Virginia Tech had plenty of turmoil at defensive end in 2018 from the dismissal of Trevon Hill after the Hokies' loss to Old Dominion to Houshun Gaines dealing with injuries for most of the 2018 season. Those unfortunate circumstances led to younger players getting pushed into larger roles earlier than what Bud Foster and Charley Wiles likely were planning including TyJuan Garbutt.
The former four-star recruit entered the season as the #4 defensive end but by the final month, Garbutt was starting alongside Emmanuel Belmar, gaining valuable starting experience and lots of live game reps in the process.
Of course, Garbutt was a redshirt freshman who had some of the consistency issues that you would expect from a redshirt freshman who needs time to develop. However, Garbutt also made some big plays that showed the potential he has to become an All-ACC defensive end once he becomes a more consistent player given his talent level.
Garbutt's best performance came against Pittsburgh as though the Hokies' defense had a nightmare performance, Garbutt had multiple big plays on his way to having 3 tackles for loss in his first career start. After that, Garbutt would also start the remaining four games with at least 4 tackles in each game, finishing the 2019 season with 31 total tackles including 6.5 tackles for loss.
For a defensive end that started the season as the #4 guy, it was a clear sign that TyJuan Garbutt had the potential to become playmaker on the edge of the defensive line, he just needed some consistency.
However, Garbutt showed the potential time and time again with some big plays that showed off his smarts including this one early against Pittsburgh where he quickly finds a hole to get enough leverage into the backfield to get an early tackle for loss.
There's a couple of major positives here for a young player to take advantage of. First, Garbutt goes with the classic the low man wins using his lower center of gravity to get through the hole and into the backfield. Second, Garbutt's quickness and good jump off the line of scrimmage is on display while his ability to find a gap into the backfield on the interior is a major positive for a defensive end who, given his size, would be easy to profile as a speed rusher.
Garbutt may never be the biggest defensive end, but he has the speed to compensate for it and take advantage of the easy opportunities. Look at that closing speed on display here as the failure by Miami to block Garbutt leads to a big loss with the Miami tailback never having a chance especially with Garbutt set more like a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE.
Yes, this was an easy play for Garbutt, but it's a great example of the closing speed and acceleration that Garbutt brings, not allowing opposing offensive lineman to get a slow reaction or forget about him for even a second.
Garbutt was definitely better as a run defender as he only had 2 QB hurries and 1 sack last season, but the skill set he's shows defending the run suggests that he has the potential into a quality pass rusher in addition to already being a very good run defender.
The other thing Garbutt has shown is a great intensity never quitting on plays even when it appears that he should be completely out of the picture when a run goes the opposite way. Look at how Garbutt keeps his head up, cuts his way through the blockers, and uses his closing speed to turn what could've been a solid gain into a two-yard loss.
That play was one of the best on-field examples of Garbutt bringing great energy and showing the type of work ethic that any great defensive player needs.
So far, Bud Foster has seen that work ethic continue to be among the best on the team as Foster sees Garbutt as someone who is worthy of being the keeper of the lunch pail
"TyJuan (Garbutt) has big upside and still does. He’s had a great camp. We give the Lunch Pail out to various people over camp to guys who are really playing well and excelling. Day-in and day-out, he’s a guy that we could have given it to," Foster said.
On top of that, Garbutt has continued to show improvement on the field and in the weight room where he has been able to get a little bigger according to Foster. Combine that with having lots of experience from last year to lean on, and Foster is excited about the potential of the talented redshirt sophomore DE.
"He’s really stepped his game up with being a little bit bigger and is playing at a higher level because of the experience he gained last year. He’s kind of where you hoped he would be. I see a guy that has a lot of confidence, knows what he’s doing and plays to the speed he should be playing at. He’s got a great chance to be a really good football player for us," Foster said.
There's no denying that Garbutt has room to grow to become a difference maker especially in the area of consistency. However, Garbutt has shown the work ethic to develop into a more consistent player while also continuing to improve his game and grow his confidence which should also help his consistency.
When TyJuan Garbutt arrived in Blacksburg, those who covered him on the recruiting trail knew that he had a huge ceiling but also would need some time to develop. Now, as he enters his third year in Blacksburg, the redshirt sophomore defensive end's development may even be a little ahead of schedule with Garbutt having All-ACC potential as he enters his first full season as a starter.