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Top 5 Standouts From the 2022 Virginia Tech Spring Game

Kaleb Smith 1 VT Spring Game 2022 From VT

The 2022 Virginia Tech Spring Game saw several players stand out in the Hokies' first Spring Game in three years but these are the five players who stood out the most to myself for various reasons.

5. S Ny'Quee Hawkins

Ny'Quee Hawkins may be a surprise to many to see him earn a spot on the top 5 list, but the former four-star recruit left his mark on this year's Spring Game turning heads of many including myself and opening the door for a position battle at safety opposite Chamarri Conner.

Hawkins shared the overall game-lead with 5 tackles including 1 for loss while he was consistently all over the field and in positions to make plays. He also was close to an interception of Grant Wells in a first quarter and was in the right place at the right time for many of his plays.

He took on more of the free safety role alongside Conner who is naturally more on a strong safety and looked comfortable as the deep safety over the top of the Hokies' defense. Brent Pry also was impressed by Hawkins and had this to say about his Spring Game performance.

"I’ll tell you. He’s one of those guys, he plays the game you’re supposed to play it. He runs by people to get to the ball. He’s got a lot of suddenness, he’s quick. I’m excited about him. And he’s had a pretty good spring. Today, I think, was his best performance. So he’s a guy that he’s going to have a chance to factor in for us," Pry said.

Hawkins may have not been on the radar for many going into the Spring Game but after his performance on Saturday and how he looked alongside Chamarri Conner, it's clear that Hawkins is ready to battle Nasir Peoples and others for that job.

4. DT Norell Pollard

Norell Pollard may have been on the less-talented White Team, but the returning standout defensive tackle looked like a player ready to take his next steps forward.

Pollard had only 3 tackles including 1 sack, but seemed to be a consistent force in breaking through to the backfield and making plays. Pollard also almost had a second sack as well that seemed like a sack at the time from my point of view but instead was called just a second too late by Brent Pry on one of Grant Wells' two touchdown passes.

Pry was impressed with the play of Pollard overall as he stated after the game.

"I really liked his performance today, it was probably his best outing. He's a talented guy and he needs to be a guy that's productive. When you have an inside guy that can pressure the quarterback, it's a problem for people. I think he can be that guy for us," Pry said.

The defensive tackle trio has been a toss-up at times of who would start and who wouldn't but Pollard definitely looks like the top guy with Josh Fuga and Mario Kendricks battling between who gets the other starting spot and who is the third DT with all three set to play a lot.

3. QB Grant Wells

Grant Wells may not be in the #1 spot on our standout list, but his performance may have been the most notable given the outsized significant of the quarterback position.

While there's no doubt that the competition isn't over yet and that the Spring Game is only one data point, Grant Wells emerged from the game as the favorite for the job after going 11-21 for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns with a pair of beautiful deep balls for 40+ yard touchdowns to Kaleb Smith. He also showed some good mobility that we haven't seen much previously which is valuable for any QB whether dual-threat or pocket passer to have nowadays.

Wells looked the part of someone who can fit well in the "power spread" type offense that Tyler Bowen seems poised to lead with the ability to stretch the field effectively while also leading what was the significantly more productive offense regardless of who was on which team.

What keeps Wells from the top spot outright likely is the fact that he did show some inaccuracy and there is clearly some chemistry still to be developed with his receivers. However, Wells had a strong performance overall and though he was given a better hand than Jason Brown, the Marshall transfer still looked the clearly better QB.

The starting QB battle may not be over just yet, but Grant Wells looks like the clear favorite against Jason Brown in the first QB battle of the Brent Pry era.


2. DE TyJuan Garbutt

TyJuan Garbutt seemed close to a potential breakout a couple years ago before circumstances off-the-field understandably became his focus, slowing his development. After a 2021 of stability, Garbutt looked like a player who is poised to finally breakthrough into the star that he's shown the potential to develop into for years.

Garbutt had 3 tackles including 2 for loss with a sack among those tackles. He was in the backfield a lot both as a run stuffer and pass rusher looking more like the player who was poised for a 2020 breakout before life got in the way off the field.

There's no doubt that Tech will need Garbutt to step up and reach the fullness of his potential especially with Amare Barno off to the NFL after being that primary threat last year. Garbutt will undoubtedly receive more attention from opponents this season with Barno out of the picture, but Garbutt also looked like an improved DE relative to last year who may be ready for that increased focus from opponents.

It's one thing to look the part in a Spring Game, but it's another thing to follow that up with the actual productivity regardless of the matchups and that's what Garbutt showed in the Spring Game. After a 2021 where he found his rhythm, it may be time to jump back on the All-ACC level breakout for Garbutt in 2022.

1. WR Kaleb Smith

The wide receivers had some of the toughest matchups across the board with Tech having good depth at cornerback leading to Kaleb Smith facing off plenty against the second team cornerbacks including past starter Brion Murray along with starting safety Chamarri Conner and Spring Game standout Ny'Quee Hawkins.

Even with that, Smith still clearly stood out putting himself in positions for Grant Wells to give him chances to make plays and taking advantages of Wells' strong passes. He finished the game with 3 catches for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns having the explosive plays that suggest he could also step up from just solid receiver to a leading playmaker for this offense.

This performance came as Smith had a strong spring as a whole as Brent Pry said after the game.

"He's done a nice job, he's one of those guys that was in the conversation for most improved. Each and every outing he did something in every practice. He's a big guy with a big catch radius. He's consistently one of our top guys on our GPS speed barometer. He's one of those guys, maybe it doesn't look like he's moving fast, but he covers a lot of ground. He had a really good spring for us," Pry said.

While Jadan Blue and Da'Wain Lofton have been considered the top lead receiver candidates for the Hokies this season, Smith showed on Saturday that a jump from solid WR3 to a lead playmaking receiver is one that he has the potential to make in 2022.

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