Since my first edition of my Virginia Tech transfer portal needs ranking back on November 28th, the Hokies have seen their fair share of transfer activity.
They've filled their portal QB need with the addition of Baylor's Kyron Drones while adding a big time playmaker at WR in Ali Jennings. Tech has also lost All-ACC Honorable Mention WR Kaleb Smith to the portal (though he hasn't ruled out a return to the Hokies) along with some of their overall DB depth at cornerback with Armani Chatman and DJ Harvey both entering the portal.
So with that in mind, now seemed fitting for an updated transfer portal needs ranking for the Hokies so here is our updated list.
Center was second on my first list but the addition of Jennings now means that wide receiver drops down slightly and center moves into the top spot where I nearly put it initially anyway.
With Johnny Jordan gone, there's a clear opening at center with backup Jack Hollifield currently in line for it. Hollifield has been a backup for a couple years and in some ways could be argued that he is due for it.
However, Hollifield has 0 playing experience and if I'm being honest, I don't have a lot of confidence necessarily that Hollifield is ready given his lack of experience. Putting a guy with 0 experience in a full starting role at an important OL spot like center is far from ideal.
Right now, it's unclear if Joe Rudolph is even looking at any offensive linemen in the transfer portal. Yes, Rudolph is known for a meticulous process which may be part of the reason for that but the fact is that there are quality options in the portal who would give Tech the veteran they need.
Among guys that would be worth considering are Stanford's Drake Nugent who was a two-year starter for the Cardinal and earned All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention honors in 2021, Cincinnati's Jake Renfro who was All-AAC First Team in 2021 before injuries derailed his 2022, and Western Kentucky's Rusty Staats who was a productive two-year starter at WKU. Nugent and Staats would be one year rentals while Renfro has two years of eligibility remaining.
2. Offensive Tackle
Offensive tackle slides up to #2 as though the offensive line showed improvement as the season progressed, this unit could really use a proven offensive tackle to go with Parker Clements.
Now some may say give Xavier Chaplin his chance which he absolutely should get to earn a starting job given the traits he brings especially his size. However, bringing in a proven veteran would take the pressure off Chaplin having to be a starter next year and allow a more low-stress environment for development where he could still push to take a starting job still.
This offensive line is also getting younger next year with Silas Dzansi and Johnny Jordan gone with Parker Clements and Jesse Hanson being the lone players who will be entering their fourth seasons in Blacksburg. The fact that Tech has a pair of quality younger guards in the Moore brothers to go with Henson is why guard isn't on this list and tackle is with only Clements and Chaplin though former JUCO Bob Schick is intriguing.
With that said, this is a spot where Tech should also be looking for an upgrade yet there currently isn't a clear target for the Hokies. UTEP's Jeremiah Byers seems likely Florida State bound given that the Seminoles are the only place he's known to have visited though Byers seems friends with VT transfer addition Kyron Drones which could help give them a chance if they want to pursue. Miami starting left tackle John Campbell is a quality pass blocker who just entered the portal and is the lone new portal follow for OL coach Joe Rudolph which is the first even possible bread crumb of a potential OL target.
Veteran Stanford starting OTs Myles Hinton and Walter Rouse are both from the East Coast and would be intriguing options along with South Carolina native and Western Kentucky OT Gunner Britton who had double-digit starts during his WKU career.
3. Wide Receiver
While Ali Jennings is a great WR1 addition, Virginia Tech still needs help at the WR corps especially with the likely departure of Kaleb Smith following his entry into the transfer portal.
Now some may mention the recent HS commits of guys like Chance Fitzgerald and Ayden Greene which definitely helps especially given the impressive size, speed, and HS production that Fitzgerald has. However, having to knowingly lean on a freshman is always a gamble especially when more proven at the collegiate level options are available who could allow guys like Fitzgerald to adjust to the college game without the pressures of needing to be a relied-upon target.
Tech has sent out their fair share of offers including at the FCS level with intriguing players like Duquesne WR Abdul Janneh and Norfolk State WR Da'Quan Felton.
Janneh previously told us that he was planning to visit UCF and Virginia Tech with his trip to Orlando having happened last weekend. He had 43 catches for 579 yards and a team-high 9 touchdowns this past season as a big target at 6'3'' in an offense that completed under 58% of their passes
Felton was productive in a Norfolk State passing game that was poor to say the least doing more with less as he had 39 catches for 573 yards and 7 touchdowns. This came in a Norfolk State offense that only completed 54.14% of their passes and averaged a poor 167 passing yards per game.
