Hokies Football Preview: Change At Safety for Virginia Tech Led By Chuck Clark

The position-by-position part of our 2015 Virginia Tech Football Preview has reached its conclusion with a look at the safeties. Safety is a spot of significant change after the Hokies saw both Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner leave due to graduation and Jarrett be drafted by the Washington Redskins.

The Hokies have moved a few players around among the defensive backs and while Donovan Riley seems very likely to move back to cornerback if he doesn’t win the rover job, we still have him here for now. Adonis Alexander also profiles more as a rover than a cornerback though he is still on the outside for now.

Early Fall Safety Depth Chart

Free Safety

  1. Chuck Clark
  2. Terrell Edmunds
  3. Jahque Alleyne
  4. Greg Jones

Rover

  1. Desmond Frye
  2. Donovan Riley
  3. Der’Woun Greene

When talking about Virginia Tech’s safeties, the conversation starts with Chuck Clark. Clark made the transition from free safety to cornerback last season with the Hokies looking to find a way to get the talented Clark on the field with Detrick Bonner entrenched in the starting free safety spot.

At cornerback, Clark was able to make plays all over the field and started in 11 of his 13 games on his way to having 73 tackles, 8.5 total tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 11 pass breakups. Clark developed more in man-to-man coverage which is valuable in Bud Foster’s system whether you are at cornerback or safety.

Clark proved to be a talented, versatile defensive back, but his above-average run defense skills along with his great zone coverage and ball hawking skills still always made him a better long-term fit at free safety. Now, Clark has made the move back to free safety with Bonner gone and Brandon Facyson healthy.

Clark’s experience also makes him someone that can provide veteran leadership in the middle of the field. Clark is an ideal fit at free safety with his high-end zone coverage and ball hawking skills along with being a very good run defender for a safety, and a big upgrade in man coverage compared to Bonner.

Chuck Clark is very talented and no one should be surprised if he finds a way to at least earn All-ACC Third Team or Honorable Mention status after the season.

Meanwhile, the rover spot has become open again due to the dismissal of C.J Reavis from Virginia Tech. There are multiple players competing for the rover spot, but it seems like it has become a two-man battle between Desmond Frye and Donovan Riley.

Desmond Frye seems to have emerged as the frontrunner for the rover job. Frye was the backup at free safety for the beginning of last season till injuries derailed his season, but he has received a medical redshirt and has two years of eligibility left.

Frye has ideal size for the position at 6’2” and 200 pounds while also showing a great work ethic in his recovery, and in getting stronger on his way to earning Iron Hokie honors this offseason. Frye also has a good understanding of the defense from the safety position even if most of his time has been spent at free safety and not rover.

Meanwhile, Donovan Riley is trying to make the transition from cornerback to rover with the strong possibility that he moves back to that spot if he doesn’t win the job. Riley was used in the rover spot during some games last season, and the Hokies clearly feel confident that he may be able to become the full-time rover this fall.

Riley is not a great run defender, but he does seem solid after having 53 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble last season. However, Riley would be an above-average man coverage rover after proving his quality man coverage skills last season with 2 interceptions and 2 pass breakups.

Donovan Riley will likely receive a lot of playing time no matter what whether he ends up being the starting rover or ends up moving back to the outside and is the nickel cornerback. Frye likely will have a large role on special teams if he doesn’t win the job, and still may play a lot on special teams even if he does get the job.

This battle will be close throughout the next few weeks, and is definitely the most intriguing position battle.

Terrell Edmunds has made the shift from cornerback to safety after having a very good spring where he showed solid man and zone coverage skills. Edmunds is still a young player and projects to be a quality contributor during his time in Blacksburg.

Edmunds also may have a shot at winning the rover job, but seems more likely to be a backup. Edmunds did make the two-deep as the backup free safety behind Chuck Clark though whoever doesn’t win the rover job likely will be the real top backup for Clark. However, Edmunds could be the future starting free safety after Clark’s time in Blacksburg ends.

Edmunds has a bright future, but his time to shine hasn’t come just yet.

Der’Woun Greene hasn’t received much talk over the last several months, but Greene does provide some quality depth for the Hokies in the secondary. Jahque Alleyne just arrived on campus after finishing up a summer school course, and seems likely to be redshirted while Greg Jones has been with the team for a few years and could be a guy to play some special teams.

Projected Safety Depth Chart vs. OSU

Free Safety

  1. Chuck Clark
  2. Terrell Edmunds
  3. Jahque Alleyne
  4. Greg Jones

Rover

  1. Donovan Riley
  2. Desmond Frye
  3. Der’Woun Greene

The Donovan Riley and Desmond Frye may go throughout the season, but the fact that Riley has more experience and is better in man coverage will make a difference. However, this battle between Frye and Riley likely will be back and forth while the Hokies have a really good certainty in free safety Chuck Clark.

Check out the rest of our 2015 Virginia Tech Football Preview right here.

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