Fall Camp Is Here: Which Underclassmen Are Flying Under The Radar?
Merely weeks separate Virginia Tech Football fans from the start of the Brent Pry era at Virginia Tech. Pry opens up his 2022 campaign against the Monarchs of Old Dominion, a team led by former Penn State Offensive Coordinator Ricky Rahne. Until then, Hokie fans must get through the final dog days of summer, while the team finishes its four week fall camp period. This period is very telling, as the media gets a chance to see the team practice for the first time since spring ball. Using what we know from fall camp so far, and just some other personal expectations, I will share a few thoughts on underclassmen who are flying under the radar. While there are several underclassmen projected to start, I will focus on those who are not projected to start, but deserve our attention.
With that being said, let's get into it…
#28 Chance Black - RB/KR
Chance Black saw little action in 2021, but when he did, it was mainly on the kick return unit. During this fall camp, Black has been working alongside the speedy Keshawn King at kick returner. But that is not where I expect to see Black excel in the future. Back in March, Head Coach Brent Pry mentioned that Black was too talented of a player to keep off the field. Pry even considered moving Black to wide receiver, but has since kept him at running back. Black’s versatility has continued to impress the coaching staff this fall camp, as Pry recently tabbed him as a guy who has turned some heads. The running back room remains one of the few position groups with decent depth – Jalen Holston, Malachi Thomas, and Keshawn King all return. Assuming Thomas is ready to go when the season starts, I do not expect Black to take even a third of the carries; however, I do think Chance Black has a chance to be a sneaky difference maker through the air in 2022 – a wheel-route type of guy.
#65 Xavier Chaplin - OT
Despite receiving interest late in his recruitment from Georgia and Florida, Xavier Chaplin stayed loyal and signed with the Hokies back in February. Chaplin, only a true freshman, stands at a whopping 6’6” and weighs in at just under 340 pounds (bigger than the average NFL offensive tackle). He has impressed Offensive Line Coach Joe Rudolph so much this fall camp, that he is already working with the “twos” on the offensive line. Offensive Coordinator Tyler Bowen previously mentioned that Chaplin has stood out amongst the freshman lineman as well. He has great “pancaking” ability, and with the lack of depth on the offensive line, Chaplin is a guy you will see this fall. I mean…how can you miss him?
Here's a video of the big guy dunking...
#21 Keli Lawson - LB
Keli Lawson came to Virginia Tech in 2021 as a linebacker, but not long after was moved to the other side of the ball. Now, in 2022, Lawson is back at his most natural position: Sam linebacker. Standing at 6’6”, Lawson has the ability to line up near the line of scrimmage as an edge rusher or to drop back in coverage. Coach Pry mentioned that Lawson and the other sam linebackers have been learning more than one position, indicating some rotation amongst the defense. Because of his speed and athleticism, I expect to see Lawson all over the field, similar to former Clemson and current Arizona Cardinals linebacker, Isaiah Simmons. Lawson has the physical attributes. If he can put it all together, Lawson will make some serious noise. He may have the most upside on the entire roster.
#26 Jalen Stroman - S
Jalen Stroman appeared in every game in 2021, mainly on the special teams unit. He was a valued special teams player last fall and not much has changed in 2022. At the Spring Game, Brent Pry and Co. awarded Jalen Stroman with Special Teams MVP. Additionally, Special Teams Coordinator Stu Holt praised Stroman for his kick blocking ability. There is no question we will see Stroman on special teams this year. But he is more than just a special teams guy. With Tae Daley gone and Keonta Jenkins now at linebacker, Jalen Stroman is the next man up at safety. Will it be boundary safety behind Chamarri Conner? Or free safety behind Nasir Peoples? Well, that is a bit of an unknown right now. But what we do know is that Brent Pry likes to rotate his safeties. Stroman put on 13lbs this offseason and is now up to 200lbs, a sustainable weight for a safety at 6’0. If Stroman continues to make strides, he will become a household name and starter in years to come.