Don Callahan/Inside Carolina

We look three seasons down the road at how the 2017 class could project on defense

Yesterday, we looked at how Virginia Tech's 2017 recruiting class on offense could project. But what about the defense? There will be additions and subtractions before then, but We look at where they can be in maroon and orange.

To reiterate, our first article, recruiting is in inexact science. There are home runs and there are whiffs. There is Kendall Fuller and Tyrod Taylor, and then there is Joel Caleb and Holland Fisher. There is Kam Chancellor and then there is Austin Clark. You can never completely sure. Recruiting is about the future. Two to three years down the road - where are you going to be deep and where are you going to need depth.

If you’re trying to win ACC Championships while plugging holes in September with freshmen you signed in February, you aren’t going to have much success. If you’re plugging holes with guys who have developed for a few years? Much better chance.

So in evaluating a class, I like to look three years in the future. That gives most of these guys a redshirt year and a redshirt freshman year to develop before they enter the lineup in a big way their redshirt sophomore. Theoretically, that’s the best way to run a program. Obviously you’ll have some kids play earlier, some play later, some never play at all, but when recruiting a class, you’re trying to make sure you don’t get caught in a bind in a few years.

So let’s flash forward to August 2019. Justin Fuente is entering this fourth season in charge and he needs a full depth chart to compete. This 2017 class filled some holes for that roster, but it also left a few glaring ones. This will show us what positions will be huge priorities in 2018, and which positions the Hokies just cannot afford a bust at from what this class.

Things change, and walk-ons can fill a spot, but if Virginia Tech wants to win a national championship, they need depth across the board. At this point, this is how it looks (the numbers in parentheses are what the Hokies need to feel comfortable with their depth).

DE (4): Confidence Grade: B+

1)      Gaines – SR (RS)

2)      Hill – SR (RS)

3)      Taylor – JR (RS)

4)      Belmar – JR (RS)

5)      TyJuan Garbutt  - Soph (RS)

6)      Zion DeBose – Soph (RS)

Virginia Tech had a great opportunity to feel good about themselves here if they could land Brad Johnson, but he went to South Carolina. There has to be concern about Trevon Hill being really good the next two years and leaving after his  junior year, but Garbutt and Debose are two very, very good prospects. Charley Wiles needs four, arguably three and a half, to make things work here, and I think the Hokies should be alright between the six listed above, plus whoever they pull in over the next two classes.

DT (4): Confidence Grade: C-

1)      Settle – SR (RS)

2)      Hewitt – JR (RS)

3)      J'Bril Glaze – Soph (RS)

4)      Robert Porcher IV – Soph (RS)

This is one of the positions Virginia Tech needed to do better in 2017. Hewitt is an unknown, as are Glaze and Porcher, no matter what you think about their high school film. Settle could excel during his next two years (just like T. Hill) and bolt for the NFL by the time 2019 rolls around. The Hokies are suddenly very thing and really cannot afford a bust here. Glaze, Porcher and Hewitt have to produce, or Virginia Tech is going to be counting on some really young defensive tackles in 2019.I look for them to go hard after defensive tackles in 2018.

LB (4): Confidence Grade: A

1)      Beckett - SR

2)      Carter – JR (RS)

3)      Aundre Kearney – Soph (RS)

4)      Dylan Rivers – Soph (RS)

5)      Rayshard Ashby – Soph (RS)

6)      Jaylen Griffin – Soph (RS)

7)      Nathan Proctor – Soph (RS)

Two of the Hokies' highest rated commits land here in Rivers and Proctor, although Proctor could end up on the defensive line by the time he leaves Blacksburg. Still, with offenses going spread, Virginia Tech really only needs a mike and a backer and a backup for each. With Beckett and Carter already in the system, the Hokies landed talented kids to come and compete. Motuapuaka will leave after this year and there’s a chance Tremaine Edmunds could as well, so perhaps this group’s time to shine will come in 2018 and not in 2019. You’d feel good about this group with just Rivers and Proctor. Throw in Kearney, Ashby and Griffin and that’s a real solid group.

DB (6-7): Confidence Grade: C+

1)      Ladler – JR (RS)

2)      Rodgers – JR (RS)

3)      Floyd - SR

4)      Quillen – SR

5)      Devante Smith

6)      Devon Hunter

7)      Bryce Watts

Along with OL and DT, this is the spot where Tech needed to do a little bit better at in 2017. Capehart’s loss could be felt here harder here, as he could have played defensive back at Tech and added another body to the mix. Either Devon Hunter is going to be starting at safety this year or in 2018, so you have one starter you feel good about. After that, Tech needs two cornerbacks, another safety and a nickel to fill holes in the starting lineup, plus bench depth.

And the thing about this position? It is not about 2019 like the rest of these positions; this is about 2018. Tech is losing a lot in the secondary after this year and could also lose Terrell Edmunds early to the NFL. Other spots Tech may have two years to figure it out, but this group is going to be playing a major role in 2018.


My confidence rating would be higher with Torrian Gray coaching DBs. Year-to-year, he was able to find guys who could come in and play a role as a true freshman and develop from there. Kam Chancellor did it, Kyle Fuller did it, Mook Reynolds did it, etc. We don’t know if Brian Mitchell and Galen Scott can find the same type of guys, particularly after pulling in only Watts at cornerback this year. With just one pure corner in this group, plus four unproven guys ahead of them, Tech will need to go heavy here in 2018.

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