2022 Virginia Tech Football Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Tackle

2022 Virginia Tech Football Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Tackle
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Jul 29, 2022

Our position previews ahead of the first fall camp for the Brent Pry era of Virginia Tech football continues at defensive tackle where the Hokies return most of their DT rotation with some intriguing young talent backing their talented trio up.

With that said, here's our DT preview along with the rest of our position previews.

Projected DT Depth Chart Entering Fall Camp

  1. Norell Pollard, Mario Kendricks OR Josh Fuga
  2. Mario Kendricks OR Josh Fuga, Wilfried Pene
  3. Gunner Givens, Desmond Mamudi
  4. Lemar Law Jr, Malachi Madison, Maxx Philpott

Norell Pollard appears poised to lead Tech's talented trio who will all play a ton with Mario Kendricks and Josh Fuga also battling for a second starting spot. Regardless, expect all three to once again have significant reps in a regular rotation where Tech may go with the hot hand at times among the trio.

Wilfried Pene has the experience advantage but Gunner Givens, who was expected to be an offensive tackle, surprisingly started out at DT and looked pretty good in the Spring Game to the point where it's reasonable to believe he can compete for the 4th DT job against Wilfried Pene. Meanwhile, there's more youth behind that trio that may also be involved including Desmond Mamudi plus true freshmen Lemar Law Jr and Malachi Madison.

Here's a look at some of the major DT storylines.

Florida Duo Continues to Lead The Way

Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks have helped lead the way at defensive tackle for years with those 2 poised to continue to be major players at DT led by the talented Pollard who has been the best to date among himself, Kendricks, and Josh Fuga who all came to Blacksburg in the same class.

Over the course of his three seasons in Blacksburg, Pollard has been a steady, solid starter for the Hokies with 79 tackles including 11.5 for loss with 6.5 sacks plus 3 forced fumbles (2 of which he had last year) and 2 pass deflections from 2021.

His Spring Game performance showed signs that he may be ready to make the jump from quality starter to All-ACC caliber player on the interior of the defensive line as he had 3 tackles including a sack while he also almost had another sack on a touchdown pass that I think Pollard had a strong case for a sack. Regardless, his performance was impressive all around and not only passed the stat test but also the pure eye test.

His solid experience combined with his strong Spring Game are why I expect Pollard to be the lead DT among Tech's veteran trio to start the season.

Meanwhile, Mario Kendricks dealt with injuries that affected his production last season but still has 2.5 years of regular playing time for the Hokies at DT including 7.5 tackles for loss with 4.5 sacks during that time period.

Kendricks has plenty of talent and should have a significant role even if he is the "third" DT and not a formal starter coming off injuries with Pollard leading the way and Josh Fuga showing loads of potential.

A Josh Fuga Breakout

Josh Fuga has steadily worked his way up the depth chart over the course of his time in Blacksburg, but was still behind the lead duo of Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks last season in many cases.

Now, Fuga seems not only poised to potentially jump Kendricks and be part of Tech's main DT duo (though all three will receive tons of reps in rotation as they have for a while), but also could be poised for a breakout season.

After 21 tackles including 0.5 for loss last season, Fuga has continued to take major steps forward by all accounts especially from Brent Pry and his staff with Fuga being given a "most improved" award for his performance in spring practice.

Fuga had 2 tackles in the Spring Game where he received that award, but

Fuga always felt like the DT who had the most upside among the trio he arrived with given his prototypical size for the position at 6'2'' and 308 pounds. He may not be nearly as big as Tim Settle, but Tech hasn't had a lot of defensive tackles who are 300 pounds. When they have though, there's usually a good track record of success.

Could Josh Fuga be poised to not only become a full-time starter for Tech this year, but also have a breakout year coming off an impressive spring? Early indicators back that up as a strong possibility.

The Youth Battle Farther Down The Depth Chart

Behind the top 3 is another fascinating competition for the 4th defensive tackle job with a surprise true freshman in the middle of the battle for that spot, Gunner Givens.

Givens' background is a fascinating one having played defensive end and tight end in high school, but his impressive size and athleticism he has led to everyone expecting him to play offensive tackle in college. Tech gave him a chance on the defensive line along with Braelin Moore instead of starting them out on the offensive line as most expected.

While Braelin Moore moved to offensive guard after the spring, Givens was better than almost anyone expected at defensive tackle having a sack in the Spring Game while constantly looking the part of a talented DT prospect. Of course, Givens could end up at offensive tackle in the long haul still but right now, Givens looks like he

Meanwhile, Wifried Pene has only been playing football for a few years and defensive tackle for just under a year, but has shown loads of promise at defensive tackle. He had 18 tackles in limited action last season before having a strong spring with Brent Pry having plenty of praise for Pene at the end of it.

Pene is such a fascinating, raw talent that Tech has been able to mold at the DT spot and has plenty of solid athletic tools that support beliefs that he has his loads of upside and can grow as a productive

Right now, Pene is the favorite over Givens for the fourth DT spot, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Givens get some action at defensive tackle though we'll see if Givens can build on what he did this spring or if not, if a move to the offensive line would be in the offing.

Desmond Mamudi is an unknown in all this after injuries caused him to be out for his freshman season and could be a wild card. Additionally, Tech has two more true freshman arriving this summer in Lemar Law Jr and Malachi Madison with both having good size for incoming DTs. Maxx Philpott is a former walk-on who has some experience who could also be a sleeper to work his way into some playing time if injuries pop up around the top of the depth chart.