Over the years, the Virginia Tech Hokies have had plenty of walk-ons earn scholarships and make a big impact on the team in some role from current guys like Sam Rogers and Joey Slye to other recent starters like Jack Tyler and Wade Hansen. Walk-ons have always been fan favorites for Virginia Tech fans while also making an impact to help the Hokies win a couple more games.
With that said, here’s a look at three of the top new walk-ons to keep an eye on for the Hokies.
DL/OG Clay Dean
At one point, Clay Dean was an on-scholarship player with the Hokies being his only offer but the coaching change also led to a change in the status of his offer. However, Dean still decided to walk on for the Hokies and now is one of the best walk-ons gets for the Hokies on paper in recent memory as a low three-star recruit.
It’s unlikely that Clay Dean ends up at defensive end though if his best weight is around the 250-255 pounds he’s at right now, defensive end could be his landing spot. Dean may start at defensive tackle for the Hokies but if the Northern Virginia native can get his weight up to around 290, a move to offensive guard seems very possible especially with all three on-scholarship VT offensive lineman projecting for now at offensive tackle.
Dean’s interior versatility likely means that he will start at defensive tackle but with the depth that the Hokies have, a move to offensive guard may happen fairly quickly unless Dean emerges as a better defensive tackle than Jarrod Hewitt. Dean definitely seems to be a walk-on to watch as he is definitely the Hokies best non-specialist walk-on on paper.
DE Tre Hubbard
Former Ocean Lakes pass rusher Tre Hubbard was seen as the top non-specialist walk-on addition for the Hokies till Clay Dean became a walk-on but Hubbard is an intriguing walk-on that could potentially be a two-deep defensive end down the road. Hubbard was a productive pass rusher at Ocean Lakes and while some of that may have been due to the talent on the defense, Hubbard still showed that he might be able to earn himself a scholarship down the road.
Hubbard is listed by 247 Sports at 6’0” and 230 pounds though Hubbard is likely a little smaller than that at least in terms of weight. Hubbard does not have the biggest frame to add weight onto but the fact that he’s already at 230 means that most of his weight room focus may be to see if he can bulk up to around 240 or 245.
Hubbard definitely has the potential to slowly but steadily climb the depth chart and eventually work his way into the two-deep before he graduates, in part due to how the Hokies only brought in one on-scholarship defensive end this past cycle in Jimmie Taylor.
If Hubbard doesn’t end up touching the field much in Blacksburg, he has still already made an impact as basically a Virginia Tech hype man especially on Twitter as arguably Virginia Tech’s most relentless player recruiter of fellow 757 athletes.
P Brandon Nickle
Brandon Nickle was seen by some top authorities on high school kicking as one of the top punters in the nation and chose the Hokies over multiple other big offers including Tennessee and Oklahoma State. Now, Nickle enters a battle for the starting punting job with Mitchell Ludwig being the heavy favorite but don’t rule out Nickle surprising Ludwig, taking the starting job, and quickly earning a scholarship as Joey Slye did as a freshman.
Despite Ludwig having an edge, this may be one of the most intriguing position battles of the fall with Nickle potentially having an additional edge as being the future at punter for the Hokies. If Nickle shows a lot of promise early in the fall, there’s a chance James Shibest could go with him quickly knowing that Nickle has the bigger upside.
Nickle could also end up redshirting this fall if Ludwig wins the job as most expect but Nickle may also be able to push for the job next spring also before Ludwig’s final season in Blacksburg. No matter what, the two things that seem certain are that Nickle will be ready to push Ludwig this fall, and that he is the future at the punter spot especially in 2018 and beyond.