Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Coming into this season, defensive end was one of the biggest question marks for Virginia Tech. Outside of Emmanuel Belmar, the Hokies really did not have many players with much starting experience.
Add to that the fact that TyJuan Garbutt got injured against Boston College and has not played since, and the Hokies are suddenly pretty thin at the position. This gave redshirt freshman Eli Adams a chance to make his first career start against Furman.
While Adams has seen time in all three games this season, he has typically come off the bench behind Jaevon Becton and Jaylen Griffin. Last week, defensive coordinator Bud Foster decided to give him Adams the nod.
“Eli (Adams) is always a guy that has a high motor,” Foster said. “He played extremely hard the other day. Now he’s got to continue to fine tune some things like a lot of young guys, but I’m excited about him.”
Adams played well against Furman. He recorded 7 total tackles and a QB hurry. He still knows he has things to work on, and his teammates are helping pushing him towards that end.
“Eli continues to get better,” said fellow defensive end Emmanuel Belmar. “Every single day he comes out there and tries to work, learn the playbook, and step up. You know, we really need those young guys to step up with a whole bunch of injuries and what not. We’re kind of short at [defensive end] right now, so we need him to step up.”
One way Adams says he tries to improve is by watching film of other defensive ends that had a similar body type to his. As a smaller player, one guy who Adams really looks up to is former Hokies’ standout Corey Moore.
“I try to go back and look at a little bit of Corey Moore, a guy here who the coaches always talk about,” Adams said. “Those type of guys, just admiring and taking a little bit from their game.”
Belmar said that while he himself does not remember the coaches bringing up Corey Moore too often, he agrees that Moore is a good player for Adams to try and emulate.
“Eli definitely needs to use his size to his advantage,” Belmar said. “He can bend the corner, especially being that height. Corey Moore, as you saw, was very capable of bending the corner very well.”
Another aspect that Eli Adams says has helped him prepare for the moment is getting some playing time late last year due to the new redshirt rule. Even in the games where he did not play, he says that traveling with the team helped him learn a lot.
“Last year really helped me out, just the environment,” Adams said. “Guys that don’t really get to travel, you don’t really get to experience the atmosphere of the games. My first game I got to travel was the Notre Dame game...just getting a feel for that and especially the speed of the game last year. That kind of helped me, and I took that into the Boston College game when I got to play this year.”
Adams feels confident that the defense will be able to become more consistent in their play moving forward. He says that the whole defense has a lot of talent, and they just need to stay engaged for the full 60 minutes.
“It just comes down to execution, especially for this defense,” Adams said. “We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of talent across the board. It’s just we’ve got to execute and stay focused on the game plan.”
At this point, Adams says he feels comfortable with his role on the team. While he obviously wants to get everyone back healthy, he is out to prove that he can seize this opportunity and earn even more playing time.
Virginia Tech has a bye week this week to rest up and get healthy. They are also using the extra time to improve on the little things before Duke comes into Lane Stadium next Friday.