Ahead of the start of spring practice, backup tight end Kalvin Cline made the decision to stay at Virginia Tech for the rest of the semester to finish his degree and then transfer to Texas A&M. The departure of Cline has now created an intriguing vacancy at tight end behind Bucky Hodges who seems likely to leave for the NFL Draft after next season as long as he has as good of a season as expected.
With Cline’s departure, the door has opened for someone to take the backup tight end job with the most intriguing contender being former quarterback Chris Durkin.
Durkin started the season battling Dwayne Lawson for the number three spot on the depth chart, but with Lawson being the future over Durkin at that point, the Hokies decided to begin moving Durkin from quarterback to tight end. Durkin didn’t make a complete position change during the season due to injury concerns after Michael Brewer suffered an injury against Ohio State and Brenden Motley took his fair share of hits while filling in for Brewer.
With the season over and the Hokies having brought reinforcements at quarterback, Durkin’s move to tight end is now permanent and the former quarterback has been energized by the position shift.
Durkin enters the spring in a three-man battle for the backup tight end spot with Xavier Burke and Chris Cunningham who both redshirted this past season. There is a good chance that this battle will last for over the next year with Burke, Cunningham, and Durkin all knowing that whoever can make it to the backup spot on the two-deep this fall will have a great chance to be the replacement for Bucky Hodges if he leaves after next season.
Durkin has fairly good size at 6’4” along with time to add a lot more muscle to his 222-pound frame along with having a decent amount of speed and athleticism that will translate well to the tight end spot. Durkin might not be nearly as athletic as Hodges, but the redshirt sophomore tight end definitely has a lot of upside.
Compared to Burke and Cunningham, Chris Durkin will likely be a lot better as a pass catcher than as a blocker similar to how Hodges was, but a quick development in his blocking skills would be a great sign for the work ethic Durkin is showing.
However, Durkin may also get a few reps as a running back potentially though his speed and athleticism makes him a much better fit for the tight end spot. Durkin also may get some reps at the quarterback spot even if Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen decide to run some sort of “Wild Turkey” playbook within the new offense.
Chris Durkin is rejuvenated and ready to go in what has the making to be one of the closer, more intense position battles of the spring with three players eager to take advantage of the opportunity that has opened up with Kalvin Cline leaving and no Class of 2016 tight ends signing with the Hokies.