Virginia Tech Recruiting Class Scouting Report: Defensive Line

Virginia Tech, Gunner Givens
Will Virginia Tech freshman Gunner Givens stay on the defensive line? (Jon Fleming)

Virginia Tech largely held on to what I think is a promising defensive line group after the coaching change, with only Rashaud Pernell gone for what appear to be behavioral reasons. That the Hokies could do this is probably a testament to JC Price’s ability to build relationships. I like the athleticism and potential of all the Hokies’ DL signees, and in terms of depth and talent, they might be the best haul of the recruiting class. I’m excited to see who gets early snaps this season.

Gunner Givens
6’5, 270
Daleville, VA
Lord Botetourt High

Givens was introduced to Hokie fans as a must-get blue chipper Tech needed to wrest away from Nick Saban and the like. Then he came down to earth a little as clips of him getting worked in camps were released, and it seemed uncertain what position he would play. As a blocker, there’s a lot of grabbing and slinging, and a lot of him bulldogging guys after the whistle, along with the usual drive-block pancakes on hapless safeties and OLBs. I’d be a hypocrite to criticize dirty play, but “fun” in high school usually equals “dumb” in college, and he won’t get away with that stuff at Tech.

I also wonder if he was wasted a little bit blocking low-threat defenders in the second level. He was also split wide some, but he didn’t have a ton of catches on his reel from either in the box or on the edge. The highlights weren’t much help, so I went to a full-game recording of a game against Blacksburg. In summation, the Bruins couldn’t stop him. He caved in the backside of running plays, and was unblockable as a pass-rusher, where his inside move blew past people. Sometimes he’d set it up with a deke outside, but most of the time he just streaked by whoever blocked him. Double-teams didn’t even stop him. You could hear the right guard sigh with relief whenever Givens subbed out.

(Editor’s note: Blacksburg went 0-9 and was outscored 332-73 on the season.)

Givens’ tendency to play late bit him this game, as he got tagged with a roughing call that bailed Blacksburg out of a bad situation. It also showed why he was looked at as an offensive lineman, as he was nasty and quick, but he didn’t have the pursuit speed you see in big-time defensive linemen.

I also watched clips of Lord Botetourt getting fed into the woodchipper of Riverheads, which has basically locked down the I-81 corridor for the past five years. Riverheads runs a Wing-T scheme, which meant Givens spent a lot of time getting pinned inside so that pullers could go around him. He wasn’t exactly knocked around, but he didn’t distinguish himself, either. Speaking of pullers, I didn’t see him dealing with any, so that’s a big question mark.

Relative to the rest of his team, at least on defense, there was a huge drop from him to everyone else on the squad, to the point some offenses only moved the ball when he was taking a breather. If he stays with the defense, I see him as a Vinny Mihota type at defensive end, though my gut tells me he’ll grow into a DT if JC Price keeps him.

(Editor’s note: Givens moved from DE to DT halfway through the spring, though his future position isn’t 100% set in stone.)