With the Virginia Tech football season starting in about two months in some form or another, it’s time to take a deeper look into Virginia Tech’s roster for the upcoming year. Over the next few weeks, we will be delving into the team, position by position, to get a deeper understanding of where we stand as a football team. I will grade every player on the roster on a 1-10 scale and create a makeshift depth chart for the season (Note: These grades are simply my opinions on each player based on prior knowledge, statistics and film study).
10 - Heisman Candidate
9 - All American
8 - All ACC
7 - Starter
6 - Backup
5 and Below - Not likely to play
Raheem Blackshear - 7.8/10 (Not yet granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA)
Blackshear, a transfer from Rutgers may be one of the most talented players coach Justin Fuente has brought in throughout his tenure. Voted the 25th best player in the Big Ten last season by Sporting News and the best player on the Rutgers roster, Blackshear is one of the most unique players in the country. In 2018, he recorded 586 yards and three touchdowns on the ground along with 367 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on Rutgers team that went 1-11 with virtually nothing around the running back. Blackshear’s skill set includes high-level elusiveness and explosiveness as a runner and also elite instincts as a pass catcher, sometimes even lining up in the slot for the Scarlet Knights. His eligibility may be in question as a transfer player, but if he plays in 2020, Blackshear figures to be one of the most underrated players in the ACC and possibly the Hokies’ first 1,000 yard scrimmage player since Isaiah Ford in 2016 considering quarterback Hendon Hooker’s propensity to throw screens and short passes.
Khalil Herbert - 7.6/10
Virginia Tech fans may be wary of Kansas transfers after quarterback Ryan Willis’ career ended on a sour note this past season, however running back Khalil Herbert seems to be a nice addition to the offense this year. Herbert seemed to be an average starting running back for the Jayhawks throughout his first three seasons, however he burst on to the scene in new head coach Les Miles’ offense in 2019, putting up 384 rushing yards on 8.9 yards per carry throughout the first four games of the season. Those numbers would have put him on pace to trail only Chubba Hubbard and Jalen Hurts (both legitimate Heisman candidates) for rushing yards in the Big 12. However, after Week 4, Herbert announced he would be transferring to Virginia Tech and sat out the rest of the season for Kansas. Now in Blacksburg, a mix of fast feet and explosiveness should make him a key part of the Virginia Tech offense in 2020 if not the lead ball carrier.
Keshawn King - 7.4/10
A four-star prospect, true freshman Keshawn King showed flashes of brilliance as Deshawn McClease’s backup last season. He continues the trend of small, speedy backs for the Hokies this season, and he adds the ability to make tacklers miss as a runner. King is likely the future for the Virginia Tech backfield, but if the transfers don’t pan out, he might just be ready to be the present.
Jalen Holston - 6.8/10
The senior in the running back room, Jalen Holston has been a consistent positive present over the past few years for the Hokies. He doesn’t bring the speed that the top three guys have, but he can be a competent ball carrier when given the opportunity. Look for him to see a few carries throughout the season, and to bring a good presence to the team in his final season in Blacksburg.
Cole Beck - 6.8/10
Beck, a former three-star recruit and two-sport athlete out of local Blacksburg high school, has not seen the field at all throughout his first two seasons for Virginia Tech. Balancing track and football along with a broken collarbone last season has made it a tough beginning to his college career. However, Beck possesses the speed and talent to be a great player at the college level after dominating in high school. He still needs to grow, but look out for this guy as a pleasant surprise over the next few years.
Tahj Gary - 6.7/10
At 221 pounds, Gary is a bruiser as a running back and brings an element of power to the Hokie backfield that others don’t. He got a few carries last season as a freshman after recovering from a leg injury. If Gary has had a strong offseason, he should figure to get some work in short yardage situations this season.
Marco Lee - 6.6/10
Lee was a JUCO transfer last season out of Coffeyville Community College. Another power runner, Lee seems likely to battle Gary for a few short yardage snaps this season.
Terius Wheatley - 6.5/10
Wheatley has handled kick return duties for the past two years at Virginia Tech. He doesn’t bring much power or speed, but his ability to make people miss should allow him to continue to be a factor in the return game, if not in the backfield.
Nashun Overton - N/A
At 5-foot-6, 157 pounds, Overton may lack the size to contribute to the Hokies success this season. However, if he can put on a bit more weight and strength, his electricity as a runner may bring him success down the road.
J’Wan Evans - N/A
Evans is very similar to Wheatley in that he lacks size or speed, but he is hard to tackle. He could step into Wheatley’s role as lead returner down the road.