The rebuild is on for Virginia Tech and that's meant a decent amount of true freshmen playing this season for the Hokies. Injuries to multiple starters have also pushed some of these freshmen into bigger roles including this past week in VT's 35-16 loss at Rutgers.
Here's a look at where things stand through three games with our redshirt tracker.
- WR Ayden Greene: 3
- LB Caleb Woodson: 3
- CB Braylon Johnson: 3
- CB Dante Lovett: 3
- S Mose Phillips: 3
- WR Takye Heath: 1
Let's start with Caleb Woodson who became the first true freshman to start a game this season for the Hokies filling in for the banged up Keonta Jenkins who only played a few snaps. Woodson played in 28 snaps and continues to do solid with a Pro Football Focus grade in the mid-60s while also having a tackle in this game.
Ayden Greene played the most snaps for a true freshman on offense or defense in this game playing 29 of the 77 offensive snaps for the Hokies. Greene showed why many believe he can be a really good wide receiver for the Hokies over the next few years with 2 catches for 24 yards getting nice gains off an underneath pass on one of his two receptions. Greene looks like the top backup WR currently behind Da'Quan Felton and Stephen Gosnell with Greene continuing to show why the Hokies should keep getting him plenty of snaps.
Mose Phillips played 28 snaps in this game mostly in the second half after Jalen Stroman suffered a late first half injury that caused him to miss the game. Phillips has had his flashes but him and fellow backup safety Jaylen Jones have had their struggles especially in run defense this season.
If Stroman and Nasir Peoples are unable to play this week, Phillips could become the second true freshman to start a game this season for the Hokies though you wonder if Mansoor Delane or Derrick Canteen may also shift to starting aafety given the struggles of Phillips and Jones.
Dante Lovett and Braylon Johnson each played 5 snaps with both cornerbacks looking solid albeit in very limited reps. Lovett specifically had a great hustle play to force Rutgers QB Gavin Wimsatt out of bounds on a third down to get a big 3 and out right after VT cut the lead to 21-10 in the third quarter.
Personally, I would like to see Tech use their CB depth more with the injury issues at safety shifting Delane over to safety, Canteen to starting CB, and using a blend of Johnson and Lovett as the first CB in while Peoples and Stroman are out.
After only 5 freshmen avoided redshirt last year, the floor this year appears to be 5 though this could also be the redshirt ceiling depending on the status of Heath and if someone like Layth Ghannam or Chance Fitzgerald can't break through to earn some reps. Of course, that could happen for guys like Ghannam and Fitzgerald after their redshirts are secure.
There's one new name on the board in slot WR Takye Heath who made his debut in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Heath, he suffered an arm injury of some sort on his first career play for the Hokies not returning to the on-field action in this game. Obviously, Heath's status will be something to monitor including in the redshirt context.
James Jennette also made his Virginia Tech debut this past weekend with a few snaps on special teams. Personally, I think Jennette will still redshirt given how far down he is on the defensive end depth chart but his status is worth monitoring.
Another non-freshman Clayton Frady also played for the first time this season for the Hokies. It seems like it likely came on special teams as I didn't notice him in on offense nor did Pro Football Focus so his playing time must have been on special teams. Once again, we'll continue to monitor his potential redshirt status given that he continues to be buried on the offensive line depth chart while Brody Meadows starts to make a case that he should be starting over somebody.