How did the Underclassmen Recruits fair against WVU?
In the Hokie's outing against MTSU we saw a great deal of the 2020 and 2021 class get to have some playing time. However, this week against West Virginia it was a bit more limited. Nonetheless, there were still a great deal of players who saw the field out of the two respective classes. We will dive a bit deeper into how contributed out of the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes, and who we might see contribute more as we advance into the season.
Class of 2020:
OL Kaden Moore: If it hasn't been engrained before, the presence of Kaden Moore on Vance Vice's offensive line unit is almost absolute. The amount of playing time he has received as the season has progressed on the offensive line over others is hard to not notice. This past game against West Virginia, Moore totaled 64 plays on the line. And to be honest, I see this trend only continuing the further we get into the 2021-2022 season.
First off, Moore was cemented in the top three of all offensive linemen when looking at pass blocking, if you aren't counting tight ends. He recorded a PFF pass blocking grade of 58.6, which was actually his lowest mark of the season in that category. Also, he allowed a single sack to the Mountaineers and two quarterback hurries as well. But when looking at penalties across the offensive line, Moore accounted for zero. This is an impressive feat for being the youngest starter on the line this season.
S Keonta Jenkins: We missed out on Keonta Jenkins during last week's game versus Middle Tennessee State. The report for the game had him out with a foot injury, but was slated to return on the road against West Virginia. In his first game of the season, when facing UNC, Jenkins held a solid foundation across the board. This time out against West Virginia, it was much of the same.
Top 5. That is the category Jenkins sat in for all relevant stats pertaining to him in the West Virginia game. Not only in coverage, but in run defense and tackling too. When it was all said and done, Jenkins finished the game with a PFF defensive rating of a 69.2. Although we saw no truly insane plays out of him, he managed to do his job in the secondary consistently and effectively.
CB Dorian Strong: It is a fact at this point that Strong will be a key part of the Virginia Tech defensive backs unit. He has shown week in and week out that he can perform at the level of his teammates at the same position. I think viewing Strong's game this week is important, as you can see improvement.
Dorian Strong recorded the best cornerback coverage percentage in this past weekend's game. In the four passes thrown to his assignment, only one was converted for a catch. And that catch was only for a mere 7 yards. Strong's run defense grade was a bit low though, but for a cornerback the coverage grades will always hold importance.
Possible New Names: When looking at some of the injuries the Virginia Tech team suffered last game, some names I think can step up are OT Parker Clements and RB Marco Lee.
I think it goes without say that Parker Clements will be pushed into the rotation for the Hokie's line this next week. The injury of offensive linemen Silas Dzansi will make Vance Vice work to find a fully functioning line once again. And even though we saw Clements struggle on the field against Middle Tennessee State, his presence will surely show improvement against a weaker, FCS team in Richmond. And for Marco Lee, Brad Cornelson will need to incorporate him into the run game to avoid the overuse of RB Raheem Blackshear and RB Jalen Holston. The ceiling has yet to be set on this young and still developing running back.
Class of 2021:
S Jalen Stroman: More and more are we seeing Stroman being played as a true freshmen in this Virginia Tech defense. Not only at the free safety spot, but also covering the slot and inside of the box. His role was mostly special teams up until the West Virginia. It is hard to say that he will take a starting role, because of the competitive safety room, but he can definitely contribute more soon.
In Saturday's game, Stroman showed he can be in the top tier coverage wise. He recorded inside of the top 6 in that category and finished with a PFF grade of a 61.4 for coverage. And also, Stroman lined up in the box for run defense, in which he out performed some veterans on the team.
Possible New Names: It is fully expected that we will see more of the class of 2021 this upcoming Saturday against Richmond. Some of the players out of that class that I think could contribute more are DL Mattheus Carroll, RB Malachi Thomas, and DL Cole Nelson.
Looking at Carroll first, it was imperative that we look at his performance against Middle Tennessee State. Not only did he record some good tackles during that game, but he seemed to handle his own pretty well during that game as well. For Thomas, we have seen him be included in the game play in both the running game and on the return game. He shows bursts of versatility and shiftiness when he gets going. Lastly, Nelson has been in the defensive line rotation for the past two weeks. It might not be much playing time, but it is clear the staff is preparing Nelson to take that next step either late this season or next.