We're a quarter of the way into the 2023 college football season and there's already some Virginia Tech Football players who have shown that they have earned their chance at a larger role for the Hokies. Here's a look at three players who at specifically stuck out in that regard.
CB Derrick Canteen
There was plenty of excitement around what Derrick Canteen could do for the Hokies both in the locker room and as a cornerback especially given how well he seemed to fit what the Hokies were looking for in a nickelback.
He's played well so far with 8 tackles including 1.5 for loss plus 1 forced fumble while also looking pretty competent in coverage as well. We saw Tech use Canteen plenty at cornerback this past week with Mansoor Delane either getting rest or running at safety with Canteen also getting some late game reps at safety.
With Canteen playing well and the Hokies banged up at safety, there's no reason why Tech shouldn't be looking to play Canteen a lot more as a starter rather than a rotating nickelback especially since he and starting CB Mansoor Delane can play safety at a pretty high level.
Delane is probably the better safety than Canteen, but Canteen's talent should make it easy for the Hokies to start Canteen at CB and move Delane to safety while Nasir Peoples and Jalen Stroman recover from injury. There's no doubt that doing that would give the Hokies a clearly strong defensive backfield for the time being than leaving Delane at CB and Canteen as the nickelback/CB3.
There is a case that Canteen might be the better choice for safety especially given how well he has played in the box along with his ability to defend the run as a whole grading in the 70s in run defense in all three games this season for Pro Football Focus.
G Brody Meadows
Virginia Tech's offensive line has struggled mightily so far this season and at some point, you have to give other guys the chance to see if they can help even in limited snaps.
Well after only a brief appearance against ODU, Brody Meadows played about the third of the offensive snaps against Rutgers working at both left and right guard during this game.
While Pro Football Focus should only be seen as one data point, that data point was quite strong as Meadows had the best grade of any offensive player for the Hokies at 76.5 with his pass and run blocking grades both coming in at 75 or better. That's quite good especially with Bob Schick and Braelin Moore both coming in around the 58-62 range for their Pro Football Focus grades this past week.
There was plenty of talk during camp that someone was making a big move with Meadows being the guy that was constantly pointed to as the guy to keep an eye on. It's been clear early in the season that Meadows is currently the swing guy and after the early struggles of that unit, he's started to get more playing time to see if he can improve Tech's offensive line and appears to be doing just that.
Meadows has shown that he's worthy of the opportunity for more reps at guard and if he keeps playing like this, Tech is going to have to make him a starter whether that's at left or right guard.
WR Ayden Greene
I'm not sure if Ayden Greene's role should grow right now as much as it should be maintained even as Tech hopefully starts to get their top receivers healthy again starting with hopefully Jaylin Lane this week against Marshall.
Greene was quiet in his first two games with no catches, but seems to be getting more comfortable to the college game and stepping his game up accordingly. He played well against Rutgers with his first two career catches this past week going for a total of 24 yards.
He didn't necessarily set the world on fire with his play, but he also showed some ability to make guys miss and gain a decent amount of yards after contact already. He looks like a guy that fits in with the competition level that he's facing which is a great sign for any true freshman.
Currently, Greene has appeared to solidify himself as the top backup outside wide receiver over Tucker Holloway while Ali Jennings is out pushing Stephen Gosnell and Da'Quan Felton into clear starting roles. It wouldn't be surprising if Greene continued to have a significant role as a backup even if and when Jennings returns this season.
There are plenty of opportunities for Tech's outside receivers to step up and earn bigger roles especially with Ali Jennings out for the foreseeable future. Looking ahead, it wouldn't surprise me if Greene continues to be a factor in the passing game as he gets more used to Power 5 football, and has a big game or two at some point this season similar to Dae'Quan Wright last year.