived already knowing how to work. I’m sure his time at Fork Union helped him in that regard. In fact, I heard he was the only player on the team to go 5-of-5. That’s...
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