With the 2022 high school recruiting class mostly done, Brent Pry and his Virginia Tech staff are certain to turn their focus to the transfer portal as the Hokies need some talent upgrades for their 2022 roster especially at some key positions.
So what should be the Hokies' top transfer portal needs? Here's my ranking of them.
5. Defensive Line
Starting this list at #5 is defensive line which seems like somewhat of a stretch given that Tech has TyJuan Garbutt returning at DE after a solid first full season back since dealing with some personal challenges during the 2020 season that caused him to miss much of it. Additionally, Tech is expected to have Norell Pollard, Mario Kendricks, and Josh Fuga all back at DT.
However, the departure of Amare Barno opens the door for Tech to look to add a stopgap guy while Cole Nelson and Mattheus Carroll develop. Additionally, Tech could use a fourth defensive tackle to give Wilfried Pene more time to develop at DT though Tech could use more ready depth at DT in general at a minimum to give more space for the younger guys to develop.
Defensive line rightly may not be a top priority for the Hokies given what they have coming in along with some of the veterans they have to go with some promising young guys. Despite that, Tech will likely be open to adding 1 or maybe 2 more DL if they are the right fit and are big time talents.
One of those guys is Albany transfer DE Jared Verse who is considered a four-star recruit after a big 2021 that included CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in the spring and All-CAA First Team honors this fall. Richmond grad transfer DT Kobie Turner was also a target but he has committed to Wake Forest while the new DT target may be Duke DT Gary Smith who has shown promise during his time in Durham, and was someone the previous staff pursued fairly heavily so he has familiarity with Blacksburg.
Defensive line isn't a high priority, but definitely a spot that wouldn't mind seeing one or maybe two standout transfer additions to join an intriguing returning group for 2022.
4. Outside Linebacker
Outside linebacker may be a surprise appearance on this but all signs indicate that Brent Pry's defense will be a more traditional 4-3 rather than a nickelback being a third linebacker as Chamarri Conner has been. With that in mind, that likely means Conner will shift to a strong safety role with Tech having a new linebacker opening.
While Alan Tisdale should fill one of the two OLB spots, Dax Hollifield and Keshon Artis both profile as ILBs and though Artis could potentially slide into the OLB role fairly well, Tech may be better off getting a true OLB rather than trying to put fit someone like Artis there.
Of course, Jaden Keller received plenty of offseason plaudits and could potentially be a breakout riser that could claim that spot. Additionally, Dean Ferguson brings a fair amount of versatility having moved from safety in high school to linebacker in college.
However, signs seem to point towards Tech looking to land an OLB who can start from day one.
I never like to read too much into recent Twitter follows, but it's impossible not to especially since Tech has followed a couple top OLB transfers including Florida's multi-year starter Mohamoud Diabate and Notre Dame's Shayne Simon.
The transfer portal focus almost certainly is on the offensive side of the ball, but the biggest need for Tech in the short term on defense is at OLB as the Hokies shift their scheme under Brent Pry.
3. Wide Receiver
Wide receiver comes in at #3 on this list as Virginia Tech has lost their top three outside playmakers with TE James Mitchell and WR Tre Turner heading to the NFL while slot WR Tayvion Robinson has transferred to Kentucky.
There are a couple things keeping wide receiver from being higher on this list led by Da'Wain Lofton who has shown lots of promise over the latter half of the season and could be the #1 guy with Kaleb Smith being the lead outside guy. Additionally, Jaylen Jones also has shown plenty of promise while Tech has loads of young receivers who should have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves this spring.
However, Tech could use at least another playmaker to be a lead guy and take pressure off guys like Lofton and Smith from having to be those lead guys which Lofton especially has shown the potential to become that down the road, maybe as soon as 2022.
Tech has also sent out some wide receivers offers already including ones to FIU WR Tyrese Chambers and most recently to UTEP star WR Jacob Cowing who just had a massive season with 68 catches for 1,354 yards and 7 touchdowns. Both Cowing and Chambers also have at least two years of eligibility showing that Tech is looking for receivers who they could pair with Lofton, Jones, and others for more than just 2022.
Wide receiver may not be the top offensive priority, but it's definitely a spot where the Hokies could use a proven guy to pair with the veteran Smith and the promising group of young guys led by Lofton and Jones.
2. Offensive Line
The fact is that Virginia Tech is going to need one or two offensive linemen with Brock Hoffman, Lecitus Smith, and Luke Tenuta all going to the NFL plus Johnny Jordan being out of eligibility. It's easy to envision three of the starters with Kaden Moore at guard, Parker Clements at tackle (likely on the left side), and Silas Dzansi at either guard or tackle depending on how things shake out.
Tech definitely has plenty of young talent on their offensive line that has a bright future along with an exciting incoming class, but Tech needs at least one to two guys to fill the gaps in the short term.
Center seems like the spot Tech should be looking for a grad transfer at with Jack Hollifield and Bryce Goodner being potential long term answers, but likely not ready to be starters in 2022.
Tackle should probably rank second on the list as Silas Dzansi is probably better suited to play guard while Tech has a little more developed young guys on the interior who could be ready to step up including Jesse Hanson. Tech does have JUCO transfer Bob Schick
Transfer portal offensive line targets will likely become clearer once an offensive line coach is officially in place with Wisconsin's Joe Rudolph being heavily linked with the Hokies' job. One guy who does seem to be a target is Cornell OL Hunter Nourzad who is already received loads of Power 5 offers including one from VT after being a FCS Second Team All-America by the AFCA this past season.
Keep an eye on the offensive line as a priority spot for the transfer portal for short term answers even after Tech brought in a large OL class to backfill the OL room for the long haul.
There's no doubt that quarterback has to be at the top of this list. The position that is most important in this sport was one of Virginia Tech's biggest weaknesses entering the season and is even more so looking ahead currently.
Even before Braxton Burmeister entered the transfer portal, it was clear that Burmeister was not up to the standard currently that Tech needs at QB nor was anyone behind him good enough to usurp him and raise the bar. While Burmeister played with the heart and toughness that you want, he's just not a good enough passer for this level.
Now with Burmeister in the portal, the need at QB grows as Connor Blumrick is even more like a RB playing QB while Tahj Bullock doesn't appear ready for 2022 and while Devin Farrell has a winning pedigree, it's rare for a high school QB to come in and immediately make a difference.
Tech will need at least one QB though two could be a possibility given that Tech currently only has three QBs on the roster and one of them in Blumrick seems better suited to move back to TE. However, he may rather transfer than do that given he transferred from Texas A&M to Tech with the objective to play QB again after moving to TE and RB early in his career in College Station.
There have been plenty of Twitter follows of numerous transfer QBs proving that Tech's staff is prioritizing the position. Knowing who Tech has and hasn't offered isn't the most clear beyond that though what we do know is that Tech has offered standout FCS QB Cameron Ward out of Incarnate Word while the Hokies have been in contact with South Carolina QB Jason Brown, a VA native.
Quarterback is the clear top transfer portal need for the Hokies with the new VT staff appearing to already recognize that and reach out to many of the top QBs in the portal looking for upgrades.