The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: Position Changes, Talent Level, And More

Virginia Tech
Jaden Keller is a young player that has excited the Virginia Tech coaches. (Ivan Morozov)

1) I’ll ask you what I asked the board. Are Brent Pry and the coaches pleasantly surprised by the talent level at Virginia Tech? Is it about where they expected it to be? Or is it below what they expected? Have you all heard anything about their thought? This can obviously be looked at by groupings as well and not the team as a whole. – 3DKeyShaker

Chris Coleman: I haven’t heard anything specifically. I suspect they have different thoughts about different positions, of course.

I’ve shared this before, but I’ll do it again and use it as a comparison. I remember after the 2016 season when I was told by a Virginia Tech staff member that Justin Fuente thought 25% of his roster that year was not ACC-caliber. I agreed then, and I still agree looking back nearly six years later.

Justin Fuente’s team was blessed with a lot of star power. They had a very good quarterback in Jerod Evans, three excellent receivers in Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges, a future All-Pro offensive guard in Wyatt Teller, a future NFL offensive tackle in Yosh Nijman, and Sam Rogers at H-back. Defensively, they had two future first round picks in the Edmunds brothers, Tim Settle at defensive tackle, a very good defensive end in Ken Ekanem, and three future NFL cornerbacks in Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander. They even had a future NFL starting kicker in Joey Slye. They were loaded in terms of star power.

However, that team didn’t have much depth at a lot of positions. Take wide receiver for example. The Hokies had to fill out their two-deep at wideout with guys like this…

Jaylen Bradshaw: 3 catches, 25 yards
Devin Wilson: 2 catches, 13 yards
Divine Deablo: 1 catch, 8 yards
Eric Kumah: 0 catches

Tech was forced to use a wing from the basketball team and a future starting safety (and NFL linebacker) to fill out their depth chart that year. True freshman Eric Kumah had to play 55 snaps that year, and he didn’t catch a single pass. If somebody like Ford or Phillips had gone down with an injury that year, the Hokies would have been in a world of hurt.

The 2022 Hokies don’t have the star power of the 2016 Hokies at wide receiver. At least, we don’t think they do. It’s possible that someone could step up. However, I do think the backup receivers on this team, while young, are in a better spot than the backups were in 2016. A guy like Jaylen Jones, in my opinion, is better than any backup Virginia Tech put on the field in 2016. Likewise, I probably feel better about Stephen Gosnell than I felt about any backup outside receiver in Fuente’s first year.

Click here for a depth chart that we posted on TSL before the 2016 Liberty game, which was Justin Fuente’s first game as a head coach. Some of the names in the two-deep that stand out to me as not being ACC-caliber players:

TE Xavier Burke
WR Jaylen Bradshaw
WR Divine Deablo (certainly ACC and NFL caliber, but not as a WR)
LG Colt Pettit
DE Seth Dooley
LB Sean Huelskamp (walk-on)
LB Jamieon Moss
CB Curtis Williams (walk-on)
CB Tyree Rodgers

The Hokies were top-heavy in talent that year, but the roster also featured a number of guys who weren’t able to help the team long-term in the ACC.

I think 2022 is the direct opposite. I see plenty of guys who are ACC-caliber,