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The Virginia Tech Roster Domino Effect Caused By Mansoor Delane and Cam Johnson

Jalen Stroman Nyke Johnson 1 VT Miami 2022 HT

One of the biggest encouragements from this tough October for Virginia Tech football has been the emergence of Mansoor Delane as a instant impact cornerback who probably should be a starter even when Dorian Strong returns.

Meanwhile, Cam Johnson has also worked his way up the depth chart at cornerback and received playing time over veteran Brion Murray against Miami. Regardless of how much Murray struggled that game, that's still a great vote of confidence in the potential the Hokies see in Johnson.

Looking ahead to the future for Virginia Tech, Delane and Johnson project to be mainstays in the two-deep at minimum at cornerback for years to come along with redshirt freshman DJ Harvey. Add in Dorian Strong still having more time and more promising young talent on the way in Cameren Fleming and Dante Lovett, and that means some older guys are in interesting positions.

While cornerback is becoming a position of strength in terms of long term talent and young depth, there are plenty of other spots that have questions about depth. Meanwhile, there are plenty of cornerbacks who clearly were in a bad spot for finding playing time at VT at that position but what if they made a position change instead?

Well, the Delane and Johnson emergence has seemed to cause a domino effect that has caused two other cornerbacks to change positions with one showing signs that his new spot may be a better fit.

First, it was Nyke Johnson who made a minor move from cornerback to safety during fall camp. Then, a larger move happened this week as Elijah Howard was seen working at running back.

While the Howard move comes as a surprise, this is a case of a new staff having loads of young talent and giving other players opportunities elsewhere to see if they can fill in other needs or if they will have to look elsewhere.

The move to RB for Howard makes a lot of sense given the productivity he had in high school along with the fact that Tech only has six scholarship RBs with Jalen Holston in his final year plus a couple athletes who could play RB but no outright RB currently committed in the 2023 class. Now we'll see if Howard can work himself into a position to earn some playing time as he likely battles guys like Chance Black, Kenji Christian, and even Bryce Duke to see if RB can be his path to playing time in Blacksburg.

Meanwhile, Johnson's move was very much under the radar given that Johnson really hasn't done much in his VT career to date yet.

However, Johnson showed that he has some potential to be a long term contributor for the Hokies at safety for the first time against Miami when Nasir Peoples' early ejection due to a controversial targeting call meant that Tech's safety depth would be tested.

With Jalen Stroman sliding in to Peoples' spot instead of his usual nickel spot and DJ Harvey working at nickel, there was an opportunity at safety for someone else to rotate in and prove themselves. While Ny'Quee Hawkins seemed like the guy, it was Nyke Johnson who got the chance and played decently well with 4 tackles including 3 solo tackles while also playing 29 snaps. Meanwhile, Hawkins didn't play a single defensive snap in what seemed to be a clear sign of Tech having greater trust in Johnson as their fourth safety (third safety post-Peoples ejection) than Hawkins.

Now we'll see if this trend continues but if it does, Johnson may suddenly be in a position to have a path to starting in the future with Chamarri Conner in his final season and Nasir Peoples only having one more season thanks to the free COVID year rule if he chooses to use it.

Now it wouldn't be shocking to see Tech try to find a safety in the transfer portal if Peoples does leave early, but Johnson held his own against Miami in the second half and suddenly looks like a guy with a legitimate path to regular playing time in the future.

The combination of a new staff with talented true freshmen can lead to a domino effect of position changes to try to fill other needs internally. That domino effect showing signs of fruitfulness via Nyke Johnson while Elijah Howard hopes that RB can be his ticket to a clearer path to playing time at Virginia Tech.

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