On Friday, Hokie Nation received some surprising and disappointing news as the Roanoke Times broke the story that soon-to-be sophomore C.J. Reavis was no longer enrolled at Virginia Tech after a student conduct hearing.
Reavis had a very strong spring that had earned him the starting rover job, but now that position is back over with multiple players ready to compete for that job, especially if Chuck Clark moves back to free safety as many expect.
Donovan Riley did not have the best spring at the rover position and seemed headed for a move back to cornerback with Clark moving to free safety. Now, Riley is the favorite to take the rover job though he could be used some as a nickel cornerback with another safety coming in to take the rover spot if Riley were to earn the starting rover job.
Riley would be an above-average man coverage rover, which is an ideal fit for a Bud Foster defense that runs a lot of man coverage even with his safeties. Riley also is a good open-field tackler and will bring much of the same toughness and aggressiveness that Kyshoen Jarrett gave the Hokies.
However, the fact that Riley was passed by Reavis could not only have been a sign of Reavis’s talent, but also of how Riley isn’t a good fit at rover. Riley is far from a guarantee to earn the starting rover job, but is definitely the favorite with the departure of Reavis.
Desmond Frye could be the frontrunner to be the starting free safety if Chuck Clark stays at cornerback, but Frye will likely battle for the rover job with Clark likely moving to free safety. Frye has above-average size for a safety and has been slowly working his way up the depth chart to position himself for this type of opportunity.
Frye is definitely a tough, hard working player on the field as someone that has played a lot on special teams. Frye likely would have played more in 2014 if it wasn’t for his injury that forced to take a medical redshirt, but his experience in the system could be valuable.
Anthony Shegog made one start for the Hokies this past season, but has not played many snaps for the Hokies. Shegog is built to be a rover and after Reavis moved ahead of him this spring, it seemed like Shegog’s chances of starting at rover for the Hokies were gone. However, Shegog will be ready to take advantage of a second opportunity.
Shegog is almost built like an outside linebacker and is best in run defense when he can play near the line of scrimmage. Shegog isn’t great in man coverage and was exposed a couple of times last season in the Military Bowl. If Shegog is going to earn the starting rover job, he will need to improve his man coverage a lot.
Adonis Alexander showed a lot of upside this spring, and is definitely the rover of the future with C.J. Reavis no longer enrolled at Virginia Tech. Alexander’s size and athleticism have drawn comparisons to another very good rover, Kam Chancellor. Alexander worked some at cornerback this spring, but expect Alexander to work primarily at rover with Reavis no longer on the team.
Alexander is still a work-in-progress in man coverage, but his work at cornerback this spring definitely helped him make some improvement. Alexander also has the frame to add some more weight, but he has already shown that he is a solid tackler and can be a fairly effective player in the box. Alexander is probably the longshot of the group, but the freshman has made a lot of progress quickly and is definitely the rover of the future.
Right now, my prediction is that Donovan Riley will be the starting rover, but the senior defensive back should expect some tough competition from Desmond Frye, Anthony Shegog, and Adonis Alexander to replace C.J. Reavis.