Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
The rushing attack headlined Virginia Tech's dominant 45-24 victory over N.C. State, but Tech's defense had a strong performance that was more impressive due to the fact that they were without Justin Hamilton and Jermaine Waller.
After taking a look at three of my offensive takeaways, here's a look at three of my defensive takeaways.
Justus Reed Looks Like The Pass Rusher Tech Needs
Justus Reed put on a show Saturday night with two sacks among his 5 tackles though that easily could have been 3 sacks if not for Rayshard Ashby just in front of him on one sack where both kind of brought him down together though Ashby rightfully was credited with a full sack.
Reed was in the backfield a lot providing tons of pressure even when he was the clear focal point with no other starting defensive linemen on the field. The fact that he was able to consistently bring pressure whether the rest of the first team defensive line was out there or not was a tremendous statement to what he can bring to the table.
Additionally, Reed's veteran experience and his refined physical condition proved to be of major benefit especially given how Reed appeared to be in some of the best shape among the defensive lineman at VT. Combine that with a veteran maturity that helps him prepare and it's a great combination for Reed to be the pass rusher Tech needs.
Going forward, Reed will have plenty of opportunities to show that he is immensely talented and not just a one-game fluke, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Reed continue to play at a high level especially against an ACC where offensive lines haven't been great outside of VT, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Boston College.
Virginia Tech was hoping Justus Reed would boost their pass rush and so far, he's living up to those hopes.
Keonta Jenkins Has a Bright Future Ahead
Most true freshmen don't have the pressure of playing in their first game let alone starting on defense yet Keonta Jenkins rose to the occasion and made it clear that the Hokies found a steal in him.
Jenkins led the Hokies with 8 tackles as he was all over the field playing with an impressive motor while proving to also be a very good tackler. Jenkins also didn't really have many issues in coverage or at least any issues that showed up to have a major impact on the actual game.
Now we all know that Jenkins wasn't supposed to be the guy with Devon Hunter indefinitely suspended and Nasir Peoples out for the season due to injury. However, Jenkins looked more than ready to seize his opportunity playing with the type of edge and motor that Tech defenses have always been built out.
The lunch pail may have been retired, but Jenkins is a player built out of that blue collar mentality that will make him a playmaker in Tech's defense for years to come and potentially a sleeper contender to be a Freshman All-American.
Tech's Cornerbacks Passed 1st Test But Showed Vulnerability
It feels like nitpicking to say this, but Virginia Tech's cornerbacks looked a little vulnerable in the season opener.
Now as a whole, the cornerbacks played well with Brion Murray sticking out the most because of his interception and Armani Chatman blending in the most with a pass breakup and solid play. However, without Jermaine Waller, it's clear that Tech's cornerbacks might be a little more vulnerable.
There were a couple moments where Tech did get burnt against an average at best N.C. State passing attack with Devin Taylor having a mix of good plays and struggles and Brion Murray having a couple vulnerable moments where he dodged a couple bullets. That included one pass where Murray was clearly burnt on a move by the receiver who proceeded to see the pass go right through his hands like a "nothing but net" basketball shot.
Of course, Tech's cornerbacks were solid as a whole even after N.C. State made a QB change to a better passer in Devin Leary from Bailey Hockman who Tech had read perfectly almost all night. Next week's matchup against Chase Brice (who has 6 interceptions) and a Duke team that has a similar weakness with their passing offense that lacks in WR talent.
Virginia Tech's cornerback group will definitely be better with Jermaine Waller but as long as he's out, the unit does look solid but a little vulnerable.