The first season of the Brent Pry era has ended 3-8, with Virginia Tech having a solid young squad of talent led by Mansoor Delane, Keli Lawson, Dae’Quan Wright and Tucker Holloway, along with returning standouts like Kaleb Smith, Malachi Thomas, Dorian Strong and Kaden Moore.
However, the Hokies have plenty of needs to get through this off-season as the transfer portal is likely to be a busy place for tech. With that said, here is my ranking of the top 5 transfer portal requirements for VT heading into Thanksgiving.
1. Wide receiver
Wide receiver is #1 and I could easily have put middle at the top of this list, but these feel like 1A and 1B. However, the tiebreaker for me is the fact that the Virginia Tech staff clearly see wide receiver as a place where they need to add a lot of talent.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise as Tech had Kaleb Smith and not much else, while Da’Wain Lofton played slightly better as the season progressed. Aside from those 2, there wasn’t anyone who was consistently productive with Tucker Holloway due to his punt returning ability as he was the most hyped WR on this current roster outside of those 2.
So far we’ve seen Tech make it clear that they have a WR room talent infusion with both the number of talented HS Wide recipients they are pursuing and the offers they already have on the transfer portal. give priority. Although the FBS portal is not yet open, Virginia Tech has already sent out 3 FCS transfer offers to Andrew Armstrong from Texas A&M-Commerce, Da’Quan Felton from Norfolk State and Abdul Janneh from Duquesne.
The fact of the matter is Tech needs a much deeper receiving corps to support this passing game, which was lacking much in receivers who could pull off a break and make plays. You could field several types that can provide instant impact, including types that offer depth and at least 1, maybe 2 instant starters.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Kaleb Smith will use his COVID year to pursue NFL opportunities after a career year. Combine that with his great size and very good speed which should help him test well and it definitely seems possible that Smith will decide to pursue his pro opportunities. The good news is that given the deadlines, Tech should have an answer on that front soon.
Wide Receiver seems poised to be a busy place for the Hokies in the Portal based on early moves we’ve seen from the Hokies.
I almost put the center at number 1, but the first two on this list are so close. However, the fact that the Hokies are aggressively pursuing high school and transfer portal WR talent has pushed wide receivers over center to the top of this list.
In my book, however, the center looks like a clear need for the hokies as Johnny Jordan graduates, leaving Tech with unproven options in Jack Hollifield and Johnny Dickson.
Yes, every center is technically “untested” before they get a chance, and Hollifield has been in Virginia Tech’s program for a couple of years, which is a plus, even with the change in coaching staff.
Still, Hollifield has yet to take the field for the Hokies, who work center in a live game. He hasn’t even faced a team like Wofford for an experience that isn’t ideal, to say the least. Meanwhile, Johnny Dickson is years away from racing for the Hokies.
With all of this in mind, Tech should definitely look to include a veteran center in the portal that can give Hollifield and Dickson more time to progress while also giving these guys room to get some playtime against weaker opponents in low-pressure, garbage-time situations.
Of course, Joe Rudolph is also known for being methodical and definitely has those he trusts and those he doesn’t, so over the next few weeks we’ll find out where he stands based on offers sent or missing.
3. Offensive tackle
Offensive tackling has slipped slightly down this list as Parker Clements seemed to play better throughout the season and Xavier Chaplin comes to the table in tackling.
However, this is a position that could absolutely use a plug-and-play veteran to pair up with Clements or Chaplin next season, given Chaplin’s lack of experience and worrisome combination of regression and inconsistency for Clements this season.
Well this is one point where I think Tech should consider a transfer given the youth of the likes of Clements, Chaplin, Johnny Garrett and the incoming class including Layth Ghannam. Of course, Tech shouldn’t be held back from chasing younger offensive tackles to provide even more depth in a spot that could definitely use more depth in general, even with the large influx of younger offensive tackles into the program.
So far, Tech hasn’t been keen on following much in terms of current FCS offensive tackles on the transfer portal, although Joe Rudolph’s patience in offering players was well publicized, including in our discussion of needs at center. Combine that with the not-yet-open FBS portal and this seems like a point to continue to have patience with.
Tech’s offensive line struggles have uncovered several transfer portal needs for the Hokies along this positional group, including tackle where finding an experienced plug-and-play guy would be very valuable.
Yes, the quarterback makes the list, but you’d probably be surprised to see him at #4 rather than #1 or even in the top 3 on that list.
To be clear, I think the gaps between the top 4 spots on this list aren’t that big, but QB comes in 4th for a few reasons, specifically Grant Wells. In fact, Wells has plenty of plus-arm strength arm talent that’s not easy to find, while he was also on a new offense in his freshman year at VT and has shown signs of growth throughout the season. He’s also shown more mobility than was thought prior to his time at VT, and while he doesn’t pose a dual threat, he has the kind of mobility you’d expect from a modern-day pocket passer.
However, Wells has some questions about his accuracy, some without touching his passes, especially as he threw plenty of balls that should have been the change he seemed lacking. Additionally, Wells displayed some questionable decisions while his game throughout the season didn’t seem to build on some of the growth he had shown at times mid-season.
This is one point where I would go with a younger quarterback who could come in and compete, but could also be a backup to push Wells at worst. Jason Brown is targeting another year, but my own speculative assessment doesn’t make me feel confident that Brown will get this year. In the meantime, one has to wonder if Tahj Bullock’s future is that of a QB for the Hokies given he’s behind a QB who has more eligibility in Devin Farrell.
So unless you have Brown and Bullock next season, you can only have 3 grantee quarterbacks, one of which is a freshman Dylan Wittke. That’s a situation that calls for getting a quarterback through the portal, regardless of your thoughts on Grant Wells odds.
5. Mike Linebacker
A defensive position eventually creates the board and I switched back and forth between defensive end and Mike Linebacker as both spots lose big starters in TyJuan Garbutt and Dax Hollifield. However, Tech’s situation with Mike Linebacker has more questions and lower caps compared to DE where you have young promising players like Cole Nelson and CJ McCray who have gained a lot of experience and have shown Flashes, as well as Pheldarius Payne who has a Wild Card is.
Meanwhile, Mike Linebacker has plenty of questions, starting with usual backup Keshon Artis, who looked like the future but has struggled to keep his backup job this season. Artis could be a solid option and it would be cool to see his patience rewarded, but can he be an ACC level starting MLB? We haven’t seen much to have too much confidence.
Will Johnson briefly broke into the two-deep on the mic before falling back onto the depth chart and still doesn’t seem ready to be the guy for the hokies at the Mike linebacker.
The wild card here is Alan Tisdale, who worked at the Mike LB spot during fall camp, especially since Jaden Keller appeared to be taking control of the Will LB spot before the start of this season. The emergence of Keli Lawson combined with Keonta Jenkins, who plays well at Sam, seems to mean that both outside linebacker spots are filled with up-and-coming young talent who could use a veteran like Tisdale to lead the unit.
Tisdale is definitely the more modern coverage linebacker who would definitely help the Hokies in a few areas while he has shown growth as a run defender. However, he still has some questions about his run defense, and going from an OLB spot to a Mike linebacker is easier said than done.
Tisdale is why I nearly went with the defensive end, and also why this is a point where you’ll likely see some volatility when the transfer portal kicks into full swing next week.