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Freshmen Files: The North Carolina Game

By Sam Stromberg | October 02
UNC wide receiver Kobe Paysour makes a leaping grab in Saturday's Hokie loss (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In 2016 during Hurricane Matthew, the Virginia Tech Hokies – led by first-year head coach Justin Fuente – marched into Chapel Hill and handed North Carolina a 31-point loss. The Hokies were clicking on all cylinders during that early, wet October weekend.

That is far from what we saw this past Saturday afternoon.

North Carolina defeated Virginia Tech by a score of 41-10 on Saturday. The Hokies took an early 3-0 lead against the Tar Heels, after a somewhat impressive 9-play 53 yard offensive drive. Virginia Tech would only end up scoring once more, while the Tar Heels racked up seven more scores. The defensive backs got burned, and the offense made a bad UNC defense look good. This Hokie team has issues all across the board. While I could list all of these problems, I will keep it short: it ultimately comes down to a lack of talent and poor execution. Because of these, Virginia Tech has an extremely slim margin for error. Against both WVU and UNC, the team looked competitive for about a quarter or two, and then just crumbled at the sight of adversity. It is tough to blame Brent Pry for the current state of Virginia Tech Football. The previous regime set Virginia Tech Football back greatly and many of the current problems stem from them. Brent Pry has his work cut out for him. Only time will tell.

The positives from Saturday's game? Well, Will Ross remains perfect on the year, the Hokies cut down on penalties, and we saw some new faces on the field. With that being said, let's take a look at some of those new faces, headlined by true freshmen Dae’Quan Wright and Mansoor Delane.

On Offense

#13 Dae’Quan Wright - Fr., TE

Dae’Quan Wright, the true freshman out of Perry, GA, hauled in four receptions for 31 yards. A former four star product, Wright has great size at 6’4” and 231lbs. Wright lined up in multiple different spots – the slot, middle of a bunch formation, or by himself wide. The coaching staff has been raving about Wright, and it was nice to finally see him on the field. Wright draws parallels to former Florida and current Atlanta Falcons TE, Kyle Pitts – the potential to be a matchup nightmare.

#28 Chance Black (r-Fr., RB) had five carries for 19 yards. Black averaged 3.8 yards per carry vs. UNC, the most this year for the redshirt freshman out of South Carolina.

#22 Bryce Duke (Fr., RB) had 10 carries for 20 yards. Duke was very reliable on third and short vs. UNC. He and Holston appear to be the two primary short-yardage-down backs. With Duke officially burning his redshirt, look for him to stay as the #2 or #3 RB upon Malachi Thomas’ return.

On Defense

#23 Mansoor Delane - Fr., CB

Mansoor Delane had shoes to fill vs. UNC, as starting cornerback Dorian Strong did not play due to injury, Brion Murray struggled, and Armani Chatman got a little banged up. But Mansoor Delane rose to the occasion when called upon. Delane, a true freshman from Silver Spring, MD, recorded three solo tackles, one of which was a TFL. Although it is a small sample size, he wrapped and tackled well, good for 78.2 tackling grade on PFF. Delane played 25 total snaps, 18 of which were in coverage – and let up zero receptions. Delane did not look like a true freshman out there.

#24 Jaden Keller (r-Fr., WLB) also registered three solo tackles. He continues to get snaps alongside Keli Lawson at Will. Veteran LB Alan Tisdale has yet to return.

#21 Keli Lawson (r.Fr., WLB/SLB) has now seen the most action this year after 31 snaps vs. WVU and 27 vs. UNC. He has been rotating in at the Will and Sam linebacker positions. Lawson totaled three tackles on Saturday. Lawson is still very raw, as he got beat in coverage and took some poor angles on ball carriers vs. UNC. Lawson is young, but he has a chance to be an integral part of this Virginia Tech defense in the future.

#12 Cam Johnson (Fr., CB) saw his first true playing time this year vs. UNC. Johnson, a true freshman from Washington D.C., recorded two tackles. Johnson was highly touted coming out of high school playing for St, Frances Academy in Baltimore. As a four star, he chose the Hokies over Penn State, Tennessee, Michigan, amongst others. Cam Johnson, Mansoor Delane, and DJ Harvey are the future of this Virginia Tech cornerback group.

#53 Will Johnson (r-Fr., MLB) was listed as backup to Dax Hollifield on the most recent depth chart. Johnson missed all of last season due to injury. This past Saturday vs. UNC was Johnson’s first time suiting up for the Hokies. At 6’2” 218ibs, Johnson may be the replacement for Hollifield next season. Johnson must continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger this offseason to play efficiently at the power five level.

Brothers Jayden (WLB) and Jorden (DE) McDonald combined for three tackles. Both are redshirt freshmen. Keyshawn Burgos (DE) recorded two tackles vs. UNC, the most this year for the true freshman out of Chesterfield..

DJ Harvey (CB) and Nyke Johnson (S) both record a tackle. Harvey’s was a TFL. Jaylen Hoyle (S) also saw the field.

What’s Next for the Hokies?

Virginia Tech is back in action on Saturday at Pitt. The Panthers (3-2) are coming off a surprising upset loss to Georgia Tech. Pitt beat WVU 38-31 in Week One.

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Been a Hokie fan ever since I can remember. Immensely passionate about journalism and Virginia Tech sports. Go Hokies!

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