2017 Virginia Tech Open Spring Practice Defense Notes

Not a lot of starting position battles on the VT defense. [Credit: Harley Taylor]
The Virginia Tech Hokies opened up one of their spring practices to the media this past week, giving up some insight into the Hokies’ spring depth chart with our offensive notes right here. Now, let’s take a look at how the Hokies’ defensive depth chart is looking this spring.

Defensive End

With starting DEs Vinny Mihota and Trevon Hill both out this spring due to injury and top backup Houshun Gaines not practicing either due to academic issues, the Hokies have some serious spring depth issues with none of their defensive end commits being early enrollees, leading to Emmanuel Belmar, Xavier Burke, and Raymon Minor all moving to DE with Jimmie Taylor staying at DE instead of moving to DT.

In practice, we saw that of those four defensive ends, Belmar and Burke were the top two followed by Taylor and Minor which is definitely surprising given how Taylor came in as a DE.

Even though talk of Taylor moving inside has been around for months with Taylor likely getting some DT reps also, the fact that Taylor is a second-string DE for this spring behind a converted LB and a converted TE is definitely not a good sign for Taylor. Taylor currently does not have the size to play DT either and with Taylor already behind Belmar and Burke on the DE depth chart, you have to start wondering if Taylor will really be able to earn playing time at some point especially with the talented group of 2017 DEs.

Meanwhile, Belmar and Burke are off to strong starts with both players likely to battle each other heavily to try to earn a spot in the two-deep next fall. Belmar’s move to DE made a lot of sense while Burke’s move from TE to DE definitely goes down as being unconventional but early on, it appears that Virginia Tech may have seen something that many people likely could not have seen. Meanwhile, Raymon Minor is continuing to try to find a way to earn playing time after briefly leaving the football program last fall with Minor currently being a spring second team DE.

Defensive Tackle

There are no surprises at defensive tackle with the single-digit duo of Tim Settle and Ricky Walker at the top of the depth chart followed by Darius Fullwood and Jarrod Hewitt. This is likely a preview of the likely defensive tackle rotation next fall with Settle and Walker at the top followed by Fullwood and Hewitt though J’Bril Glaze and possibly Robert Porcher IV (if he ends up at DT) could challenge Fullwood and Hewitt for a spot in the two-deep.

Walker and Settle both are extremely talented and gained lots of experience this past season with Walker making a few starts and Settle getting a fairly extensive amount of playing time. The sky seems to be the limit for this duo of DTs that has the potential to be the best in the ACC while the Hokies will definitely need Fullwood and Hewitt to step up this spring and develop into capable backup DTs to provide some rest and be ready in case of injury.

Linebacker

At linebacker, there are no surprises with Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds at the top at the mike and backer spots as they deserve to be as two of the ACC’s top returning linebackers. Behind those guys are Anthony Shegog and Tavante Beckett with Shegog working at backer and Beckett working at mike LB.

Beckett may be the mike linebacker of the future and while Beckett is definitely undersized, that is completely okay in Bud Foster’s defense with Beckett being known by his high school tape for having a great work ethic and very good instincts. Moving Beckett to the mike spot made a lot of sense as he seems more of a natural fit there even if he is a little undersized. Meanwhile, Shegog getting reps at the backer spots definitely helps the Hokies improve their depth and versatility especially with it seeming tricky for Shegog to earn a starting spot with VT shifting more to a 4-2-5 with Mook being more of DB version of the whip LB spot.

Secondary

Terrell Edmunds made the move from rover to free safety this spring and has Divine Deablo as his backup with coaches letting him be right behind Edmunds on some defensive drills to allow him to watch Edmunds in his role at free safety to help with his development. Bud Foster definitely seems quite high on Deablo’s potential at free safety and with Deon Newsome taking reps at rover and the nickelwhip, it seems like Deablo is in position to be next up at FS after Edmunds should he be able to develops Foster hopes.

Cornerbacks were hard to get a read as cornerbacks didn’t participate in anything that would make a “depth chart” at that spot seem clear, but one interesting note is that Khalil Ladler has seemed to move to safety, likely at rover or nickelwhip while Deon Newsome is also taking reps at those spots. For now, it appears that both Newsome and Ladler are ahead of Reggie Floyd though Floyd also got some reps with the first team in those drills and it seems that Newsome, Ladler, and Floyd are all very close at this point.

However, it also definitely seems like Devon Hunter will have a tremendous opportunity to come in over the summer and win the starting rover job while Mook Reynolds will be ready to go over the summer to be the Hokies’ nickelwhip. For now though; Ladler, Newsome, and Floyd will all be jockeying for the best position to be the top competition for Hunter and try to beat out the talented four-star signee for the starting rover job.

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