Post-Bowl Breakdown: Starting The Look-Ahead

Malachi Thomas
Malachi Thomas will have a role under Brent Pry. (Ivan Morozov)

I want to spend this off-season looking ahead. I’ve already got a mess of deep-dives into our new coaches’ schemes and philosophies I’m cooking up. Today, we’ll kick off the Pry era by mercifully saving everyone (myself included) from a Pinstripe autopsy. Instead, let’s spotlight some younger players, and players we haven’t seen much of, and take a stab at how they’ll fit into next year’s Hokie squad. (I know the team has barely started a huge roster shakeup, but I’m not going to worry too much about transfer prognostications here. Maybe another time.)

Defense

As we’ll see, Brent Pry’s defense, despite being a base 4-3, is probably more like Bud Foster’s scheme than Justin Hamilton’s was, and in several ways, even more “Bud Classic” than Foster’s late-career defenses. Despite having “Sam” and “Will” linebackers, Pry’s linebackers align by field/boundary rules. That means the Sam is often playing in space, while the will is boxed-in to the boundary. He also likes his linebackers to trigger fast; we’ll see how that works in the RPO/shotgun-heavy ACC, but if it flies, then I expect Keshon Artis to be Tech’s starting Will linebacker next season:

That WLB is often getting into the backfield and tackling runners who’re bending the ball back, so he’ll need to show good lateral agility and reach if that’s his spot. Artis did struggle in coverage, though, and that might be his biggest roadblock, as Pry doesn’t go out of his way to protect his linebackers in coverage the way Foster did.

In the secondary, Pry has run a lot of split-field coverages, usually Cover-2 to the boundary and Cover-4/Quarters to the field. On the Cover-2 side of the defense, a smallish guy who’s got more short-area quickness than long speed can be very successful, provided he’s an enthusiastic tackler:

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