Both profile well as a big, outside receiver opposite Jennings with Da'Wain Lofton in the slot. Both are also upside plays and are definitely not guarantees to be able to jump up and be productive ACC starters but there's definitely potential there similar to what you would get in a higher-end JUCO WR commit should Tech land one of these two.
Another big receiver who may have a higher floor and just as high of a ceiling is Devontez Walker out of Kent State who received loads of Power 5 interest when he first jumped into the portal including from Virginia Tech. Walker put up impressive numbers in the MAC this past season with 58 catches for 921 yards and 3 touchdowns. Combine that with his plus size at 6'3'' and he would fit well as an outside WR2 to pair with Ali Jennings while having produced at a higher level in the G5.
4. Defensive End
Defensive end just missed out the first time but after reflection combined with Tech offering and showing interest in several defensive ends, it's clear that this is a spot that could use another player while also being a spot where Tech wants to make an addition.
Tyjuan Garbutt was the consistent playmaker at DE for the Hokies this past season with 12 tackles for loss including 6.5 sacks in only 9 games this season bringing plenty of pass rushing. However, Tech's pass rush struggled for much of the season after a strong start with Brent Pry mentioning that as a concern following their loss to Duke.
Now Cole Nelson and CJ McCray definitely showed lots of potential this past season and Tech will actually have a healthy Pheldarius Payne which will help but bringing in more competition (and a proven pass rusher on a consistent basis) would seem like a wise move in my view.
Maybe my favorite target is Temple First Team All-AAC DE Darian Varner who is visiting Virginia Tech on Friday in addition to visits to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Varner had 12 tackles for loss including 7.5 sacks in 10 games this past season while producing against quality opponents as we discussed in a story on Varner. He's also a 757 native with two years of eligibility who has great size at 6'2'' and 260 pounds fitting the bigger DE mold that Tech seems to want while having proven production in the best G5 conference.
Tech also offered Wyoming DE Oluwaseyi Omotosho who had a strong redshirt freshman season for the Cowboys with 7.5 tackles for loss including 6.5 sacks. He's been fairly quiet so far in regards to his recruitment but is definitely an intriguing prospect.
Tech also seems to be looking at bigger DEs though to compliment guys like McCray in addition to Varner with the Hokies hosting Minnesota DL Gage Keys recently who has the size to play the edge or grow into a DT. You can read more on Keys here.
Vanderbilt DE transfer Elijah McAllister is also a bigger DE who isn't a great pass rusher but is a solid run defender and brings upside there. He has one of the higher floors on this list given his experience but he also is the lowest ceiling guy most likely among this group.
5. Defensive Back
The departures of DJ Harvey and Armani Chatman for the transfer portal have bumped defensive back into the top 5 just over a week into the full transfer portal window. This wasn't a spot that I initially would have had here but as offers went out and on reflecting on the current VT depth chart, it makes some sense.
Now, Tech has clear starters at both cornerback with Dorian Strong and Mansoor Delane, and safety with Nasir Peoples and Jalen Stroman. There is a clear fifth defensive back in cornerback Cam Johnson, but as my colleague over at TSL Chris Coleman made a great point about on Twitter, Johnson is a smaller cornerback who doesn't profile as a nickel.
That leads to a guy like Ny'Quee Hawkins being the nickel unless you slide a Mansoor Delane inside for your nickel package with Johnson on the outside. We saw Tech move Chamarri Conner into the nickel spot at times when Stroman came in for nickel packages last season, but having one regular there would likely be the preference.
Johnson looked promising but did only get limited reps and will be coming off an injury so grabbing a veteran who has a little more size and experience makes some sense.
Now the top DB target for Tech clearly is Tony Grimes which makes complete sense given the fact that he's a big time talent and a 757 native. He's the type of player who you take if you can get him and figure out the details later (which may mean Delane to safety and Stroman back into the nickel spot).
Tech has also sent out some other interesting offers including three yesterday to Arizona State CB Isaiah Johnson, Wake Forest DB JJ Roberts, and Richmond CB Tyrek Funderburk. Funderburk definitely fits the mold of that short term plug and play nickel which would mean at least 25-40 snaps per game while Johnson and Roberts could fill that gap with the potential to be full-time starters the following year.
Keep an eye on defensive back as the Hokies look to find a nickelback at minimum in the portal.