Hokies Football: Should Melvin Keihn Make a Position Change?

Summer has arrived for the Virginia Tech Hokies as many players are taking summer classes now before fall practice kicks into gear in August. Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech coaches have been working to build their recruiting class for 2016.

New players are arriving and even with the ACL tear that will cause DE Trevon Hill to miss the 2015 season, the Hokies are gaining some depth at defensive end in Darius Fullwood and Houshun Gaines. Entering the fall, Melvin Keihn is the fourth defensive end behind starters Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem, and backup Seth Dooley who had a very impressive spring.

Keihn has been seen as an undersized player at 6’1” and 211 pounds, but the Maryland native is almost all muscle and may not be able to add much more weight. Keihn also was originally projected to be an outside linebacker coming out of high school, which raises one question.

Should the Hokies move Keihn from defensive end to whip linebacker?

Part of the reasoning for keeping Keihn at defensive end is the fact that the Hokies only have four returning scholarship players. That could change if the Hokies move Vincent Mihota to defensive end, which may also push Keihn farther down the depth chart at defensive end.

Melvin Keihn has received some very high comparisons to Corey Moore from Virginia Tech coaches, but not all comparisons don’t end up coming true and Keihn is smaller than Moore. However, Keihn does have above-average speed for the defensive end position along with some good edge rushing skills and a very good work ethic.

Keihn has also become primarily a pass rusher, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t shift back to playing linebacker and playing in coverage some. Keihn has likely done some work in pass coverage in practice following the example of Dadi Nicolas who was used in zone coverage on some plays last season.

Keihn has the skill set that fits the whip linebacker position fairly well, especially with his previous experience at linebacker. Keihn’s size would not be an issue at the whip linebacker spot with Holland Fisher being 30 pounds lighter than Keihn at the same position.

In high school and the Under Armour All-America Game, Keihn showed some very good run defending skills at the linebacker spot. Keihn has the quickness and agility to close up some holes before the opposing running back would have expected.

The biggest concern with Melvin Keihn is that his man coverage skills are below-average for the whip linebacker position. Last season’s starting whip linebacker Derek DiNardo was used a lot in man coverage, and that is likely to continue with future whip linebackers as supported by the move of Holland Fisher to that spot.

Keihn has the speed to stay up with a lot of players that he would cover, but you still have to wonder whether he can develop the necessary pass coverage skills, man and zone defense, to be reliable and an every-down player at whip linebacker.

With the athleticism, speed, and work ethic Keihn has, he should be able to become a decent pass coverage whip linebacker with above-average skills in the box as a run defender or edge rusher on blitzes.

The Hokies have the depth they need at defensive end coming to the program. Melvin Keihn’s athletic skills and work ethic should allow him to make the transition to whip linebacker, but that decision is up to Bud Foster and the defensive coaching staff.

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