Virginia Tech Position Review And Look-Ahead: Defensive Line

Virginia Tech
TyJuan Garbutt was arguably Virginia Tech’s most consistent defensive end in 2018. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech’s defensive line did not perform at a very good level in 2018, and most of that is probably because of injuries and youth. The Hokies will lose Ricky Walker at defensive tackle, but they will bring in JUCO reinforcements, and one rising redshirt sophomore defensive end showed major progress this past season.

Defensive Ends: TyJuan Garbutt Tech’s Most Consistent DE

Trevon Hill was Virginia Tech’s highest-grading defensive end this year per Pro Football Focus, but he was only on the team for three games. After that, redshirt freshman defensive end TyJuan Garbutt narrowly edged out redshirt junior defensive end Houshun Gaines as Tech’s best defensive end.

Note: as always, we don’t endorse Pro Football Focus as the be-all, end-all of player grading. However, they are an excellent independent resource, and we do believe that they are an accurate reference point when trying to determine how well a player performed.

Here are the overall grades for Tech’s defensive ends per PFF, throwing out Trevon Hill…

TyJuan Garbutt (r-Fr.): 64.6
Houshun Gaines (r-Jr.): 63.9
Emmanuel Belmar (r-So.): 59.6
Nathan Proctor (r-Fr.): 53.9
Zion DeBose (r-Fr.): 51.9

Newsflash: None of those grades are particularly good, and in fact Houshun Gaines and Emmanuel Belmar posted slightly lower grades this year than they did in 2017. However, Garbutt’s grade as a redshirt freshman is encouraging, and it compares favorably to Trevon Hill’s grade as a redshirt freshman in 2016.

  • Trevon Hill in 2016: 63.1
  • TyJuan Garbutt in 2018: 64.6

Garbutt actually graded out slightly higher as a redshirt freshman than Trevon Hill did back in 2016. Garbutt achieved his score by being a relatively strong player against the run.

Run defense grade: 71.8
Pass rush grade: 51.9

Garbutt made virtually no impact against the pass, but he was a solid run defender, posting the second-best run defense grade of any player on the defensive line, behind only Ricky Walker. Another impressive note about Garbutt: in 429 defensive snaps, he did not commit a single penalty. He didn’t end the season strong, because of his inability to handle the quarterback on the read option against Cincinnati, but on the whole he played well for a guy his age.

I think my favorite thing about Garbutt is his willingness to be physical. He still needs to get bigger and stronger, as most freshmen do, but having that willingness to get nasty is half the battle. It’s a little odd, but maybe my favorite play by Garbutt all year came on a long run by Pitt. Watch this play…

Garbutt’s job on this play is to crash down inside and take on Pitt fullback George Alton, who is a big, physical lead blocker, and a 22-year old redshirt senior who had spent five years in a strength and conditioning program at the ACC level. Garbutt stands him up, and the play should have been stopped by Reggie Floyd, but Floyd bit on Pitt’s rocket motion.

I’m happy with Garbutt’s development. Now we need to see development from fellow 2017 class members Zion DeBose and Nathan Proctor. I believe the upperclassmen have peaked and are what they are. Virginia Tech needs those young guys to make jumps.

Houshun Gaines’ grade of 63.9 is mediocre (and that’s being nice) for a guy his age, but probably the biggest liability at defensive end was Emmanuel Belmar. He