Last week, we took a look at the top 5 impact offensive newcomers for Virginia Tech for the upcoming season. Today, we take a look at the top impact defensive newcomers for the Hokies.
Of course, Tech has more returning on the defensive side and also only landed one major defensive transfer in Justus Reed. However, there are a couple other defensive newcomers who could factor in so with that, here are our top 3 defensive newcomers for VT.
3. DBs Keonta Jenkins and Lakeem Rudolph
Virginia Tech hasn't been afraid to play some defensive players early on defensive players with safeties and linebackers usually being among the players to earn roles on kick and punt coverage. Both Keonta Jenkins and Lakeem Rudolph fit that mold as long, lanky safeties who could be very effective on multiple special teams units.
Rudolph's versatility from being a two-way player in high school could be of major benefit to him while Jenkins brings plenty of physicality and toughness that also makes him a candidate to earn a special teams role.
If one guy may have the edge, it's Jenkins as the slightly more developed player at safety compared to Rudolph, something that may lead the Hokies to wanting to have Rudolph redshirt more for his development at safety.
Regardless, don't be surprised to see one of Jenkins and Rudolph earn a role on special teams this upcoming season.
2. DE Alec Bryant
The highest-rated member of Virginia Tech's 2020 high school class is also the highest-ranked true freshman defensive player on my list of defensive newcomers.
One thing that helps Bryant is the fact that he brings the type of size that Bill Teerlinck and Darryl Tapp are looking for at 6'3'' and 240 pounds. Additionally, the tape shows that Bryant has a skill set that is more refined and could allow him to push into the defensive end rotation behind projected starters Justus Reed and TyJuan Garbutt plus backup Emmanuel Belmar. You can see more on why in our scouting report here.
Bryant will face some competition from a healthy Zion DeBose plus a pair of backups from last season in Eli Adams and Jaylen Griffin. However, Bryant definitely has the potential to surprise and earn especially given the fact that he probably has the best size combination compared to the other three, more experienced players.
If there is going to be a true freshman on defense to earn playing time away from special teams, Bryant is the top candidate to do just that.
1. DE Justus Reed
The clear #1 on our list is Youngstown State grad transfer Justus Reed who is entering his seventh year in college football after receiving a waiver prior to his transfer.
Reed was impressive last season at Youngstown State with 42 tackles including 19 for loss, 13 of which were sacks, along with 2 forced fumbles and 5 QB hurries. Additionally, Reed also brings the type of size upgrade that Teerlinck and Tapp want on their defensive line at 6'3'' and 270 pounds.
While the Hokies ranked fairly high nationally in total sacks last season, it usually was because of the blitz packages that Tech through at opposing offenses. Reed should provide a clear upgrade as a pass rusher at defensive end this upcoming season in addition to the fact that Tech has a healthy TyJuan Garbutt who should provide a great pairing with Reed given the mix of strength and speed.
Now the bigger question is whether Reed can put up the same type of numbers he did at Youngstown State last season at Virginia Tech this season? That seems like a tall task given the jump from FCS to the ACC, but Reed definitely should be able to at least be a quality starting defensive end who could have several sacks this season.
Justus Reed may not be an All-ACC First Team player, but he should be a solid pass rusher and quality veteran presence in the locker room that makes a talented defense even stronger. More importantly, having a solid pass rushing DE like Reed should toughen up an already stout Tech pass defense even more especially with Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller on the outside.