Three Defensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's First 2019 Depth Chart
Virginia Tech football released their first depth chart of the 2019 season with lots of interesting details contained within it that paint the picture about where the Hokies' roster stands.
After taking a look at three offensive takeaways, here's a trio of defensive takeaways on the first Virginia Tech football depth chart of 2019.
1. Cornerback Remains Wide Open After Caleb Farley
Cornerback remains the most wide open spot on the roster with Caleb Farley being the only set starter and likely guaranteed player to receive a high volume of snaps. At the moment, Jermaine Waller seems like the slight frontrunner to be the second starting cornerback based on recent comments but the depth chart shows there's plenty of competition from senior Jovonn Quillen to a finally healthy Jeremy Webb to Armani Chatman who was able to take advantage of the new redshirt rule last year to get some experience late in the season.
Waller was able to break into the two-deep last season and slowly but steadily started to take away playing time from guys like Quillen and Bryce Watts. After having a full offseason, Waller looks like the frontrunner but don't be surprised if Bud Foster and his defensive staff are relatively quick to make changes if Waller struggles given the loads of competition at the spot.
Jeremy Webb has to be the most intriguing name on the board given the recovery process he has to go through dealing with two torn Achilles over the past 15 months. The fact that Webb is able to even able to break into the two-deep now is a testament to his work ethic and following necessary recovery procedures along with a testament to the Hokies' training staff. Webb also should get more comfortable as fall goes along which could make things interesting in a few weeks once ACC play really going.
Quillen may have the lowest ceiling of the bunch, but he does bring lots of experience to a unit that will likely be looking for some while Quillen also clearly enjoys being on this team given by his decision to stick around instead of looking for a surefire starting job elsewhere despite having the ability to go be a grad transfer. While it's more than understandable and respectable for a player to do that given how much money there is in reaching the NFL, it's also respectable to see a player like Quillen stick around even when a path to a starting job is unclear.
Armani Chatman may be the biggest unknown and clearly benefited from gaining playing time via the redshirt rule. Chatman does look like a potential starting cornerback for the Hokies down the line but in order to make that reality sooner, he will have plenty of competition to go against, as will fellow redshirt freshman Nadir Thompson and JUCO transfer/sophomore Brion Murray who also could factor into this competition.
Caleb Farley is the only certainty in terms of playing time at cornerback as the Hokies enter the season with a wide open competition at the second cornerback spot that may have no resolution any time soon if at all especially with players at lots of varying points in their football careers.
2. Chamarri Conner is the Real Deal.
When I watched Chamarri Conner's high school tape, it didn't take long to realize that Conner was going to be a really good college football player who would be versatile and especially dangerous in the box. Despite having to take on an experienced starter in Khalil Ladler and dealing with a minor injury in the spring, Conner has fought through the battle and emerged as the clear starting nickelback with no "OR" necessary.
The fact that Conner was able to do that, in a time when coaches are quicker than ever to use that "OR" on the depth chart when they can is a testament to the player that Conner has become.
Conner may not be the best man coverage player, but he showed in high school not only comfort in coverage but that he was a dangerous player in the box who can lay a big hit, but also be a consistent tackler, exactly what the Hokies appear to be looking for. Conner also fits the rover mold as well and could allow Bud Foster to throw some different looks between Conner and starting rover Reggie Floyd given how proficient both are in the box as run defender and potentially as blitzers.
Of course, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Hokies use Ladler at times when they want to use more man coverage against speedy slot receiver rather than slot tight ends or run situations. Even then, don't be surprised if the Hokies keep Conner on the field or use him in some of those situations to give Floyd or Divine Deablo a quick breather if they need one.
Hokie fans can get used to seeing Conner out there for the next few years as the sophomore defensive back from Jacksonville is the real deal and ready to prove why he was able to beat out a former starter for the job.
3. Virginia Tech's New Defensive Tackles Will Be Tested.
After an offseason that saw Virginia Tech bring in five new defensive tackles, the Hokies included four on their first depth chart with JUCO signee Dashawn Crawford earning a starting job and the trio of true freshmen; Mario Kendricks, Norell Pollard, and Josh Fuga, all battling for playing time on the interior. The biggest surprise here may have been the fact that JUCO signee Jaden Cunningham failed to even make the depth chart, making you wonder if Cunningham may consider a transfer sooner rather than later to find an opportunity to play.
Seeing Crawford alongside Jarrod Hewitt shouldn't be a surprise as Crawford was one of the more intriguing JUCO defensive tackles out there who seemed to be overlook by many until a strong season put him on the radar of a few Power 5 schools including the Hokies.
The concern with Crawford was whether he would have the size, but at 290 pounds now, he should fit the mold for Virginia Tech defensive tackles well being a little smaller but more athletic while having the size to hold up in the ACC. The biggest question is can Crawford be productive with the high volume of snaps that him and Jarrod Hewitt are poised to receive with a youthful depth chart behind them at DT.
The battles for playing time behind Hewitt and Crawford should be interesting with the elder statesman of the group, redshirt sophomore Robert Porcher IV, likely to receive the most backup playing time in theory. The Hokies may look to try to at least make sure one of these guys redshirt to create some spacing for the long haul knowing that the lack of seniors means that they could always redshirt another guy next year similar to what Ricky Walker did his second year on campus after playing as a freshman.
Of course, the Hokies didn't have a lot of defensive tackle options for their depth chart outside of having the true freshmen creep into backup opportunities but what's clear is that some of them will likely be tested early and often starting at Boston College.