While Virginia Tech will have some true freshmen with roles on offense this season, the primary spot where we will see true freshmen will be on defense and special teams with a pair of new arrivals competing for starting jobs on the defensive side of the ball. With that said, here's a look at the trio of defensive true freshmen to watch for Virginia Tech.
LB Dax Hollifield
There isn't a true freshman that appears more likely to start against Florida State than the man who was the face of the defensive half of the 2018 recruiting class, Dax Hollifield. Despite not arriving till the summer, Hollifield is in a battle with Dylan Rivers for the starting backer job that remains unresolved less than a week before the start of the season.
Recently, Bud Foster spoke about how impressed he is with Hollifield's approach while also being anxious to see him play.
"Dax Hollifield is a guy who I really like what he is all about and I’m anxious to see him perform at this level," Foster said.
One thing that Hollifield has benefited from is the fact that he made multiple visits to Virginia Tech practices to get to be around Bud Foster and start to learn some of the base schematics of the Hokies' defense, something that is clearly helping Hollifield this fall. In addition, one thing that was consistently praised about Hollifield was his football IQ, something that has appeared to help position him well to compete for a starting job at a backer spot that most weren't expecting to see him at.
Right now, Dylan Rivers appears to be the slight favorite to start at backer against Florida State given how he has been in the program for an extra year and based on comments from Bud Foster last week. However, Hollifield is going to be no worse than the Hokies' third linebacker this fall and should be competing for a starting job until he earns one of them whether that happens this season or sometime down the road.
CB Jermaine Waller
Jermaine Waller has been right in the middle of the battle for the two starting cornerback spots for Virginia Tech this fall though recent comments by Bud Foster suggest that Bryce Watts and Caleb Farley are starting to separate themselves as the top two cornerbacks. However, it's almost certain that Waller will be on the two-deep as one of the Hokies' backup cornerbacks with the chance to continue to push for playing time throughout this season and beyond.
One thing that has helped Waller is the fact that he arrived this spring, giving him a chance to learn the defense and adjust to the life changes that come with going from high school to college. In addition, Waller was able to compete with the Hokies' healthy cornerbacks and made a strong impression on Bud Foster that the Hokies' defensive coordinator brought up at the beginning of fall camp.
"I really like Jermaine Waller who came in early, I think he has a chance to be really, really special," Foster said.
Waller has the size that most teams are looking for in a cornerback while he also showed some solid man coverage skills in the Hokies' Spring Game.
Though Waller doesn't seem likely to start against Florida State, the Washington D.C. area CB is poised for a significant role on the Hokies' defense as one of the top 4 cornerbacks.
S Chamarri Conner
Chamarri Conner may not be pushing for a starting job on the defense, but the freshman safety seems poised to be the backup rover this year and the heir to that position after Reggie Floyd graduates after the 2019 season.
During fall camp, Conner has made a strong impression on the Hokies' coaching staff including Bud Foster.
"The kid that I think is going to be special down the road is Chamarri Conner. I think he’s going to figure in, as well," Foster said.
Though Conner may not play much on defense outside of garbage time situations, Conner is likely to travel with the team throughout the season as the Hokies' fourth safety.
In addition, Conner is a likely candidate to have a role on special teams similar to Floyd who avoided a redshirt by playing on special teams as a true freshman. With Conner likely to not be redshirted as the Hokies' backup rover, putting him on special teams makes a lot of sense to get him some meaningful on-field experience, even if it's on special teams.
Chamarri Conner is the Hokies' future at rover and for now, he appears to be following the same course as Reggie Floyd did.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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