The First Bank & Trust Friday Q&A: Balancing The Present With The Future

Virginia Tech
Will Johnson has been elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart at Mike. (Ivan Morozov)

1) When or what is your threshold for playing this year for the next year(s)? There are approximately 20 odd seniors or redshirt seniors in our contributing rotation right now. They won’t be helping you much if any in 2023 or beyond… (defense in particular is set to depart a bunch of experience one way or the other). Or in other words, if you think ’22 tastes bad so far; and it has, how do you think ’23 and ’24 will taste if you do not ‘player develop’ them, now? – bourbonstreet

Chris Coleman: Good, fair question. However, I’d like to point out that many of those seniors have a year of eligibility left due to COVID. Justin Fuente didn’t count 2020 when he filled out the roster last year, but Brent Pry did. Thus, a guy like Norell Pollard was listed as a true sophomore in 2021, and now he’s listed as a senior in 2022. The reality is that he’s in his fourth year in the program, but he’s eligible to play another season in 2023.

Here is Tech’s starting lineup…

Of those players, Kaleb Smith, Nick Gallo, Norell Pollard, Mario Kendricks, Nasir Peoples and Armani Chatman are eligible to play another season in 2023. Silas Dzansi, Johnny Jordan, Jaylen Griffin, TyJuan Garbutt, Dax Hollifield and Chamarri Conner are using their extra year in 2022 and can’t come back next season.

Other seniors eligible to return for another season are DE Pheldarius Payne (injured and out for the season in 2022), LB Keshon Artis, LB Alan Tisdale, DE Eli Adams and CB Brion Murray. I sort of doubt we’ll see any of those guys back. Artis recently got demoted to third string at Mike, Tisdale is currently ineligible and the young linebackers have talent, and Adams is behind a bunch of freshmen on the depth chart at end. I don’t know what Payne is thinking.

However, it’s certainly possible that we could see guys like Smith, Gallo, Pollard, Kendricks, Peoples and Chatman return next season since they are almost guaranteed to be starters. After all, guys like Garbutt, Griffin, Dax, Conner, Dzansi, Jordan and Blumrick decided to play a sixth season this year while in similar situations. When you consider that, the Hokies probably won’t be losing as many starters as that starting lineup makes it appear.

Still, it’s a good question. You always strive to strike the right balance when you’re a new head coach. Yeah, you want to develop for the future, but you also want to instill the right culture. So for example, benching Dax Hollifield – who was voted a team captain by his teammates – to give a redshirt freshman like Will Johnson a bunch of snaps at Mike linebacker wouldn’t be a popular decision. In fact, it would be a bad decision from a cultural aspect.